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The Taíno Movement: An Affirmation of Culture

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  • Glenn Welker
    The Taíno Movement: An Affirmation of Culture http://www.ladivalatina.com/tainochief.html Photo: http://www.ladivalatina.com/images/tainochief.jpg */ It s
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 1, 2006
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      The Taíno Movement: An Affirmation of Culture


      Photo: http://www.ladivalatina.com/images/tainochief.jpg

      "It's time to affirm our culture."

      Roberto Múcaro Borrero
      United Confederation of Taíno People


      All I could think of when I met the President of the
      United Confederation of Taíno People was – is he
      for real?  According to everything I have been
      taught – he doesn’t exist.  Everyone knows that
      Christopher Columbus did not discover a thing.  Yet
      we still want to hold on to the other part of the fable.  
      We still want to believe that the friendly Indians were
      wiped out.  Gone.  Forever.  Yet here he is -
      "Modern-Day Chief of the Taíno nation", officially the
      President of the Confederation of Taíno People,

      The first thing I had to ask was, “Are you for real or
      an apparition?  You’re not supposed to exist!”  He
      laughed and said, “Yes.  I’m real.  You can pinch

      I told him that according to a well respected PhD. in
      the Dominican Republic, the Taínos not only did not
      die and still exist, but that they are the Dominicans
      themselves (and the Caribbean people) but they
      were just all lead to believe that they are not.  

      He gives me her name, “
      Dr. Guitar.  I’m afraid that
      may be a bit of an exaggeration, perhaps.  I do not
      espouse that theory.  Our goal is simply to
      investigate how many of us there are out there with
      Tribal Registration Project.”


      I tell him, “I just interviewed an 80 year old woman
      from Puerto Rico,
      Señora Gramita who can recite
      specific facts on Columbus - the names of all three
      of his ships, several songs she learned as a little
      girl - but when I asked who was there when
      Columbus got there,  she thought about it before
      she said ‘
      los indios’.  I asked her ‘where are they
      now?’ and she said she had no idea."

      He nods, “There are many 80 year olds from
      Puerto Rico that will go on for hours about their
      Taíno ancestry or their Taíno relatives.  But,
      unfortunately, the majority is probably more like
      her.  That is a perfect example of the colonization of
      our people, and the ineffectiveness of the
      educational system.”  

      He explains that the Taíno struggle is about
      educating everyone about the fallacies in history.  
      He offers an example, “In the late 1500’s the King
      and Queen of Spain made a law that said Spain
      was not allowed to enslave Taínos.  When the
      Bishop read the new law in the town square of San
      Juan, it is said that ‘there were only 50 Taínos
      there’.  ‘There’ meaning ‘there in the town square’.  
      But it is understood as ‘there in the whole island of
      Puerto Rico’.  It is a prime example of the
      manipulation of history.”

      I ask him about the
      DNA testing that proves that the
      people of Puerto Rico are still much more Taíno
      than anyone would have even dared to predict.  He
      says, “I wouldn’t say that everyone needs to go
      and get a DNA test.  But those tests do prove what
      our oral histories, that have been passed down
      through the generations, have been saying all
      I am taken in by the severity of his tone as he explains
      that, “There is one thing also that we care a lot about.  
      We want to assert our rights to care for our artifacts.  
      We don’t agree with the common practice of the display
      of our ancestors’ bones.  If it is right to display bones
      then display the bones of
      Ponce de León right up there
      too and other Spaniards or other people.  Why is it our
      bones?  If every Puerto Rican is proud of
      all three
      races, then they should be infuriated.  Those bones
      could be your Great Great Grandparents’.”

      His words cut right to my heart.  I had never thought of it
      that way.  It really is common practice.  Those bones
      are like dinosaur bones – prehistoric, a relic from the

      He went on to talk about Columbus Day in the same
      powerful, enlightening words not too often heard, but
      truer than the light of day.  

      “Why is Columbus Day a federally recognized
      holiday?  My tax money is going to celebrate a man
      who was the 1st trade slave master and who was
      responsible for the death of thousands of people? Who
      never even set foot in the United States?  When he got
      there [Borinken, Quisqueya, or the Bahamas] nobody
      was starving.  There were no jails, no old age homes,
      no diseases.  Everyone was better off.  WE were better
      off.  We are not a movement of people trying to go
      backwards in time.  No.  It is an affirmation of culture.  
      Being able to speak out in a way our grandparents
      were not able to. What our grandparents said is now
      confirmed by DNA tests.  It’s time to affirm our culture.”

      I decided to show him
      La  Diva Latina’s Taíno shirt to
      see what he thought because I get many emails about
      it.  Some say that unless I am Taína, I shouldn’t be
      selling the shirt.  Or that in the Taíno language, the men,
      women and children are all Taíno not “Taína”.  Or that
      Taíno is not a race.  The race is: Native American.

      I pull out the carefully folded t-shirt and his smile widens
      on his face.  “That is great!  Where did you get it?”  
      I tell him, “I made it.  It’s for you.”  When I made the
      shirt I never imagined that I would end up handing it
      over to the President of the Confederation of Taíno
      people, but there he was smiling a gentle smile.  

      Taíno means the good and noble people.  Taínos are
      said to be kind, giving, of a gentle nature. At least
      something we learned about the Taínos are  true.  

      Interview by  
      La Diva Latina

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