Taino and Kalinago

Topics: Puerto Rico, Spanish colonization of the Americas, Taíno Pages: 5 (1564 words) Published: December 2, 2012
Excerpt from the book Crossroads of Empire: The European-Caribbean Connection, 1492-1992, by Alan Gregor Cobely; pgs 23-30


According to recent archaeological evidence, the Kalinago were the last migrant group to settle in the Caribbean prior to the arrival of the Europeans in 1492. The Columbus mission found three native groups, of different derivation and cultural attainments, but all of whom entered the Caribbean from the region of South America known as the Guianas. These were the Ciboney, the Taino (Arawaks) and the Kalinago. The Ciboney had arrived about 300 B.C., followed by the Taino, their ethnic relatives, about 500 years later and who by 650 A.D. had migrated northwards through the islands establishing large communities in the Greater Antilles. Starting their migration into the islands from about 1000 A.D., Kalinagos were still arriving at the time of the Columbus landfall. They were also in the process of establishing control over territory and communities occupied by Tainos in the Lesser antilles, and parts of the Greater Antilles. When the Spanish arrived in the northern Caribbean, therefore, they found the Tainos to some extent already on the defensive, but later encountered Kalinagos whom they described as more prepared for aggression.

Kalinagos, like their Taino cousins and predecessors, had been inhabiting the islands long enough to perceive them as part of their natural, ancestral, survival environment. As a result, they prepared themselves to defend their homeland in a spirit of defiant "patriotism," having wished that the 'Europeans had never set foot in their country.' From the outset, however, European colonial forces were technologically more prepared for a violent struggle for space since in real terms, the Columbus mission represented in addition to the maritime courage and determination of Europe, the mobilisation of large scale finance capital, and of science and technology for imperialist military ends. This process was also helped by the frenzied search for identity and global ranking by Europeans through the conquest and cultural negation of other races.

In the Greater Antilles, Tainos offered a spirited but largely ineffective military resistance to the Spanish even though on occaision they were supported by the Kalinago. This was particularly clear in the early sixteenth century in the case of the struggle for Puerto Rico in which Kalinagos from neighbouring St. Croix came to Taino assistance. In 1494, Columbus led an armed party of 400 men into the interior of Hispaniola in search of food, gold and slaves to which Taino caciques mobilised their armies for resistance. Guacanagari, a leading cacique, who had tried previously to negotiate an accomodating settlement with military commander Alonso de Ojeba, marched unsuccessfully in 1494 with a few thousand me on the Spanish. In 1503, another forty caciques were captured at Hispaniola and burnt alive by Governor Ovando's troops; Anacaona, the principal cicique was hung publicly in Santo Domingo. In Puerto Rico, the Spanish settlement party, led by Ponce de Leon, was attacked frequently by Taino warriors; many Spanish settlers were killed but Tainos and Kalinagos were defeated and crushed in the counter assault. In 1511, resistance in Cuba, led by cacique Hatuey, was put down; he was captured and burnt alive; another rising in 1529 was also crushed. In these struggles, Taino fatalities were high. Thousands were killed in battle and publicly executed for the purpose of breaking the spirit of collective resistance; some rebels fled to the mountains and forests where they established maroon settlements that continued intermittently the war against the Spanish. By the middle of the the sixteenth century, however, Taino and Kalinago resistance had been effectively crushed in the Greater Antilles; their community structures smashed, and members reduced to various forms of enslavement in Spanish...
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