December 13, 2011

The myth of Taino extinction

A response to the claim of Taíno extinction

By Roberto “Mukaro” BorreroDr. Gabriel Haslip-Viera has a problem with Taíno people. Could it be that our increasing presence forces the uncomfortable exposure of not only the “myth of Taíno extinction” but of the deliberate, multi-generational misrepresentation of Caribbean history by the “academy” he so vehemently defends?

In his latest anti-Taíno diatribe entitled “The Myth of Taíno Survival in the Spanish-Speaking Caribbean,” Haslip-Viera reveals that contemporary Taíno continue to strike a nerve in his “status quo” vision of who and what a “Puerto Rican, Dominican, or Cuban” should be. As the 2010 U.S. Census data reveals, however, his conservative view is jarringly contrasted to how a significant number Caribbean people, particularly “Puerto Ricans,” see themselves.

Haslip-Viera’s article promotes the position that Taíno advocates are using DNA studies to claim “a pure indigenous pedigree.” As the current President of the United Confederation of Taíno People (UCTP), I submit that his assessment of Taíno affirmation is, to use his own words, “patently absurd.” I challenge Haslip-Viera to produce a single document issued by the UCTP that makes such a claim.

The UCTP is well-aware of the interactions between Caribbean communities before and after 1492. However, like our ancestors, the Confederation does not subscribe to the racist “blood quantum” ideology Haslip-Viera is attempting to impose on the Taíno. The concept of a “degree of Indian blood” was set in place not by Indigenous Peoples but by those whose ultimate goal was to terminate “Tribes.”

It is the position of the UCTP that the issue of self-identity should be discussed within the context of the universal right to self-determination. From this perspective, the question becomes “so what if contemporary Taíno are ‘mixed’?” Generally speaking, a majority of the citizens of U.S. federally recognized American Indian Tribal Nations, Native Alaskan communities, and Native Hawaiians are also of “mixed” ancestry. This does not stop them from affirming and promoting their ancestral heritage or speaking out for the recognition of their collective rights.
Comment:  The short version of this seems to be: "Our blood quantum doesn't matter because we're Taino culturally." Which is the position taken by most Indians in most tribes.

Note that Borrero considers "affirming and promoting their ancestral heritage or speaking out for the recognition of their collective rights" part of the Taino identity. It's not enough to say you have one or two Taino ancestors in the distant past, even though you're clueless about what it means to be Taino. You have to be Taino in practice as well as in theory.

For more on the Taino, see Tainos Revive Ball Game. For more on Native identity issues, see Debating Alesandra Nicole's Background and "Multi-Ethnic" Jones on Twilight.

Below:  "Taino community members at a Grito de Caguana anniversary." (United Confideration of Taino People)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well, for one, when people portray the Caribbean in this time, they no longer portray Caribbean Indians as...Indians. I don't just mean "pick non-Indian to play Indian"; they've completely written the Taínos out of their own history. You'd be surprised how many people I've met who think modern Jamaicans' ancestors always lived in Jamaica. Oh, that's so cute.