Grandfather Cyril Taylor Educational Scholarship Awarded

Elijay, GA (UCTP Taino News) - The 2009/2010 Grandfather Cyril Taylor Yabisi Caona Scholarship has been awarded to community member Monika Mamona Ponton-Arrington. A Boriken Taino who resides in Georgia, Arrington is a returning nursing student attending Chattahoochee Technical College. The educational stipend named in honor of elder Cyril Oscar Taylor (Carib) is focused toward giving Caribbean indigenous students’ modest financial assistance toward the purchase of school text books or supplies.

Fund applicants range from youth to adults continuing their education. They must be registered members of Caribbean indigenous communities or organizations. Potential recipients are required to submit an essay describing their community service and how they envision their education contributing to service in the future.

The Grandfather Cyril Taylor Yabisi Kaona Scholarship is sponsored by the United Confederation of Taino People, the Bohio Atabei Caribbean Indigenous Women’s Circle, and Mrs. Marie Taylor (Meherrin). For community members interested in applying for the 2010/2011 funding cycle are encouraged to check the UCTP web portal at www.uctp.org for updates.

UCTPTN 02.27.2010



The following is a letter to the editor of The Nation Newspaper of Barbados submitted by Norman Faria, Guyana's Honorary Consul in Barbados.

Guyana Honorary Consulate
#19 Pearl Drive, Eden terrace
St.Michael, Barbados
22 February 2010

The Editor
Letters to Editor section
Nation Publications
Fontabelle, St.Michael

To whom this may be presented:

I refer to a news item about the Holetown Festival in your Saturday edition ("Festival to end with a blast", Saturday Sun, 20 February 2010) in which it was printed that a Thanksgiving Service would be held the next day to "mark the first settlement of the island in 1627".

Before I point out your time frame error, I would like to commend the private entity Festival organisers, made up I believe in the main of business owners in the area, for what appears to be another successful Festival. I personally attended during the week and was glad to know that the businesses, including handicraft people and other stake holders were apparently benefiting. Certainly too, this most excellent get together has beome a welcome addition to the island's important tourist product.

It will be recalled that the Festival commemorates the arrival in 1627 of a number of English people and their African slaves who landed at what became Holetown where today a monument is erected to recognise that historical fact.

But there were settlers before 1627. These were the Hemisphere's indigenous people, called Amerindians in Guyana. Archealogical excavations here by University of London teams in collaboration with the Barbados Museum and Historical Society show these first settlers had big villages. They had a language and artistic expression and religion.They had material achievements. They had their own civilisation.

They had reached the island in courageous exploratory voyages up the chain of Caribbean islands in large ocean going canoes. They came from what is today Guyana and Venezuela on the north eastern and northern coasts of South America.

The time frame of their alleged absence from Barbados when the first Europeans sighted what was to become Barbados was not that great a gap in historical migration/settler patterns. Indeed, when the first Europeans sighted the island there may still have been indigenous peoples in the densely forested interior. They may have left an agricultural layout for the first settlers to build on. Guyanese indigenous persons were brought from what is today Guyana in the 17th Century to assist the second wave (after the indigenous peoples) of settlers who came in the 1600s.

The website of the private entity Holetown Festival organising committee is also incorrect in stating that Barbados' history began with the 1627 arrival, however noteworthy that happening may be.

Are the first true settlers, the indigenous peoples of the Americas, not worthy of any mention at all? Are their civilisations, past and present , not worth anything?

Their descendants make up sizable parts of the population of several of our Hemispheric neighbours (Bolivia, Guatemala and Mexico for example). It is a wrong message the organising committee is sending , perhaps unwittingly though the Guyana Consulate has offered research assistance in this area. Is this effective re-writing of history the type of thing should be given to school children and visitors to the otherwise commendable Festival?

I personally knew Alfred Pragnell, said to be the originator and motivator when this most useful event started. Alfred was a friend of Guyana and the Americas and I know he would have liked a more objective and well-rounded historical overview of what the Festival celebrates.

Respectfully Yours,

Norman Faria,
Guyana's Honorary Consul in Barbados


France seizes biggest contraband of Taino artifacts

A Taino cemi or zemi.

Santo Domingo.- The French authorities confiscated a piece of the Taino culture valued as high as one million euros, seized last year together with other archaeological items sent to Paris to be sold by an antiques dealer as modern handicraft.

The Taino artifacts are the highest valued confiscation of items from Dominican Republic, pertaining to the pre-Columbian Caribbean people in recent history.

