Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Múkaro is Taino

Múcaro comun, Puerto Rican Screech owl (Megascops nudipes)

Did You Know: In the ancient language of the indigenous Taino People, the term múkaro (múcaro) identified several species of owl including the Puerto Rican Screech owl (Megascops nudipes) and the Short-eared owl (Múcaro Real - Asio flammeus). A subspecies, M. n . newtoni, is endemic to the Virgin Islands, is more recently referred to locally as the "cuckoo bird." The múkaro (pronounced mOO-kah-roh) is a small-sized owl possessing a brown upperside, a light-brown to white underside, white brown lines and white eyebrows. The main diet of the species consists of large insects and is complemented with small birds, geckos and small rodents. The species calls throughout the year while hidden in thick foliage, typically at dawn. The múkaro makes a loud coo-coo call, which is the reason for its common name in the Virgin Islands. Contrary to modern folklore giving owls a negative reputation, most owls were traditionally revered by the Taino and they are one of the most popular bird motifs depicted via petroglyphs (rock carvings). Taino names for other owls include “Siguapa” (Stygian Owl - Asio stygius) and “Sihú (Sijú)”, which is used to identify the Cuban Bare-legged owl (Sijú Contunto - Margarobyas lawrencii lawrencii) and the Cuban pygmy-owl (the Sijú platanero; Sijucito; Sijú - Glaucidium vittatum). – UCTP Taino News © 2014

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Siguapa is Taino


Did You Know: Siguapa (Ciguapa) is a Taino term used to describe a legendary nocturnal being, female in form, said to inhabit the deep mountainous regions of Kiskeia (Dominican Republic) and Eastern Cuba. Siguapa are described with having brown or dark blue skin, backward facing feet, and very long, smooth, glossy hair that covers their otherwise naked bodies. In addition, Siguapa are said to enjoy corn, steal salt from unoccupied kitchens, and lure men to undisclosed locations to never to be seen again. Pronounced see-gooah-pah, Siguapa is also a term used specifically for the Stygian Owl (Asio stygius) found in Cuba, the Isle of Pines, Hispaniola (Dominican Republic and Haiti), and Gonave. – © UCTP Taino News 2014

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Guamahiko is a Taino game


Did You Know: The children’s game played in Borikén often referred to by its Spanish name “gallito” finds its origin in Taino culture. Oral tradition tells us the indigenous Taino name of this game is called guamahiko (guamajico). In this game, players squat around a circle on the ground with their guamahiko, which are guamá or algarrobo seeds tied to a cord called a hiko (jico). Hiko is a Taino word for thread. The guamahiko are placed within the center of the playing circle while players hold the cord attached to their own seeds. One of the players is picked by the group to start the game. This player removes their guamahiko from the circle to attempt to strike and break the other player's seeds. Once a player's seed breaks they are out of the game. The next player does the same as they move in a clockwise direction, until all the seeds are broken. The player that has the unbroken guamá seed at the end of the game is the winner. – UCTP Taino News © 2014

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Guaba is Taino

The Guaba or cave spider. Photo: Alferdo Colon

Did You Know: Cave spiders -- also called tailless whip scorpions -- are called guaba in the indigenous Taino language. The body of a guava is flat with long, whip-like legs. They use their powerful pincher-bearing front legs to catch their prey, usually small animals, frogs and crustaceans. The guaba are among the largest arachnid species, growing between 19 and 25 inches long, including their legs. Guaba typically live in caves or under large rocks and inside crevices. They are usually nocturnal. - UCTP Taino News © 2014

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Guanábana is Taino


Did You know: Guanábana is the indigenous Taino name for the edible fruit of Annona muricata, a broadleaf, flowering, evergreen tree native to the Caribbean. It is in the same genus as the chirimoya and the same family as the pawpaw. The seeds, fruit, and leaves of guanabana, also known as Soursop, have been used traditionally for stomach complaints and fever, and as a sedative. Guanábana is widely promoted (sometimes as "graviola") as an alternative cancer treatment, although its use is not fully accepted by the mainstream medical establishment. - UCTP Taino News © 2014

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Peanuts and Taino People


Did You Know: The peanut plant originated in South America, but it was seen for the first time by Europeans in the Caribbean. Bartolome de las Casas was the first European to document the peanut plant. He noted that the Taino people often ate peanuts with casabe (cassava bread). Early Spanish galleons introduced peanuts to the Pacific Islands, the Philippines, and Indonesia. By the early 1600's, peanuts were introduced to Malaysia, Vietnam, China, and Japan. India acquired the peanut from several routes in the 18th century: from Africa to Western India, from Manila to South India, from China to Bengal. The earliest documented account of peanuts in the North American British colonies is 1769. The Taino word for peanut is maní. - UCTP Taino News © 2014

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Kakata is Taino

Caribbean tarantula or kakata found in Boriken (Puerto Rico). Photo by Alfredo Colon


