Arawak: Indigenous Caribbeans

Whilst 62% of Puerto Ricans are the direct maternal descendants of the Arawaks’, little is known about the longest running ancestry of indigenous Caribbeans to date.

The Taíno have been extinct as a distinct population since the 16th century, though many people in the Caribbean have Taíno ancestry. A 2003 mitochondrial DNA study under the Taino genome project determined that 62% of people in Puerto Rico have direct-line maternal ancestry to Taíno or Arawakan ancestors.


There are about 10,000 Lokono- direct living descendant of the Arawaks, living primarily in the coastal areas of Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana, with an predicted greater number of Lokono living throughout the region.

The reason for this estimate is that archeologists have found Arawakan sites and traces of their language throughout the entirety of South America. Only Equador, Chile and Uruguay have yet to produce evidence that the Arawak’s dwelled in these modern nations.

Furthermore, unlike many indigenous groups in South America, and the Caribbean, the Lokono population is growing- making it the only known surviving case of genetically indigenous Caribbean’s to date.

Famous Arawak people

John P. Bennett – (Lokono), first Amerindian ordained as an Anglican priest in Guyana, linguist and author of An Arawak-English Dictionary (1989).

Stephen Campbell – (Lokono), first Amerindian Member of Parliament in Guyana.

George Simon – (Lokono), artist and archaeologist from Guyana.

In recent History, the most famous Arawakan is Jean La Rose, an indigenous Arawak Georgetown, Guyana who awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2002 for her work in halting mining in Arawakan territories, saving Guyana’s forests and securing inhabitants full rights to traditional lands.

Arawakan Locations

Currently, there are five places in the Caribbean which have known ties to the Arawak language. There are:

Present Island Name

Indigenous Name



Malliouhana Arrow-Shaped Sea Serpent

St. Martin



Land of Salt

St. Barths






The Rock

St. Eustatius


Cashew Tree



What about Boriken for Puerto Rico, Haiti and Kiskeya for the big island of Hispanola and Cuba? These islands still retain thier original names on some level.

I didn’t know that is possible for a group DNA to disappear even if they mingle with other groups and have kids through marriage or even rape that it was very common.

You should have more information.

Why is it so difficult to acknowledge that the Yiano and Caribs were of Olmec ancestry and therefore of African descent and had occupied the region for over 30 centuries before the European genocide of the 15th century. Don’t be surprised because this is the true location of Atlantis and the people of this region are their descendants. Furthermore why don’t we examine the treasures that were stolen – hint (pieces of eight), aka ‘money’; Pyramids; sculptures of gold, diamonds and various crystals; and then compare them with the treasures stolen from Africa. No! there were no visit by ‘aliens’, just thieves as orchestrated by Pope Innocent in 1492. Ooops! I forgot he who wins the war writes the history, takes the pictures, even before the camera was invented, also gives the translation of the languages. Oh! and about the Caribs, please do not believe the myth that they were cannibals – fear mongering – proof shows that they did cremate in order to curtail the spread of diseases.

These are all Mongolian Lies

Wrong! Caribs are not black people end of story. The Garifuna who you dumb asses think were the original caribs are a mixed group. They will tell you themselves that you dont know what your talking about.


Can you guys direct me on where to read real artifacts ?? I would like to get to know more about my heritage .. thanks

it would be good if you had more information

Olmecs are not of African descent. Alot of afrocentric conspiracies are being debunked but they’re is still a few that hold true to absurd pseudo science ideology. Nonetheless, even if there is proven ancestry from Africa, it wouldn’t make them African.

actual Garifunas are people that have both african and native caribe ancestry. And Caribes decendenst are throughout the Circum Caribbean region, islands and continents.

I believe the Olmecs had giant statues built in their likeness to debunk those that can not believe they were Africans!

The Olmec statues were not built by Africans, which I assume you mean Sub-Saharan African. The features on the stones are clearly from the native people of that region. Saying that a statue is African simply on features alone is ignorant and completely false as many races of the human race share similar features in different degrees. With regard to the Garifunas, they are not ancient or native people of that region. They are mixed, primarily African and Carib (Native American) — their DNA is primarily Sub-Saharan African, but speak a Carib language in some areas with influences from various European languages. This is due to their interaction during colonial times.

