THE CONTINUING PRESENCE AND CONTRIBUTIONS OF TAINOS IN CUBA by Damon CorrieTweet
From the MANY Taino who volunteered to fight (including my own cousins) in the historic Cuban Revolution in the Guerrilla Army with Fidel and Che in the Sierra Maestra mountains of southern Cuba, to Fidel Castro officially recognizing the Great Taino Chief Hatuey as Cubas First National Hero, to the many Taino who fought and served with honor, bravery and distinction in the Cuban military in wars abroad such as Angola, to the very fact that even today – there are Tainos in Cuba who serve in the private Presidential bodyguard force that protects Presidents Fidel and Raul Castro….the Tainos of Cuba prove that they are not ‘extinct’ – but are very much alive and still contributing to the fabric of Cuban and world society!
I don’t know about ‘all over Cuba’. but in Baracoa where our Lokono-Taino mixed cousins are, a common expression is: “its your life not mine’..unlike most small countries (like BARBADOS lol) – everyone is NOT engaged in minding other people’s business and gossiping endlessly about OTHERS…wish this life lesson would rub-off on the rest of the Caribbean….and the rest of the ‘small-minded’ world.
I have also never seen such a LACK of RACISM as I do in this part of Cuba, people really don’t go though life with any historical chips (or boulders) on their shoulders (black, white or Indio) endlessly blaming some other race for all their problems……any more than English people do not go through life blaming the Italians for enslaving them for 400 years under the Roman Empire, or the Egyptians do not blame the Greeks for enslaving them for centuries….lets face it…EVERYONE GOT SCREWED BY SOMEONE ELSE at some point in human history…this is not a unique tragedy that fell upon one people or race only….we should not use it as a crutch to lean on for the rest of our lives.
I was invited to a place tourists never see (by Taino staff at the Matachin Museum) in the mountains about 15km outside of Baracoa (beyond Jamal) where a large community of Taino descendants proudly live, still mostly in Bohios as well, but I did not want to be snapping pics incessantly like a disrespectful tourist, so I just laid the groundwork for a return visit for more than just the one day I spent with them. They invited me to a Taina Abuela’s 66th birthday (she also prays for the sick with Tobacco smoke as I do) party on the beach, fed me well with roasted goat, rice & beans, and plantain chips, this particular family has a member who is one of Fidel & Raul Castro’s personal bodyguards, so I may yet get the chance to meet one of these Revolutionary Icons one day soon.
They told me many Tainos fought with Fidel & Che in the Sierra Maestra mountains in this eastern part of Cuba (including some of our own cousins)…just about every family shared participation in the Guerrilla war to liberate Cuba from Fulgencio Batista – the butcher of the poor – grand national pimp of Cuban women – and great friend of American organised crime families….he emptied the treasury and fled to Puerto Rico with all of Cuba’s money.
BARBADOS HAS LONG BEEN A FRIEND OF CUBA
Everywhere among Tainos in Cuba I am somewhat of a minor celebrity for my heritage, my almost ‘book of the month historical romance/drama’ connection to Cuba (with a Lokono-Arawak descendant from Guyana great uncle – who’s mother was the daughter of our last Hereditary Shaman Chief of the Eagle Clan of the Lokono-Arawak Tribe in Guyana – who went to Baracoa in 1926 and fell-in-love with a local Taina girl – and never left making a whole new life in Cuba thus becoming lost to the rest of the family till I re-discovered them in 2013….87 years later)…as well as my somewhat radical human rights work for indigenous peoples and the fact that my eldest son is named Hatuey (one of Cuba’s most famous Taino War Chiefs and whom Castro declared the First National Hero of Cuba)….I remind my Cuban audiences that Fidel made it possible for MANY Indigenous People’s freedom fighters around the world to obtain weapons – with which they could defend their lives and fight for their own freedom.
THE CUBANA AIRLINES TERRORIST ATTACK OFF BARBADOS PAID FOR BY THE CIA
They found it additionally interesting when I began to talk about the infamous Cubana flight 455 that two mercenaries (Luis Posada Carilles STILL lives free and protected from this crime in the USA) working for the CIA blew up off Barbados on October 6th 1976 – killing 73 innocent people (68 passengers and 5 crew)….well to make a long sad story short, my cousin Murray Chandler (brother of Greta, Theresa, Jeffrey, John, Brenda, Janice, Patricia & William aka’ Sammy’) in Barbados saw in a dream/vision that this incident was going to occur because he told his mother & father JUST BEFORE THIS FATEFUL DAY that “A plane is going to crash off Brighton (In Barbados)” …and Cubana flight 455 did indeed crash off the west coast ….the official line is off Payne’s Bay…but cousin Theresa Chandler watched it crash and said it went down more directly due West from Brighton beach just as her brother Murray had predicted, …..but not only that, Murray’s father (Grandfather Keith/Great uncle Keith to the rest of us in the family) went out in a boat to the crash site as Willie Hassell had the gruesome task of retrieving the body parts of all those victims from the sea and bring them to shore.