The piece was dispatched from Dominican Republic on April 3 last year by the exporter Hicotea Club S.A., of Las Galeras, Samaná (northeast), to Simurg Antiquités, in Paris, France, and seized by French Customs in one of four boxes containing 200 objects weighing 50 kilos.

The information is contained in document of the Dominican Foreign Relations Ministry, which explains the procedures followed by the French authorities, from the piece\s confiscation, the evaluation of its authenticity and the report to the Dominican representation before the organization UNESCO, based in Paris.

The report doesn’t specify what object is appraised, but does note that among them are four trigonolites (stone of triangular form with three faces), which can cost as much as 80,000 Euros, a cemí (carved idol, generally stone) as high as 250,000 euros, axes and several Taino sculptures, and a dúho of wood (a ceremonial seat), as high as half a million euros, everything following its state of conservation, among other items.

SOURCE: listin.com.do


Taino Announce 2010 Census Partnership

UCTP Taino News - The United Confederation of Taino People this month affirmed its commitment to partnering with the U.S. Census Bureau during the 2010 Census. The announcement was issued via a proclamation by the Confederation's Office of International Relations and Regional Coordination. For indigenous Taíno and other American Indian and Alaska Native communities census data can provide tribal leaders with important information to help address community needs.

“Our 2010 commitment follows the precedent set in 2000 when the Confederation participated as an official U.S. Census partner along with other American Indian and Alaska Native community leaders" stated UCTP representative Roberto Borrero. “By clearly identifying ourselves as Taino the census provides a way for community members to express our basic human right of self-determination.”

Who gets counted as an American Indian in the Census is determined by his or her response to the question on the Census form about the person’s race. To the Census Bureau, a person is whatever race or races he or she says they are. It is a matter of self-identification.

“From our understanding the race question is number 9 on the Census form for the first person in the household" said Roger Guayacan Hernandez, a Confederation Liaison Officer in Borikén (Puerto Rico) . He continued noting that “If the box labeled ‘American Indian or Alaska Native’ is checked, that’s how the person is recorded.”

Individuals can insure that they are counted as belonging to the appropriate Tribal Nation by writing in the "principle tribe" in which they are enrolled. The Confederation is urging community members to write “Taino” in this space also provided as part of Question 9 on the Census form.

The Confederation will host several census information related events in the United States and in Boriken during the month of March to encourage community members to “be counted.”

Required once every 10 years by the U.S. Constitution, the census seeks to count everyone in the United States and Puerto Rico, including people of all ages, races and ethnic groups. Census data determine representation at all levels of the government as well as the need for new health care facilities, schools, community centers, roads and more.

UCTPTN 02.16.2010


Rush To Get New Puerto Rico Birth Certificate

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Puerto Rican-born citizens living in the United States will now have to request a new copy of their birth certificates.

The country’s Gov. Luis Fortuño signed a law making all old birth certificates processed prior to December 2009 not valid in any federal agency.

A transition period will be in effect until July 1. The new law is an effort to reduce all fraud cases reported by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the past year.

According to the governmental agency, a Puerto Rican birth certificate runs for about $5,000 to $10,000 on the black market.

Puerto Ricans born on the island receive an American Social Security number and are eligible for a United States passport from birth.

For more information, call (787) 767-9120 ext. 2402 or visit their Web site.


Cuba looks to suburban farms to boost food output

CAMAGUEY, Cuba, (Reuters) – Cuba has launched an ambitious project to ring urban areas with thousands of small farms in a bid to reverse the country’s long agricultural decline and ease its chronic economic woes.

The five-year plan calls for growing fruits and vegetables and raising livestock in 4-mile-wide (6.5 kilometer) rings around 150 of Cuba’s cities and towns, with the exception of the capital Havana.

The island’s Communist authorities hope suburban farming will make food cheaper and more abundant, cut transportation costs, be less reliant on machinery and encourage urban dwellers to leave bureaucratic jobs for more productive labor.

But the government will continue to hold a monopoly on most aspects of food production and distribution, including its control of most of the land in the Communist-run nation.

The pilot program for the project is being conducted in the central city of Camaguey, which the Cuban agriculture ministry has said eventually will have 1,400 small farms covering 52,000 hectares (128,490 acres), just minutes outside the town.

The farms, mostly in private hands but also including some cooperatives and state-owned enterprises, must grow everything organically, and the ministry expects they will produce 75 percent of the food for the city of 320,000 people, with big state-owned farms providing the rest.

On a recent day, dozens of people were hard at work plowing fields, hoeing earth, posting protective covering for crops and putting up fencing as the sun came up.