There is a lady in Puerto Rico that is 100% taino arawak.

Nonetheless Native people were BLACK and the Olmecs were BLACK. They built the statues in likeness of who they were and based on the features of the statues, they were BLACK natives. Non native people cannot stand that Native people were black, there was no race before the Black race.

a bunch of false information in these comments that the Olmec were African when DNA has proven they were Amerindian & their descendants are still around today! big fat lips or thick features are not exclusive to Africans, with that same logic then they’re Asians then…& besides there is NO evidence of an African presence prior to 1492 Africans came along with the Spanish slave trade as slaves & also as free black conquistadors with their Spanish conquistador counterparts & the Taino were never Black or African they were Amerindian as well…SOME African Americans need to stop with the racist black washing everything as THEM, they’re acting no better then Eurocentric’s, TODAY the 61% mixed Puerto Rican descendants of the Taino are still here but are tri racially mixed, some with strong Indian phenotypes some not so much & some are lighter or darker, some have African or European mixed features paternally we’re African or Spanish & maternally with some Taino DNA

Oh! My God that is what we need now, to have the Black race claim Taino and Arawak Origins. You people really need to get your fact straight and research your own history before hijacking historical facts from other cultures. Please, Start with the Zulu nation and Go back and forth from there.

This claim is incorrect – “Whilst 62% of Puerto Ricans are the direct maternal descendants of the Arawaks, little is known about the longest-running ancestry of indigenous Caribbeans to date. Written by Abdul Rob 11/02/2016”

Please get your facts straight and stop claiming the history of other cultures.

Olmecs were NOT Africans but they were what we consider today as Black. People of the West Indies are NOT of African descent. They are MAJORITY Arawak and Carib descent. The Spanish also exiled black Indians from Spanish Florida as well as the French into the Caribbean as well. So the admixture of different aboriginal blacks of the Americas exist in the Caribbean.

Everybody/race has black ancestry are it’s a proven FACT Black are the original humans and the first to occupy most lands on this planet. The so-called Taino were and are black. as they are still here today, some mixed some not. You need black and yellow to make brown. Also if you’ve ever been to India you could clearly see why Columbus confused black natives with Indians. The so-called red Indian/false native looks nothing like the people of India and the two could never be confused. The so-call American Indian didn’t just pop up nor are they the original race, but black are.

You all can argue for as many years as you want. But the fact is that Humans all came from Africa whether you like it or not. Your personal feelings and racism can’t change the past.. Sorry, go cry a river now… Bye!!

The Taino and Carib are not decendants of the Olmec. The noted anthropologist Ricardo Alegria proved that they are related to the Inca via a pre-columbian common ancestors. In fact the Taino and Caribs share physical and cultural traits with the Inca.

Wow does it matter wear people came from ? Hundreds of years ago. Everybody originally came from africa PERIOD. If you dont want to identify with africa your probably racist or you could believe your white skin was from aliens instead, maybe that would make you feel better

Olmecs were not black. Stop taking credit for indigenous tribes from the americas. Mayans, Inca. And Aztecs have flared nitrile as well and fuller lips and isn’t exclusive to black people. Look at Polynesians for an example or any actual indigenous person in Latin America. Not everything is a conspiracy to take credit from black people and you are doing the same by trying to steal and diminish the identify and accomplishments of another group which is still the one enthusiast group suffering the most in the Americas

I’m black…taino,arawak,carib…not so much..these people traveled to the americas via what was then the bering land bridge….westward from siberia/northern russia…..cascading downward over time through canada, n.america on into meso america… then to the islands today in question to their habitation…(cuba, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, hispanola,etc… this can be verified utilizing the paternal haplogroup map where one can trace their genetic markers originating there an crossing to here….those markers would be “C3” and “Q3″…respectively along with various subclaves which can be accessed on google,,,,,this also would include the olmecs (rubber people)…not black as well,,,but labeled “olmec” due to the rubber plants/trees which thrive where they reside..(hevea brasilinis/ipolma alba/costila elastica…. check it out for self!