BARBADOS HELPED MAKE THE WAR IN ANGOLA POSSIBLE
I also let them know that Grandfather/Great Uncle Keith Chandler was the closest of friends of the famous Barbadian Prime Minister Errol Walton Barrow – and it was this leader of our island nation (PM Barrow), who gave Fidel Castro permission to refuel the planes from Havana taking Cuban combat troops across the Atlantic to Angola (without this vital re-fueling stop in Barbados the Cuban planes would not have been able to reach Angola) …where I am PROUD to say – they inflicted the worst military humiliation and battlefield defeat that the racist Apartheid Government of South Africa EVER received…better yet for me – some of my own Cuba Taino & Lokono-Arawak cousins were among those heroic men fighting against racism on the grandest LITERAL scale imaginable!
GRENADA INVASION AMERICAN DECEPTION
Even my father who was monitoring telephone traffic out of Grenada in his Telecommunications Supervisory job at the time in Barbados (as ALL calls from Grenada to the USA in those days had to come through Barbados) – realized the American excuse for the invasion of Cuba was a LIE (the American government had claimed the lives of it’s students was in peril so that was the reason for their invasion of Grenada)….but my father (a man with a renowned and unblemished reputation for honesty) said ‘Every single call from an American student in Grenada to their family in the USA was to tell them that they were NOT in any danger”.
Above, our Cuban Taino & Lokono-Arawak cousin Roberto (center) holds a photo of the Great Aunts he never knew in life, the 3 granddaughters of our last Hereditary Chief, the sisters of Roberto’s grandfather Vidi – who was the one that went to Cuba in 1926 and became lost to the rest of the family; to his right is Barbados Lokono-Arawak cousin Greta Chandler (granddaughter of the Princess like my mother and many other cousins of that generation in Barbados, UK, Cuba, Canada & USA).
Below is the only photo we have of the daughter of our Last chief (who was also the first person in our Clan to be Christianised and receive a western education – though she proudly maintained her ancestral religion in secret – passing down the knowledge of the power of sacred Tobacco in prayer ceremonies). Many ill-informed people question why we refer to her as a ‘Princess’ as no word for ‘Prince’ or ‘Princess’ exists in the Arawak languages…..however we refer to her this way because it was how Colonial English society in Georgetown Guyana referred to her – the then Governor of ‘British Guiana’ (as it was called) HIMSELF introduced her at a ball (to which her ‘Argosy Newspaper’ owning husband and her had been invited) being held in the Assembly rooms to honor the then visiting Prince of Wales of England – as ‘an Arawak Princess’…so the title has remained with her ever since. Furthermore, your questioning of her being accorded this title only belies a degree of RACISM from YOU, for don’t you know a King is literally only a very glorified Hereditary Chief? Or does the fact that a non-white member of hereditary nobility should be accorded the same degree of respect as a white member of a hereditary nobility – bother you?
Most touching of all to me about my time with the Tainos of Cuba – is that they consider Lokono and Taino to be one and the same people, no ‘me’ and ‘them’….only WE…..and it never fails to shake the foundations of my heart to FEEL this with them. Just as I feel among my Boriken (‘Puerto-Rico) Taino sisters & brothers.
Some idiots may want to say that we should not refer to them as ‘Tainos’ – merely ‘Taino descendants’…because in these idiots minds since they no longer have a fully culturally intact traditional lifestyle or ‘officially recognised’ tribal territories (how could they be – they are all still owned by the descendants of the damned thieves who stole them in the first place!) with traditional villages and chiefs – that somehow makes them ‘less authentic’ DESPITE IRREFUTABLE DNA PROOF AND MANY CONTINUING TAINO TRADITIONAL CULTURAL PRACTICES…..this is just as ignorant as saying that Scotsmen today – who ALSO do not still have a ‘fully culturally intact traditional lifestyle’ are no longer ‘real’ Scotsmen because they no longer wear blue face paint when they go to war, or wear kilts daily, or follow Clan Chiefs…..but you never hear these people making THAT identical comparison when they try to use semantics to deny the very REAL and CONTINUING existence of non-white peoples such as the Tainos in the Caribbean.
Why do you think the rest of the world can adapt to the ever changing times and circumstances in which they live – but non-white native peoples must somehow remain frozen in time to be considered ‘authentic’? Do you really how ignorant you must be to think this way!
They are in FACT Taino still among us TODAY (as DNA evidence is proving in addition to other obvious remaining cultural traits that have been self-evident for centuries of Eurocentric MIS-education, bias, and racist ‘convenient blindness’) – in Cuba, ‘Puerto Rico’, Haiti, Dominican Republic and to a lesser numerical extent – but no less valid – even in Jamaica as well – as these two Jamaican Taino ladies below exemplify: