Taino Elder Will Exhibit Paintings in Georgia

Mountain City, Georgia (UCTP Taino News) - The pastel and oil fine art portraits by Mildred "Mucara" Torres-Speeg (Taino), award winning, internationally recognized artist, will be on exhibit Dec.28, 2004 through Feb.27, 2005 in the Heritage Room Gallery of the Georgia Heritage Center for the Arts, Hwy. 441 N., Tallulah Falls, Georgia. The exhibit, "Power of Spirit" is free and open to the public. A "Meet the Artist" reception will be held on Jan. 1st from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. in the Georgia Heritage Center for the Arts.

A respected Taino community elder, Torres-Speeg will display a variety of paintings, including "Claudia – Taino Woman", which was featured at the United Nations ART EXHIBITION "IN CELEBRATION OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES" sponsored by the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues from May through August, 2004. If you missed the UN exhibit, you can now see "Claudia," in Tallulah Falls, GA., along aith "Winterhawk"; "Spirit of the Hurricane"; "The Shaman"; "Taino Warrior" and other paintings depicting the life and culture of the Indigenous Peoples of North, South and Central America.

"Mucara" Torres-Speeg is the United Confederation of the Taino People Liaison Officer for the State of Georgia, an active member of the NGAG and past president of the Albany Georgia Artists Guild. She has exhibited at the Georgia Council for the Arts, Albany Museum of Art, State Capital Gallery, Atlanta, Andrew College, Jimmy Carter Library, Georgia Southwestern State College, Atlanta Spirit of America-Native American and Wildlife Art Festival, private collections and numerous others. Her work can be viewed at http://www.worldsbestart.com/ and http://www.nighteaglestudio.com/.

For directions or information about the exhibition, please call 706-754-5989. The Art Gallery hours are Mon – Sat 10 – 5 and Sun 1-5.


UCTP Representative in Germany

UCTP Taino News - Claudia Fox Tree, UCTP Massachusetts Liaison, was recently invited to participate in the Native American Indian Heritage Month observances held by the United States Army in Germany. Claudia's mother is German and father is Arawak, so this presented a unique opportunity to share her Native American culture in the country of her mother's birth.

Claudia spoke to more than 300 U.S. soldiers and 800 of their children over a four-day period at military bases in Kaiserslautern, Darmstadt, Hanau, and Landstuhl, Hanau is where Elvis Presley was stationed. Landstuhl is where the United States military hospital is located. She was there in the days immediately following Fallujah.

Claudia used drumming, song and dance to educate folks about the history and contributions of Native People in general, and Taino/Arawak specifically. She described the Taino/Arawak initial encounter with Columbus in 1492, as well as his second voyage in 1494 where he brought 17 ships, soldiers and horses for warfare, and chains to enslave. Claudia also explained words and inventions that were Arawak in origin, such as, hurricane, barbecue, cigar, hammock, and tobacco. All of her presentations included connections to present day Native culture, current conditions, community connections, and ways Native People honor and respect each other, animals, and the land.

In 1990, President George Bush approved a joint resolution designating November 1990 as "National American Indian Heritage Month" to celebrate and recognize intertribal cultures and to educate the public about the heritage, history, art, and traditions of Native Americans. The Equal Opportunity Leaders of the United States Military are charged with bringing cultural awareness programs to their assigned bases, as well as, educating military personnel about sexual harassment. About twelve percent of the army consists of women, and even a smaller percentage is made up of Native Americans. Virginia Ming, Equal Opportunity Advisor (coordinator of the EOLs) was given the Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness (MCNAA) website, where Claudia is a board member, and from there, contacted Claudia.

On some of the days, Claudia shared the stage with Ella Garlits (Navajo) and Lt. Bigman (Objibway). Ms. Garlits lives in Germany and her husband is in the military. She shared Navajo history, traditions, and artifacts. She also made Fry Bread. Ms. Bigman is stationed in Germany and she shared her Nation's Jingle Dress Dancing. The event was well-received by military personnel. Claudia frequently had a long line of soldiers, teachers, and children waiting to shake her hand and say "Thank you" at the end of the performance.
UCTPTN 12.07.2004


UCTP Reps visit Boriken

Puerto Rico (UCTP Taino News) - UCTP Representatives Roger Atihuibancex Hernandez and Roberto Mucaro Borrero visited Boriken (Puerto Rico) recently as part of ongoing UCTP consultations with Taino community members on the island. They conducted video interviews with community leaders as well as participated in ceremony with family representatives from throughout the island attending the National Indigenous Festival in Jayuya.

Hernandez and Borrero also visited the hospital to meet with our respected Elder Manuel Galagarza. The elder who is a founding council member of the Consejo General de Tainos Borincanos has been ill. A recent request for prayers for his well being was issued via the UCTP communications netowrks. The two UCTP reps shared the wishes sent to him from indigenous peoples from around the world. Although in he was in critical condition, receiving these messages along with the prayers and visits from immediate family and local community members have lifted his spirit, Galagarza is now resting at home.

Local Taino leaders stress that Elder Manuel is still in a very weak condition and in need of community prayers and good thoughts. It has been he wish to spend time as much time as he can in the mountains at the Caney Quinto Mundo and preparations are being made to facilitate this as soon as possible.

For more information on how you can help this elder, contact Naniki Reyes Ocasio at
caney@prtc.net .


The Guamo Botutu (Fotutu) - Shell Trumpet

by Evelyn Dye-Garcia

For centuries, the many peoples of numerous island cultures, Polynesia, Tahiti, Samoa, Fiji, Guam, Hawaii, seaside civilizations of the Aztec and Maya and our own Taino, Carib, Lucayan and Arawak people of the Caribbean have blown into the conch shell as a form of communication.

Guamo or botutu is translated to "shell trumpet" in the Taino language. The guamo could be heard for long distances in the islands and had an important function in the community. Announcements would be delivered by a messenger whose specific task it was to know how to use the guamo properly in order to relay messages correctly. These messengers would blow the guamo from peak to peak of mountaintops, from hill to valley, from ocean to shore or vice versa, a form of communication that had been devised long before by the ancestors. Different sounds meant different things, different pitches were used, short blasts or long, constant or repetitive sounds, and each sound had a meaning that all people understood.

Guamos were always blown to the four directions during birth, death, naming or marriage ceremonies. They were also used to make announcements such as an arrival or departure, to summon the ancestors or in healing ceremonies.

When a guamo was used in a healing ceremony, the behike (medicine man) would supervise the ceremony. The sick person would lie down and people would circle around singing, chanting, drumming, shaking rattles and playing the guamo. Anything that altered the vibration was believed to heal the sick person.

A guamo would be used to announce the return of or to welcome home travelers, by foot or kanoa. Travelers out on the open sea in the dark could blow a guamo and know if they were near land or not, for if they were near land, the sound would return to them by echoing back, if they were far from land the sound would just fade away. If they were near land their guamo would signal their arrival to their home or another yukayeke (village) and another guamo would answer in greeting or a welcoming home. If you were approaching a village on foot, to either pass through or to visit, you would blow your guamo to signal your approach, this would indicate your friendly intentions and you would not be attacked.

The guamo itself was found in the ocean. Hundreds of years ago some guamos would grow to be huge, bigger than basketballs and could be used for ornamental use only. Guamos can be a little hard to find now, especially the larger sizes, but before the onslaught of civilization, guamos would wash up on shores after storms and literally cover the beaches. The Taino would gather them, eat their meat and then prepare the shell for use. The conch meat is a delicious mussel that is high in protein. It can be eaten raw, boiled in stews or cooked over the barbakoa.

To prepare the guamo for use as an instrument, you would first remove the meat, clean the shell (which would be filled with sand), dry it and then taking the large end with the pointed appendage (which needs to be removed) begin to grind. Today we have hacksaws and can easily saw off this appendage which reveals the hole where the mouth will be placed to blow into the chambers to make the sounds. But back in the day the Taino would break off this appendage first by carefully hitting it against a rock, and then the ragged and sharp edges would be ground against a rock until the opening was smooth. The larger the guamo, the more interior chambers there are on the inside, and the more versatile the guamo will be as an instrument because the
additional chambers create more possiblities for a variety of pitches and sounds. Longer shells give a sharper sound.

Both Taino men and women wore a nagua (loincloth) which was attached with a cord of cabuya (woven hemp/cotton) around the waist. At the end of the guamo, there is a little bent tip, this tip would be tucked under the cord of cabuya and the guamo would be worn there, just under the waist, lying flat against the thigh. Another cord would be tied around the circumference of the shell (you will notice that there is a natural ridge around the shell which makes it easy for the cord of cabuya to fit around) and ensures that the shell will stay put during daily activities.

To play the guamo takes a little practice. First, you hold the guamo in your hand with the large end near your mouth... hold the guamo up and out, not straight up, not straight down, but up and out, no matter if you are right or left-handed. There are natural points around the exterior of the large end of the shell, and your hand should fit there quite comfortably and naturally. Purse your lips and place the guamo against them and blow. It is not as easy as it looks and you can blow til you are blue in the face, but it is not really the force of the air that makes it blow nearly as much as it is the technique with the lips. Once you get the basic blowing sound down, you can practice doing short blasts and long blasts, high and low pitches. A trick you can use to make different pitches is to put your fingers of the hand you use to hold the shell, into the shell opening, which immediately causes the sound of the shell to change. I have a little thing I do that works for my daughter and I, she calls it "the Popeye" because you kind of put your lips halfway on the opening of the shell and blow out the side of your mouth... it works every time! Whatever it takes for you to do it, just be sure to learn it and teach your children, because it is a very important part of our culture.

Contact Evelyn Dye-Garcia at edyega6722@aol.com


Taino Woman Standing Strong in Ohio

Youngstown, Ohio (UCTP Taino News) - Community member XochitlAnaO (Rose) Quinones Del Valle has been very active recently and has been corresponding with other "first peoples" offering prayers and meditations for our fallen warriors. She began to do this before the so-called "Discovery Day" and continued to do so for the entire month of October. In addition, Dr. quinones has made presentations to her graduate students focusing on the alleged "discovery".

