This arti­cle is about the Indige­nous peo­ples of the Antilles.
Statue of Agüeybaná II, "El Bravo", in Ponce, Puerto Rico

Stat­ue of Agüey­baná II, “El Bra­vo”, in Ponce, Puer­to Rico


The Taíno were sea­far­ing indige­nous peo­ples of the Bahamas, Greater Antilles, and the north­ern Less­er Antilles. They were one of the Arawak peo­ples of South Amer­i­ca,  and the Taíno lan­guage was a mem­ber of the Arawakan lan­guage fam­i­ly of north­ern South America.

At the time of Colum­bus’ arrival in 1492, there were five Taíno chief­doms and ter­ri­to­ries on His­pan­io­la (mod­ern day Haiti and Domini­can Repub­lic), each led by a prin­ci­pal Cacique (chief­tain), to whom trib­ute was paid.

Cuba, the largest island on the Antilles, was orig­i­nal­ly divid­ed into 29 chief­doms. Most of the native set­tle­ments lat­er became the site of Span­ish colo­nial cities retain­ing the orig­i­nal Taino names, for instance; Havana, Bata­banó, Cam­agüey, Bara­coa and Bayamo.

Puer­to Rico also was divid­ed into chief­doms. As the hered­i­tary head chief of Taíno tribes, the cacique was paid sig­nif­i­cant trib­ute. At the time of the Span­ish con­quest, the largest Taíno pop­u­la­tion cen­ters may have con­tained over 3,000 peo­ple each.

The Taíno were his­tor­i­cal­ly ene­mies of the neigh­bor­ing Carib tribes, anoth­er group with ori­gins in South Amer­i­ca, who lived prin­ci­pal­ly in the Less­er Antilles. The rela­tion­ship between the two groups has been the sub­ject of much study. For much of the 15th cen­tu­ry, the Taíno tribe was being dri­ven to the north­east in the Caribbean (out of what is now South Amer­i­ca) because of raids by the Carib. Women were tak­en as cap­tives, result­ing in many Carib women speak­ing Taíno.

The Spaniards, who first arrived in the Bahamas, Cuba, and His­pan­io­la in 1492, and lat­er in Puer­to Rico, did not bring women in the first expe­di­tions. They took Taíno women for their com­mon-law wives, result­ing in mes­ti­zo chil­dren.   Sex­u­al vio­lence in Haiti with the Taíno women by the Span­ish was also com­mon.   Schol­ars sug­gest there was sub­stan­tial mes­ti­za­je (racial and cul­tur­al mix­ing) in Cuba, as well, and sev­er­al Indi­an pueb­los that sur­vived into the 19th century.

The Taíno became extinct as a cul­ture fol­low­ing set­tle­ment by Span­ish colonists, pri­mar­i­ly due to infec­tious dis­eases to which they had no immu­ni­ty. The first record­ed small­pox out­break in His­pan­io­la occurred in Decem­ber 1518 or Jan­u­ary 1519.  The 1518 small­pox epi­dem­ic killed 90% of the natives who had not already per­ished.  War­fare and harsh enslave­ment by the colonists had also caused many deaths. By 1548 the native pop­u­la­tion had declined to few­er than 500.

The Taíno peo­ple, or Taíno cul­ture, has been clas­si­fied by some author­i­ties as belong­ing to the Arawak, as they were descend­ed from the same lan­guage fam­i­ly. The ear­ly eth­no­his­to­ri­an, Daniel Gar­ri­son Brin­ton, called these the “Island Arawak.” The name was derived from the Arawakan word for cas­sa­va flour, a sta­ple of their diet. The Arawakan lan­guage fam­i­ly is made up of lan­guages that were present through­out the Caribbean, and much of Cen­tral and South America.

Con­tem­po­rary schol­ars have rec­og­nized that the Taino had devel­oped a dis­tinct lan­guage and cul­ture. Taino and Arawak were often used inter­change­ably by writ­ers, trav­el­ers, his­to­ri­ans, lin­guists, and anthro­pol­o­gists. Taíno has been used to mean the Greater Antil­lean tribes only, or includ­ing the Bahami­an tribes, or adding the Lee­ward Islands tribes, or all those exclud­ing the Puer­to Rican and Lee­ward tribes. Island Taíno has been used to refer to those liv­ing in the Wind­ward Islands only, those in the north­ern Caribbean only, or those liv­ing in any of the islands.

