Tuesday, December 20, 2011


DID YOU KNOW: The term guaikano (guaicano) or guaikan is a Taíno word for the remora fish (scientific name: Echeneidae). Sometimes called a suckerfish, the guaikano (remora) is best known for its distinctive dorsal fin, which takes the form of an oval, sucker-like organ allowing them to take a firm hold against the skin of larger marine animals and even boats. Usually found in tropical or temperate waters, guaikano are known to grow between 1-3 ft long (30–90 cm). Among the Taíno, the guaikano was once used by fisherman, specifically, because of its abilities to attach on to larger animals such as turtles and sharks. A cord or “kabuia (cabuya)” would be tied to the guaikano’s tail, and once the fish attached, a Taíno fisherman could simply haul in both the guaikano and its host. - UCTP Taino News © 2011

Illustration: Modesto Garcia 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Tabanuco is a Taino word

Did You Know - The Tabanuko (Dacryodes excels) tree is native to the Caribbean region. Its vernacular names also include gommier and candlewood. The word tabanuko (tabanuco) is the indigenous Taino term for the tree that is still used today. It is distinguished by broad low buttresses, smooth gray bark, and compound leaves with five to seven fragrant, dark-green leaflets. When wounded, the tree exudes a clear, fragrant resin that hardens and turns white on exposure. The wood is only slightly resistant to decay, lasting 3 years or less in the ground however the resin of tabonuko for making candles and torches, for caulking boats, for incense, and for medicinal purposes. The endangered Puerto Rican parrot or Higuaka feeds on tabonuco seeds. - UCTP Taino New © 2011

Thursday, September 15, 2011


DID YOU KNOW -  Kasike (chief) Anakaona, whose name translates to “Golden Flower”, was a well-respected leader on the island of Kiskeia (Haiti/Dominican Republic). She was considered “Queen” of the Haragua (Jaragua) territory by the Spaniards. Anakaona was the wife of Kaonabo, one of the five regional leaders in Kiskeia encountered in 1492 by Christopher Columbus. She was renowned throughout the island by the local people as a composer of ballads, dances, and narrative poems, called areito. In an example of Spanish treachery against the Taino people, Governor Nicolas de Ovando requested that Anakaona invite the regional chiefs to a feast he would give in her honor. Once the chief’s entered the ceremonial hall the Spaniards blocked the doors and set fire to the building burning most all of them alive. Anakaona who survived the blaze was captured and then hung by Ovando. - UCTP Taino News © 2011
*Representation of Anakaona by J. Villalona

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Guabanseh: Taino Spirit of the Storm

Did You Know: The Taíno deity or spirit of the winds and storms is a female entity named Guabanseh (Guabancex). Contrary to the reports of some Spanish chroniclers, in ancient times Taíno did not view this force of nature as something ‘evil’. Traditionally, Taíno viewed Guabanseh as a powerful natural manifestation to be respected and honored with song. Guabanseh has two assistants: Guatauba and Koatriske (Coatrisque). Combined, they manifest as the wind, thunder and floods during intense storms and hurricanes. Guatauba, as the thunder, was the herald who announced Guabanseh's pending arrival. Koatriske followed the wind and thunder and brought the devastating power of the flood. The early chroniclers also reported that it was common for Taíno mariners to curtail long sea voyages during the hurricane season from June to October. One early Spanish chronicler wrote: "They say that when Guabancex becomes angry, she makes the winds and waters move and cast houses to the ground and uproots trees." Additionally, the Spanish colonizers were also quite amazed and remarked on how many of the seemingly simple thatched homes of the Taíno could withstand the intense tropical storms. There are also reports of island caves being used by some communities as places of refuge and storage during these storms.  The english word "hurricane" and the Spanish word "huracan" both derive from the Taíno term "hurakan." Among Taíno today there are some who, similar to the Maya, see the hurakan as a separate spiritual being while others view "hurakan" not as a deity, but an action term describing the "wind or breath from the center" of Guabanseh. The early accounts of the Spanish support the later view. Consciously or on consciously, modern meteorologists long paid homage to Guabanseh via the early tradition of naming hurricanes after females. © UCTP Taíno News 2011

*Image of Guabanseh courtesy of Michael Auld.

Friday, July 01, 2011

The Taíno and the 13 Moon Calendar

DID YOU KNOW: The ancient Taíno observed the solar and lunar cycles in calendar fashion. Many of the ancient ceremonial grounds and ball courts (batei/batey) are aligned with equinoxes and solstices. Elders note that life was based on these cycles and in particular to a 28 day moon calendar that is in alignment with the female menstrual cycle. Even into contemporary times the importance of the lunar cycle is observed by traditional agricultural workers, medicinal plant specialists, and fishermen, etc. Some elders state that the 28 day observance translated into a 13 moon calendar, which was actually a ‘solar-lunar’ calendar harmoniously following the Earth’s journey around the sun. A few Taíno words for moon are karaia (caraya), nonum and kati. Among the Sibonei (Siboney) Taíno in Kuba, the human-like personification of the moon was a long-haired female being called Maroia (Maroya) who came down from the sky during the new moon to bathe in certain lagoons. In the Taino and related languages the word for moon was usually the same word for month. – UCTP Taino News © 2011

Wednesday, February 02, 2011


DID YOU KNOW: Hatuei (Hatuey) was a Taíno kasike (chief) from the island of Kiskeia (Hispaniola), who lived in the early sixteenth century. Hatuei fled Kiskeia with about 400 followers to warn the Taino of Kuba about the Spaniards. Bartolomé de Las Casas later attributed the following speech to Hatuei while he was showing a basket of gold to the Sibonei Taíno community of Kaobana. Hatuei declared “Here is the God the Spaniards worship. For these they fight and kill; for these they persecute us and that is why we have to throw them into the sea... They tell us, these tyrants, that they adore a God of peace and equality, and yet they usurp our land and make us their slaves. They speak to us of an immortal soul and of their eternal rewards and punishments, and yet they rob our belongings, seduce our women, violate our daughters. Incapable of matching us in valor, these cowards cover themselves with iron that our weapons cannot break...” As a result of Hatuei’s guerrilla tactics against the Spaniards, he was able to confine them to their fort at Baracoa for a time. He was finally captured and before he was burnt alive at the stake, a priest asked him if he would accept Jesus and go to heaven. Hatuei asked the priest “if Christians went to heaven.” The priest answered “yes” to which Hatuei is said to have replied I do not want to go there so let me burn as I will not be anywhere where they are and where I would see such cruel people”. Hatuei was executed by the Spaniards on February 2, 1512. He is celebrated as "Cuba's First National Hero." – UCTP Taino News © 2011