During Hispanic College Day, Dr. Quinones met with 250 middle and highschool students and talked about college, heritage and pride in being Taino. She urged them to have their parents contact the UCTP and consider registering with the UCTP Taino Population Census and Tribal Registration Program.

Dr. Quinones is a UCTP Liaison Officer for the state of Ohio.

UCTPTN 11.21.2004


Editorial: Parrandas, Areitos Transformed

by Domingo Hernandez De Jesus ( Turey )

Our ancestors worshiped in both private and public ways. Areitos were celebrations which honored not only the Spirits but also the persons hosting it along with the invited guests. Epic songs were sung and danced to. Tekina were the ceremonial leaders of the Epic songs that recounted both the deeds and the exploits of the ancestors. There was however also room for the creation of new songs and dances. The Spanish documented that the Casica Anacaona was famous for her compositions and choreography for the Areitos. They even mention in one account that she organized an Areito where over a thousand maidens danced in honor of the Spanish. These celebrations took place in the Batey. That is the area where the sacred ball game was played. It was important that all creation witness the Areito.

Song and dance were a form of prayer. It was a way for the community to be and move as one. It connected everyone to the common ancestor and reinforced the sense of kinship. Every important event in human life was celebrated with an Areito.

With the conquest by the Spaniards the Areitos proved too dangerous so they were soon outlawed. Organized gatherings were not allowed except under the leadership of Catholic priests or a devote convert and then only for the purpose of teaching the Christian faith. The need for a substitute way of celebration, that met the need of the people to express themselves was noted. Parrandas were brought from Spain to meet this need. It was a tool used to reinforce the Christian doctrine while at the same time allowing people their self expression and the need to worship through song and dance. The Parrandas of Boriken began to look and feel different from what was done in Spain. Our Parrandas had indigenous elements within a Christian context. The Taino and their decendants still played their maracas and quiros only now there was a Spanish guitar. The celebrations still took place outdoors under the night sky. The dancing often took place in the front yards of the Bohios and to this day this area of the home is still called Batey. The songs were still mostly a form of prayer that was taken from home to home until the wee hours of the morning.

The songs that were sung at these Parrandas were originally of a religious nature and many continue so to the present day. Jesus, Mary and Joseph are sung about but with a Taino/Jibaro flavor. After a time the Jibaro began to improvise new songs, not only about religion but also about their joys and sorrows. Women have also been known to be great improvisers of the sytles sung for Parrandas. When I hear a woman sing decimas I hear Anacaona underneath the Spanish trappings and my heart stirs.

We read about the Caribs or the Garifuna as many are called today and we find reference to their "Paranda"( same word as our's but only spelled with one R ) as one form of traditional Carib music. There are some difference in that they use three drums and turtle shell rattles. Their Paranda is also stationary in that they sing and dance in one location while we go from house to house. It can not be denied however that both styles of Parandas have similar roots and purpose.

Today there are many recordings of the traditional Jibaro music. The songs often speak of our Taino ancestors. The sounds of the quiro and the maraca is always constant and consistant in the background. It is there reminding us and connecting us to the Areitos of old. The quiro and maraca in fact are every where in our Boricua music. Almost evey piece of Salsa music has them. However we've heard them for so long that we stop noticing. It is the same with many other Taino cultural expressions. If you eat viandas( root vegs.) with fish,or corn, beans or pumpkins, you are eating traditional foods. If you use achote to color your food or just cook an old fasion sancocho ( ajiaco) you are connecting. If you've ever attended a Parranda or had a Spiritist blow cigar smoke on you or you prayed in front of your grandmother's home shrine, then you were connecting.

The following decima is of my own inspiration. Written in the traditional way. It has ten lines with 8 sylable per stanza.

Le Lo Lai Le Lo Le ay Le Lo Lai Le Lo Le
Hoy estamos recordando,
Hoy estamos recordando,
Las costumbre del abuelo
De Yukiyu un te quiero
llevo cuan flor entre labios
En Boriken hay Guaribos
En Boriken hay Guariches
La voz del Coqui me dice
Daca Taino Taino.


Le Lo Lai Le Lo Le
Today we are remembering
Today we are remembering
The customs of the grand father
An " I love you" from Yukiyu
I carry as a flower on my lips.
Boriken has brave men.
Boriken has brave women
The voice of the coqui frog says
I am Taino, I am Taino.

I'm sharing this today in the hopes that we become more aware of how much of our culture we really still retain. My dear friends, try to remember this as you celebrate the coming holiday season. Our unique cultural expressions are there just beneath the surface, all we have to do is take a second look.


Goodbye Mr. Columbus 2004

UCTP Taino News - This year the UCTP continued its annual, month long October campaign concerned with bringing an end to the racist celebrations of Columbus Day, and the revocation of the Papal Bull Inter Ceatera via educational outreach and direct action (protests and letter writing).

As a result of the tremendous efforts by community members and allies, and in conjunction with other national initiatives, a considerable amount of media attention (articles, radio and TV interviews) was again brought to this issue. UCTP reps, community members and allies participated in protests throughout the U.S., from coast to coast. Events took place in California (at the San Juan Capistrano Mission), Washington State and Pennsylvania. A related event, the annual Papal Bulls Burning was also held in Honolulu.

Educational materials focusing on this subject were distributed via hard copy and Internet not only in the U.S. but internationally. As usual responses to these initiatives were positive over all but even the negative reactions sparked debate and worked to keep the issue current. Our statements and education and materials were even published this year by the United Nations Observer located at The Hague in the Netherlands!

A review of some of the education materials distributed this year by visiting the UCTP Website at http://uctp.org/archives.html#7a .

Columbus Day may not go away as soon as many would like but neither will the Taino, Carib or Arawak Peoples who as UCTP rep. John Hu'acan Vidal says "are are here to stay!"


Columbus Statue Toppled in Caracas

CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) - Supporters of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez celebrated Columbus Day on Tuesday by toppling a statue in Caracas of the explorer whom Chavez blames for ushering in a "genocide" of native Indians.

Police firing tear gas later recovered parts of the broken bronze image, which was dragged by the protesters to a theater where the Venezuelan leader was due to speak.

Two years ago, Chavez rechristened the Oct. 12 holiday -- commemorated widely in the Americas to mark Christopher Columbus' 1492 landing in the New World -- "Indian Resistance Day."

The new name honored Indians killed by Spanish and other foreign conquerors following in the wake of the Italian-born Columbus who sailed in the service of the Spanish crown.

As the left-wing nationalist president led celebrations on Tuesday to honor Indian chiefs who resisted the Spanish conquest, a group of his supporters conducted a mock trial of a statue of Columbus in central Caracas.

They declared the image guilty of "imperialist genocide," looped ropes around its outstretched arm and neck and heaved it down from its marble base. No police or other authorities intervened as the protesters drove off in a truck yelling, "We've killed Columbus!"

"This isn't a historical heritage. ... Columbus is the symbol of a conquest that was a globalization by blood and fire, a cultural massacre," said Vitelio Herrera, a philosophy student at Venezuela's Central University.

Outside the Teresa Carreno theater, the protesters hung the statue from a tree and then let it fall to the ground. Police arrested several of them.

Chavez has called Latin America's Spanish and Portuguese conquerors "worse than Hitler" and the precursors of modern-day "imperialism" he says is now embodied by the United States, the biggest buyer of his country's oil.

The base of the toppled statue was daubed with slogans such as "Columbus = Bush. Out!"

The protesters, many who wore red T-shirts with slogans supporting Chavez, repeated the Venezuelan leader's fierce criticism of the U.S.- led occupation of Iraq.

"Didn't they tear down the statue of Saddam Hussein, the dictator of Iraq? For me, (U.S. President George W.) Bush represents barbarity and Chavez represents civilization," said 57-year-old Orlando Iturbe.

Some passersby were shocked. "I don't agree with this," said Jose Luis Maita, who watched with his wife and small daughters.

Venezuelan demonstrators use ropes to topple a Christopher Columbus statue in Caracas, October 12, 2004. Demonstrators protested during Columbus Day, a date which Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has christened as the 'Day of Indian Resistance' to commemorate the Indian people who fought the Spanish colonizers.

Source: http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=worldNews&storyID=6482069


Protest blockades Columbus Day parade

Protest blockades Columbus Day parade

DENVER, Colorado (AP) -- More than 200 sign-waving and chanting protesters were arrested Saturday after blocking a Columbus Day parade for more than an hour, police said.

Police said they began making arrests after ordering the group of about 600 protesters to leave when the parade was about a block away. The 230 protesters who were arrested were charged with loitering and disobedience to a lawful order.

There were no reports of violence or injuries.

Police said the protesters, many of whom were American Indians, gathered at the state Capitol, then marched to the parade route in downtown Denver.

Most carried signs, including one that read "Not Genocide, Celebrate Pride" and another showing a crossed out picture of Columbus with the word "savage" over it.

Adam K. Becenti, a University of Colorado-Boulder student of Navajo descent, said the protest was meant to educate people about the inaccuracies in history books.

"We're grown up to believe he was the first person here" which denies the American Indians' place in history and ignores their genocide, he said.

But Carter Barnard, a member of the Sons of Italy in America, said the protesters had no right to delay the event.

"We have a permit for the parade," he said. "We don't try to stop them from their celebrations."

About 150 people were arrested during an anti-Columbus Day rally in Denver in 2000.


Editorial: Our Taino Bloodlines

By Domingo Hernandez De Jesus

Some critics of the Taino movement were denying any biological inheritance among the contemporary Boricua population. When faced with the now famous DNA studies they defended their position by stating that this Native American contribution could not be attributed to the Taino bloodlines. They argued by reminding us that for two hundred years, Native Americans were brought as slaves from many parts of South, Central and North America, so these and not the Taino may be our ancestors.