Mod­ern his­to­ri­ans, lin­guists and anthro­pol­o­gists now hold that the term Taíno should refer to all the Taíno/Arawak tribes except for the Caribs. The Caribs are not seen by anthro­pol­o­gists or his­to­ri­ans as being the same peo­ple. Lin­guists con­tin­ue to debate whether the Carib lan­guage is an Arawakan dialect or cre­ole lan­guage—or per­haps an indi­vid­ual lan­guage, with an Arawakan pid­gin often used to communicate.

Rouse clas­si­fies all inhab­i­tants of the Greater Antilles (except the west­ern tip of Cuba), the Bahami­an arch­i­pel­ago, and the north­ern Less­er Antilles as Taíno. He sub­di­vides the Taíno into three main groups: Clas­sic Taíno, most­ly from Puer­to Rico and the Domini­can Repub­lic; West­ern Taíno or sub-Taíno, from Jamaica, Cuba (except for the west­ern tip) and the Bahami­an arch­i­pel­ago; and East­ern Taíno, from the Vir­gin Islands to Montser­rat.


Taíno soci­ety was divid­ed into two class­es: nabo­rias (com­mon­ers) and nitaínos (nobles). These were gov­erned by chiefs known as caciques (who were either male or female), who were advised by priests/healers known as bohiques. Caciques enjoyed the priv­i­lege of wear­ing gold­en pen­dants called guanin, liv­ing in square bohíos, instead of the round ones or ordi­nary vil­lagers, and sit­ting on wood­en stools to be above the guests they received.   Bohiques were extolled for their heal­ing pow­ers and abil­i­ty to speak with gods. They were con­sult­ed and grant­ed the Taíno per­mis­sion to engage in impor­tant tasks.

The Taíno had a matri­lin­eal sys­tem of kin­ship, descent and inher­i­tance. When a male heir was not present, the inher­i­tance or suc­ces­sion would go to the old­est child (son or daugh­ter) of the deceased’s sis­ter. The Taíno had avun­cu­lo­cal post-mar­i­tal res­i­dence, mean­ing a new­ly mar­ried cou­ple lived in the house­hold of the mater­nal uncle. He was more impor­tant in the lives of his niece’s chil­dren than their bio­log­i­cal father; the uncle intro­duced the boys to men’s soci­eties. Some Taíno prac­ticed polygamy. Men, and some­times women, might have two or three spous­es. A few caciques had as many as 30 wives.

The Taíno women were high­ly skilled in agri­cul­ture. The peo­ple depend­ed on it, but the men also fished and hunt­ed. They made fish­ing nets and ropes from cot­ton and palm. Their dugout canoes (kanoa) were made in var­i­ous sizes, which could hold from 2 to 150 peo­ple. An aver­age-sized canoe would hold about 15–20 peo­ple. They used bows and arrows for hunt­ing, and devel­oped the use of poi­sons on their arrowheads.

A fre­quent­ly worn hair style for women fea­tured bangs in front and longer hair in back. They some­times wore gold jew­el­ry, paint, and/or shells. Taíno men some­times wore short skirts. Taíno women wore a sim­i­lar gar­ment (nagua) after marriage.

The Taíno lived in set­tle­ments called yucayeques, which var­ied in size depend­ing on the loca­tion. Those in Puer­to Rico and His­pan­io­la were the largest, and those in the Bahamas were the small­est. In the cen­ter of a typ­i­cal vil­lage was a cen­tral plaza, used for var­i­ous social activ­i­ties such as games, fes­ti­vals, reli­gious rit­u­als, and pub­lic cer­e­monies. These plazas had many shapes includ­ing oval, rec­tan­gu­lar, or nar­row and elon­gat­ed. Cer­e­monies where the deeds of the ances­tors were cel­e­brat­ed, called are­itos, were per­formed here.

Often, the gen­er­al pop­u­la­tion lived in large cir­cu­lar build­ings (bohios), con­struct­ed with wood­en poles, woven straw, and palm leaves. These hous­es, built sur­round­ing the cen­tral plaza, could hold 10–15 fam­i­lies each. The cacique and his fam­i­ly lived in rec­tan­gu­lar build­ings (caney) of sim­i­lar con­struc­tion, with wood­en porch­es. Taíno home fur­nish­ings includ­ed cot­ton ham­mocks (hamaca), sleep­ing and sit­ting mats made of palms, wood­en chairs (dujo) with woven seats, plat­forms, and cra­dles for children.

