Monday, March 13, 2017

Anacaona: Queen of Xaragua

Xaragua (Ha-rag-wah) was one of the Taíno provinces in which Kiskeya (Hispaniola) was divided. Located on the Haitian side of the island. 
[Thanks to  Rose Powhatan (Pamunkey/Tauxenent) for her invaluable Native inclusions and editorial skills-- Michael Auld]

How has Anacaona been portrayed? Notice how she is uniquely idealized differently by each artist.

"Anacaona", mixed media sculptural enlargements by the author. She was described as being very beautiful. The sculpture's face was modeled after Jennifer Lopez's Puerto Rican Taíno facial characteristics.(2004)

1851 interpretive engraving of Anacaona. The artist idealized her with the prevailing European ideals of royals and subjects.

Cuba's Anacaona postal stamp. A local model with Taíno DNA was probably used for the illustration.

"Anacaona: Golden Flower, Haiti, 1490"
 Book by Edwidge Danticat, the award-winning, best-selling Haitian author (2005).  The book has an idealized cover design incorporating the yellow hibiscus in the illustration. The hibiscus is Haiti's national flower.

Born: 1474, Yaguana, Jaragua, Haiti
Died: c. 1503, Hispaniola (Haiti)
Nationality: Taíno
Occupation: Cacika (female chief)
Known for: being one of two Taíno female cacikes (chiefs) along with Yuisa from where is now called Loíza, Puerto Rico.
Spouse: Caonabo--Wikipedia

There are illustrated renderings of ancient Mezoamerican manuscripts, murals and ceramics that depict Amerindian women of power. One recorded woman leader of note in the early Spanish encounter period in the Americas was a ruler named Anacaona. She, along with her brother, Behichío, ruled over Xaragua, one of the five  major large regions of Kiskeya. Kiskeya was also known as Ayti Bohio ("High Mountain Home"), then changed to Hispaniola, by the Spanish invaders. It was later divided into French Haiti and the Spanish Dominican Republic. Although Anacaona was assassinated at the age of 27 or 29, her short life has immortalized her as a shrewd leader, diplomat, and a beautiful poet (who recited historic ballads called areítos). She is memorialized in Cuban and Puerto Rican songs, in a sexist and paternalistic poem by Alfred Lloyd Tennyson and in a well received novel by her fellow Haitian, Edwidge Danticat.  Anacaona is a pivotal founding figure in Haitian history of the Americas.

Anacaona is known today as a fearless, dignified Caribbean icon and symbol of resistance against tyranny. --Kristen Majewski, Modern Notion

If Conquistadors had been more interested in the people whom they encountered upon their arrival in the America's Caribbean in 1492, we would all have been taught about Anacaona. Her name translates as "Ana" = flower, plus  "caona" = gold. She later married Caonabo, cacike of the neighboring province. (He also had "gold" in his name, plus the important suffix "bo".) When both Anacaona's husband and brother died, she returned to Xaragua to become cacike. Due to the Spanish encounter period, the Caribbean Taino experienced extremely chaotic times after having lived in relative peace for over 1,000 years. The initial Taíno/Spanish relationship began as a subtle encounter but later turned into a brutal invasion based on capitalistic exploitation.

Trouble between the Taino and Spanish was evident less than a year after the Europeans had arrived. Both Bohechío and Anacaona met Christopher Columbus in 1494. They had entertained him, and traveled on his caravel in the bay off the coast of Xaragua. Previously in 1492, Columbus left his crew from one of his sunken ships on the island and returned to Spain. He announced the news of his "discovery" in the royal courts of Spain. Upon Columbus' return to Hispaniola with 17 ships of adventurers, he discovered that all of the men he had left behind had been killed by the neighboring cacike, Caonabo in a "scorch earth" attack of retribution. The stranded Spanish sailors had disrespectfully demanded more food and women from their Taíno hosts. Caonabo was ultimately captured and sent on board a ship set for Spain. He died in the voyage's shipwreck before being enslaved. Anacaona then a widow, had returned to Xaragua upon the death of her brother Bohechío. There she assumed the role of cacike.

