““We don’t reconnect to these things blindly,” the cacique explained. “But in the chronicles and in the writings of (Friar Ramón] Pané nd Father [Bartolomé de] las Casas, we have found many
things that refresh our memory, or that were important to our ancestors, like how we come from the turtle, what is the earth.”
Several elder women and some younger men escorted us along with
the cacique. As a group, they appeared respectful and relaxed with each other. One young man, metal ring in his nose, hair short in front, long in back, had just finished a bachelor’s degree in archeology and accepted in a master’s program.
He was dressed in blue jeans and dark t-shirt, same as most everyone else in the group. As we walked, the new graduate student expressed delight in the archeology of caves, which he felt deeply about for their patrimonial value. He expressed special concern
about the lack of spiritual care for the island’s many sacred sites, and was bothered (“me molesta mucho”) by the disrespect shown in archeology to Native peoples’ human remains.
The cacique is strong in his convictions, although in his condition as a Taino leader, he is no stranger to disputation and public critique. One disputation is with academic circles that challenge the notion of a twenty first century Taino survivance. But
public conflicts are just as vigorous from among Taino movement leaders who have different, perhaps too easily conflictive, visions of the cultural survival process. The public contentions can be blistering.
”Sometimes leaders respond too strongly. Especially when others have attacked what we do,” the cacique offered, when questioned about continuing public conflicts among Taino leaders. He added, “But we learn from each other too.”
He pointed out how their community thinking had grown on the mtDNA of their members. When genetic testing first became available, some looked to such testing as “proof” of Indianness. “We
talked about what that might mean with a lot of people. But we are confident that we are Taino, in blood and also in culture. We don’t judge people by skin color or by DNA.” In the hosting group that day, one noticed mostly American Indian phenotype,
and also individuals with more marked African and European features.
The Concilio group walked us through their ceremonial plaza. We said our farewells there. They invited us to come back for a
community ceremony later in the year. The plaza is a large rectangle of packed earth surrounded by standing slab representations of the full pantheon of Taino sacred beings, or Cemí. The group invited our delegation to dance briefly with them, which
we reciprocated with a short purification.
These brief visits to Naguake and to the Concilio yucayeque constituted only passing surveys of two substantial
currents of the Taino movement in Puerto Rico. On the island, and in its northern diaspora, there are additional such organizations, processes and currents of significant and relevant interest to our research project as we gather the story of continuing indigenous
revitalization in the Caribbean. Brief conversations (and interviews to be transcribed), plus direct observation confirmed the evolution of resurgence efforts, one focused on educational and social formation in school systems; the other focused on manifestation
of spiritual ceremony and a religious community founded on notions of Taino culture found in the literature and in the island ecology. Both groups work with the remaining agricultural bases on their region of the island and endeavor to build their movements
in a social change context.
However one perceives the indigeneity revitalization and consciousness movements in the Caribean, the fact of their persistence, intensity and expansion is unavoidable.
This report touches on two such projects among numerous other groups and communities – in place, like the two projects visited here visited, and virtual. Most if not all appear to conduct constant and much-discussed research on Taino and Caribbean
indigenousness – culture, history, craft, eco-agriculture, language – discussions intended not only to write, lecture and archive, but to generate lessons and experience toward the manifestation of living culture.
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• • • Artisans of the land and sea
Throughout the island of Puerto Rico, families and individuals sustain traditional craft and
arts of high eco-systemic and indigeneity quotient. In our five day visit, we met and interviewed three among these fascinating and talented group.
Silva – emerging Taino artist of Vieques Island. Taino identified; the traditional hammock
maker; the Boricua carver from the deep forest …; Rollie, the traditional fisherman (out of Old Man and the Sea)
is a movement of parents and educators reorienting Puerto Rican schools to a culturally-focused educational curriculum, including strong emphasis on Taino language appreciation and use. SI-CILP team greeted by parents, who spoke about their vision for
2. The Naguake educational movement guides and administers some twenty schools in a broad area of southeastern Puerto Rico known also as Naguake, Taino word-phrase meaning, “Our Abundant Land.”
3. Naguake methodology
directly overlaps community elders’ groups with committees of parents in communities. Some thirty-five mountain communities