Thank you Curtis – it is well known that Asians accessed N & S America via the land bridge and using established sailing skills. It is obvious from their features..and hence the (incorrect?) name American Indians …from the Indian Ocean / Pacific.
As for the pyramid similarity with North Africa – who knows? Perhaps some later influence or coincidence?
But lets just pause a moment to consider the real issue here… these peoples in their millions were killed, eradicated, diluted by invading homo sapiens. Let’s pause to feel the loss of those lives and all their cultures, and feel helpless and ashamed that this mindless persecution is still going on today, in Brazil or China and other countries where any people are pushed out, marginalised, stripped of land, abused, or murdered. There is something very wrong and dangerous about (male) (unintelligent) humans…they act like predators with an innate tendency to violence and domination..from the Romans, to the Vikings, settlers, invaders, to Taliban, African infighting, to jihadists, Nazis, CCP, Syria, middle East, the Soviet, etc etc etc. I think all this can only lead to and end in our own doom . Note: not ALL males obviously

Actually there were a mix of people in those times some of being copper colored and dark complexion. The actual Indo or Indians in American are traced to descendants from Eastern Europe. Guy did a blood test and it determined one family and their origins with cousins directly linked to Eastern Europe. Not only that many came over here from different countries calling themselves Indo so they could obtain land through federal land grants. Thus the creation of the dawes roles. Some immigrants paid 5 dollars to the board to be considered Indo so they could obtain land. Walter Pleckler was a geneticists that developed the one drop rule in which separated the copper colored from their heritage. You can also read a book written by an earlier settler named Arnoldos Montanus who discovered the dark in complexion indios of North America in Montana.

People please stop being simple. ALL people came from Africa, to argue this is simply childish. this being the case ALL indigenous people are African, since they migrated from Africa. The “Indians” you find in the Americas came much later from Central Asia and are a mix of the true black indigenous and the Mongoloid. Again to be Homo Sapiens Sapiens, that is all Humans on this planet, is to have descended from Africa.

I find it funny that people that claim that Indigenous people are Africans never study their own indigenous history. I get there’s separation but shit, I’m separated from my tribe, that doesn’t stop me from learning more everyday. Please stop trying to claim our ancestry is yours and learn about your own beautiful indigeneity. Yes we’re all from Africa, but a lot can change in a million years

The indigenous population in Hispaniola may or may not have been black. At the very least I feel that they have since been mixed with afro roots after colonialism. I don’t understand why some people feel like their culture is being high jacked…who are you to gate keep identity.. I just want to figure out where I came from with no paper trail available… no one is trying to steal anything from you… ‘maybe you’re blinded by your hate and can’t see how hurtful you’re being. I’m a human being, who not only deserves compassion, but who feels called by my ancestors to figure out where I came from and that means something to me. When you go to Haiti you see people who look like they are of African descent like from Senegal and Ghana etc and then there are people who do not. They are all a variety of shades of brown. But seriously they don’t look African they look Haitian…. I know that’s vague and anecdotal and doesn’t prove anything but considering the truth is so obscured purposely so all I have is my gut feeling about where I came from. This is all speculation because the truth has been taken from all of us no matter who our ancestors truly are. That’s a shame.

If you hate the idea of being closer to Haitians and black people than you think then that just shows how deeply colorism has engrained itself in your heart. If we are connected by ancestors, if we are connected by indigenous culture and life ways then that is something to celebrate. That despite the attempt to wipe us out here we are actively trying to seek out our life ways and cultures before they were colonized and westernized beyond recognition.

Every civilisation/Empire came from AFRICA.

Carbon is falsely called melanin and is in every living organism on this earth and without Carbon the earth would not exist.

Everything human being is carbon based however Black People have CARBON in their skin, hair, eyes, ears and nervous system which makes them Carbonated.

Black Peoples history has been purposely suppressed and identity through history has been stolen.

