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Taino Indians Still Thrive in Cuba

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Bianca
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« on: February 26, 2008, 07:34:01 pm »









                                               The Legend of Yumuri





At Guirito, I talked with Dora Romero Palmero, 78; her son, Pedro Cobas Romero, 53; and
her daughter, Mirta, 48. Grandmother Dora, as with Maria Cobas Hernandez in Los Arados,
had been a midwife and was still a well-known herbalist. Dora Romero, from an Indian family,
had earlier married a Cobas. Her son, Pedro Cobas Romero, was a cousin to Pedro Hernandez
Cobas from Los Arados - yet the two had never met.

Pedro Cobas said, "Our people have suffered a lot. I myself went to work as a boy of six,
picking coffee. That was the time you started work then. The adults in our families recognized
each other as Indian, but we children were directed not to talk about it.

He retold a legend about the promontory at the mouth of the Yumuri, a river that flows into
the Atlantic not far from Guirito. It is said that during the Spanish conquest the Indian families
who could not escape enslavement by the conquistadors climbed the mountain and cursed their pursuers. Entire families committed suicide by jumping. "How horrible that was," Hartmann commented. "But it is understandable, a proper thing," Cobas responded. "The conquistadors
treated them so bad in the mines and the fields. After they had lost in combat, this was their
only way left to defeat the Spanish, by killing themselves. That way they could not be humiliated.
And they died with their dignity."

Cobas also retold the stories of Hatuey and Guama, two Taino caciques who led the wars
against the early Spanish conquest. "Hatuey was from what is now Haiti, but Guama was a
cacique here. Hatuey crossed over to warn Guama and other chiefs about the evil of the
Spanish, what they had done to the Tainos on that island. They say Hatuey brought a
basket of gold in his canoe and told our people this gold was the only god the Spanish
adored."

Both Hatuey and Guama were killed. but not before leading a 10-year resistance to the
conquest. Other uprisings occurred in the area into the late 1500s. "They say a Spanish
friar wanted to baptize Hatuey as the soldiers got ready to burn him at the stake," Cobas
said. "He informed Hatuey that if baptized as a Christian, he would go to Heaven; but Hatuey,
who despised the Christians, refused the baptism. He preferred to go to hell, he said."
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Your mind understands what you have been taught; your heart what is true.
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