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