Cagua­na Cer­e­mo­ni­al ball court (batey), out­lined with stones.

The Taíno played a cer­e­mo­ni­al ball game called batey. Oppos­ing teams had 10 to 30 play­ers per team and used a sol­id rub­ber ball. Nor­mal­ly, the teams were com­posed of men, but occa­sion­al­ly women played the game as well.   The Clas­sic Taíno played in the vil­lage’s cen­ter plaza or on espe­cial­ly designed rec­tan­gu­lar ball courts called batey. Games on the batey are believed to have been used for con­flict res­o­lu­tion between com­mu­ni­ties. The most elab­o­rate ball courts are found at chief­doms’ bound­aries.  Often, chiefs made wagers on the pos­si­ble out­come of a game.

Taíno spoke an Arawakan lan­guage and did not have writ­ing. Some of the words used by them, such as bar­ba­coa (“bar­be­cue”), hamaca (“ham­mock”), kanoa (“canoe”), taba­co (“tobac­co”), yuca, bata­ta (“sweet pota­to”), and juracán (“hur­ri­cane”), have been incor­po­rat­ed into Span­ish and English.

For war­fare, the men made wood­en war clubs, which they called a macana. It was about one inch thick and was sim­i­lar to the coco macaque.

Food and agriculture

Cas­sa­va (yuca) roots, the Taínos’ main crop

Taíno sta­ples includ­ed veg­eta­bles, fruit, meat, and fish. There were no large ani­mals native to the West Indies, but they cap­tured and ate small ani­mals, such as hutias and oth­er mam­mals, earth­worms, lizards, tur­tles, and birds. Man­a­tees were speared and fish were caught in nets, speared, poi­soned, trapped in weirs, or caught with hook and line. Wild par­rots were decoyed with domes­ti­cat­ed birds, and igua­nas were tak­en from trees and oth­er veg­e­ta­tion. The Taíno stored live ani­mals until they were ready to be con­sumed: fish and tur­tles were stored in weirs, and hutias and dogs were stored in corrals.

Due to this lack of larg­er sized game in the area, the Taíno peo­ple became very skilled fish­er­men. One tech­nique used while fish­ing was to hook a remo­ra, also known as a suck­er­fish, to a line secured to a canoe and wait for the fish to attach itself to a larg­er fish or even a sea tur­tle. Once this hap­pened, men would jump into the water and bring in their assist­ed catch. Anoth­er method used by the Taínos was to take shred­ded stems and roots of poi­so­nous sen­na shrubs and throw them into near­by streams or rivers. Upon eat­ing the bait, the fish were stunned just long enough to allow the fish­er­men gath­er them in. This poi­son did not effect the edi­bil­i­ty of the fish. Taíno tribes­men, most­ly young boys, also col­lect­ed mus­sels and oys­ters in shal­low waters and with­in the man­groves.

Taíno groups in the more devel­oped islands, such as Puer­to Rico, His­pan­io­la, and Jamaica, relied more on agri­cul­ture. Fields for impor­tant root crops, such as the sta­ple yuca, were pre­pared by heap­ing up mounds of soil, called conu­cos. This improved soil drainage and fer­til­i­ty as well as delay­ing ero­sion, and it allow­ing for longer stor­age of crops in the ground. Less impor­tant crops such as corn were raised in sim­ple clear­ings cre­at­ed by slash and burn tech­nique. Typ­i­cal­ly, conu­cos were three feet high and nine feet in cir­cum­fer­ence and were arranged in rows.   The pri­ma­ry root crop was yuca/cas­sa­va, a woody shrub cul­ti­vat­ed for its edi­ble and starchy tuber­ous root. It was plant­ed using a coa, a kind of hoe made com­plete­ly from wood. Women processed the poi­so­nous vari­ety of cas­sa­va by squeez­ing it to extract the tox­ic juices. Then they would grind the roots into flour for bak­ing bread. Bata­ta (sweet pota­to) was the next most impor­tant root crop.

