Farmers ravage virgin forests in Dominican Southwest, El Dia reports

PEDENALES, Dominican Republic. - Thousands of hectares of the Sierra de Bahoruco National Park (southwest), in the area known as Los Brocosis, are being ravaged by farmers, with the Environment Ministry’s indifference, reports newspaper El Dia.

The farmers are lumbering virgin forests untouched even by the Taino Indians, said the biologist Nicolas Corona, who affirmed that more than protected area, the Bahoruco is becoming farmland. “Unfortunately the park is disappearing day by day, minute by minute. Right now they are cutting down thousands of tareas every year, and everything stays the same.”

Interviewed by newspaper El Dia, the scientist said farmers from the communities Pedernales, Las Mercedes, Aguas Negras and El Mogote participate in the activity, which he affirmed has already destroyed Bahoruco almost entire southwestern section, including Los Arroyos, Aguas Negras “and as rains erode the vegetal cover, those places no longer produce much, and so they destroy other places.”

After calling the practice a crime, Corona said 22 wildfires have occurred in the mountain range so far this year from farmers making clearings, especially in the higher part of Las Mercedes. “The farmers who are in Los Brocosis already depredated Los Arroyos, Las Mercedes, Aguas Negras, La Compañia, La Altagracia and Las Abejas.”

Source: Dominican Today


Third Puerto Rican Artisan Fair to be held in New York

New York, New York (UCTP Taino News) - The 3rd Annual “Comite Noviembre Artisan Fair and Exhibition" will be held on Saturday, November 22, 2008 in New York City from 11am – 6pm at 405 West 59th St. In keeping with its mission to promote Puerto Rican culture and art as well as to commemorate its 21st anniversary, the Comité has invited Puerto Rican artisans from Puerto Rico and the United States to participate in this event being held at the Church of ST. Paul the Apostle.

Of particular note is the participation of the artist company “Taino Spirit” featuring Aguilar Marrero and Reina Sipainaru Miranda. The works of the duo have been receiving increased attention with their exhibitions and displays being featured at the United Nations, the American Museum of Natural History, and other prestigious venues. Taino Spirit was recently acknowledged by Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion for their dedication to promoting Taino and Caribbean cultural awareness. Artist Aguilar Marrero received an additional distinction with one of his works being selected for the Comite Noviembre’s featured art poster for this year’s event. Marrero will be signing copies of these limited edition Comite Noviembre posters for visitors.

The Comite Noviembre seeks to create a “festive atmosphere” similar to the “fiesta patronales” that takes place in each town of Puerto Rico. The plan is to transform the event venue into a typical Puerto Rican plaza with artists, sculptors, vejigante mask makers etc. promoting and selling their wares while typical Puerto Rican food is sold from kiosks and musical acts entertain throughout the day. Workshops for children are planned such as mask making, the history of the three kings’ celebration, and other activities.

UCTPTN 11.18.2008


Study: Toxic metals in produce grown on Vieques

MAYAGUEZ, Puerto Rico: A new study has found dangerous levels of toxic metals in produce grown on a Puerto Rican island formerly used as a Navy bombing range, despite U.S. government claims that the soil there is safe.

Some products from a research farm on Vieques Island had as much as 20 times the acceptable amount of lead and cadmium, according to the study released last week by the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez.

Researcher Arturo Massol said peppers, spinach and tomatoes showed higher levels of contamination than products from the nearby Puerto Rican mainland and would pose a health risk to humans. Food grown at the farm is strictly for research and is not meant for consumption.

A Navy spokesman, Cmdr. J.A. "Cappy" Surett, reiterated Monday that the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry has determined the soil on Vieques does not pose a health risk to people. A 2003 study by the agency found that Navy training exercises elevated the levels of some metals in the soil, but islanders were not exposed to harmful levels of contamination.

Vieques' small farming community requested the analysis by Massol, who has also studied contamination among the island's fish populations.

After decades of being hammered by live rounds from warships and planes, the Vieques bombing range closed in April 2003 following years of protests.