You cannot say Tainos were black, but in fact all Natives have one thing in common, They are Mixed race of some kind , Look to Eurasians they either have some mixed genes ,You can find every trait from bronze skin to Dark skin due to sun exposure or perhaps a Polynesian/African decent but still classified Mixed as they will have genetical traits like being hairless etc . And if we look at humans understanding in the past it can be as the same as creating fantasy and religion ,Being me i have traveled across the globe and i will be mistaken to be Moroccan /Latino in Europe, Malayan/Thai in Asia etc. There is no accurate way to distinguish an individual when one has no true understanding of their origins , But to just say they were black from their origin , Is inaccurate. Mixed to be exact.

So two pieces contribution is, everybody like sex and power. So sex is power and men sex women and make children. Therefore caribs are a mixture of kinky hair Africans or bantu and Chinese approximately, 4000 years ago. And Arawak sex too with caribs and quarter half Carib and quarter african. And sex is the answer.


What does “Taino” mean?

The “indians,” “natives,” indigenous or original residents (or at the very least pre-Columbian inhabitants) of the island of Puerto Rico and other parts of the Greater and some Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean, have been wrongly identified and/or designated as “Tainos” since Archaeologist Constantine Samuel Rafinesque (1836) used and so coined the term, being the first to wrongly use the term “Taino” to refer to a “cultural group” (The American Nations, Or, Outlines of Their General History, Ancient and Modern Nations of North & South America). Since then, it has been generally and popularly assumed, that a clearly defined ethnic group, with some imagined homogeneous indigenous culture and language and that it’s members called, identified or referred to themselves collectively as “Taino,” actually existed. This is what most of us have been taught in school and more recently, an evident and increasingly popular cultural/ethnic self-determination/identification has developed to various degrees by a diversity of individuals, groups and official organizations with significant investment and “appropriation” of the term “Taino” and it’s supposed and alleged association with a particular cultural identity. “Taino” is NOT the name of ANY particular ethnic group, but that of a time period or era. Folks generally tend to assume that “Taíno” was the name of a specific indigenous culture, which populated Puerto Rico and other Antilles, but in reality, the islands, especially Borikén (Puerto Rico), were populated by a mixed variety of cultures or ethnic groups, which even though were culturally and socially inter-connected through a relatively stable political interaction, were never a single, homogeneous or monolithic culture.

The island of Borikén (derived from the indigenous name of Puerto Rico) was probably already populated some 3,000 years B.C. “Taino” is actually an “inoperative term” used by archaeologists colloquially speaking, to refer to the variety or spectrum of co-existing cultures inhabiting most of the Greater Antilles during the era or time period of the same name. “Taino” is not, as many folks think, the name of any specific indigenous ethnic group, but instead that of a cultural/archeological time period or era. In historical, archeological and/or academic terms, the term “Taino” actually refers to the last stage of the indigenous era or period, which lasted some 5,000-6,000 years and ended with the official arrival of the European conquistadors in 1492, and during which a diversity of culturally and/or socially mutually-inter-related ethnic groups, co-existed. What is generally known as “Taino society” or rather the society or societies of the “Taino” period, had reached a type of synthesis between archaic groups and more advanced ones from diverse origins without sharing an actual common ethnic base or foundation. “Taino society” generally refers to a multiplicity of co-existing indigenous cultures or ethnic groups, organized and/or inter-related within a system in which some prevailed or dominated over others, and only referred to as “Taino society” when referring to areas of mayor recognized socio-political development in the Caribbean.

“Taino society” was already much more politically complex than it’s predecessors (“pre-Taino period”) and exhibited geo-political territorial boundaries and political hierarchies and/or social differences (not clases), where some groups possess certain “authority” or power over others and had more clearly defined power or directive roles or functions. Within the so called “Taino society,” there was a social hierarchy established, which in Anthropology is know as chiefdom, and which in the Caribbean was known as cacicazgo o cacicato, in which there is a cacique, m. or cacica, f. (“main chief”) elected by a collective “of sub-caciques” (“minor-chiefs) based on his or her matrilineal genealogy. This hierarchy extended up to the village level and the cacique or “main chief” exercised certain political and religious but not necessarily economic power(s) and/or authority. The cacique was probably more of an “official leader,” who supervised and regulated diverse aspects of the community and who could only be eligible to the title and role through his mother’s lineage (matrilineal).