Con­trary to main­land prac­tices, corn was not ground into flour and baked into bread. It was cooked and eat­en off the cob. Corn bread becomes moldy faster than cas­sa­va bread in the high humid­i­ty of the West Indies. The Taíno grew squash, beans, pep­pers, peanuts, and pineap­ples. Tobac­co, cal­abash­es (West Indi­an pump­kins) and cot­ton were grown around the hous­es. Oth­er fruits and veg­eta­bles, such as palm nuts, guavas, and Zamia roots, were col­lect­ed from the wild.


Lom­bards Museum


Taino Zemi mask from Wal­ters Art Muse­um.

Taíno reli­gion cen­tered on the wor­ship of zemís. Zemis are gods, spir­its, or ances­tors. The major Taíno gods are Yúc­ahu and Atabey. Yúc­ahu,  which means spir­it of cas­sa­va, was the god of cas­sa­va (the Taínos’ main crop) and the sea. Atabey,   moth­er of Yúc­ahu, was the god­dess of the moon, fresh waters and fertility.

The minor Taíno gods relat­ed to grow­ing of cas­sa­va, the process of life, cre­ation and death. Baibra­ma was a minor god wor­shiped for his assis­tance in grow­ing cas­sa­va and cur­ing peo­ple from its poi­so­nous juice. Boinayel and his twin broth­er Máro­hu were the gods of rain and fair weath­er, respec­tive­ly.   Gua­bancex was the god­dess of storms (hur­ri­canes). Juracán is often iden­ti­fied as the god of storms but the word sim­ply means hur­ri­cane in the Taíno lan­guage. Gua­bancex had two assis­tants: Guataubá, a mes­sen­ger who cre­at­ed hur­ri­cane winds, and Coa­trisquie, who cre­at­ed floodwaters.

Maque­tau­rie Guaya­ba or Make­taori Guaya­ba was the god of Coay­bay or Coabey, the land of the dead. Opiyel­guabirán’, a dog-shaped god, watched over the dead. Dem­inán Caracara­col, a male cul­tur­al hero from which the Taíno believed to descend, was wor­shipped as a cemí.   Maco­cael was a cul­tur­al hero wor­shipped as a god who had failed to guard the moun­tain from which human beings arose. He was pun­ished by being turned into stone, or a bird, a frog, or a rep­tile, depend­ing on inter­pre­ta­tion of the myth.

Rock pet­ro­glyph over­laid with chalk in the Cagua­na Indige­nous Cer­e­mo­ni­al Cen­ter in Utu­a­do, Puer­to Rico.

Cemí was also the name the peo­ple gave to their phys­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tions of the gods, whether objects or draw­ings. They were made in many forms and mate­ri­als and have been found in a vari­ety of set­tings. The major­i­ty of cemís were craft­ed from wood but stone, bone, shell, pot­tery, and cot­ton were also used.   Cemí pet­ro­glyphs were carved on rocks in streams, ball courts, and on sta­lag­mites in caves. Cemí pic­tographs were found on sec­u­lar objects such as pot­tery, and on tat­toos. Yuc­ahú, the god of cas­sa­va, was rep­re­sent­ed with a three-point­ed cemí, which could be found in conu­cos to increase the yield of cas­sa­va. Wood and stone cemís have been found in caves in His­pan­io­la and Jamaica.   Cemís are some­times rep­re­sent­ed by toads, tur­tles, fish­es, snakes, and var­i­ous abstract and human-like faces.

Some of the carved cemís include a small table or tray, which is believed to be a recep­ta­cle for hal­lu­cino­genic snuff called coho­ba, pre­pared from the beans of a species of Pip­tade­nia tree. These trays have been found with ornate­ly carved snuff tubes. Before cer­tain cer­e­monies, Taínos would puri­fy them­selves, either by induc­ing vom­it­ing with a swal­low­ing stick or by fast­ing.   After com­mu­nal bread was served, first to the cemi, then to the cacique, and then to the com­mon peo­ple, the peo­ple would sing the vil­lage epic to the accom­pa­ni­ment of mara­ca and oth­er instruments.

Taíno also mod­i­fied or dec­o­rat­ed their bod­ies to express their reli­gion. The high­er the pierc­ing or tat­too on the body, the clos­er to their gods. Men usu­al­ly wore dec­o­ra­tive tat­toos and the women usu­al­ly had piercings.

