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taina queen

The Taína Queen

The legacy of Anacaona, the Taína Queen who fought against the incoming Spanish, echoes throughout the Caribbean. She is recognized as a supreme figure of resistance, an idol of Boricua and Dominican culture, and a semblance of the matrilineal heritage that made up the historical tribes of the islands. Anacaona (1474 – c. 1503), Taíno for “Golden Flower”, was chief of Xaragua, and wife of Caonabo, chief of the nearby territory of Maguana. These were two of the five highest caciques that ruled the island of Haiti when the Spaniards settled there in 1492. It was this year that Columbus and his men landed in the island of Quisqueya (the Spaniards would re-name it Hispaniola) where the Taínos had resided for years and built communities divided up into the five chiefdoms .

At first, relations between the Spanish and Taínos were relatively friendly and resulted in mutual exchanges of items from each culture. Eventually, the Taínos saw the Spanish’s long-term (or short-term) plan of taking over the lands and their people. The Taínos resisted the conquest, led by Anacaona after her husband was captured, made prisoner, and died while being shipped to Spain. In spite of the tragic event of having lost her lover, Anacaona, who was charismatic, fired up the warrior spirit in the Tainos and invigorated them to fight for their communities. The Spaniards, however, eventually outnumbered the Taínos once the majority of them were wiped out by diseases, swords, and horses. Anacaona’s daughter, Higuemota, and granddaughter, Mencia, were saved from the massacre by tribal leaders who were put in charge to get the young as far away from the island. Anacaona, accused of being a traitor, was hung in Xaragua in 1503. Today, Anacaona’s name and story is told and mentioned in many songs written by Puerto-Ricans, Haitians, and Dominicans. These islands recognize the history of Anacaona as fundamental to the current cultures and symbolic of the greatness of the matriarchal organization that had prevailed in Caribbean society before contact with the Spanish.

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