There is absolutely no proof at all, or genuine reason to believe that an ethnic group, which self-identified or called itself “Taino” actually existed pre-colonially at any given pre-historic or historic time. The reality is that we simply do not know the name, or more accurately, the names with which, any of the different indigenous groups populating the island of Puerto Rico and other parts of the Caribbean during the “Taino” period, identified or called themselves. There really was NEVER any actual existing cultural group which called itself “Taino.” Popularly and erroneously use the term “Taino” is used to refer to the inhabitants of Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands during this era. And although many tend to assume or believe that “Taino,” “Taíno” or “Tayno” is the name of a specific indigenous culture, let’s be clear, there was NEVER any actual cultural group which called itself “Taino” and the original first Spanish documentation of the term mentions it as what the Spanish used to refer to themselves when addressing natives and not in reference to the natives (see ahead).

The term nitaíno, from which “Taino” is often said to be derived, seems to refer to an “elite” or “specialized social stratum” within indigenous pre-Columbian societies of the Caribbean and not to an ethnic group. The reality is that not a single sixteenth-century document ever used the noun “taino” to refer to any cultural, tribal or ethnic affiliation of the indigenous natives of the Caribbean. The actual term “tayno” (with the meaning “good” or “prudent”) was mentioned twice in a short account of Columbus’s second voyage by his physician, Dr. Diego Alvarez Chanca and addressed to the Cabildo de Sevilla (1493) while in the island of Guadaloupe. The term has been previously mis-interpreted as referring a the response from natives of Borikén (indigenous name of Puerto Rico) who had apparently been captured by so-called “Caribes” or “Caribs” (another erroneous term) of Guadeloupe and who allegedly wished to be rescued and hoped to return home to Borikén onboard the Spanish ships . It has been generally mis-understood that by using this term “they” (“the natives”) were saying basically saying “we are the good ones/prudent folks,” as if in order to to distinguish and differentiate themselves from the ill-famed “Caribs.”

The use of the word “Taino” was first published in the letter written by Dr. Diego Alvarez Chanca and addressee to the Cabildo de Sevilla (1493) is reference to the 2nd voyage of Columbus, which mentions the term’s use by the Spaniards upon their arrival on the island of Guadalupe ad reads as follows: “Este día primero que allí descendimos andaban por la playa junto con el agua muchos hombres e mujeres mirando la flota, e maravillándose de cosa tan nueva, e llegándose alguna barca a tierra a hablar con ellos, diciéndolos tayno, tayno, que quiere decir bueno,” (Fernandez de Navarrete, 1825: 203). I loosely translate it as follows: “On this first day that we arrived there, there were many men and women observing the fleet and amazed with such a strange thing, and upon landing (the Spaniards) on a boat to speak to them (the natives), saying to them, tayno, which means good.” The text clearly describes how the Spaniards identified themselves as “tayno” (“good”). This is not, or should not be surprising, for the Spaniards would obviously want to convince or rather fool the natives into believing that they came in peace and with the best intentions. The key words in the original text in order to properly understand the actual context is : “diciéndolos”, which refers to what the Spaniards said to the natives and NOT the other way around. Eventually history has been misinterpreted and distorted and the term “tayno,” which the Spaniards learned and used to describe themselves when addressing the natives, came to be applied to peoples of the Arawakan cultural groups which inhabited the Antilles.

The term wasn’t officially used or published again until the end of the XIX (19) century, first by Daniel Brinton (1871), as a linguistic classification and later by Constantine Rafinesque (1836:215), who was the fist to use the term “Taino” to identify an “cultural group” (The American Nations). One of the first nativist who used the term “Taíno” as a “name” was renown Cuban pre-historian Bachiller y Morales who was one of the first Caribbean researchers to use the term to refer to the native inhabitants of the Mayor Antilles to distinguish them from the term “Caribe.” Currently, it seems to be becoming more popular and, in my opinion, much more accurate to use the term “Eyeri,” as proposed by ethnohistorian Armando Marti (2007), which is reinforced by the research of Bachiller y Morales (1863:269), Rafinesque (1836:223), Taylor (1957) y confirmed by ethnographic works by Brett (1831:97-98), which establishes that the peoples of the Orinoco-Amazon region, like many indigenous people all over the world, have the custom of using the term meaning “folk,” “men” or “people” in their native languages.