“This land they gave to us, the private farmers. I have four hectares (10 acres) and now they have leased me eight (20 acres) more,” one of the farmers, Camilo Mendoza, told Reuters.

“Look, on this side and the other side are other plots, and over there another. Here they have given quite a bit of land and support to private farmers,” he said.

The project is modeled after the hundreds of urban gardens developed by then-Defense Minister Raul Castro during the deep economic depression of the 1990s that followed the collapse of Communism in eastern Europe.

He proclaimed at the time that beans were more important than cannons, marking a strategic shift towards a more domestic focused agenda by Cuban leaders after decades of active support for liberation movements and leftist guerrillas overseas.

The suburban project dovetails with other steps introduced by President Raul Castro since he took over the day-to-day leadership from his ailing elder brother Fidel Castro in 2008.

These have included the leasing of fallow state lands to 100,000 mostly private farmers, raising prices for farm products and allowing farmers to sell part of their crops directly to the people instead of to the state.

On the other side of Camaguey and a few miles up Cuba’s central highway, Armando, the head of a cattle cooperative, said his group was persuaded to join the plan by the offer of land to raise garden and root vegetables and the chance for direct sales to the public.

Stands have been set up every mile or so along the city’s ring road for the sales, but Armando said they are taking their products to the customers.

“They assigned us a district where we can sell our produce. We are using a mobile system, a bicycle cart, and sell out every day,” he said.

“In December we produced around five tonnes. The root vegetables we had to sell to the state, but we were free to sell the garden vegetables directly,” he said.

The changes are tweaks to Cuba’s centralized socialism, not a major step away from it, keeping with Raul Castro’s vow to protect the system put in place after his brother took power in the 1959 Cuban revolution.

He has balked at more sweeping, market-oriented changes that many expected when he took power and without which many economists say Cuba will not significantly increase agricultural output.

Cubans have seen many past government efforts to transform the country’s agriculture fail, so the farmers at Camaguey said they were taking a wait-and-see attitude on this latest one.

“For sure there will be more food around here if you come back in a few years,” Camilio Mendoza said about his expectations.

“More than that, I can’t say.”


Prominent Cuban Diplomat, Miguel Alfonso Martinez, Dies at 74

Havana, Cuba, (UCTP Taino News)—One of Cuba’s most prominent diplomats died Monday morning due to serious illness. Dr. Michael J. Alfonso Martinez, age 74, was an outstanding diplomat, lawyer and academic with broad experience in the service of the Cuba People and Human Rights.

As a diplomat he held various positions in the Cuban Foreign Service. He was Foreign Ministry spokesman between 1994 and 1997 and as an expert in Human Rights he represented the Government of Cuba in numerous meetings and conferences, mainly within the UN system.

Well-known to Indigenous Peoples around the world, Martinez served as UN Special Rapporteur for the Study on Treaties, Agreements and Constructive Arrangements between States and Indigenous Peoples, as former member and Chair of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations, and as First Chairman of the Advisory Committee to the UN Human Rights Council.

“We are shocked by this very sad news” stated Roberto Borrero, a representative of the United Confederation of Taino People. “His commitment to Human Rights and Indigenous Peoples was well respected within and out of the United Nations system.”

Borrero recalled that in the late 1990s, Alfonso Martinez also addressed a meeting of Caribbean and other Indigenous Peoples that was held in Cuba and that on the same discussion panel were contemporary Taino descendants from the island.

“Considering the government’s position on the question of Cuban Indigenous Peoples, it was good to see him personally support the local Cuban indigenous representatives” said Borrero. “Our sincere condolences go out to his family as well as his many friends and collages.”

Miguel Alfonso Martinez was born in Havana on 16 May 1935, and graduated with a Bachelor of Law in 1961. According to reports, his remains were cremated at a private family ceremony in Havana.

UCTPTN 02.03.2010


Island residents sue U.S., saying military made them sick

Vieques, Puerto Rico (CNN) -- Nearly 40 years ago, Hermogenes Marrero was a teenage U.S. Marine, stationed as a security guard on the tiny American island of Vieques, off the coast of Puerto Rico.

Marrero says he's been sick ever since. At age 57, the former Marine sergeant is nearly blind, needs an oxygen tank, has Lou Gehrig's disease and crippling back problems, and sometimes needs a wheelchair.

"I'd go out to the firing range, and sometimes I'd start bleeding automatically from my nose," he said in an interview to air on Monday night's "Campbell Brown."

