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Taino Indians Still Thrive in Cuba

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Author Topic: Taino Indians Still Thrive in Cuba  (Read 21624 times)
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« on: February 26, 2008, 07:23:06 pm »

Over several days, often with Hartmann, I visited and interviewed 14 members of five
extended families claiming a Cuban Indian ethnicity. Besides Punta Maisi and Los Arados,
people received me along the Rio Toa valley north of Baracoa, along the banks of the
Yumuri, east of the city, and in a barrio of Baracoa itself.

To the unpracticed eye, but for their looks, many of my interviewees appeared much like
other Cuban campesinos. Among all of them I found a casual sense of Indian identity, and
most retained important aspects of physical and spiritual culture.

On the way from Baracoa to Punta Maisi, we stopped at a guajiro cemetery near the coast.
An indigenous touch: many of the simple graves were covered by small, thatch "houses" and surrounded by large sea shells. The shells (Strombus gigas Linneo), known in the area by their
Taino name, guamo, are believed to protect the deceased from bothersome spirits; guajiro
families still use them to call one another across remote valleys.

One evening in Baracoa, I witnessed a communal dance, kept alive by only one Indian caserio
at Guirito. The dance, called quiriba, has been passed down the generations by several relat-
ed families. The quiriba certainly has French elements to it (many French people settled in the
general region of Oriente after the black revolution in Haiti in the mid-1800s), but is significant-
ly unique in that it has survived within an Indian community.
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