Although, it is indeed true that until recently, the indigenous cultural legacy of Puerto Rico, has been generally considered to be a “distant and romantic referent” with a very short noticeable presence in the history of modern Puerto Rico” (Santory-Jorge, Avilés, Martinez-Cruzado, & Ramirez, 2008). Despite the fact that many individuals have adopted an exclusive “Amerindian” or “Taino” identity and claim such “pedigree,” have organized themselves into “tribes” and even a “confederation” in attempts to obtain official recognition and other benefits from island and state-side government. Even a few Dominicans, Cubans, Puerto Rican and some Anglo academics (Lynne Guitar, Peter Ferbel, and Maximilian Forte…) have become supporters of individuals and groups who claim indigenous or “Taino” ancestry, also supporting their inherent politics of racial divisiveness and wishes for official recognition and other benefits. But, there is no substancial evidence to prove that any of the individuals or groups claiming to be the exclusive, direct and genuine descendants of our indigenous ancestors are legitimate. If I err, please, prove me wrong!
As well stated by Proff. Haslip-Viera, we should not ignore or minimize the importance of the following facts:

“1. The pre-1492 indigenous population (unmixed with Spaniards, Africans and others outside the Americas) became extinct in Puerto Rico, Cuba and Hispaniola by the early decades of the1600s (Via et al. 2011, Gravel et al. 2013).
2. A relatively small subset of the pre-1492 indigenous population mixed with Spaniards, Africans and others during the 16th and early 17th centuries. This population became the basis for the hybrid creole population that is seen today (Via et al. 2011, Gravel et al. 2013, Haslip-Viera 2014).
3. The “Indians” officially counted in Puerto Rico and Santo Domingo in the late 1700s were most probably hybrids already, and in the case of Puerto Rico, they were probably brought to that island from other parts of the Caribbean and Mexico (Kearns 2003; Sued Badillo 1995a and b).
4. The Puerto Rican students at the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania in the early 1900s were not “Indians” in actuality (Navarro-Rivera, 2006).
5. The mid-20th century and contemporary storytelling about an exclusive “Indian” pedigree for Puerto Ricans and Dominicans has not been corroborated by other evidence.
6. and most importantly, there is no evidence for the existence of a specific self-identified “Indian” or “Taíno” community or tribe in Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic at any time since the early 1600s.”

None of the existing DNA research actually demonstrates a “continuing presence of many persons of indigenous ancestry” in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean or the Diaspora. On the contrary, genome-wide DNA research shows that “the people of the Spanish-speaking Caribbean and its Diaspora are ethnically mixed hybrids in twenty-one studies that have been completed since 2004.” Supporters and promoters of “Tainoism” choose to focuses on “the very narrow” matrilineal mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) studied by Puerto Rican geneticist, Juan Carlos Martínez Cruzado and and publicly hyped by the media and pro-“Tainoism” groups, which simply showed that 61% of Puerto Ricans had at least a trace of INDIGENOUS mtDNA…, not “Taino,” but INDIGENOUS… “The most recent and much more reliable genome-wide results for Puerto Ricans show that they are 73.5%, European, 13.5, and 13.0% indigenous on average, and for Dominican, the score for indigenous varies nebulously from 14.7% to 6.4% (Via et al. 2011, Gravel et al. 2013, DNA Tribes nd, Haslip-Viera 2014: 133-117).”

“The claimed Neo-Taíno identity and pedigree of the contemporary movement is a construction that has its principal origins, especially among Puerto Ricans, in the United States mainland in the 1960s. (Dávila, 2001: 40-41, 42-43 and Klor deAlva 1997). The Taíno heritage has been celebrated on the island, especially since the 1950s, as part of the idealized, ethnically mixed “tripartite” model of “race” relations, but it’s only in recent decades that a number of Puerto Rican islanders have adopted the invented identity and pedigree. As noted above, there is no evidence for the existence of a specific self-identified “Indian” or “Taino” community or tribe in Puerto Rico, and also in the Dominican Republic, at any time since the late 1500s or early 1600s.” (Haslip-Viera)