"I said, 'My God, why am I bleeding?' So then I'd leave the range, and it stops. I come back, and maybe I'm vomiting now. I used to get diarrhea, pains in my stomach all the time. Headaches -- I mean, tremendous headaches. My vision, I used to get blurry."

The decorated former Marine is now the star witness in a multibillion-dollar lawsuit by more than 7,000 residents of this Caribbean island -- about three-quarters of its population -- who say that what the U.S. military did on Vieques has made them sick.

For nearly six decades, beginning right after World War II, Vieques was one of the Navy's largest firing ranges and weapons testing sites.

"Inside the base, you could feel the ground -- the ground moving," Marrero said. "You can hear the concussions. You could feel it. If you're on the range, you could feel it in your chest. That's the concussion from the explosion. It would rain, actually rain, bombs. And this would go on seven days a week."

After years of controversy and protest, the Navy left Vieques in 2003. Today, much of the base is demolished, and what's left is largely overgrown. But the lawsuit remains, and island residents want help and compensation for numerous illnesses they say they suffer.

"The people need the truth to understand what is happening to their bodies," said John Eaves Jr., the Mississippi attorney who represents the islanders in the lawsuit.

Because he no longer lives on Vieques, Marrero is not one of the plaintiffs but has given sworn testimony in the case. He said the weapons used on the island included napalm; depleted uranium, a heavy metal used in armor-piercing ammunition; and Agent Orange, the defoliant used on the Vietnamese jungles that was later linked to cancer and other illnesses in veterans.

"We used to store it in the hazardous material area," Marrero said. It was used in Vieques as a defoliant for the fence line.

The military has never acknowledged a link between Marrero's ailments and his time at Vieques, so he receives few disability or medical benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Neither the Navy nor the Justice Department, which is handling the government's defense, would discuss the islanders' lawsuit with CNN.

But Eaves said his clients don't believe that the military has fully disclosed the extent of the contamination on Vieques: "Like uranium was denied, then they admitted it."

Dr. John Wargo, a Yale professor who studies the effects of toxic exposures on human health, says he believes that people on the island are sick because of the Navy's bombing range.

"Vieques, in my experience of studying toxic substances, is probably one of the most highly contaminated sites in the world," he said. "This results from the longevity of the chemical release, the bombs, the artillery shells, chemical weapons, biological weapons, fuels, diesel fuels, jet fuels, flame retardants. These have all been released on the island, some at great intensity."

Wargo is the author of a new book, "Green Intelligence," on how environments and toxic exposure affect human health. He is also expected to testify as an expert witness in the islanders' lawsuit.

He said the chemicals released by the munitions dropped on Vieques can be dangerous to human health and may well have sickened residents or veterans who served on the island.

"In my own mind, I think the islanders experienced higher levels of exposure to these substances than would be experienced in any other environment," Wargo said. "In my own belief, I think the illnesses are related to these exposures."

The effects of those chemicals could include cancer, damage to the nervous, immune and reproductive systems or birth defects, he said.

"This doesn't prove that the exposures caused those specific illnesses," Wargo added. "But it's a pretty convincing story from my perspective."

Since the Navy left the island, munitions it left behind "continue to leak, particularly from the east end of the island," Wargo said.

"My concerns are now predominantly what's happening in the coastal waters, which provide habitat for an array of fish, many species of which are often consumed by the population on the island," he said.

Scientists from the University of Georgia have documented the extent of the numerous unexploded ordinance and bombs that continue to litter the former bomb site and the surrounding waters. The leftover bombs continue to corrode, leaching dangerously high levels of carcinogens, according to researcher James Porter, associate dean of the university's Odum School of Ecology.

The Environmental Protection Agency designated parts of Vieques a Superfund toxic site in 2005, requiring the Navy to begin cleaning up its former bombing range. The service identified many thousands of unexploded munitions and set about blowing them up. But the cleanup effort has further outraged some islanders, who fear that more toxic chemicals will be released.

The U.S. government's response to their lawsuit is to invoke sovereign immunity, arguing that residents have no right to sue it. The government also disputes that the Navy's activities on Vieques made islanders ill, citing a 2003 study by scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found no link.

That study, however, has been harshly criticized by numerous scientists, and the CDC is embarking on a new effort to determine whether residents may have been sickened by the contamination from the Navy range.

Asked whether his duty on the island made him sick, Marrero responds, "Of course it did."

"This is American territory. The people that live here are American," he said. "You hurt someone, you have to take care of that person. And the government's just not doing anything about it."

Authors: Abbie Boudreau and Scott Bronstein
Source: http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/02/01/vieques.illness/index.html