It seems to me that they did not read Dr. Juan Martinez Cruzado's full report. He points out that the number of Africans taken to Puerto Rico vastly outnumbered those of the Native American slaves who originated out side of the island. If the biological contribution in question came only from a imported source, then the number of persons with these markers today would be smaller than the African. Therefore it is his conclusion that the majority of the Native American genetic material found in Puerto Rico today comes directly from the Taino population since it surpasses the number of African contribution by 40%. We also know that this DNA study was tracing the female line and records show that the vast majority of slaves were male and their genetic contributions would not show in this particular study.

The devastation of the European invasion was felt in common by all Native American nations. At the time of the first contact our Taino ancestors numbered in the millions. It is interesting to note that many smaller nations managed to escape extinction. The Cherokee were estimated to have about 20,000 at the time on contact. Their numbers were affected by the same conditions. During the Trail of Tears most of the Cherokee were forced to leave their land for far away Oklahoma. Less than 1,000 Cherokees managed to escape the removal and were able to stay in their ancestral lands. Today their descendents are known as the Eastern Cherokee and they have 13,079 enrolled members. Just 48 years before the removal of the Cherokee we find a military census in Puerto Rico that mentions 2,302 Indians living in an area known as "Las Indieras" that same original census also mentions that there was another Indian community of similar size living in Anasco. This census is saying that there were at least 4,000 full blood Native Americans living in Puerto Rico at that time (1778) They were full bloods because the Spanish were fanatical about creating names and categories for those of any amount of mixture (ie. Mestizo,Pardo, Mulato,Trigueno, Jabao, Zambo etc).

These people were clearly listed as Indios. So I wonder why if we had 4,000 full
bloods just 200 years ago, how is it we have none today? Or do we? How could the Eastern Cherokee go from a small group of 1,000 to 13,000 in 200 yrs. while the Taino go from 4,000 to 0 in the same time frame? There is no mention of wars or uprisings as was happening in the USA at the time. So what could account for the Taino's disappearance ?

We look at the 1800 census and those that came afterward the category of Indian has been left out. The numbers under the category of Pardo also show a great increase. The Indians were simply put in another category. This other category “Pardo" has been translated as colored. Many in the USA think of the term of color as being Black. Yet the census form had a different listing for “Free Blacks.” There were also listings for enslaved Blacks and enslaved Mulatos. The term Pardo (brown) was used only for free persons who were considered non Whites and also non Black by Spanish standards. these were the bi-racial and tri-racial combinations of Native American African and European offspring.

To insist that the Taino are extinct is to deny the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

It is to imply that somehow under the same circumstances and in some cases even better conditions than others, our ancestors were too weak or too dumb to survive when others did. It is to assume that our Taino blood line is thin and faint. That we are claiming one individual who lived 500 years ago. These conclusions are a mistake, and border on racist. The truth is that 200 years ago Native full bloods are documented to be in Puerto Rico that they numbered between 2,000 to 4,000. That these people were in contact with a larger population of Mestizos, Mulatos and Zambos. Most of which by definition had a strong Native component. Add to this the fact that there was a strong level of isolation to many parts of Puerto Rico, not only in the 1800s but even into the mid-20th century.

In the early 1900's there were barely 60 miles of paved roads in all of Puerto Rico. There were many communities that were inaccessible except by mule, horse or by foot. While every official town had their own church, the surrounding villages did not. This is why Puerto Ricans baptize their children twice. Once without a priest and one with. Both of my grandmothers gave birth at home in huts with only a mid-wife to help. My point is that in isolation the blood quantum can stay the same indefinitely, if the persons reproducing have the same quantum. So in communities where you have full bloods, mixing with half bloods and these villages are isolated you will still find many if not most with consistent and strong features reflecting their Indian background. This is the case in a large proportion of our people. This is why so many of us still fit the description given by Colon himself: bronze skin tone, straight black hair, high cheekbones, etc.

Many of our families report that their children are born with the " Mongol Spot" But doctors don't tell them that it is a trait common with Asians and Native Americans , they just tell them it means that the baby will be dark. This spot is what originally was meant by the " Mancha de Platano" (the Plantain Stain) because that is what it tends to look like on our babies. Our Taino bloodlines are not weak or faint, many of us just have to go back two generations to connect with our Taino life ways. In terms of blood we know it is there. We need only give the eye test to ourselves or to some other close relative.

I don't have to claim someone from 500 years ago. I claim my grandfather and both my grandmothers.


As Columbus Day Draws Near...

Taino'ti Guaitiao (Greetings Relatives):

On behalf of the United Confederation of Taino People (UCTP), it is my hope that at the time you receive this message you are in good health and spirit.

I am writing to remind you that as we draw closer to Columbus Day, there will be various activities happening to protest the Columbus Day "holiday" and we hope that you will consider supporting these or other events in your area.

If you are on the West Coast, please consider participating in the 14th annual Columbus Day Protest in Washington State, which will be held on October 9th at noon at the Peace Arch Park in Blaine, WA. The Peace Arch is located on the border between Canada & and the U.S. Look for UCTP representatives, the Garcia Family who will be attending, speaking and distributing informative materials. For more information on this gathering contact Evelyn Dye-Garcia at edyega6722@aol.com.

On Tuesday October 12th, our UCTP representative in California, John Huacan Vidal will be at the Mission at San Juan Capistrano, joining other Native Peoples and supporters to protest the colonization of Indigenous Peoples, the terrorism of the invaders, and especially the celebration of Columbus Day. The Mission is located 2 1/2 blocks west of Interstate 5 on Ortega Highway. For more information on how you can be a part of the Columbus Day Protest in California, please contact Huacan at pvidal_ny@yahoo.com.

If you are on the East Coast, please consider joining UCTP representatives at a Columbus Day Awareness Gathering at the Lancaster Square, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which will be October 11th from 4pm – 7pm. For more information on this gathering contact Tristan at 717-393-2634 or by email tristan_egolf@yahoo.com. If you would like to get more information about the Taino Delegation attending the PA gathering from the New York area and how you possibly participate in solidarity, please call Roberto Mucaro Borrero at 1(917)334-5658.

As always, we thank you all in advance for your support and please inform us if you are participating or organizing any other anti-Columbus Day activities etc. as we would like to publish this information in our hard copy News Journal "La Voz del Pueblo Taino" and the Taino News List.

Peace and Blessings,
Roberto Mucaro Borrero,
UCTP – U.S. Regional Coordinating Office


Taíno People Stand Proud Among Thousands at Museum Opening

WASHINGTON D.C. (UCTP Taino News) – Taíno and other Caribbean Indigenous Peoples were among the thousands of indigenous and non-indigenous peoples gathered to celebrate the grand opening of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday September 21st.

The United Confederation of Taíno People (UCTP) was represented at this historic event by a delegation of representatives and allies who took part in the Smithsonian’s Native Nations Procession. This awesome symbol of indigenous unity and pride featured about 25,000 of our relatives from throughout the Western Hemisphere and the Pacific Islands.

UCTP Liaison Officers for the State of Washington (from left to right) Evelyn Garcia, Joe Garcia and Adria Garcia in Washington D.C. Members of the UCTP delegation expressed their pride and joy with their tribal relatives who marched together with them in solidarity as Caribbean Indigenous Peoples.

Roger Atihuibancex Hernandez, Chief Editor of The Voice of the Taino People stated “It was an honor to participate with such a large number UCTP reps.

Hundreds of UCTP news journals (The Voice of the Taino People) were distributed to eager persons looking to connect with the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean. UCTP representatives and other family members were interviewed by the press and photographed time and time again as audiences applauded and cheered the Taíno, Carib and Arawak delegation taking part in the Procession.

The new National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, D.C., is located on the National Mall between the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum and the U.S. Capitol Building.


Born Puerto Rican, born (again) Taino? A resurgence of indigenous identity among Puerto Ricans has sparked debates...

Born Puerto Rican, born (again) Taino? A resurgence of indigenous identity among Puerto Ricans has sparked debates over the island's tri-racial history.

by Cristina Veran

In 2000, a popular hip-hop DJ from New York Tony Touch released The Piece Maker, a mix CD that presented his signature melding of rap lyrics and break-beats, spiked with a smattering of Latino-Caribbean sounds that effectively bind together the artist's Puerto Rican and hip-hop origins. Beyond the tracks and the rap however, this CD's cover art drew attention to a whole other kind of mixing: two otherwise mirror-image photos of himself--one in more typical streetwear-donning repose, the other sprouting a shock of azure feathered headdress, face painted in a geometric maze of dotted patterns and red and black swashes.

Not your typical rap regalia, to be sure, but this stylistic manifestation epresented an even more personal group-identity for the artist also known as the Taino Turntable Terrorist in homage to his indigenous (Taino Indian) ancestry. The CD's opening track, "Toca's Intro" boasted with a playful defiance: I shine all over the world wit my sonido/ Mijo, you ain't got nothing on this Taino/ I'm half Indian, but my name ain't Tonto.

Today, spurred as much perhaps by pop culture references like Touch's album as the general post-civil rights era search for identity among communities of color, young and old Puerto Ricans have increasingly looked toward the Indian component of their presumed tri-racial history for alternative interpretations of what makes them, in essence, who they are. Already--and increasingly so within the past 15 years--it is common, among both the Taino-representing and not, to self-identify using the term "Boricua"; a Taino term denoting a native to the island originally called "Boriken" (sometimes spelled Borinquen) and renamed Puerto Rico ("rich port") by Spain.

Conquest and "Extinction"

Tainos were the first "Americans" to greet Christopher Columbus and Co.'s earliest voyages, first to be mistaken for and hence misnamed "Indian." Spanish chroniclers like Bartolome de Las Casas estimated their population to be upwards of a million--as much as 8 million, when including neighboring island indigenes in the count--and yet within a 100 years of civilization-clashing, this estimate dropped dramatically until they ceased to be counted as a distinct group in the colonial census, relegated ever after to an undocumented oblivion.

