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We are fortunate that there are still indigenous tribes in Puerto Rico, at least one that I know of that still practices the traditions as handed down from their ancestors. Dr. Juan Carlos Martinez-Cruzado from the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez was commissioned to do DNA testing to see if there were any Taíno Indians still in existence in Puerto Rico. This test would confirm if the Taíno Indians were annihilated as the history books state.
Dr. Martinez discovered the existence of a tribe in the hills of Puerto Rico that maintain their tribe isolated from the rest of the population which is why their DNA showed a high Taíno marker for everyone in that community. This tribe was veiled in secrecy since the early Spaniards to avoid being annihilated or enslaved. This is all documented in journals made by Friars at the time.
Sadly, the Taíno Indians were massacred by the Spaniard, and those who survived faded into the general population and as a result the culture trickled down to tiny fragments of traditions. The language was lost even though there are many Taíno words in the Spanish language of Puerto Rico. The Taíno DNA testing exposed the secret that about 60% of the general population in Puerto Rico carried the Taíno DNA marker.In 2012 ,dueto the ongoing researchof Dr.Martinezalong with biologist Dr.Solinskyand other researchers have revised their calculation to show that 71% of the general population carry the Taínomarker.
The Concilio Taíno Guatú-Ma-Cú A Borikén Inc. and Martin D. Veguilla, as their Casike started the quest to rediscover their Taíno traditions, their Taíno language and have the Taíno culture flourish again, in the open in Puerto Rico. Cacike Caciba Opil (Sacred Stone of the Spirit) has the Taíno DNA marker but only had tiny fragments of traditions which is why he set out on a long and arduous path to search out the missing information. I was introduced by Balana’ne to her Casike for the first time at the SuSúa ForestCeremony on April 19th, 2014. And thankfully Casike Opil allowed me to be present and film the ritual when a new member takes an indigenous name but because he was busy with the ceremony he agreed to meet with me at another time do a video documentation of the road he followed to retrieve their lost Taíno Culture.
About the same time as Martin D. Veguilla started his quest, a group of New Yorkers who felt their roots originated from the Taíno Indians also set out the do research and claim their heritage. Daniel Rivera from Brooklyn was one of the original members from this group and his task was to research the language. Daniel who I met at the SuSúa ForestCeremony has been a member of the Concilio Taíno for the past two years and in an interview he explained how difficult it was to research the language. He promised to email me his little picture book that he made which I will pass along to you but keep in mind that Daniel has since discovered that there are changes that need to be made which he has learned from Kujon.
Kujon, who I also met at the SuSúa Forest Ceremony is a unique individual with a story that is impossible to invent. This humble Taíno is a member of the isolated tribe that Dr. Martinez discovered. Kujon, a true Monk and a true Taíno Indian will be sharing his story with us in a few short video interviews which I should have for you by the end of the summer of 2014.
I remain with an open mind,
aka Marie M. Rivera de Morales
Editor and creator of ArtReviewPR.com
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