Wednesday, February 15, 2006
The discriminating historians amongst you never commented on our blog of 19th February 2005 when we referred to the Taíno Indians as being the original inhabitants of Hispaniola… only actually true if, as most people do, you take the origin as to when Christopher Columbus first landed in 1492. The ingenuity of archeologists and of our modern ways of accessing information help to reveal, that our currently very visitor-friendly island has actually been popular with guests for upwards of 4000 years!
The very first batch is supposed to have arrived about 2600 BC! Unlike today they came exclusively from locations equally sunny and warm, thereby provoking the obvious question, “What on earth were they trying to get away from back home?” Anyway… the route’s starting point seemingly was eastern Venezuela and followed a sequence of natural with-current island-hopping bringing the true original inhabitants, the ‘Arawak’ Indians, to these shores. The trip was so popular that it was repeated and again we are at a curious loss as to know what could have possibly instigated it. The second migratory wave of other Arawak-related Indians referred to as ‘Saldoids’ occurred a couple of centuries before the time of Christ. These particular Indians, according to those curious archeologists, have left quite a trace of their sophisticated culture through remnants of their ceramic creations.
It is debatable as to where exactly the third group of visitors arrived from. Either, it is believed, along the same tried and trusted route using the equatorial currents or in successive steps up from the Peruvian-Andes. In similar fashion to the other two groups they absorbed, or eliminated, the previous migratory group and were known as the Taíno Indians. They held sway on the island for something like a thousand years and, in spite of their having eliminated the Arawak Indians, called themselves ‘Taíno’ which somewhat perversely is said to mean “friendly people” in their own language. Of course this was no different from the Spanish of the 15th and 16th centuries who probably also regarded themselves as quite friendly in spite of their similar eliminatory tendencies, as they presided over the decline of a Taíno population estimated at 400,000 dwindling down to under 3,000 in less than the first 30 years after their arrival. It was though generally recognized, even by the Spanish of the time, that the Taíno’s general passivity contributed to their rapid demise. Either the ‘friendly people’ got slack in their 1000 years of untroubled living here or perhaps those Arawak Indians were just too much of a push over right from the outset… who knows!
It is of course a relief to know that today you don’t have to muster any sizeable group together, nor furnish yourself with the latest weaponry or even paddle great distances in a canoe to get here. You can just hop on a plane even on your ownsome, and within a few relatively trouble free hours you can be enjoying something of that accommodating welcome once upon a time probably afforded by those ancestral Indians!
See you soon then!