The most widely held, schoolbook-promoted belief about Boriken's Tainos goes something like this: they were quickly wiped out, wholesale, by Spanish attrocities and Old World diseases, existing only in the collective memory of a glorious pre-Colombian past. The Encyclopedia Britannica apparently concurs, defining the Taino as an "extinct Arawak Indian group," whose "extinction" was complete "within 100 years of Spanish conquest."

The alternative, more accommodating explanation, first espoused during the 1940s and '50s as Puerto Rico shifted to Commonwealth from Unincorporated Territory status, promotes a mixed-race ideal akin to the raza cosmica (mixed "cosmic race") ideal conceptualized by Mexico's Jose Vasconcelos. For these philosophical adherents, the Taino continue to exist only as subsumed elements within Puerto Rico's tri-racial dynamic.

Finally the third view, oft-contested in Puerto Rican academic circles, maintains that not only is the Amerindian component far from extinct among present-day Puerto Ricans (for many of whom a distinctly indigenous Taino identity has endured), but that it can and does thrive.

At the forefront of this movement have been the still-growing number of so-called "revivalist" groups, from the Taino Inter-Tribal Council to Nacion Taino to the Jaribonicu Taino Tribal Nation, whose emergence as organized bodies began to coalesce.

"This first arose as an elitist movement," explains Gabriel Haslip-Viera, a professor at New York's City College and former director of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies. "[Identifying as] Taino was a way of separating themselves from the Europeans, and so Puerto Ricans began claiming at least some sort of Taino background whether they had any or not." In the Taino, ultimately, they believed they had found an uncontestable validation for their anti-colonialist struggle.

The quintessential Puerto Rican, enshrined in the island's official seal and by the early nationalists, embodies an inseparably-hinged triptych comprised of red (American Indian), white (Iberian), and black (West African) components. As Cuba's Jose Marti proclaimed of Latin Americans: "One may descend from the fathers of Valencia and mothers of the Canary Islands, yet regard as one's own the blood of the heroic, naked Caracas warriors which stained the craggy ground where they met the armored Spanish soldier."

Conflicting Identities

Among the loudest detractors of an indigenous-centered Puerto Rican identity, meanwhile, have been those for whom a more African-centered reality speaks to their experience. Taino resurgence, for them, is seen (by some) as having been exploited as a too-convenient, less racially-problematic alternative to the island's African-derived culture and gene pool Indigenous revivalism is seen as pitting a more mythologized Indian identity against a black reality.

The growing number of island-based and internationally active Taino organizations, who insist the modern-day Taino identity is much more than myth, believe their cause has been strengthened by a groundbreaking genetic study spearheaded by Juan Carlos Martinez Cruzado a molecular biologist based at the University of Puerto Rico's Mayaguez campus.

The Taino genome project genome project 1 The Human Genome Project, see there 2. A general term for a coordinated research initiative for mapping and sequencing the genome of any organism , which was initiated in 1999 through a grant from the National Science Foundation to test mitochondrial mitochondrial throughout the island, has identified a heretofore improbable-sounding 62 percent majority of Puerto Ricans today as of Amerindian Taino, descent.

How valid, then, are the assertions, not to mention the history books, which discount Puerto Rican claims to an identity for which so many may turn out to have direct genealogical ties?

Haslip-Viera, who edited the groundbreaking text Taino Revival, is among the prominent scholars who remain skeptical. "It might indeed be the case that somewhere in the family tree, going all the way back to the 16th century, there might have been one indigenous woman whose DNA has been carried through all the generations until the current bloodline "And yet during all the years since that, there have been all these other peoples who have come in from Africa, from Europe, from Asia [referring to the South Asian and Chinese laborers who also came to the islands, not typically included in the Hispanic Caribbean discourse on race]."

"Why focus on this one element which is so minor compared with other elements?" he questions.

"Over the long term," contends Haslip-Viera, "that indigenous element in the genome is really quite meaningless."

For those like Roberto Mucaro Borrero, however, there is profound meaning. Borrero, a leader of the United Confederacy of Taino People, argues that, rather than deriving from an exclusionary, nationalistic posture, Taino self/community identification is about affirming the very indigeneity of most Puerto Ricans, irrespective of blood quantum--and guaranteeing the sovereign rights inherent in such claims. Borrero sees the insistent discounting of Taino revivalism predominant in academia as racism, plain and simple; the emphasis on a nonspecific mixed-raced Puerto Rican identity as misplaced, at best. “This westernized, homogenized Latino thing is an inequitable concept where indigenous peoples are concerned," he believes.

"I have a real problem," Borrero adds, "when those people preferring to affirm an African or even a Spanish side to their history say that I can't affirm who I am as an indigenous person, as though everybody else is entitled to be who they are on our ancestral homeland, except us."

Drops of Blood

The populations of Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, and other South and Central American countries are overwhelmingly of Amerindian descent when statistics include those of mixed Spanish-Indian, Afro-Indian, or tri-racial lineage. The dominant mainstream culture in each, however, imposes and reinforces a decidedly Eurocentric ideal, far more Spanish than indigenous (or African, for that matter) in language, standards of beauty, and cultural mores.

In the United States, meanwhile, where individuals of native ancestry (including those of mixed race) comprise a mere single-digit percentage, more than 500 tribal nations celebrate their distinct indigenous heritage. Puerto Rico, while clearly understood to be part of Latin America, is heavily influenced by the United States in some of its collective attitudes toward race and indigeneity.

"In U.S. society, among the Anglo establishment, Indians are romanticized to a large extent," explains Haslip-Viera. "It's not this way in, say, Bolivia or Peru."

In the U.S., "one drop" became enough to certify blackness, initially in an attempt to maintain the pool of slave labor indefinitely. For Native Americans, a federally imposed concept of blood quantum was instead designed to deconstruct identity as the gene pools presumably would become mixed, gradually legislating away indigenous claims to land and sovereign rights. The sooner someone could no longer legally be recognized as Indian, the sooner white settlers and government agencies could move in for the (literal or figurative) kill.

The U.S. government, meanwhile, imposed the strictest race-defining standard yet for non-white citizens upon Native Hawai'ians. In direct opposition to Hawai'ian custom, in which identity (hence, indigeneity) comes from one's genealogical links to ancestors, Hawai'ians must prove a minimum 50 percent blood quantum for certain governmental benefits. At the same time, self-identifying and community-acknowledged Hawai'ians leading the fight for self-determination may themselves also have Scottish, Filipino, Japanese, even mixed Puerto Rican forebears in their family trees. For them, without question, the tree itself remains essentially Hawai'ian.

While by no means suggesting that either he or the bulk of today's Tainos are of racially-pure Amerindian stock, Borrero contends that the multi-hued genetic mix of the island and its diaspora does not erase the indigeneity of Taino-descended Puerto Ricans. Rather than Taino being merely absorbed within other groups, he believes, "All of those people who came to Boriken after Columbus ... they became part of our genealogy, our Taino narrative."

The Puerto Rican narrative, in a literary sense, does have a real history of romanticizing the Taino to suit the aforementioned nationalist ideal—that Puerto Ricans' sovereign right to a fully autonomous homeland are strengthened by an inherent indigenous connection to the land.

In his essay "Making Indians Out of Blacks," scholar Jorge Duany of Puerto Rico's University of the Sacred Heart notes that prominent writers and intellectuals from Eugenio Maria de Hostos to Juan Antonio Corretjer "have employed the Taino figure as an inspiration in the unfinished quest for the island's freedom." At the same time, Duany reinforces the prevailing assertions in academia when he argues, "The indigenista discourse has contributed to the erasure of the ethnic and cultural practices of blacks in Puerto Rico."

David Velasquez Muhammad is one young Puerto Rican for whom a black identity is paramount to his understanding of self. His "beef," says the Madison, Wisconsin-based youth organizer for the Nation of Islam's growing Latino Ministry, lies not with Taino groups themselves or their assertions to legitimacy. Rather, Muhammad sharply derides "the Puerto Rican Institute of Culture and other bourgeois institutions, for their promotion of a conceivably less-threatening, mystified promoting Taino culture not through living, breathing, modern people but exclusively through objects and artifacts--including human remains--on display behind glass-cased exhibitions.

Perhaps those who publicly refute the validity of a contemporary Taino identity could better direct their arguments toward these institutions themselves, rather than the so-called Taino revivalists.

Cultural Survival

While the DNA research suggests, encouragingly, the persistance of Taino genealogy into the present, what of the less-quantifiable, more-abstract components commonly understood to characterize and denote a distinct people?

Unquestionably the Taino have suffered periods of disconnection and loss from much of their culture, their language, and spirituality under both sword and Church. This initial victimization under colonialism need not necessarily be understood as a perpetual state of loss for the Taino.

New Zealand's indigenous Maori, for example--often as genetically diverse as the Taino-identifying Puerto Ricans--have achieved great success in the reclamation and renewed promulgation of the same Maori language once presumed near death by the mid-20th century. From the establishment of "kohanga reo" Maori language immersion schools, to dual-language hip-hop video shows on broadcast TV, to an all-Maori radio network, New Zealand's example proves that it can be done. Maori achievements in language revival have subsequently inspired similarly intensive undertakings by Native Hawai'ians in Hawai'i and the Blackfoot Nation in the continental U.S.

Modern-day Tainos seeking the same kind of rebirth do so at an apt time. The recent formation of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, a body representing indigenous peoples on all continents, has focused on exactly these concerns. High-level contributions of Tainos to this and other indigenous forums, including Roberto Mucaro Borrero's co-chairing of the NGO Committee for the International Decade of the World's Indigenous Peoples and Cuban Taino Jose Barreiro's editorship of Cornell University's prestigious Native Americas journal--has increased the public profile of Taino discourse in activist, academic, and social circles.

In the years to come, Puerto Ricans of varying extractions will surely continue to contemplate, perhaps even re-evaluate, what being Boricua means for them. Today's Taino are enabled as never before to ensure they remain essential to this process.