Because the Columbus family was considered to be made up of ineffective conquerors, a new radical governor, Nicolás de Ovando was sent to Hispaniola to replace Columbus and his successors. The Taíno of Kiskeya were in revolt and starvation was rampant because their economy was disrupted by demands of gold hungry Iberians. Taíno populations near the Spanish fort burned their villages and destroyed their provision grounds to retreat into the mountains as Cimarrones, the forerunners of Maroons. The intention was to starve the intruders out.

Columbus, who had been stranded in Jamaica when his ship sank, was despised by Ovando who left him there for a year to rot. He was sent home to Spain in chains. Unable to corral the rebellious Taíno, Columbus (the "Admiral") was seen as a poor government administrator who had acquired insufficient gold by way of extortion and enslavement.

Anacaona, who was also reputed for accepting enslaved Taíno runaways and rebels inherited a chaotic, politically driven conflict. With the arrival of Ovando, she diplomatically invited the him to a welcome reception. Upon his arrival to her large bohio (roundhouse) he immediately ordered his men to remove Anacaona and barricade the door. The bohio was then set on fire. Over 80 of her sub-chiefs inside either burned or were shot by crossbow. After being taken from the bohio, Anacaona  was given the opportunity to capitulate and become a concubine to one of the Spanish men. She refused to betray her beloved people and was hanged on the spot.

Nicolás de Ovando, (born c. 1451, Brozas, Castile [Spain]—died c. 1511), Spanish military leader and first royal governor of the West Indies. He was the first to apply the encomienda system of Indian forced labour, which became widespread in Spanish America, and he founded a stable Spanish community in Santo Domingo that became a base and model for later settlement.--Encyclopedia Britannica
*Ovando had also eliminated another bohio filled with Taíno leaders, all of whom he had his men knife to death. Their bodies were hauled out to the village square and displayed as a lesson. His successful plot was to eliminate the Taíno leadership. He was recalled to Spain by embarrassed royals, where he died nine years later.
* Encomienda: A paternalistic system originally used in Spain against the Jews and Muslim after the Conquest. Applied next in Hispaniola, intended to offer the Taíno Indians "protection and elements of Christian civilization" in exchange for their labour, it quickly became a means for outright, brutal exploitation. This practice was later introduced to mainland America.--ibid

Anacaona is the name of an all-girl orchestra, founded in 1930s Havana by Cuchito Castro and her sisters. Eventually, all 11 sisters joined the band. Wikipedia

* "Anacaona" song: by Cheo Feliciano (on YouTube)
José Luis Feliciano (July 3, 1935 – April 17, 2014), better known as Cheo Feliciano, was a Puerto Rican composer and singer of salsa and bolero music.
Note: Although Anacaona was a full bloodied Amerindian, Cheo's version of the song misidentified her as "negro" or black. The lyrics also reveals how the indigenous Taíno were viewed by some Caribbean people.

Cheo's lyrics literal translated into English:
Indian captive race Anacaona, from the primitive region.
Anacaona, Indian captive race Anacaona, from the primitive region.
Anacaona I heard your voice, as I cried when I groaned Anacaona I heard the voice of your anguished heart
Your freedom never arrived, and Le le le le le la la.
Anacaona, Indian captive race Anacaona, from the primitive region.
Anacaona, Indian, captive Indian and Anacaona, from the primitive region.
Chorus: Anacaona, Areito de Anacaona. India of captive race, soul of white dove ...Anacaona.
But Indian who dies crying, dies but does not forgive, does not forgive.
That black black woman who is noble and dejected but who was brave Anacaona!
Listen, according to the story it says that it went to the cannon [something significant?], Anacaona.
The whole tribe cries because she was a good black woman.
And remembering, remembering what happened... the tribe is already very angry.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Cocoa/Cacao/Chocolate: For Lovers

Happy Xocolātl Day!!!
The Earliest Love Potion

The earliest known potion associated with love was xocolātl or chocolate used by the Maya of Central America. Since the 19th century, February 14th has been popularized (beginning in England) with chocolate as an addition with a handmade card for St. Valentine's Day. The earliest Valentine was a Christian martyred by the Romans. After the 2nd Century AD, there were various revered male Valentines, some who gained sainthood.

