Thursday, December 27, 2012

Tabako (Tobacco) is Taino

Did You Know: Tabako (tabaco/tobacco) is a Taíno word, however, traditionally it was not used in the way it is used today to describe the plant (Nicotiana tabacum / N. rustica). According to Spanish historian Bartolome De Las Casas, the word tabako was originally used to describe dried leaves rolled into the tube-shaped cigar for smoking the world is familiar with today. Another historian, Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo y Valdes also notes that tabako was the word used for the Y-shaped pipe used to inhale ceremonial snuff powder. While the meaning of the word tabako has changed to describe the leaves and plant (Nicotiana tabacum / N. rustica), traditionally the leaves of the plant where called kohiba (cojiba). The ground leaf powder used for ceremonial snuff was called kohoba (cojoba). Additional early uses of tabako among Indigenous Peoples of the region included breathing the odor of fresh green leaves of the plant relieved persistent headaches. For colds and catarrh (mucous membranes inflammation), green or powdered tabako leaves were rubbed around inside the mouth. Today, some Taíno community members still consider tabako a sacred plant and offer tabako seeds or dried, crushed leaves as an offering before picking other medicinal plants.  - UCTP Taíno News © 2012

Illustration: The first published illustration of Nicotiana tabacum by Pena and De L'Obel, 1570-1571 (shrpium adversana nova: London). The small illustration on the right of the picture shows how the "Indians and sailors" smoked Nicotiana leaves in a funnel. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Kasike Agueybana Day

Did You Know – November 19th is designated as Kasike Agueybana Day by proclamation of the the honorable Victor Vassallo Anadon, the congressional representative for Ponce and Jayuya, Boriken (Puerto Rico). The day was first proclaimed on November 19, 2009 in recognition of a monument erected in honor of the Taíno kasike (chief) Agueibana in Ponce. The proclamation of Kasike Agueybana Day was the result of a successful lobbying effort by the United Confederation of Taíno People. – UCTP Taíno New © 2012

Monday, October 15, 2012

Duho (dujo)

Did You Know - The duho (dujo) is a Taino ceremonial stool or bench that can be made from stone or wood. Traditionally, a duho was usually reserved for community leaders or visiting dignitaries. The duho could be adorned with gold and conch-shell inlay as well as carved with intricate, geometric spiritual motifs. Similar stools are made by the Lokono Arawak, relatives of the Taino, however, they call their benches hala. - UCTP Taino News (c) 2012

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Tibes Indigenous Ceremonial Center

Did You Know -  The Tibes Indigenous Ceremonial Center (Centro Ceremonial Indígena de Tibes) is currently considered by archeologists to be the oldest indigenous ceremony center in Boriken (Puerto Rico).  It represents a continuous habitation of indigenous peoples more than 1,000 years before Columbus encountered the New World. Within its designated 40 acres of this park owned by the Autonomous Municipality of Ponce, one of the largest burial grounds was also “discovered”. Arql. Luis Á. Rodríguez Gracia cites the earliest inhabitants as Igneri with preceding populations as “pre-Taino” and finally Taíno.   The site consists of “nine ball courts and three ceremonial plazas” as well as a Museum, garden, and several “recreated pre-Columbian homes”. Rodríguez Gracia believes it to be the oldest astronomical observatory in the Antilles. – UCTP Taino News © 2012

Saturday, August 18, 2012

DNA and Taino People

DID YOU KNOW - DNA science affirms that a majority of Puerto Ricans can trace their American Indian linage via their maternal lines. In 2000, a DNA study was conducted revealing a 69.6% frequency of American Indian mtDNA (mitochondrial DNA) among a sample of individuals who claimed an indigenous maternal ancestor. In 2005, the study was again conducted using a broader sample set of 800 random individuals taken from throughout the island. This study concluded that approximately that 61.3% of Puerto Ricans have an American Indian maternal ancestry. Similar studies have been conducted in the Dominican Republic and in Cuba.  - UCTP Taino News © 2012

Friday, July 06, 2012


Did You Know – The Taino word for corn is maisi or mais (maiz), which is the origin of the word “maize”. While not as important as yuka (manioc/cassava), it was a significant food source found throughout the Caribbean islands in several varieties. Traditionally, corn was eaten, roasted, off the cob as well as ground into meal. According to Spanish conquistador Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés, it seems that cornbread was not as favored as it molded faster than bread made from yuka. Some chroniclers stated that Taino drank a fermented corn beverage called chicha as well as a fermented yuka beverage called uiku.  A traditional Taino form of boiled corn dumpling called guanime is still made today in various forms. – UCTP Taino News © 2012

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Boriken’s 1777 Census

Did You Know – Puerto Rican Historian Salvador Brau noted that a census taken in Boriken (Puerto Rico) in the year 1777 estimated a population of 1,756 “pure Indians” in the area known as “Las Indieras (Indian Lands)”. Today, it is thought that this area encompasses the contemporary municipality of Maricao and surrounding areas. – UCTP Taino News © 2012

Friday, May 04, 2012


Did You Know - Anamu is the Taino name for a tropical plant (Petiveria allliacea) found throughout Latin America, the Caribbean, and Florida. The leaves of the Anamu plant can be used fresh or dried and made into an herbal tea, or they can be chewed.  Anamu produces a strongly pungent leaf and root; it is known for its distinct garlic-like smell. Throughout the Caribbean and beyond Anamu is used as a natural remedy for many physical ills and certain medical conditions including arthritis, skin conditions, intestinal gas, sinus problems, pain, and even cancer. Local oral traditions claim that Anamu has the ability to ward off bats, insects, and mischievous Spirits.  – UCTP Taino News © 2012

*Disclaimer: Any reference to medicinal use is not intended to treat, cure, or prevent disease. Please check with your doctor or health care professional before using.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Meals Among the Taino

Did You Know - During first contact with Europeans, many Taino communities generally observed four meals a day including breakfast, an afternoon meal, an evening meal, and a night meal. Spanish chronicler, Bartolome De Las Casas noted that between the evening and night meal, some Taino took an emetic, and went to a nearby river to purge themselves. Following this they would devote their attention to the nightly meal as well as to dancing and refreshments. Christopher Columbus remarked on how Kasike (Chief) Guakanagari and his people washed their hands with certain herbs after they shared a meal together. - UCTP Taino News © 2012   
*Illustration by Modesto Garcia.