Cristina Veran is a journalist, historian, and educator who is also a United Nations correspondent. Her work has appeared in Ms. Magazine, Vibe, Oneworld, and News From Indian Country.

This article originally appears in COLORLINES Magazine
Copyright 2003


Historians work to set record straight on Cuba's Taino Indians

Chicago Tribune

YARA, Cuba - (KRT) - In a sweltering coastal settlement, Alejandro Hartmann pulled out a spiral notebook and jotted notes as a local peasant described his family's ties to a long forgotten indigenous group that is witnessing a modest resurgence.

"What is the name of your mother and father?" Hartmann asked Julio Fuentes, a wisp of a man parked on a wooden bench. "Where do they live? How old are they?"

Hartmann fired off a dozen more questions as part of his effort to complete the first census of the descendants of the Taino Indians, an indigenous group that once thrived in this remote region of eastern Cuba and later were thought to be extinct.

"Julio is a mixture of Spanish and Indian like many people," explained Hartmann, a historian and Taino expert. "I want to eliminate the myth once and for all that the Indians were extinguished in Cuba."

For years, anthropologists widely believed this island's once-powerful Taino Indians were exterminated shortly after Christopher Columbus sailed into a pristine bay and walked the steep, thickly forested terrain more than 500 years ago.

The explorer spent only a week in the area in 1492 but described the Taino as gentle, hard-working people growing crops and navigating the crystalline waters in huge dug-out canoes.

But, in a familiar story throughout the Americas, war and disease decimated the Taino, whose sense of identity was further razed over the centuries by racism and by generations of intermixing with whites, blacks and others who settled here.

Today, it's difficult to differentiate Taino descendents from the average Cuban peasant, or guajiro, as they are called.

Yet, Hartmann and a group of experts continue to press ahead, rewriting the tale of the Taino's demise in an effort to set the historical record straight and foster recognition among the island's 11 million residents of the group's contribution to Cuban life.

With a new museum, academic conferences and other projects, they also are trying to nurture a nascent sense of identity among the hundreds - perhaps thousands - of Taino descendents who are scattered along Cuba's impoverished eastern tip.

"We are recovering knowledge that was forgotten, knowledge that my parents and grandparents had," said Fuentes, 51. "A lot of people had knowledge but lived and died without knowing its Indian origin."

Experts say Taino influences are everywhere.

The palm-thatched huts common in the region are similar to those built centuries ago by the indigenous group. Some farmers till the soil using a long, sharpened pole known to the Taino as a coa.

Fuentes said he uses a coa to remove old plantain trees and dig latrines, while harvesting beans, sweet potatoes and other crops according to the four lunar phases - a belief system of indigenous origin.

Some coastal residents fish with small nets in the Taino style and crabs are trapped using a crude, box-shaped device that has changed little over the centuries, experts say.

Although the Taino language, Arawak, has all but died in Cuba, hundreds of indigenous words are peppered throughout the local Spanish. Many of the names of the island's most well-known places - from Havana to Camaguey to Baracoa - come from the Arawak language.

"The Taino culture permeates the culture of Cuba in a fundamental way," explained Jose Barreiro, a Cuban-American scholar of Taino history. "It's the base culture of the country along with Spanish and African influences."

Experts say the Taino migrated north from South America's Amazon basin centuries ago, populating much of what is now Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Cuba.

The Taino arrived in Cuba about 300 years before Columbus and eventually numbered in the hundreds of thousands.

Organized in villages under the authority of caciques or chiefs, the Taino cultivated beans, yucca, corn and other crops, along with something they called cohiba, or tobacco.

They hunted turtles, snakes, iguanas and a giant rodent called a jutia, while also adhering to a complex set of spiritual beliefs whose primary deity, Yucahuguama, represented agriculture and the ocean.

Roberto Ordunez, an anthropologist and director of the Taino museum in Baracoa, a picturesque colonial town of 50,000, said Columbus described a large, thriving agricultural community.

"I climbed up a mountain and found the flat lands planted with many things," Ordunez said Columbus observed in his journal in 1492. "It was a pleasure to see it and in the middle of it was a large population."

Although the Taino left no large monuments, they built canals for channeling water, caves for storing food during drought and a network of stone footpaths for travel and to escape their enemies, a raiding tribe known as the Carib.

But the Taino had no chance against the Spanish, who brought malaria, smallpox and other deadly diseases, along with modern weapons.

Still, some put up a fight.

An indigenous leader named Hatuey traveled from the island of Hispaniola to Baracoa to warn the Tainos about the conquistadores. He was captured, refused to convert to Christianity and was burned at the stake.

Hatuey remains a revered figure in Cuba, where his story is among the first lessons taught to schoolchildren.

"Hatuey is considered the first rebel in America because he was the first to understand the abuses of the colonialists and rebel against them," explained Noel Cautin, a guide at the Taino museum.

A second indigenous leader, Guama, launched hit-and-run attacks against the conquistadores for a decade before he was killed, perhaps by his own brother, in 1532. By then, the Taino numbered only a few thousand, a figure that continued to plummet. Historians in the 19th century declared there were no indigenous left on the island.

"Those who remained were in remote areas and the historians were primarily in the cities," Barriero said. "The Taino also had adopted Spanish technology and language."

Barriero and others say that not a single Taino community remains intact, though the group's culture is best preserved in La Caridad de los Indios and a handful of other remote villages in the mountains southwest of Baracoa.

In a sign of growing international recognition, the Smithsonian Institution last year returned bone fragments from seven Taino Indians to the La Caridad community for a sacred reburial.

The human remains along with thousands of indigenous artifacts were taken almost a century ago by American archaeologist Mark Harrington and later fell into the possession of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian.

Another source of pride is Baracoa's modest Taino museum, which opened last year in a hillside cave and displays pendants, necklaces and other pre-Columbian artifacts made of shells and other materials.

Fuentes has visited the museum twice.

"I felt pride because I hadn't see these things before and because I'm part of this culture," he said.


UN International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples Celebrated in NY

UNITED NATIONS, NY (UCTP Taino News) - In recognition of the United Nations International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, a special commemorative ceremony was held at UN Headquarters in New York, on Monday August 9th 2004.

The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is officially commemorated on August 9th annually in recognition of the first meeting of the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations in Geneva.

The free public program was especially notable as it was the final year of the UN International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. The recommendation for a second Decade is now being reviewed and will be voted on in the coming weeks.

The 2004 event included an “Earth Chant” by Amira Roca and Malaika Queano (Tiboli, Philippines) and an Indigenous Welcome and Blessing by Barbara James Snyder (Washoe/Paiute).

Messages from the Secretary General, Kofi Annan and the Chairman of the Permanent Forum, Ole Henrik Magga were also read by a representative of the Permanent Forum Secretariat. The Kahurangi Maori Dance Theater (Aotearoa/New Zealand) also presented a spirited cultural presentation.

The event’s Master of Ceremonies was Roberto Múcaro Borrero (Taíno, Puerto Rico). Borrero is a representative of the United Confederation of Taino People and Chairman of the NGO Committee on the International Decade of the World's Indigenous Peoples.

The August 9th Commemoration of the International Day was organized by the Secretariat of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues DSPD/DESA, the United Nations Department of Public Information, and the NGO Committee on the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.


Caribs in Dominica Elect a New Chief

CARIB TERRITORY, DOMINICA, WEST INDIES – The indigenous Carib Community of Wai'tukubuli (Dominica) has elected Charles Williams as their new Chief.

An hotelier, Williams had previously run for the office of Chief on four occasions but was unsuccessful. The new Chief polled 263 votes to beat outgoing Chief, Garnette Joseph, who received 182 votes.

Former Carib Chief Irvince Auguiste totaled 155 votes, while the two other candidates - Elvis Francis and Derrick Joseph - polled 151 and 102 votes respectively.

The election of the Carib Chief is held every five years, and is followed by the election of a Carib Council under the Local Government Division. Chief Williams automatically assumes the Chairmanship of the Council.

According to the Caribbean News Agency, Williams said that it has been 25 years since he has been asking "the Carib people for an opportunity to do what I think needs to be done for the Carib Territory and the people".

"We are the rightful owners of Dominica and we need much more development. I want you to respect and understand that this country belongs to the Carib people and we want a better share", the new Carib Chief told reporters.

He also envisions a tax free existence for the Carib territory and calls on the authorities to declare the area a tax and duty free zone. One of his economic plans as well is the establishment of a financial institution to assist in the overall development of the territory.

Outgoing Chief Joseph stated he had accepted the decision of the Carib people.

"The people wanted a change, I listened to the comments that were made during the election campaign and the people were dissatisfied with the level of information that were reaching them so I believe the people felt that they needed somebody that could really bring out the information to them," he said.

The election of a Carib Chief followed the nomination of five persons on June 22 who were willing to contest for the position. According to the presiding officer at the election, Helius Auguiste, voter turn out was encouraging and slightly better than the last election in 1999.

The Dominica newspaper, The Chornicle reported that there was also an increase in the number of youth registered for the occasion this time around. There were six polling stations facilitating some 1,677 persons registered to vote. “I believe the activity went on quite well with the voter turn out good and it was nice seeing a good representation from the youth of the area exercising their democratic right at the polls,” Auguiste noted.

The British formally granted some 3,700 acres of common land to the Kalinago or Carib People in 1903 as well as “officially” recognizing the office of Chief.

Photo: The new Carib Chief of Dominica, Charles Williams with his wife Margaret.


Caribbean Indigenous Peoples at the UN Permanent Forum

UNITED NATIONS (UCTP Taino News) - Several Caribbean Indigenous community leaders representing the UCTP and other organizations participated within the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues from May 10-21, 2004.

These representatives presented statements to the plenary sessions, as well as participated in the several lobbying Caucuses throughout the session.

Several Taíno artists were also featured in the exhibition “Celebrating Indigenous Peoples” sponsored by the United Nations Department of Public Information Exhibitions Unit.