Xocolātl (pronounced “shock-o-lat”), a Nahuatl word from the Mexica (Mé-she-kah or Aztec) of Mexico, meaning “bitter water”. Cocoa (ko-ko) 1. From the Nahuat (Aztec) word cacahuat  or cacao  seeds. 2. From the Mayan word cacahuaqucht  the “cacao tree”. 3. A variant of cacao. 4. A small tropical American evergreen tree cultivated for its seeds, the source of cocoa and chocolate. 5. The fruit or seeds of this tree. 6. A powder made from dried, roasted and ground seeds. 7. A color.
Chocolate (chok-ko-late) 1. From the Nahuat word tchocoat  “bitter water”. 2. A food prepared from the roasted, ground cacao beans. 3. A blood-red Aztec beverage made with ground cocoa beans, water, peppers, musk, honey, vanilla, and annato./achiote  4. A beverage of chocolate boiled in sugar-sweetened water, with milk or coconut milk added. 5. A candy or sweet with chocolate coating.Also:  6. A brownish gray color

The cocoa or cacao tree originated in the South American homeland of the ancestors of the Taino, the Amazon or Orinoco basins. The plant also grew wild in the rain forest of the Yucatan Peninsula of Central America. Its benefits have been appreciated for over 4,000 years also by the Maya who cleared land to establish the first known cocoa plantations. The Maya considered it an important item in their society. Cocoa beans were given as gifts at a child’s comming of age observance and in religeous ceremomies. Cocoa beans were used as food and money. For example, the rate of exchange of goods were as follows: A pumpkin was worth 4 cocoa beans, 10 for a rabbit, 12 for a courtisan  and 100 for a slave. Maya merchants traded cloth, jade and ceremonial feathers for cocoa beans. The Maya considered cacahuaqucht (the cacao plant) to be the tree of the gods. [1] “Ek Chuah, the mercghant god, was closely linked with cocoa and the fruits were used in festivals in honor of this god”. Their reverence for cocoa  was passed on to the Toltecs and Mexica (Mé-she-kah, or Aztecs).

In Mexica mythology the god Quetzelcoat, the Feathered Serpent, was the creator of the forest and the sacred cocoa tree. Cocoa beans were considered an aphrodisiac (a concept still ascribed to chocolate) and the tree was believed to bring fortune and strength. In Mexico , Hernan Cortez was greeted with mountains of cocoa beans instead of gold. Cocoa was ceremoniously used by the Mexica (Aztecs) and it was given as a drink by the Emperor Motezhuma’s servants to Cortez in 1519. Because of a Mexica prophecy which coensided with Cortes’s arrival, Motezhuma mistakenly thought that the Spaniard might have been the returning creator of the cacao, the god Quetzalcoat. Tchocoat, from which the word “chocolate” came, was a prized drink made from the dried and crushed cacao beans mixed with [2] chili pepper, musk, honey, vanilla and annato or achiote (which made the thick drink a spiritually significant blood-red color). Hernan Cortez, who was not fond of the Maxica recipe, saw the commercial value of the cocoa bean and took a large amount to Spain. In Spain chocolate was combined with pepper, vanilla, sugar, cinnamon or mixed with beer or wine. Other Europeans used this Mexica recipe of vanilla mixed with cacoa but added sugar and cream to suit their tastebuds.

Although Columbus recorded seeing the beans in the Caribbean and took some back with him, not much was made of cocoa in Spain until Hernan Cortez re-introduced it into that country in 1527. This was eight years after Cortez took his armed force to the heartland of the Mexica.

In 1502 on a voyage in the Caribbean , which took him to the coastline of Central America, Columbus came across a large trading canoe off the coast of today’s Honduras . The canoe was loaded with copper axes and bells and great quantities of cocoa. Maya trade routes by sea took them further distances along the Yucatan’s Caribbean coast than the short distance across to the Taino island of Cuba . Although historians stated [3] that cocoa was grown in the southern Caribbean island of Trinidad during precolumbian times it is not yet certain if the Island Caribs or the Orinoco basin ancestors of the Tainos brought the plant to the other northern islands. The Tainos played the Central American rubber ball games which, like the cocoa bean, had ceremonial and religeous significance. It is likely that they were also very fameliar with cocoa.

