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Taino Indians Still Thrive in Cuba

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Author Topic: Taino Indians Still Thrive in Cuba  (Read 21625 times)
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« on: February 26, 2008, 07:07:03 pm »

Jose Marti, the poet and revolutionary apostle of Cuban independence, traveled in the area
in his final days, camping with Indian families.

His diary entries just prior to his death in a Spanish ambush in May 1895 describe the "indios
de Garrido," direct ancestors of the Yateras families. Marti wondered at reports that some
Indians were scouting for the Spanish troops against the insurrectionists.

In a letter of 23 June 1895, possibly in answer to Marti's inquiry. another major historical figure,
General Antonio Maceo, who commanded troops in the area, commented that the "Indians of
Yateras" had now passed into the Cuban insurrectionary ranks (Marti 1964).

A French doctor and anthropologist, Henri Dumont, who for decades lived in the eastern sugar plantations and provided care for black slaves, wrote in 1922 about the existence of Indians in
the interior provinces of Cuba - "but where they abound with most frequency is in the eastern department" (Dumont 1922).

The Cuban historian Felipe Pichardo Moya wrote in 1945 that during the 1840s Indians in El Ca-
ney, near Santiago, could muster "several hundred pure-blood warriors".

" In March 1845, Remigio Torres, a "pure-blood Indian" clerk of the municipality, claimed lands
for the Indian population of the "many Indians in the extended semi-circle from the Paso de Ia
Virgen to the foothills of the Sierra de Limones." As proof of cultural continuity, the Indian clerk asserted that every Sunday Indian people held their original dances. In 1849, the same clerk,
still arguing Indian land rights, told a meeting of the Cabildo: "You know that it is very rare for a
natural of the People to mix his Indian blood with that of the Spanish, and insofar as marriage
with the people of color, this was never permitted to them as per arrangement with the sove-
reign dispositions."

As late as 1936, an official Cuban map of Oriente Province showed Indian reser- vations at Tigua-
bos (between Baracoa and Santiago) and at Palenque (Moya 1945).

Oral history of Yateras Indians corroborates court records indicating that the Indian caserios at Tiguabos and Palenque and Indian settlements in the San Andres valley were dispossessed, farm
by farm, during the nineteenth century. Those Indian populations, many with the family names of
Rojas and Ramirez, resettled in the more remote valley of Yateras and formed a community called Caridad de los Indios. All along that valley of the Rio Toa and down to Baracoa and Yumuri, and
along the coast to Los Arados, in Punta Maisi, the families of Rojas and Ramirez, as well as the Romeros, the Cobas, the Riveros, many of the Jimenez, Hernandez, Veloz, and Cabrera, retain
history, identity, and customs rooted in the Cuban Arawak traditions, the old Taino homeland.2
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