UCTP representatives have participated at the Forum since its inception and this involvement has led to an increased visibility and awareness of Caribbean Indigenous Issues on an international level.


Taíno Educational Video Programs are still available free!

UCTP Taino News - NYC’s Manhattan Neighborhood Network continues to video stream the Taíno and Indigenous Cultures Educational Series produced by Roger Atihuíbancex Hernandez, in collaboration with the UCTP.

The programming airs every Monday night at 10:30pm (EST) via the World Wide Web. Just tune into Channel 34 at http://www.mnn.org/ website to download and view the weekly thirty-minute installments. If you cannot get the show online, VCR, DVD or VCD copies can be ordered (VCDs can be viewed directly on your computer).

For more information on the shows, please contact : rjhnyc@yahoo.com


Arawak BBQ Sauce

submitted by “Caribbean Maiden”

This is a West Indian marinade used for generations. It's best suited for fish and game. I like it on chicken and pork. Allow meat to marinate for at least an hour before cooking. Make sure you adjust the amount of Chile peppers to your taste.

Also, I sometimes replace the orange juice with marmalade for a sweeter marinade.

This recipe has been scaled to make two servings

6 green onions, chopped
3 tablespoons minced shallots
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 scotch bonnet Chile peppers,
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup red wine
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon molasses

In a medium, nonporous bowl, combine the green onions, shallots, garlic, ginger, allspice, ground
black pepper, chile peppers, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, brown sugar, orange juice, vinegar, wine, soy sauce, oil and molasses.

Mix well, cover and allow to sit for one hour. Mix well again before adding to fish or meat.

Discard any remaining sauce.


Keeping them in our Prayers…

The UCTP pauses to offer our sincere condolences to all the families in Haiti and the Dominican Republic who have lost loved ones during the recent devastating flooding that has taken place. The tragic death toll from flooding in the Dominican Republic and Haiti rose to at least 363.

Our condolences all go out to the families in Borikén (Puerto Rico) who have also experienced a similar tragedy as flooding on May 24 in killed at least four people on the island.


Illegal Adoption Exploits Caribs

DOMINICA, WEST INDIES - The poor situation of Dominica's indigenous Carib population is being exploited by foreigners, according to the Christian Children's Fund (CCF). The CCF exposed an illegal adoption and baby trafficking racket earlier this week.

It is now calling for action over its claims that families in Guadeloupe and Martinique have been illegally adopting children of Dominica's indigenous Carib people.

The group says there have been 30 such cases over the past 15 years.

Education needed CCF Director, Francis Joseph, told BBC Caribbean Service that the group was trying to educate individuals about the implications of giving up their children for adoption.

"(Parents) need to know that it is irreversible and once they go through proceedings for legal adoption they are unlikely to see their child again," Mr Joseph said.

"What we are asking for under the circumstances and in the situation where mothers are now asking for their kids to be returned, is that in the initial stages that there should be counselling to ensure that in adoption proceedings, the protocol is followed in the best way possible," he said.

The CCF is also warning that problems are arising when adoptees are returning to Dominica in later life. "We have had cases... people who have been taken away and are just returning to the Carib territory unceremoniously, unprepared, speaking French and now trying to fit into the education system but can't speak English," Mr Joseph said.

Ongoing situation Earlier this week, the CCF director said that his organisation had been monitoring the situation for some time but recently there had been an increase in the level of trafficking.

The situation was confirmed by Carib chief Garnet Joseph, who said those involved in the racket took advantage of the poor circumstances of the young Carib mothers and coerced them to give up their babies.

Neither party has been able to confirm whether or how much money is being exchanged. However, both the Carib chief and the CCF director have suggested that the deals have been facilitated by the involvement of local community leaders.

In response to the findings, the government has been urged to restructure the welfare services to closely monitor adoptions. Police have also been asked to pay more attention to children leaving the island.

Photo: Carib Chief Garnet Joseph


Dominican, Haiti Floods Kill at Least 363

Ta'kahi Guaitiao (Greetings relatives):

It is with a heavy heart that we forward the stories below. Please keep these families from the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Puerto Rico and Guyana in your prayers as they deal with these tragedies.

Oma'bahari (With respect),
Roberto Mucaro Borrero,
President, UCTP
U.S. Regional Coordinating Office


Dominican, Haiti Floods Kill at Least 363
By PETER PRENGAMAN, Associated Press Writer

JIMANI, Dominican Republic - Sobbing villagers tore through heaps of mud with their bare hands Tuesday, searching for loved ones as the death toll from flooding in the Dominican Republic and Haiti rose to at least 363. Trucks dumped scores of corpses into a mass grave.

An Associated Press reporter counted at least 180 bodies on the Dominican side of Hispaniola island by Tuesday afternoon. Another 100 or so had been dumped in the mass grave, according to Lt. Virgilio Mejia with the Dominican National Rescue Commission.

There were 83 confirmed deaths on the Haitian side, but the toll in both countries was steadily rising.

"I've looked at the bodies in the morgue and couldn't recognize any of them," said Jude Joseph, 30, who came to Jimani from Haiti's capital of Port-au-Prince to sell rice at a border market and visit family members in Bobmita, La Cuarenta and Barrio El Tanque, neighborhoods that were swept away in Monday's floods.

"I don't know what to do. I've been left with nothing," said Joseph, whose nine relatives were missing late Tuesday.

They were among the more than 250 unaccounted for in the Dominican Republic. In addition, 62 were missing in Haiti, mostly in the town of Fond Verrette.

U.S. Marines, who are leading a 3,600-member multinational task force sent to stabilize Haiti since the ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on Feb. 29, headed to Fond Verrette help in the emergency.

Rain has pelted the region for weeks, but a weekend downpour caused the Solie River to burst its banks, sweeping away the three neighborhoods of wooden shacks built mostly by Haitian migrants working in this impoverished Dominican town. At least 50 of the dead on the Dominican side were Haitians.

"I found them this morning," said Shela Lena, 24, who lost her sister-in-law and 3-year-old nephew Tuesday. She came from Port-au-Prince to work as a maid.

About six miles outside of Jimani, emergency workers in surgical masks and white gloves watched as trucks dumped scores of corpses into a 15-foot ditch.

By late Tuesday, more than scores of bodies filled the grave. No relatives were present for the mass burial. Some on the Dominican side were believed to be Haitian workers living there illegally and therefore afraid to claim the bodies of family

The Dominican government had issued an alert Sunday, warning people that rivers may swell with the rains. But Jimani — more than 100 miles west of the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo — has only limited access to radio broadcasts.

People whose houses still stood on Tuesday scooped water from their living rooms. Chairs and mattresses floated in deep pools of water as dark clouds threatened more rain. Hundreds of houses had been destroyed on both sides of the border.

As rescue workers and families pulled bodies from the mud, medical teams draped work areas with mosquito netting. The insects can carry parasites that cause malaria and dengue fever. Some people were also being given tetanus shots.

"We can't find her anywhere," cried Norma Cuevas, 32, as she desperately searched for her 63-year-old mother among dozens of other families reaching their hands through mud.

Many roads on both countries were still impassable.

Elena Diaz, 42, who lost her daughter in the floods, sobbed as she waited in a long line outside the morgue where she went to look for her son-in-law and three grandchildren.

"They found my daughter. Now I have to see if I have some family left," she said.

The raging water carried some victims away. Bodies were found as far away as six miles downstream, said Maximo Noves Espinal, an emergency official in Jimani.

Haitian officials were struggling to determine the full extent of the tragedy. Interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue was expected to visit the scene.

Since a three-week armed rebellion pushed Aristide from power, Haiti's interim leaders have struggled to provide basic services to its 8 million people. Left nearly bankrupt, the government has scant resources to deal with natural disasters.

The rains left at least three others dead in other parts of the Dominican Republic while one man was also killed in Puerto Rico. Another man was killed aboard a Guyanese-registered freighter that sank Monday in rough seas.

The floods were some of the deadliest in a decade.

In 1994, Tropical Storm Gordon caused mudslides that buried at least 829 Haitians. More recently, nearly 30 people died in September during floods caused by heavy rain in St. Marc, about 45 miles northwest of the capital, Port-au-Prince.

Associated Press writers Amy Bracken and Jose P. Monegro contributed
to this report.


In related news:

Flooding on Monday in Puerto Rico killed at least four people.

Searchers in the capital of San Juan found the body of a 24-year-old man who disappeared Sunday in a flooded lagoon, officials said.

Parts of the island got up to 8 inches of rain, according to the National Weather Service. More than 60 Puerto Ricans were in emergency shelters in schools.

At sea, the rough weather contributed to the sinking of a Guyanese-registered freighter off the north coast early Monday, killing one man, officials said.


Our Universe: The West Indian Manatee

By Sylvia Karayaturey Rosario

Focus on the West Indian Manatee- (Trichechus manatus)

UCTP Taino News - On January 9, 1493, off the coast of Hispaniola, Christopher Columbus saw what he thought were three “mermaids” lifting their heads out of the water near Rio Yaque del Norte.

In his journal he wrote, “They are not so beautiful as they are painted; though to some extent they have the form of a human face.” His journal entry is believed to be the first documented sighting by a European of a manatee in the “New World”. While the English and Dutch named manatees “sea cows”, the common name comes from “Manati” used by the Taíno and Carib peoples.

The manatee is as sacred to the Caribbean, Southeastern, and South American Indians as the buffalo is to the Plains Peoples. Not only did we consume the animal for food, just about every other part of the manatee was also used. Due to the lack of marrow, the Taíno and Carib used the bones to make spoons, weapons, body ornaments and spiritual objects such as pipes and cohoba spatulas (used to purge before ceremony).

In Southern Florida, manatee head bones have been found buried in the graves of tribal chiefs there showing the great reverence for the animal.

Some fossilized manatee bones found in Florida date back at least 45 million years. The leathery skin of the manatee was used to make shields, canoes, drum covers and even foot coverings. Fat and oil were used as fuel to generate light as well as for flavoring and preserving the meat.