The cocoa tree is a Tropical American plant which only grows in humid climates along the equatorial belt. The tree reaches a hight of 26 feet. Its foot long leaves start out as light rose colored and mature to a shiney, leathery gark green. The plant flowers continually and produces more abundant buds twice each year. An unusual aspect of the cocoa tree is that its flowers grow in clusters directly on the trunk and lower branches. The flowers vary in color from bright red to pink, white, and orange with pink. Each tree produces 30 to 40 pod-like fruits each year. The American football shaped pods attain a size of one foot in length and 2 ½ to 5 inches in width when mature. The smooth or lumpy surface of the pod hardens and may become scarlet, yellow or various shades of green. When opened the pod contains a sticky, tangy to the taste,  pink colored pulp which envelopes 30 to 40 pink or light purple seeds called beans. When harvested the cocoa beans must go through a series of processes before it can be turned into edible cocoa or chocolate.

There are about 20 varieties of cocoa trees which are divided into two classes. South America sill produces one class of fruit which is the best quality of cocoa beans. “Fine flavor” cocoas are produced by Ecuador, Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago , Grenada , Jamaica, Siri Lanka, Indonesia and Samoa. A second lower quality of cocoa, which was transported to Africa, is produced there mainly for commercial purposes.

Cocoa processing follows prescribed sequences. The seed coat and germ are removed from the edible segment called the “nib”. The bean must be fermented for 5 to 6 days, sun-dried, sorted, roasted, cracked (to remove the shell) before it is ground. The shell is sometimes used as a fertilizer, cattle feed or a substitute for coffee. The roasting process removes the bitter tasting tannin and determines the color and flavor of the bean. The use of the bean for cocoa powder or chocolate determines the length of the roasting time. The roasted bean is then ground into a sticky paste called chocolate mass or chocolate.
[1] Cadbury's Chocolate History and the Growing of Cocoa, http://www.
[1] The Visual Food Encyclopedia, p. 640
[1]  The Indigenous People of the Caribbean ,1997

Monday, January 30, 2017

Iguana: A god as food

The Rock Iguana (Cyclura collei) here is primarily herbivorous and was both a god and a source of food for the Yamaye, Jamaica's indigenous Taino people. Probably fixed on a barbecoa (source word of barbecue) with habanero pepper, allspice (pimento), other endemic spices, and sea salt. (According to one source, the Taino of Turks and Caicos Islands produced salt for trade with the Maya). Today, the iguana has been replaced in the wild diet by introduced chickens and often domesticated or feral pigs prepared as "jerk", a Maya source word linked to "jerky". Eaten in those areas of the Caribbean and other parts of the Americas, the flesh of this large lizard is said to "taste like chicken" (Anthony Bourdain?). As an important source of protein, it was hunted into near extinction on some Caribbean territories.

"The Jamaican Iguana declined dramatically during the second half of the 19th century, probably due to the introduction of the Indian Mongoose (Herpestes javanicus [=auropunctatus])"-IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
                                     Rare Jamaican Rock Iguana -- Hope Gardens Zoo, St. Andrew, Jamaica. (1994)

(About): The Hope Gardens Zoo was named for a large estate once owned by the family who also possessed the infamous  (cursed) Hope Diamond, now in the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC. The iguana, once plentiful throughout the island, was thought hunted into extinction. This one was part of  a clutch with eggs found in the Hellshire Hills, in the parish of St. Catherine. The Jamaican iguana was discovered in the early 1990s in the Hellshire's dry forest that became a sanctuary. The area also has an important Yamaye petroglyph inscribed Taino cave with a clearwater spring at the base of a limestone cenote-like pit. The area is strewn with thorn or maka bushes (maka--from maccaw or makafat palm, a favorite fruit of the now extinct bird) and a variety of exotic cacti.  --Photography and artwork copyrighted by Michael Auld
As a god, the large lizard was revered as a representative of the sun. Also appearing as a Jamaican schoolboy's best pal in the story, Ticky-Ticky's Quest,  (Illustration below: The spider-boy, Ticky-Ticky sits next to his best friend Iggy Iguana as a busted Duppy balloon's seeds float around them like snowflakes.).  The the hero, Ticky-Ticky, grapples with the concept of "eating a god". He asks his friend, Iggy Iguana, who answers in the island's informal patois;
  • "Iguanas love de sun, so we sit on rocks soakin' up its life-givin' ultraviolet rays," Iggi said, using more big words that he had learned in biology class. "De iguana's back is like de rays of de sun. When dey eat us, de Taíno tek in all de energy from de sun dat is in our flesh," Iggi explained.
  • "Woi! Yu don't hate dem for that? I mean, bein' hunted by dem an' all," Ticky-Ticky asked.

