Taino – The First People

A History on the Taino – The First People

There are different theories on the migration patterns of the first people who settled on the islands of the Caribbean such as Puerto Rico. Archeologists tell us that the first people set foot on Puerto Rico about 4,000 years ago. These people were nomadic hunters and gatherers. Sometime later around 120 AD a people known today as the Saladoids, arrived to Puerto Rico from South America. Particularly, we know this from carbon dating and the style of their poetry. Therefore, found from the Amazon basin to as far north as Puerto Rico.

So our Salidoid ancestors had a south to north migration until they reached Puerto Rico.  North of Puerto Rico, Salidoid pottery is not found. Then around 600 AD, a new culture appeared in Puerto Rico that archeologists call the Ostionoid culture. Similar pottery is found in Florida to Mobile Bay, Alabama having the same incised designs found in Puerto Rico.  This tells us that our Ostionoid ancestors had a north to south migration.  It is these cultures that merged into the Taino culture.  Hence our motto “Where the Eagle and the Condor meet.”  

Taino the First People: Where the Eagle and the Condor Meet

There are no eagles or condors in Puerto Rico but they represent our Taino ancestors’ migrations.  The eagle represents the migration from the north and the condor represents the migration from the south.  The Saladoids arrived first to Puerto Rico out of the Amazon where we find the Arawak people. Hence why our native language Taino has a strong Arawak influence.  However, everything changed drastically for our Taino ancestors in 1492 when Christopher Columbus arrived to the Caribbean and made slaves out of our ancestors to mine gold for them. 

Invasion of Puerto Rico

After 500 years of Spanish colonization in Puerto Rico the Taino people suffered. Many decimated by cruelty and European disease.  Much of the Taino language and culture therefore lost as well.

In 1542, Spain freed what Tainos in Puerto Rico had survived enslavement. Allowed to live separately from the Spaniards, these surviving Tainos did so. The Taino lived in an area of Puerto Rico’s central mountain range known as the “Indiera.”

In 1797, Spain conducted a census in Puerto Rico. The census identified 2,312 pure-blooded Indians.  So we still had surviving Tainos into the 19th Century until the governor of Puerto Rico, Toribio Montes made changes. Toribio Montes committed paper genocide by proclamation in 1808, declaring that there were no more Indians in Puerto Rico.  However, vital statistics continued identifying some Puerto Ricans as Indian and Mestizo. 

Moreover, a militia document discovered in the General Archives of Puerto Rico from 1817, lists the names of 382 Indian soldiers from San German.  Additionally, the US Army documented in their Report of the Census of Puerto Rico, 1899, seeing aboriginal people with the same characteristics as Indians from Southwest United States.  These Indian people were seen in the vicinity of San German, Las Marias, and Añasco.  Vital statistics throughout the first half of the 20th Century would continue identifying some Puerto Ricans as Indian and Mestizo.

The First Areyto

In 1992, a Taino group known as “Movimiento Indigena Taino International” along with several representatives from various tribes in the United States, held the first Areyto (POWWOW) in Puerto Rico after 500 years.  This Areyto was held at the Luis Muñoz International Airport, which was sponsored by the federal government.  At the time Paramount Chief Richard Porrata was the Taino ambassador under Chief Rosa Morales who started the group.  Descendants of Puerto Rico’s First Nation derives from this group and continues to proudly carry on our Taino legacy.   

  • Taino Statues in Maricao