Recent studies by Juan Carlos Martínez Cruzado and Juan Ortiz Aguilú, funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (here is the actual study:, revealed that at least six (6) out of ten (10) or 60% of all Puerto Ricans carry Amerindian (Note: not specifically Arawak or “Taino”) indigenous genetic material through their mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which is DNA located in mitochondria (plural of mitochondrion, a double membrane-bound organelle) found in all eukaryotic organisms (whose cells have a cell nucleus and other organelles enclosed within membranes) and inherited from the mother (maternally inherited). Human mitochondrial DNA was the first significant part of the human genome (the complete set of nucleic acid sequence for humans, encoded as DNA) to be sequenced. In most species, including humans, mtDNA is almost exclusively passed from mother to offspring without recombination. Therefore, even though mitochondrial DNA is only a small portion of the DNA in the eukaryotic cells, it’s study facilitates particular analysis of genetic relations between populations, and thus is important in social sciences like anthropology and biogeography.

In sexual reproduction, mitochondria are normally inherited exclusively from the mother since the mitochondria in sperm are generally destroyed by the egg cell after fertilization and since most mitochondria are present at the base of the sperm’s tail, which is sometimes lost during fertilization. Further more, paternal sperm mitochondria (containing mtDNA) are apparently marked with ubiquitin (a regulatory protein) to be selected destroyed inside the embryo. Since mitochondrial DNA is maternally inherited, it’s examination enables genealogical researcher to trace maternal lineage far back in time. Y-chromosomal DNA, on the other hand is paternally inherited and used in an analogous way to determine patrilineal history. The concept of a “Mitochondrial Eve” (also mt-Eve, mt-MRCA) is based on the same type of analysis, attempting to discover the origin of humanity by tracking the maternal lineage back in time to the matrilineal most recent common ancestor (MRCA) of all currently living humans.

As explained in an article titled “¿Somos indígena?” (‘Are we indigenous?’) by Rima Brusi-Gil de Lamadrid and Isar P. Godreau (, the work of Juan Carlos Martínez Cruzado and Juan Ortiz Aguilú does indeed presents the “discovery” of significant indigenous genetic material in about six (6) of every ten (10) Puerto Ricans (slightly more then half). What this work actually reveals is that a large number of Puerto Ricans have a female indigenous ancestor within their genealogical tree. But the genetic contribution, which allows us to recognize an indigenous ancestor within the mitochondria of our cells could be minimal and even minuscule, and in no way or form, actually prove that we are indigenous, never mind the wrong term “Taino.” Any Puerto Rican (at least 6 out of 10), for example, could have the indigenous mtDNA shown by the Martínez Cruzado and Ortiz Aguilú study, but actually have very few indigenous ancestors, or even just a single one for that matter, and as many as four (4) out of every ten (10) would actually have no indigenous mtDNA whatsoever (that’s almost half of the population).

The article by Brusi-Gil de Lamadrid and Godreau pointed out another common misinterpretation of the Martínez Cruzado and Ortiz Aguilú study and it’s data. This is the common erroneous perception that “indigenous” traits (the “indio” look) are one and the same or inherently connected to the presence of the indigenous (Amerindian) mtDNA. But in reality, the mtDNA does NOT codify for physical or phenotypical traits, such as hair, skin color or teeth… These “indio” traits could very well derive from both maternal or paternal ancestors, recent or ancient, and actually from any part of the world. Truth is that the Martínez Cruzado and Ortiz Aguilú study actually reveals that there is no existing correlation between phenotype or physical appearance and the presence or absence of indigenous mtDNA. “The people were assimilated into a new colonial order and became mixed. That’s what Puerto Ricans are: Indians mixed with Africans and Spaniards.” (Martinez Cruzado)