  • "Mí gran-fadah say dat dese are de laws of nature dat we mus' follow," Iggy explained. "Him say humans 'unt us, an' dis is how nature is. Him say dat we iguanas eat plants, an' dat's de plant's destiny. My fadah tol' me dat humans, other animals, de plants, de sea, de universe... every t'ing mus' follow dese laws. But de Taíno believe dat they should neva eat de young. If a 'unter turn a young animal into a orphan, de 'unter had to adopt an' tek care of de orphan.

The Twins: Iguanaboina

As Iguana-Boina, the god was equal to sun deities around the world and a major half of the concept of "the source of life".

Right: Boinayel. mboi = serpent. una = dark. His name 
means Son (el) of the Dark Cloud-Serpent (
Left: Marohu (ma = without. aro = clouds). Boinayel's twin brother is the iguana lizard whose serrated dorsal crest suggests the rays of the sun. 
Above: Sculpture of the Iguana-Boina (a) Plexiglass and welded steel; 9 feet tall); 
 (c) Iguana-Boina intersect as support of a house,
the visualization of an agricultural
people who believed that the sun and
rainfall were the twin sources of life.
(b) Detail of a wooden upright of a bohio or

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Make America Native Again

This was America in 1585.-- John White's portrait of a 

Native woman in  "The New Found Land of Virginia". 

that was to become the United States of America. 
The English colony did not survive

T-shirt Designs:

 Powhatan Confederacy--This was America in 1607 when Capt. John Smith arrived in Wahunsennachaw's (Powhatan II) Attan Akamik (Our Fertile Country), a 32-34 nation Algonquian-speaking "kingdom" as the English called Princess Pocahontas' homeland. Helped by the diplomatic Powhatan II to survive,  this location became the place "Where America Began".
The most recent president of the United States, Trump, ran on a populist but divisive message to "Make America Great Again." The message was obvious to many as a not-so-masked reference of the term "great", meaning "white". The proposed placing of a Great Wall along the brown US border and not the white northern one, was added evidence of this expressed sentiment. The impending "Hispanic" (a.k.a. Amerindian DNA) majority predicted for America's future was obviously the campaign's cry to arms. Stop the retaking of America by Amerindians was implied. Trump's followers certainly understood these coded messages. Additionally, as a businessman accustomed to salesmanship, he applied this technique to his advertising slogans. Harking back to the pre-1960s, the reference painted a picture of the time when "America" was associated with the other popular Eurocentric phrase, "Free, white" and 21".
One would think that this unconscious omission of the words "Native American" in casual American discourse indicates a desire to place indigenous people of North America in the Invisible Man category. President Obama was the exception to this practice since he often mentioned Native American in his speeches.

In Obama's inclusive language he used the above term as opposed to the speech of most officials who seem to obliviously live in just a black & white world. Then, again President Obama grew up outside of the US where he was exposed to realistic outsider views of his homeland. Although a product of multicultural New York, the Trumps seemed to have  developed a separatist view by some in that large city of divided cultural neighborhoods.

What if we adopted the slogan "Make America Native Again"?

Dominated by only languages (English, Spanish, French, Dutch) foreign to the hemisphere, was "the Americas" ever not Amerindian? The reality is that, if we go by DNA, most people of the Americas, like the rest of the planet's majority, are Asiatic. Regardless of 19th century racial labels, we actually live in an ethnically Asian hemisphere. Since 1492, even with the Amerindian holocaust, there were just not enough of non-Native genes to go around. Granted, millions of Natives died from imported human introduced diseases, murder and enslavement. Yet, their descendants survived as full-bloods,  Hispanic (US), mestizo (Spanish America), colored (US), Métis  (Canada), half-breed (US) and Negro or Black.(US). They reflect a genetic relationship to the other side of the planet's hemisphere of Asia proper; the world's human majority of  Ino-China, Asiatic-Europe, India and China. Within our generation, all of these areas are in the attainable position of world dominance. Does this notion scare you as it seemed to have many Americans who have temporarily benefitted from the results of the Electoral College?