Taíno: Indigenous Caribbeans – BAASE comprehension and history (pt1)

The Taíno were an Arawak people who were the indigenous people of the Caribbean and Florida. At the time of European contact in the late 15th century, they were the principal inhabitants of most of Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola (the Dominican Republic and Haiti), and Puerto Rico.

In the Greater Antilles, the northern Lesser Antilles, and the Bahamas, they were known as the Lucayans and spoke the Taíno language, a derivative of the the Arawakan languages.


Are The Arawak Taino Indians Extinct?


The ancestors of the Taíno entered the Caribbean from South America. At the time of contact, the Taíno were divided into three broad groups, known as the Western Taíno (Jamaica, most of Cuba, and the Bahamas), the Classic Taíno (Hispaniola and Puerto Rico) and the Eastern Taíno (northern Lesser Antilles). A fourth, lesser known group went on to travel to Florida and divided into tribes. At present, we know there are four named tribes; the Tequesta, Calusa, Jaega and Ais. Other tribes are known to have settled in Florida, but their names are not known.

At the time of Columbus’ arrival in 1492, there were five Taíno chiefdoms and territories on Hispaniola, each led by a principal Cacique (chieftain), to whom tribute was paid. Ayiti (“land of high mountains”) was the indigenous Taíno name for the mountainous side of the island of Hispaniola, which has retained its name as Haïti in French.


this is not taino


Cuba, the largest island of the Antilles, was originally divided into 29 chiefdoms. Most of the native settlements later became the site of Spanish colonial cities retaining the original Taíno names. For instance; Havana, Batabanó, Camagüey, Baracoa and Bayamo are still recognized by their Taino names.

Puerto Rico also was divided into chiefdoms. As the hereditary head chief of Taíno tribes, the cacique was paid significant tribute. At the time of the Spanish conquest, the largest Taíno population centers may have contained over 3,000 people each.


Taino People Canvas Prints | Fine Art America


The Taíno were historically enemies of the neighbouring Carib tribes, another group with origins in South America, who lived principally in the Lesser Antilles. The relationship between the two groups has been the subject of much study. For much of the 15th century, the Taíno tribe was being driven to the northeast in the Caribbean and out of what is now South America, because of raids by the Carib, resulting in Women being taken in raids and many Carib women speaking Taíno.

The Spaniards, who first arrived in the Bahamas, Cuba, and Hispaniola in 1492, and later in Puerto Rico, did not bring women in the first expeditions. They took Taíno women for their common-law wives, resulting in mestizo children. Sexual violence in Hispaniola with the Taíno women by the Spanish was also common. Scholars suggest there was substantial racial and cultural mixing in Cuba, as well, and several Indian pueblos survived into the 19th century.

The Taíno became nearly extinct as a culture following settlement by Spanish colonists, primarily due to infectious diseases to which they had no immunity. The first recorded smallpox outbreak in Hispaniola occurred in December 1518 or January 1519. The 1518 smallpox epidemic killed 90% of the natives who had not already perished. Warfare and harsh enslavement by the colonists had also caused many deaths. By 1548, the native population had declined to fewer than 500. Starting in about 1840, there have been attempts to create a quasi-indigenous Taino identity in rural areas of Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. This trend accelerated among the Puerto Rican community in the United States in the 1960s.



  1. What does the word indigenous mean? (Research)
  2. Who were the Taino people?
  3. In what century did the Europeans make contact with the Taino people?
  4. Where did the Taino people live when the Europeans first made contact with them?
  5. In the Greater Antilles, the northern Lesser Antilles, and the Bahamas, what were the Taino known as?
  6. What does the word derivative mean? (Research)
  7. The Taino language is a derivative of what language?
  8. What is an ancestor? (Research)
  9. Where did the ancestors of the Taino people come from?
  10. How many groups were the Taino divided into?
  11. What were the names of these groups, and where were they located?
  12. In what year did Colombus arrive in Hispaniola?
  13. Who was Colombus? (Research)
  14. What is a chiefdom ( Research)
  15. How many chiefdoms were in Hispaniola when Colombus arrived?
  16. What is a (Chieftain)?
  17. Was the indigenous Taíno name for the mountainous side of the island of Hispaniola, and what does it mean?
  18. How many islands are in the Antilles? (Research) What are the names of these islands?
  19. How many chiefdoms was Cuba divided into?
  20. Which European country colonized Cuba?
  21. Name four cities in Cuda that have retained their Taino name. What is the capital of Cuba?
  22. At the time of the Spanish conquest, the largest Taíno population centers contained how many people?
  23. Who were the enemies of the Taino people, and where did they live?
  24. What are mestizo children? (Research)
  25. How many centuries did scholars suggest that substantial racial and cultural mixing in Cuba, as well, and several Indian pueblos, survive?
  26. Why did the Taíno nearly become extinct?
  27. What is Small Pox?
  28. When did the first recorded Smallpox outbreak in Hispaniola occur?
  29. What percentage of native people did Smallpox kill?
  30. What is the meaning of “quasi-indigenous Taino identity”? (Research)

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