The Tree of Life

It wasn’t until this past summer that I dug deeper into my family tree and discovered that along with being Puerto Rican, I am also Borikén Taíno. (The photo above is me in front of a Taino Indian Face Sculpture in Isabela, Puerto Rico. Summer 2014; before I had any idea I was connected to this culture!)

The Taínos were a Native American tribe originating from South America and eventually inhabited the Caribbean islands one by one. They eventually centralized in Puerto Rico, which was then known by them as, Borikén. Borikén means “the great land of the valiant and noble Lord.”

The Taínos were described in journals as people with bronze-colored skin, and had dark, flowing coarse hair. They also had large dark eyes. Males and females walked around naked. Married women wore a skirt called a “nagua.”

Christopher Colombus wrote in his journal that Taínos had beautiful, tall, slender bodies. Their color was dark or olive, and they had long dark hair, or short cut dark hair. They were clean-shaven and hairless. He also wrote that the Taíno tongue was “gentle, the sweetest in the world, always with a laugh.”

The Taínos were divided in three social classes:

  • the naborias (workers)
  • the nitaínos (chiefs and noblemen)
  • the bohiques (priests and medicine men)
  • The cacique or guare (the chief of a yucayeque which means village.)

They believed in two spirits:

  • Yukiyú / Yocahugod of good
    Yukiyú lived in a mountain in the northeast, (now El Yunque)
  • Juracán: god of evil.
    Juracán in Sibuqueira (Guadalupe), the land of its enemies, the Caribs.
    Juracán was responsible for storms, earthquakes and bad crops;


Taino symbols for “Sun”

The Spaniards used Taínos’ as slaves. Unused to slave labor conditions and exposed to European diseases, the Taíno population rapidly decreased. By the late 1500’s the Indian population had disappeared. But, interracial marriage with the Spanish and African populations occured, allowing the Taino heritage to became a permanent part of many heritages.

Now- very exciting! The Puerto Ricans of Taino descent today are reviving their long-lost heritage. There are even language revival programs out there for Taino. I think I will look into it. 🙂 But this is stuff I learned over the summer, aside from the language revival program which I am happy I just came across.

TONIGHT, what I also found out is that my Grandma’s (from my dad’s side) father was from Spain. And his father was from France! So I actually have some Spanish, and French in me, too! How exciting. It’s always so cool to find out about your past. I am really interested in looking further into my family tree!

Until then, I am off to research more on my newly found Heritage backgrounds… even though I should be studying for Physics. Hehe.

As always, thanks so much for reading!



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