Since 2005, workers overseen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have been clearing mortar shells and unexploded munitions in a cleanup expected to take about 10 years.

Article Source: The Associated Press


2008 Joint Taino Report to the CERD Now Available

UCTP Public Notice: The 23 January 2008 Joint Taino Report to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) is now available for review at www.uctp.org. To access this historic report at www.uctp.org, please visit the "Documents in English" section, and click on the heading "Taino Advocacy at the United Nations."

The Taino submission to the CERD was a joint effort of the United Confederation of Taino People - Office of International Relations and Regional Coordination; the Consejo General de Tainos Borincanos; and the Caney Quinto Mundo in response to periodic reports of the United States of America, which were reviewed at the Committee's Seventy-second session held in Geneva, 18 February - 7 March 2008. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) is the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of Alls Forms of Racial Discrimination by its State parties. The report is 30 pgs in English only.


Punta Cana Resort inaugurates Taino Underwater Park

Santo Domingo - The destination Punta Cana Resort & Club took the first step to create the Underwater Park Igneri / Taino, in Playa Bonita, with the laying of the first two sculptures of a total of 12 that will complete the exhibit.

The project is headed by the artist Thimo Pimentel, with the support of the Punta Cana Group's Ecological Foundation.

Source: Dominican Today


Remembering the Tainos: Jamaica's First People

KINGSTON (JIS) - Jamaica is regarded as a cultural melting pot due to its unique history and the racial diversity that has contributed to the country's cultural heritage.

One such group that is often overlooked are the Tainos, who are featured on the country's Coat of Arms.

"Most people probably handle money with this symbol everyday but probably never give a thought to it and it is ironic that something that is so visible, people know so little about," Senior Research Fellow at the African Caribbean Institute of Jamaica/ Jamaica Memory Bank (ACIJ/JMB), Dr. Julian Cresser, says in an interview with JIS News.

"I do think that more needs to be done, (as) the Tainos are certainly a part of the history syllabus but in terms of just the wider public knowing about them, I do think more could be done to promote knowledge about our indigenous people," he maintains.

The Tainos were the focus of the ACIJ/JMB's recent Open House Programme. "Well throughout our various exhibition programmes we have highlighted various groups that have contributed to the cultural heritage of Jamaica. We have focused in the past on the Chinese in Jamaica, we have looked at German immigration, and this year we decided to look at the Tainos," Dr. Cresser explains.

"What we have realized is that not much attention had been paid to the legacy of the Tainos and so we decided that it would be good for us to have a feature on them," he continues.

The Tainos, who are generally referred to as Arawaks, are recognized as the earliest recorded inhabitants of Jamaica. On this matter, Dr. Cresser notes that there is a distinction to be made between the words Taino and Arawak with the former referring to the inhabitants and the latter to a language.

"We believe the Tainos were the first inhabitants of Jamaica. They would have migrated from South America and reached the Greater Antilles somewhere around 700 to 1000 AD," he informs.

"Most people are more familiar with the name Arawak, we now believe that these groups of people were Arawak speaking people so Arawak refers to a group of languages spoken by these people and you had different groups of Arawak speaking people in the Greater Antilles," he further explains.

In appearance the Taino were short and muscular and had a brown olive complexion and straight hair. They wore little clothes but decorated their bodies with dyes. Religion was a very important aspect of their lives and they were mainly an agricultural people although they did have some technological innovations. Today, some of their practices and different aspects of their culture such as their language, and food, are still in use in Jamaica.

"Some of the things that are definitely part of our cultural heritage today that came from the Tainos are things like the use of cassava, especially the making of bammy that is a very popular part of our food heritage. There is also the use of tobacco, which is not just a part of Jamaica but (is used) right throughout the world. The Tainos used tobacco in a number of their religious ceremonies and rituals and in their daily life for relaxation," Dr. Cresser says.

"The Tainos also cultivated cotton and they had a process by which they wove it and were able to make hammocks. The word hammock is a derivative of a Taino word and so is barbeque, which refers to a way in which they prepared meat. So a number of these things that we see around us we may not realize that it has come down to us from the Tainos," he affirms.