When boiled or fried in its own oil, the meat could be preserved for a year or more. Manatee meat has been said to taste like veal, pork, or beef, depending what part of the body the meat was taken from. Because of this and the fact that manatees are friendly, therefore, easy to kill, manatee meat was largely sought after by the Europeans for their long sea voyages.

Currently, the Antilles manatee (one of two subspecies; the other being the Florida manatee) is considered to be the most endangered marine mammal in the area ranging from the Caribbean to as far south as Brazil.

The most common cause of death is directly related to human interaction. In recent years, 52.2% of the cases of manatee mortality were related to human causes like poaching, watercraft collision, and animals being shot or accidental capture. Only 22.2% were related to natural causes, mostly orphaned calves. Females usually have their first calf by the age of four. Normally they have one calf every two to five years, with the rare occurrence of twins. Under very optimal conditions, a female might be able to produce 12 to 14 young in her lifetime.

Manatees may live to be greater than 60 years old in the wild.

The Caribbean Marine Mammal Laboratory (CMML), located in San Juan, Puerto Rico, is the only academic research laboratory in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean with license to rescue and rehabilitate whales, dolphins, seals, and manatees. The CMML was created in 1998 under a cooperative agreement between the Universidad Metropolitana and the non profit scientific organization Caribbean Stranding Network (CSN). To date 15 manatees have been rescued, 4 of which have been reintroduced to the sea.

The success of rehabilitation depends on the severity of condition and health of the animal. The average success rate for manatees at CSN is 83.3%. Studies have also been conducted in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Trinidad, Venezuela, Jamaica, Columbia, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. The CSN has been approached by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), to establish recovery plans in other Caribbean countries.

Photo: Manati with calves


UCTP Taino News Editors Note: If you would like to get involved helping to protect
Manatees, you may want to check out a the website like “Save the Manatee Club” at




The exhibit "In Celebration of Indigenous People", featuring indigenous art from around the world, will open on Tuesday, 11 May at 6:30 p.m. in the Visitors' Lobby of the United Nations Headquarters.

It showcases "Kickin' Up Dust," a photographic exhibit of Aboriginal sacred rites and ceremonies, co-sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Australia to the United Nations and the Australian Consulate-General, as well as photos by National Geographic photographers and artwork from indigenous artists -- sculptures from Easter Island, Bushmen art, works by a Maori artist from New Zealand and indigenous artwork from North and South America and the Caribbean.

With Roberto Mucaro Borrero (Taino) as master of ceremonies, Australian Aboriginal musician Cameron McCarthy will open the event with a piece played on the didgeridoo, an Aboriginal wind instrument. Remarks will be made by Jose Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Peter Tesch, Australia's Deputy Permanent Representative, and Ole-Henrik Magga, Chairperson of the United Nations Permanent Forum of indigenous Issues.

Ulali, a three-member a cappella group of native women will perform a musical interlude, their singing accompanied by hand drums, followed by a statement by Noeli Pocaterra, Second Vice-President of the National Assembly of Venezuela and a member of the Wayuu nation. Yarina, a women's music and dance group from Ecuador, will offer a dance in hounor of indigenous women, followed by the four-member indigenous Ecuadorian group Salasaca Kuna, which as in previous years will play music at the end of the ceremony for participants to dance.

The exhibit marks the third session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, which is meeting at United Nations Headquarters (Conference room 2) from 10 to 27 May focusing on the theme "Indigenous Women".

The event is sponsored by the Secretariat of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the NGO Committee on the International Decade of the World's Indigenous Peoples, the Tribal Link Foundation and the Ingrid Washinawatok Flying Eagle Women's Fund for Peace, Justice and Sovereignty.


Taino Attend OAS Meeting in Washington DC

Washington DC (UCTP Taino News) - UCTP representatives, affiliates and other Caribbean Indigenous leaders gathered in Washington D.C. last week to participate in the meetings focusing on the Organization of American States (OAS) draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This is an ongoing process and the participation of Caribbean community leadership via the Caribbean Indigenous Caucus has increased the visibility of Caribbean Indigenous Peoples with this international forum. Country representation within the caucus included St. Lucia, Puerto Rico, Barbados, Dominica, St.Vincent and the Diaspora.




"Columbus and the Age of Discovery," winner of the Age of Discovery Theme Prize in 1993 at Millersville University.

Before the Protestant Reformation, the head of the Catholic Church exercised much influence on every aspect of European society. The Pope, as Christianity's spiritual leader, received deferential treatment from leaders of Europe's emerging nation-states. These monarchs sought God's approval via the Pontiff for their actions and policies. Thus, the various popes during the Age of Discovery through encyclicals, bulls, and edicts molded relations between European states. Their involvement in such affairs and influence on events is clearly evident from Papal activity during the Age of Discovery.

The various popes of the era dictated the course of explorations and legitimized claims of discovery. Through its large-scale involvement with European politics, the Vatican played a significant role in determining who gained from the New World. Papal involvement encouraged the establishment of international relations and international law among European states, and significantly determined the progress of this period. The various popes received petitions from rulers regarding actions in the New World, and as Christ's Vicar on Earth, confirmed their actions. From Papal bulls and initial Papal condonement of Spanish conduct in the New World, monarchs and conquistadores found justification for their treatment of the natives.

Papal support authenticated the behavior of Europeans in the New World, and determined the future of the Americas and its peoples by establishing and enforcing Portuguese and Spanish dominance in the New World.

In the decades before Columbus' first voyage, Portuguese sailors explored the west coast of Africa and would eventually circumnavigate that continent. During this time, the King of Portugal petitioned the Pope for rights over this territory. In 1452, Pope Nicholas V issued the bull Dum diversa which granted King Alfonso of Portugal "general and indefinite powers to search out and conquer all pagans" and to enslave them and appropriate their lands and goods. This provides an early example of assumed European superiority over pagan peoples and its endorsement by the Papacy. In 1455, the papal bull Romanus pontifex expanded on the earlier bull and granted to Portugal exclusive rights to "a vast southerly region" in which missionaries could pursue converts. Both bulls were issued by Nicholas V, who favored the Portuguese crown. This type of papal favoritism would prove to be of significant importance to later voyages of the Age of Discovery.

Pope Calixtus III, in 1456, issued the bull Inter Caetera, which also promoted European evangelization of pagan peoples. Inter Caetera 1456 specifically confirmed Romanus pontifex and conferred upon the Portuguese the responsibility for the spiritual development of all lands they had acquired; including the Azores, Cape Verde Islands, Madeira Islands, and African outposts. Thus began the granting by the Pontiff of spheres of influence outside of Europe. According to this bull, Portugal was also permitted to claim the coast of Africa and the Spice Islands.

With each new Pope came confirmation or derogation of previous bulls, issuances of new bulls and possibly a change of favorites. When Sixtus IV came to power, he issued the bull Aeterni Regis 1481. This confirmed Romanus pontifex 1455 and Inter Caetera 1456, and sanctioned Portuguese claims to exclusive rights in Guinea (West Africa). Pope Sixtus IV, like Nicholas V, also promoted Portuguese interests over Spanish, French or others. Aeterni Regis 1481 also brought Papal authority to bear on Castille and encouraged it to abide by the Treaty of Alcacovas. In this treaty, Castille promised to avoid trade and mission work in Guinea and other Portuguese Atlantic possessions. Enforcement of the treaty by the Vatican demonstrates Vatican influence over events and the actions of powerful monarchs, and papal power to advance or hinder a state's progress in overseas commerce and colonization.

Through the fifteenth century, the Papacy steadily lost influence as nation states coalesced. These waxing political units gained influence through consolidated power and alliances. The growth of secular government threatened the Pope's position and forced him to engage in alliances also. In 1492, amid this weakening of Vatican authority, Alexander VI ascended to the Papacy. As a member of the Spanish Borgia family, he held strong ties with the Spanish Sovereigns. Pope Alexander VI appears as a prime example of a pontiff who rewarded the state he favored. In order to secure alliances in northern Italy, Alexander granted concessions to Spain. He needed the support of Ferdinand and Isabela to ensure his hold over certain regions.

According to Linden:

"...Alexander VI could refuse nothing to Ferdinand and Isabela; eager to give them evidence of his good will he did not hesitate to comply entirely with requests relative to Columbus' discoveries without examining whether their claim menaced the rights of other sovereigns or not".

So eager was Alexander to please the Spanish monarchs, thus keeping their alliance strong, that he issued bulls that contradicted previous bulls. These contradictory articles created conflict among the Spanish and the Portuguese concerning new lands and rights of possession. In 1493, Alexander issued a series of bulls which established Spanish dominance over the people and the lands they discovered. The first of these bulls, Inter Caetera 1493 was issued on May 3 and:

"assigned to the present and future sovereigns of Castille the lands discovered and to be discovered by their envoys and not previously possessed by any Christian owner".

It also provided that Ferdinand and Isabela send men to convert the natives to the Catholic faith and instruct them in Christian morals. Inter Caetera 1493 also confirmed Romanus pontifex, which now applied to Spanish possessions, thus no other country could trade in Spanish America without Spanish permission.

Alexander VI issued a second bull Inter Caetera 1493 on May 4 of that year. This bull elaborated and expanded the authority of Spain over their new possessions. Instead of simply granting Spain the lands discovered, this bull provided for:

"A line of demarcation one hundred leagues west of any of the Azores or Cape Verde Islands and assigned to Castille the exclusive right to acquire territorial possessions and to trade in all lands west of that line, which at Christmas 1492 were not in the possession of any Christian prince".

Evidence exists that it was Columbus who suggested the position of the line "believing he found there `a great change in the sky, the stars, the air temperature and in the ocean'." This Line greatly favored Spanish interests, while it provided no safeguards for conflicting Portuguese rights. This bull fixed a boundary for Spanish and Portuguese spheres, yet the meridian was indefinite and the text too unclear to allow a definite determination of its location. However, the Line was fixed in such a way that all of America was assigned to Spain.

Spanish and Portuguese authorities clarified the confusion and intangibility created by the Papal Line of Demarcation by drafting the Treaty of Tordeseilles. This treaty of June 7, 1494 moved the line to 370 leagues west of the Azores, and granted Portugal part of Brazil. This is odd, since Brazil had not yet been discovered by the Portuguese. Problems with this treaty would arise later when Spanish and Portuguese missions began exploring the actual East Indies. The global nature of the treaty was debated, but both Spain and Portugal agreed that the Line extended through the earth and divided the world into two spheres of influence. The Treaty of Tordeseilles thus applied to the East and West Indies.

Throughout his reign, Alexander VI would continue to issue bulls which favored Spanish interests. In the bull Piis fidelium 1493 Spain was granted vicarial power to appoint missionaries to the Indies. The removal of this important aspect of Papal control in favor of control by the Spanish Sovereigns demonstrates the influence of Papal actions during the Encounter. This bull initiated a series of Papal actions which ended with Spanish Sovereigns in control of the church in America. Ferdinand and Isabela received concession after concession with regard to the New World;

"The different bulls of that year [1493] were but successive increments of the favors granted to the Spanish Sovereigns, Alexander VI being at that time but an instrument in their hands".

The Sovereigns essentially wrote their own rules for their new possessions; they held the favor of the Pope and were able to secure many of the grants they requested, to the dismay of Portugal. They promised floods of converted heathens, tributes and tithes, and were granted increasing ecclesiastical power in return. Alexander's readiness to grant such petitions contributed greatly to Spain's eventual domination of the New World.

In Alexander's time, it was still assumed that Columbus had found a western route to the Indies and Orient, so he issued a bull to even further secure Spanish discoveries. Bull Dudum Siquidern 1493 extended bull Inter Caetera May 4, 1493 and claimed that regions found by Spanish captains sailing west to India would fall under the sole proprietorship of Spain despite their location in the eastern regions, which were previously assigned to Portugal. This bull excluded all other countries from navigating, fishing or exploring in those areas without permission from Spain. What is so striking about this bull is the assumption that the Pope had the authority to dispense lands of the world irregardless of any pre-existing government in those areas or of the wishes of the inhabitants. This authority can be traced to an obscure and questionable eighth century document known as the Donation of Constantine. Based on a fifth century document by Emperor Constantine I, the Donation granted to the western pope "all provinces, localities and towns in Italy and the Western Hemisphere". Despite fifteenth century proof of its forgery, popes continued to use the document as justification for land grants to Portugal and Spain. Another obscure papal doctrine, the omni-insular doctrine drew upon the same eighth century forgery which granted the Papacy dominion over the "various islands". Based on this ambiguous phrase, popes in the fifteenth century felt they enjoyed authority over all the islands of the world, including those of the Caribbean. Under these claims, Alexander justified granting to Spain control over the islands found by Columbus. This dubious article also invested the Papacy with the power to impart ecclesiastica jurisdiction to Spain over its newly found lands. In 1501, Spain requested the receipt of tithes in order to finance the costly missions, and Alexander under the omni-insular doctrine conceded all the ecclesiastical tithes from Spanish American possessions to be used for the building of churches in America.

The Vatican, under the reign of Alexander VI, had given Spain every advantage in the New World. Spanish Sovereigns gained increasing power over the appointment of ecclesiastical offices and the direction of ecclesiastical affairs, in exchange for promises to engage in the conversion of natives to Catholicism. Alexander's issuance of Papal bulls and grants of power which specifically favored Spanish interests can be labelled as Patronato Real, or Royal Patronage. These grants secured Spain's rise as an empire while ensuring the mediocrity of England, France and others. Portugal, despite Alexander's Spanish patronage was able to gain control in Africa and in the East Indies. Through these bulls, the Spanish monarchy came to exercise as much influence over the church in America as they did over their own army.

Spanish patronage would continue with Julian II, who became Pope in 1503. He soon issued Universalis Ecclesiae in 1508, which commanded that no church or monastery should be built in the newly found lands without permission from the Spanish Sovereigns. Control over the church in America grew in degrees until Spanish Sovereigns were essentially the Popes of the New World.

"The American church became in fact a national church living within the orbit, not of the Roman Papacy, but of the Council of the Indies and attached to Rome by very tenuous bonds".

Patronato Real signified the surrender by the Vatican of direct authority over affairs in a particular region. The presiding monarchy determined geographic bounds of the new dioceses, appointed officials and paid their salaries. They also determined where and when a church could be built, and how it was to be decorated. For this authority, Spanish monarchs were obligated to convert the natives to the Catholic faith. Beyond simple conversion, they also gained enormous power and influence in the New World through the grants of the Alexandrine and Julian Bulls. At the time of their issuance, the Papal Bulls and Patronato Real were insignificant, as were the first Spanish lands in the New World; however, this policy would prove to be very important in the development of Spain's American Empire.

Over the years, Spain's treatment of Native Americans and their administration of colonial affairs drew the attention of other European powers. Envious of Spain's waxing power, England, France and others propagated the "Black Legend". These tales of Spanish cruelty to natives and immoral activities in America, were an attempt to discredit their rival and destroy the favorable relationship between Spain and the Papacy. The Black Legend was heard in Spain where ecclesiastics met to debate the issue. Parts of the Black Legend troubled the consciences of Spanish church leaders and the Vatican. They began to question whether the maltreatment of the Indians was morally right and whether enslavement was within the bounds of colonial authority. The debate led ultimately to questions concerning the precise position occupied by Indians in the scale between animal and man. Despite its benevolent appearance, this debate concerned con- version more than the morality of mistreatment. If the natives were beasts and soulless, then the entire missionary effort became questionable. Indians could not be converted if they were not human, so it had to be established that they were indeed human and possessed of souls, thus capable of conversion. This distinction was of great importance to Europe since the entire Spanish pretext for American occupation depended on gaining converts.

In 1537, Pope Paul III sought to resolve this dilemma by issuing Sublimis Deus Sic Dilexit which established that Indians were human and capable of conversion;

"We...consider..that the Indians are truly men and that they are not only capable of understanding the Catholic faith, but according to our information they desire exceedingly to receive it...We define...that...the said Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property...nor should they be in any way enslaved; should the contrary happen it shall be null and of no effect."

This bull was quite noble, but it had little practical effect in a world thousands of miles away, despite its authority. However, it declared conversion possible and reimposed Papal endorsement of Spanish conversion efforts.

When Spanish Sovereigns sought the endorsement of the Papacy in 1493, it was seeking ecumenical validity for its intentions in the New World.

"When Alexander VI and Julius II approved the Spanish Conquest of the New World, the justice and propriety of the Spanish action was presupposed and during the first years of Spanish rule in America there was little or no overt opposition".

Alexander determined Spain's success in the New World. He promoted Spanish petitions over those of other European powers and granted the Spanish rights of enormous scope. Alexander's patronage of the Spanish Sovereigns was politically motivated. He needed their support, thus he promoted their New World endeavors. This type of behavior by Pontiffs in the Age of Discovery significantly influenced the future of the Americas.

The initial response of the Vatican provided some of the justification for the exploitation of the New World and for the superior attitude of Europeans. Papal bulls determined who received exclusive rights to lands and peoples, and supplied legal and moral validations for conquest. Through Papal actions, the Vatican plainly influenced European policy regarding the New World. European monarchs were able to achieve Papal grants without fully exploring the lands they found or consulting with the inhabitants. By 1508, the Vatican, through grants and bulls, had surrendered its authority over events in the New World to Spain. The role and influence of the Vatican in the Encounter is lucidly represented by its unique support of Spanish interests in America. Spain gained immense amounts of land, treasure and laborers in consequence of Papal favor and approval.

Besides exercising a political influence, the Vatican also dictated social behavior in the New World. The various popes encouraged missionary activity and the conversion of natives. They also perpetuated the belief in the inferiority of natives, and not until 1537 did the Papacy at last declare the Indians human. However, that apparent benevolence further strengthened Spain's "right" to the New World.

The role of the Vatican was simply as the unwitting arbitrator between Portugal and Spain on the issue of the new worlds. With each Pope, power and influence in the New World and control of its natives shifted among the European powers. The Vatican's inconsistent response to the Encounter contributed considerably to the violent clash between the Old and New Worlds.


Davenport, Frances Gardiner. European Treaties Bearing on the History of the United States and its Dependencies to 1648. Baltimore: The Lord Baltimore Press, 1917.

Dolan, Jay P. The American Experience: A History from Colonial Times to the Present. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1985.

Ellis, John Tracy. Catholics in Colonial America. St. Paul: North Central Publishing Company, 1965.

Gibson, Charles, ed. The Spanish Tradition in America. New York: Harper & Row, 1968.

Greenleaf, Richard. E., ed. The Roman Catholic Church in Colonial Latin America. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1971.

Hanke, Lewis. The Spanish Struggle for Justice in the Conquest of America. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1949.

Latorre Cabal, Hugo. The Revolution of the Latin American Church. Frances K. Hendricks and Beatrice Berler, trans. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1978.

Linden, H. Vander. "Alexander VI and the Demarcation of the Maritime and Colonial Domains of Spain and Portugal 1493 -1494". The American Historical Review 22:1 (October 1916): 1-20.

The New Catholic Encyclopedia 1. New York: McGraw Hill,1967 pg.306

________ 4. New York: McGraw Hill, 1967. 996-997.

________ 8. New York: McGraw Hill, 1967. 446-448, 464-468.

________ 10. New York: McGraw Hill,1967. 1000-1001,1114-1116.


UCTP Taino News Editor's Note: Bo'matum (Thank you) to Jimmy Running Fox for forwarding this article. If you would like additional information on the Papal Bulls and the movement to revoke this ancient edict, check out the UCTP website at http://www.uctp.org/#3 . If you have not done so already, please also sign the petition to Revoke the Papal Bull located at http://www.petitiononline.com/1492/