IAIA Valedictorian to Appear on NBC’s Dateline

Santa Fe, New Mexico (UCTP Taino News) - Jamie Figueroa (Taino), a recent valedictorian graduate from the Institute ofAmerican Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe, New Mexico will be one of the featured interviews on ‘Dateline NBC’ Friday, June 1, 2012. A part of the program, will showcase various colleges and graduates from around the United States.  The segment, airing at 9pm est. (8pm central), will include a Tribal College, IAIA, for the first time.  The Institute of American Indian and Alaska Native Culture and Arts Development (IAIA), is one of 36 tribal colleges located in the United States.

Figueroa graduated earlier this month with a B.F.A. in Creative Writing. She is of Taino heritage from Boriken (Puerto Rico), and enrolled with the United Confederation of Taino People.  Among her many accomplishments, Figueroa has been published in various literary journals, including Split Oak Press, ekleksographia, the Tribal College Journal and the Santa Fe Literary Review. She also created an internship for herself at the Santa Fe Reporter writing an online blog, “With This Pen,” which explores race, identity and relationships. Figueroa has also taught creative writing in elementary, middle and high schools, and in the Honors Program at the University of New Mexico. She believes story–the act of telling story and listening to story–is the most powerful tool we have as human beings to enact compassion and change.

'Dateline NBC,’ is the signature broadcast for NBC News in primetime.

Alvarez Family Returns to Boriken

The Alvarez family returns to Boriken to reconnect with their roots.
Ponce, Boriken/Puerto Rico (UCTP Taino News) - The Alvarez Family returned to their old stomping grounds in Utuado, Boriken after half a century away. During their recent family reunion trip, they visited indigenous ceremonial sites on the island to further connect to, and reaffirm their roots. The trip was organized by Susan Alvarez, who contacted the United Confederation of Taino People for assistance. Alvarez is enrolled with the Confederation.

The family delegation included Susan Alvarez, along with her two children, Kathleen and Charles, and her sisters Judith and Carmen Pagano, and Carmen’s two daughters Hyacinth and Heather. They started their journey on a Friday morning, visiting ceremonial centers between Ponce and Utuado crossing thru “Las Indierras” and the Cordillera Central mountain range.  “The mountains always call me, I never felt more at home as when I was passing our beautiful, majestic mountains” said Carmen (Mita), the family matriarch.

With trip itinerary prepared by “Mountain Tours”, proprietor Roger Guayakan Hernandez was the official guide for the family. Hernandez is also a Liaison Officer for the United Confederation of Taíno People on the island. Their first stop was to Ponce's Tibes Ceremonial Center.  At the Center’s museum, the many artifacts and informative dioramas complimented the orientation presented by Taíno community member Luis Santiago of Wakia Arawaka.  This Center features a film explaining what researcher call the Igneri (Saladoid) culture to the so-called Pre-Taino who settled the site along the “Valley of Tibes” from around 300AD to 1000. The grounds feature seven "batei” and two large ceremonial "plazas".

Kathleen, Susan, and Charles Alvarez at Caguana
“This educational tour was so interesting and it explained a great deal” stated Judith.

After a tasty roast “pernil”, pollo and “costillas “luncheon at Adjuntas family restaurant - "El Boriqua", the tour proceeded to Utuado's Caguana Indigenous Ceremonial Center thru the winding mountain road along the Adjuntas/Dos Bocas River Valley.  The Caguana Ceremonial Center features 22 large stone petroglyphs lining the numerous, and large “batu (ballgame)” courts along the Tanama Valley hillside facing the spectacular “Semi” mountain peak.  This Taino site has been occupied since 900AD indicative thru “Ostiones” artifacts found along with Capa style highly decorated ceramics (1280AD- 1500AD).

The renowned petroglyph known as "mujer de Caguana" shows her elaborate “crown” with large ear rings representing an advanced age woman of a respected social position. Her eyes are closed and her bony thorax with her lower extremities similar to a frog's legs are said to denote vitality. The circular figure on her abdomen with a dot in the middle represents her navel and her evident reproductive organ implies her as a fertility figure giving birth to many children.  Her squatting position is a sign of power and commands respect.