Did You Know: Caribbean tarantulas are found throughout the Caribbean islands and are a part of the 'New World" tarantula group. The indigenous Taino word for tarantula is kakata (cacata). The bite of a kakata is not fatal to humans even though it does posses venom. Kakata have defensive, urticating hairs, which cause itching and discomfort when harassed. The male kakata can usually be seen in the open, as they often are in search of mates. Females are also visible, but tend to stay near their homes. Some kakata are burrowing while others construct nest made of webs in trees. - UCTP Taino News © 2014

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Hibá is Taino



Did You Know:  The Hibá (Jibá), Erythroxylon havanense, is a flowering shrub found in Kuba and other islands of the Caribbean. This plant retains its indigenous Taino name, Hibá, and according to local healing traditions, the stems and leaves are good for the kidney and liver disorders. A concoction made from hibá roots is said to be a powerful diuretic. – UCTP Taino News © 2014

Friday, April 04, 2014

Hikí is Taino

Did You Know: The Hikí (jiquí, jigi, jequí), Pera bumeliaefolia; P. bumeliifolia, is a tree endemic to some Caribbean islands and known for its hard wood and moisture resistance. The tree retains it Taino name, Hikí, which sounds like “hee-kEE.” Archeologists in Kuba have found ancient Taino artifacts such as sculptures and axe handles made of this wood. According to local healing traditions, the astringent quality of this tree’s bark can be used to treat certain skin conditions. – UCTP Taino News © 2014

Monday, March 17, 2014

Cashews and Taino People




Did You Know: The cashew tree (Anacardium occidentale) is said to have originated in northeast Brazil, however, it is widely distributed through tropical South and Central America and the Caribbean. In Borikén (Puerto Rico) and Kiskeia (Dominican Republic), what are understood to be Taino words for cashew are still used today, incorporated in the local Spanish language including kahuil (prounounced kah-hoo-eel), pahuil (pajuil), and pauhil. An additional, more rarely used term for cashew in Borikén is pahui (pajuy/pah-hoo-ee). All these terms seem to be related linguistically to the term for cashew used in indigenous Tupian languages - acajú - said to mean “nut that produces itself.” The cashew tree is large and evergreen, growing to 10-12m (32 ft) tall. It produces a type of fruit (known in English as ‘cashew apple’ or ‘marañón’ in Spanish), which is edible, and has a strong "sweet" smell and a sweet taste. The cashew nut is really a seed and a good source of antioxidants, but it needs to be roasted or steamed as it contains urushiol, a resin that can cause skin rashes, and can be toxic when ingested. Urushiol is also present in the tree's leaves. Traditional medicinal uses of the cashew tree include grinding the seeds into a poultice for treating snakebites, and the use of the fruit, bark, and leaves for many other purposes including anti-fungal activity, for sores and rashes, or as an antipyretic, and for antidiarrheal applications. – UCTP Taino News © 2014 

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Semí is Taíno



Did You Know: In Taíno culture, a semí (cemi, zemi) is a deity, an ancestral spirit, or a spiritual manifestation representing a specific aspect of or an element of nature. Pronounced seh-mee, the word can also refer to a sacred physical icon that represents a spirit or deity, which traditionally can be presented in wood, bone, shell, clay, cotton, beadwork, or stone. Some academics have promoted the word as 'zemi,' however; this is a corrupted version of the Taíno word based on the imposition of the Spanish language. In the related Lokono Arawak language the word “semee” is associated to the concept of sweetness while “semechichi” refers to a community healer. Similar versions of the word/concept semí also appear in other neighboring and related languages. In the eyeri/igneri/ieri language, for instance, the equivalent word is 'chemín' while in the insular carib or Kalinago language we find 'chemíjn,' sometimes written as 'semígn.' – UCTP Taino News © 2014

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Kokuio (Cocuyo) is Taino



DID YOU KNOW: The word kokuio (cocuyo) is a Taino word for firefly, an insect in the Lampyridae family of the beetle order Coleoptera.  These beetles are special in that most of them have the ability to produce light called bioluminescence. In English, they are sometimes called 'lightning bugs' or 'forest stars'. There are about 2000 different species, most of which are nocturnal. Adults use flashes of light to attract mates. Also, firefly larvae flash their lights to warn predators that they are not a tasty meal. Many predators do not like the taste of firefly larvae. It is said that, traditionally, when Taino people would capture fireflies they would use a torch and call out “kokuio, kokuio!” After the koukio were captured, they were released inside the home of a Taino. The kokuio is a natural predator of mosquitos, which is very helpful in the Caribbean. Kokuio were also sometimes used inside homes as lanterns to assist when individuals were weaving and engaging in other activities in the home at night. Sometimes, mischievous Taino children were known to smear ground kokuio paste on their faces to scare their peers. On the island of Borikén, along with the word kokuio, the Taino word kukubano is also used to describe fireflies. – UCTP Taino News © 2014