Another interesting aspect of the Tainos is in relation to one of the more popular Jamaican proverbs such as being given "basket to carry water". This proverb generally refers to a situation in which a person is given an impossible task to complete.

However, Dr. Cresser points out that what many people don't realize is that some types of baskets can actually be used to carry water and that this is one such task that was carried out by the Tainos.

"Just recently I was telling somebody that you may hear the phrase "given a basket to carry water" which really means that you have been given inferior tools to do a job. But the Tainos actually used baskets to carry water. They had a process by which they made baskets from very finely woven wreath. And they were able to weave these so intricately to form a water tight basket," he enthuses.

Another important feature of the Tainos was that they had no system of writing and Dr. Cresser cites this as a major reason why Jamaica needs to record its history because to ensure that its done accurately.

"The Tainos as far as we know had no system of writing. What we know about the Tainos comes from archaeological finds, rock and stone art. They were artists and they made a number of drawings in caves. We would have also learned from the writings of the Spaniards who encountered them, as subjective as those writings may be," Dr. Cresser says.

Additionally, he points out that, "it is also believed that some Tainos made their way into the hilly interiors of Jamaica where they would have met and mixed with the earliest African Maroons and it is believed that some of the practices of the Tainos would have filtered down to us through this interaction with the Maroons".

Although the Tainos became extinct centuries ago, Dr. Cresser remains passionate about keeping their memory alive and asserts that it is important to honour and remember them.

"Just generally it is important to understand the history of Jamaica just to see how we have reached this point. The Tainos are our first inhabitants and their contact with the Europeans played a role in shaping Jamaica and I think it is important that we look at that," he emphasizes.

"Some aspects of Taino life have survived until today and because they have survived they are a part of our cultural identity and I think it is very important for people to be aware of all of those things that make up our identity, it is a part of knowing who we are," he further affirms.

The ACIJ/JMB is a division of the Institute of Jamaica, which serves to examine all aspects of Jamaica's cultural heritage and make this information accessible to the public, through its library as well as exhibition and outreach programmes.

Author: Don Dobson
Source: Jamaica Information Service


Carribean Women Share Immigrant Voices in New York

New York (UCTP Taino News) - An evening of poetry and dialogue about the Caribbean immigrant experience will take place for one night only on Thursday, November 6, 2008 at Chelsea Studios in New York. The event entitled "Immigrant Voices: - Caribbean Women II" will feature several Caribbean women who will share their stories about leaving their homes and country in search of a "better life in the United States". Immigrant Voices is hosted by Back Home, Art by Mia and CARIB and the program will begin at 7:00pm and admission is $10 with proceeds befitting CARIB, a non-profit organization. Featured artist for the program include Maria Aponte, Cheryl Boyce, Taylor L. Deean Fontaine, Gloria Ester Fontanez, and Reina M. Miranda of Taino Spirit. For additional information on the program call 1(646)300-9650. Chelsea Studios is located at 151 West 26th Street, Studio 607 (6th Fl.), between 6th and 7th Avenues in New York City. (Photo: Reina Miranda of Taino Spirit)

UCTPTN 11.06.2008


It Came from the Caribs

By Tracy Assing

The hammock is sometimes used to illustrate the carefree, relaxed environment one associates with a Caribbean vacation. But that image wasn’t dreamed up by advertising – it’s symbolized the laid-back lifestyle for centuries.

Some sources credit Christopher Columbus with the “discovery” of the hammock when he saw it being used by indigenous peoples during his journey to the Caribbean. First mentioning the hammock in his logs during his first voyage in 1492, he was so impressed by these simple but efficient slings that he took several back to Spain with him.

Although the hammock was revealed to the world in this region, it was also used by Central and South American tribes at the time though it’s said to have spread from the Caribbean only centuries before the Spanish Conquest. The word “hammock” was derived from the Taino hamaca or yamaca, and the first hammocks are thought to have been woven out of tree bark. One of the oldest pieces of furniture in the history of mankind, the hammock has spawned a multi-million dollar industry, with distinctive styles and patterns emerging from different regions.

