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  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OU-voK_o3is

* "Anacaona" song: by Cheo Feliciano (on YouTube) https://youtu.be/pRhKY1jVJwE
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:
Anacaona
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.

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