“the good people” – the Tainos of Hispaniola
Approximately 1,500 years ago, the Arawak people of South America began migrating northward along the many scattered islands located between South and North America, an area we now refer to as the Caribbean.
For a thousand years their population grew and the people lived in harmony. The people covered all the islands of the Caribbean, the major ones as they are now known: Cuba, Puerto Rico and Hispaniola (Dominican Republic/Haiti) as well as all the smaller ones: the Bahamas, Bimini, Jamaica etc. Certain groups of island people identified themselves as Lokono, Lucayan, Carib, Ciboney, Arawak, but most islands were primarily inhabited by people who called themselves Taino, which stood for “the good people” in their language. The different groups intermarried extensively to strengthen ties amongst themselves.
Theirs was a beautiful culture. They were aware of a Divine presence whom they called Yocahu, and to worship and give thanks was a major part of their lives. They had a social order that provided the leaders and guidelines by which they all lived. They hunted, fished, cultivated crops and ate the abundant fruits provided by nature. They were clever and ingenious and had everything they needed to survive. They had beautiful ceremonies that were held at various times – birth, death, marriage, harvest, naming and coming of age, to name a few. They had special reverence for the Earth Mother (Atabey) and had respect for all living things knowing that all living things are connected. There was little need for clothing due to the tropic heat, but upon reaching puberty both males and females would wear a small woven loincloth. Puberty was also the time at which they were considered old enough to be married.
The Tainos possessed a matrifocal society. This means that women held a very honored position in their culture. They were fundamentally matrilineal, which means that the blood-line of a person and the inheritance of property was rekoned through the mother’s side of the family. As an agricultural society the control of a plot of land was fundamental in the survival of a family unit and the land was owned by the maternal lineage and controlled by the women in that lineage in a way very similar to that of the Senecas of North America. Like the Senecas also, most chiefs were men but the process of election of a chief was done with a great deal of influence from powerful women.
The population estimates for the Taino people at the height of their culture are as high as 8,000,000. That was in 1492 …
At ¨Rancho La Cueva¨we recognize the ethnic heritage from Tainos and remember their indigenous ancestors for to revive the cultural roots and spiritual influences. The ancient culture of the Tainos is based on the shamanic belief in the power and sacredness of the spirits of Nature , and our relationship with the living soul of Mother Earth and all her creatures, animals and plants who are our brothers and sisters. Many of the spiritual traditions and customs practiced by the Taino are still in use. In the art many symbols persist to this day as in the maps many areas still retain their original indigenous place-names, in the local languages many indigenous words still are used.