Commenting on the petroglyph Carmen stated “How wonderful we as women were treated with the highest of respect and honor. My grandparents were so loving and respectful to each other so we as Taino-Boricua women had a great base as how we should be treated.”

After passing thru the half century improvements (since the family’s time in the Diaspora) made to the Utuado area, the tour returned thru the old Camino Reale (King's Road Route 123), which is awaiting the last stage of the $20 million dollar connection between Adjuntas and Utuado to complete a new expressway Route 10 between Ponce and Arecibo.  The 3,000 ft elevated rural central mountain range has kept this region relatively isolated. This continues as it has for the past 500 years holding the ancestral secrets of the many villagers who have settled along the many rivers and tributaries for the past few thousand years.

“WOW!” exclaimed Carmen. “The trip thru the mountains was hair-raising in many ways, from the winding roads to the majestic views. We all knew we were home”. She continued stating “It feels so good to be home.  We will be back.  We will continue to study and learn about our people’s ways.  We will teach our children.  I was so happy my daughters, sisters, nephew and niece were here to experience this wonderful beautiful experience.”

With great pride she added “We came home to the land of enchantment, we Taino came home to the beauty of Boriken.”


Taino to participate at Gateway to the Nations Pow Wow

Lourdes Kalichi'naru and Rodney Guatu'shina will be sharing aspects of Taino culture at the Gateway to the Nations Pow Wow along with other members of the Kasibahagua Taino Cultural Society 
Brooklyn, NY (UCTP Taino News) - The United Confederation of Taino People will present its mini-Taino Museum at the Gateway to the Nations Pow Wow this coming weekend, June 2-3, 2012.  The traveling exhibition features several replicas of original artifacts as well as original craft work. 

The UCTP’s mini-Taino Museum is a not-for-profit educational initiative that has been featured at Pows and Festivals on the East Coast and as far as India. Members of the Kasibahagua Taino Cultural Society will be staffing the booth as well as engaging the public with cultural demonstrations throughout the weekend. 

“We are ready to educate” stated Rodney Guatu’shina Rivera, the group’s managing director. “This is a great opportunity to reach out to the wider community, and answer questions people may have about Taino culture of the past and our culture today. Additional Taino presence at the Pow Wow will include the crafts booth of Ray “Caracoli” Rivera. 

Gateway to Nations Pow Wow is a full contest Pow Wow attracting over 500 Native American artists, educators, singers, dancers and performing groups from across the Americas. 


11th Indigenous Peoples Forum Opens at United Nations

Delegates of the United Confederation of Taino People on the first day of the 2012 session. From left to right: Damon G. Corrie, Vanessa Inarunikia Pastrana, Taino AnaYuisa Pellicier, and Roberto Mukaro Borrero.
United Nations, NY (UCTP Taíno News) – The 11th session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues opened on Monday at United Nations Headquarters in New York. Almost two-thousand representatives of Indigenous Peoples, non-governmental organizations, and academia have per-registered to attend the two-week session. The special theme for the year is the “The Doctrine of Discovery: its enduring impact on indigenous peoples and the right to redress for past conquests.” 

 The session opened in the General Assembly Hall with a traditional welcome greeting from traditional Onondoga spiritual leader Sid Hill and a ceremonial Mayan blessing. In the afternoon, various statements were made concerning the special theme “The Doctrine of Discovery” by governments, UN agencies, and Indigenous Peoples. Several conference room papers were circulated that highlighted the history of the Doctrine of Discovery and cited examples of its specific impact on Indigenous Peoples. 

The Doctrine of Discovery is a concept of public international law used to support judicial decisions invalidating or ignoring aboriginal possession of land in favor of colonial or post-colonial governments. The Doctrine is linked to Christian expansionism being in 1452 and again in 1493 with Columbus in the Caribbean. Among the Indigenous Peoples attending the historic session are Caribbean Indigenous Peoples representatives from Barbados, Boriken (Puerto Rico), Guyana, and Waitikubuli (Dominica). 

 The opening of the Forum was however not unmarked by controversy as changes in accreditation did not allow all the registrants to attend the opening session. The issuance of secondary passes and pass limits added to confusion and frustration many attendees experienced upon their arrival to UN headquarters. According to the Secretariat of Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues the use of secondary passes is suspended for Tuesday, May 8th. 

UCTPTN 05.08.2012