Most of the current self-identified or so-called “Taino” leaders actually know or should this information and it’s real implications by now…, but, in my opinion, they are often: 1- heavily invested in their re-invented identity, 2- unwilling to risk losing the power and status they gain through it and/or 3- prefer to identify as “Taino” in order to reject or deny their African and/or European heritage and thus actually rejecting their identity as Puerto Ricans. “Tainoism” or “Neo-Tainoism” is anti-Puerto Rican, anti-Nationalist and in many cases pro-statehood…, and it has always, from it’s beginnings with the first self-proclaimed “neo-cacique,” “Cibanakán” and the founding of the original “Taino Nation” in NY in the ’80s, generated cult-like “leaders” and groups. In my own personal experience, most folks who claim to be “Taino” generally and evidently have some complex, negation or phobia of some other cultural/racial heritage they may have (including Puerto Rican obviously). Some others, I believe, wish to or already benefit from the popular social “advantages” of being “native,” such as status, “coolness points,” affirmative action, pseudo-“cacicazgos,” book deals, casinos and parts in films, etc.., and regularly play to stereotypes to look “real.” Real “indian,” “natives” or indigenous folk, do not generally play to stereotypes – because they do not have to.

Do “Tainos” exist?

Wether there are or not existing “indigenous” people in Puerto Rico is interestingly enough a very controversial and complicated topic, which should indeed be discussed appropriately and without fanaticisms. But, wether “native” or indigenous Puerto Ricans or their descendants exist or not, the current popular use of the term “Taino” remains incorrect, even if accepted and adopted. Having been an active participant-observer and witness to the genesis of the “Taino” movement in NY during the late ‘80s and early ’90s, and inevitably recognizing that since then, many folks have claimed and assumed a particular identity associated with the term and that there are at least two (2) to three (3) generations or more, of individuals even actually raised as “Taino” by their parents and who evidently see themselves as being “Taino,” I do have to accept that there are living-breathing “Taino” folk existing today. What I do not believe or accept is that these folks who se-identify or were actually raised as “Taino” are actually the direct descendants and/or genuine representatives of the original inhabitants of Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands during the “Taino” era/period. I definitely do NOT believe that any of the so called “Taino” folk are any more “indigenous” than myself or any average Puerto Rican.

There is nothing wrong with recognizing, honoring and celebrating our indigenous heritage. There is nothing wrong with identifying with this heritage and it’s legacy. There is nothing wrong with embracing, adopting and adapting indigenous concepts and aesthetics within our lives. On the contrary, it is productive and even necessary…, but we should do so within a real and genuine framework and process, without the need to make things up, without using or incorporating incorrect, irrelevant and/or foreign concepts and imagery. Without denying the rest of the evident, significant and relevant cultural roots which together make up the Puerto Rican Nation. And we can do this without the need to invent or crete an imaginary identity in order to compensate for a debilitated, weak or even absent, sense of national Boricua/Puerto Rican identity.


“Para nosotros la raza nada tiene que ver con la biología. Ni tez lunada, ni cabello hervido, ni oblicuidad de ojo. Raza es una perpetuidad de virtudes y de instituciones características.” “¿Qué hay sangre africana? Yo también la llevo en mis venas y la llevo con el supremo orgullo de la dignidad humana. Aquí tenemos sangre india… Yo también tengo sangre india y por eso me siento perfectamente americano, americano autóctono… ¿Qué hay sangre blanca en nosotros? Yo también la llevo en las venas… Nosotros somos un pueblo predestinado en la historia, por qué Puerto Rico es la primera nación del mundo donde se forma la unidad del espíritu con la unidad biológica del cuerpo.”

“For us race has nothing to do with biology. Or with dark skin, or curly hair, or slant of the eyes. Race is an perpetuation of characteristic virtues and institutions.” “That we have African blood? I too carry it in my veins and carry it with the supreme pride of human dignity. Here we have indian [indigenous] blood… I too have indian blood and because of it I feel perfectly american, autochthonous american… That there is white blood in us? I too carry it in my veins… We are a people predestined in history, because Puerto Rico is the first nation of the world where the unity of the spirit with the biological unity of the body is formed.”

– Don Pedro Albizu Campos

My family line has a mixture of African, Native American, and Arawak – Taino heritage. My fathers side of the family is from Citagoo. I feel deep in my heart it is a lie that all Taino people were wiped out from Eleuthera. I hope one day we can say who we are without being attacked. Hope you all find your full ancestry from the hands of white colonists and those who continue to spread the lie they told.

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