European explorers were so enchanted by it that they took careful notes of their observations. In an account of life in the West Indies, Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo y Valdes wrote in 1535 of the “natives”: The beds in which they sleep are called hammocks that are blankets of cotton well woven of beautiful and good quality fabrics…”

Indigenous tribes were labeled lazy by the conquistadors because they spent so much time in their hammocks, but the visitors were eventually won over by its perfection.

The hammock was lightweight and easy to set up: better than sleeping on the floor, where one could be vulnerable to snakes and damp; and it functioned as a bed, or a chair, or a sack, or a fishing net.

The hammock is not confined to terra firma, though. The English sailors whose efforts helped Britannia rule the waves adopted it in the 16th century, since they found it easier to catch 40 winks in a hammock than on a bunk bed while being tossed around at sea. Centuries later, American astronauts in the Apollo programme snoozed in hammocks between moonwalks.


Getting into a hammock
Turn with your back to the hammock and sit in the sling. As you sit, reach back with your hands to steady yourself and gently spread the bed apart. Once you are in the sitting position, lean back and then pull up your feet.

Getting out
Swing your legs out and then stand up


Article Source: Caribbean Beat magazine, Sept/Oct 2008, pg 96.

Native Artist Robby Romero’s Music Single Enters Top Ten

UCTP Taino News - The new single from American Indian songwriter and performer Robby Romero, "Who's Gonna Save You," enters the top ten at #9 on the National Aboriginal Music Charts. The hit single is now is available on Romero’s new album release Painting The World.

"Painting The World" celebrates the historical adoption of the United Nations' "Declaration on The Rights of Indigenous Peoples", a declaration that underwent the longest period of debate and negotiation of any other international human rights instrument in United Nations history. The album features an impressive array of Indigenous artists from around the world and is intended to “bridge the gap between Indigenous Peoples, human rights, and the environment.”

Guest artists featured on Painting The World include Brian Majloa (Zulu), the Gwich’in Children’s Choir (Gwich'in), Yungchen Lhamo (Tibet), Soni Moreno (Mayan/Apache/Yagui), Sofi Jannok (Saami), the P. Town Boyz (Ojibwe), George Gray (Maori), Ataahua Papa (Maori), Sixto Masaquiza (Quichua), Cameron McCarthy (Kuku-Yalanji),and Roberto Mukaro Borrero (Boriken Taino).

More information on the album and Romero’s discography can be reviewed at

The release of Painting the World took place during the United Nations Permanent Forum On Indigenous Issues Cultural Event on Earth Day April 22 at United Nations Headquarters in New York City with a live performance by Romero accompanied by McCarthy and Borrero.

UCTPTN 11.05.2008

Barack Obama Elected President of the United States

Washington, DC (UCTP Taíno News) - History was made on November 4, 2008 as Sen. Barack Obama triumphed over veteran Sen. John McCain to become the 44th President of the United States. Obama is the first African American ever elected commander-in-chief in the country. Cheers for his victory were heard not only across the United States but around the world as his message of “change” resonated beyond race, age, and political party. The President-elect received a considerable amount of support from American Indians for example, with over 100 tribal leaders, tribal organizations and tribes endorsing Obama and his running mate Sen. Joe Biden.

In a poll conducted by UCTP Taíno News an overwhelming majority of Taíno people, 76.2%, felt that Sen. Obama would “best serve the Taino community and the country.” In contrast 10.5% felt the same about Sen. McCain while 13.3% of those polled did not seem connect to either candidate.

During the campaign, one of the longest in US history, Obama pledged a full partnership with American Indians. Some of the issues he promised to address include strengthening health care, improving economic opportunities, and creating a top level White House position focused exclusively on Native affairs.

In May, President-elect Obama was adopted by the Crow Nation who honored him with the name “One Who Helps People Throughout the Land.” (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)

UCTPTN 11.05.2008