One Taíno oral tra­di­tion explains that the sun and moon come out of caves. Anoth­er sto­ry tells of peo­ple who once lived in caves and only came out at night, because it was believed that the sun would trans­form them. The Taíno believed they were descend­ed from the union of Dem­inán Caracara­col and a female tur­tle. The ori­gin of the oceans is described in the sto­ry of a huge flood, which occurred when a father mur­dered his son (who was about to mur­der the father). The father put the son’s bones into a gourd or cal­abash. When the bones turned into fish, the gourd broke, and all the water of the world came pour­ing out.

Taínos believed that Jupias, the souls of the dead, would go to Coay­bay, the under­world, and there they rest by day. At night they would assume the form of bats and eat the fruit “guaya­ba”.

Spaniards and Taíno

Chief Agüey­bana greet­ing Juan Ponce de León in Puer­to Rico

Colum­bus and his crew, land­ing on an island in the Bahamas on Octo­ber 12, 1492, were the first Euro­peans to encounter the Taíno peo­ple. Colum­bus described the Tain­os as a phys­i­cal­ly tall, well-pro­por­tioned peo­ple, with a noble and kind personality.

Colum­bus wrote:

They trad­ed with us and gave us every­thing they had, with good will…they took great delight in pleas­ing us..They are very gen­tle and with­out knowl­edge of what is evil; nor do they mur­der or steal…Your high­ness may believe that in all the world there can be no bet­ter people…They love their neigh­bours as them­selves, and they have the sweet­est talk in the world, and are gen­tle and always laughing.

At this time, the neigh­bors of the Taíno were the Gua­na­hatabeys in the west­ern tip of Cuba, the Island-Caribs in the Less­er Antilles from Guade­loupe to Grena­da, and the Timacua and Ais tribes of Flori­da. The Taíno called the island Gua­na­haní which Colum­bus renamed as San Sal­vador (Span­ish for “Holy Sav­ior”). Colum­bus called the Taíno “Indi­ans”, a ref­er­ence that has grown to encom­pass all the indige­nous peo­ples of the West­ern Hemi­sphere. A group of Taíno peo­ple accom­pa­nied Colum­bus on his return voy­age back to Spain.

On Colum­bus’ sec­ond voy­age, he began to require trib­ute from the Taíno in His­pan­io­la. Accord­ing to Kirk­patrick Sale, each adult over 14 years of age was expect­ed to deliv­er a hawks bell full of gold every three months, or when this was lack­ing, twen­ty-five pounds of spun cot­ton. If this trib­ute was not brought, the Span­ish cut off the hands of the Taíno and left them to bleed to death.   These cru­el prac­tices inspired many revolts by the Taino and cam­paigns against the Span­ish —some being suc­cess­ful, some not.

In 1511, sev­er­al caciques in Puer­to Rico, such as Agüey­baná II, Ara­si­bo, Hayuya, Jumacao, Uray­oán, Guar­i­onex, and Oro­co­bix, allied with the Carib and tried to oust the Spaniards. The revolt was sup­pressed by the Indio-Span­ish forces of Gov­er­nor Juan Ponce de León.   Hat­uey, a Taíno chief­tain who had fled from His­pan­io­la to Cuba with 400 natives to unite the Cuban natives, was burned at the stake on Feb­ru­ary 2, 1512.

In His­pan­io­la, a Taíno chief­tain named Enriquil­lo mobi­lized over 3,000 Taíno in a suc­cess­ful rebel­lion in the 1520s. These Taíno were accord­ed land and a char­ter from the roy­al admin­is­tra­tion. Despite the small Span­ish mil­i­tary pres­ence in the region, they often used diplo­mat­ic divi­sions and, with help from pow­er­ful native allies, con­trolled most of the region.   In exchange for a sea­son­al salary, reli­gious and lan­guage edu­ca­tion, the Taíno were required to work for Span­ish and Indi­an land own­ers. This sys­tem of forced labor was part of the encomien­da.

Population decline

Ear­ly pop­u­la­tion esti­mates of His­pan­io­la, prob­a­bly the most pop­u­lous island inhab­it­ed by Taínos, range from 100,000 to 1,000,000 peo­ple. The max­i­mum esti­mates for Jamaica and Puer­to Rico are 600,000 peo­ple.   The Span­ish priest Bar­tolomé de Las Casas (who was liv­ing in the Domini­can Repub­lic at the time) wrote in his 1561 mul­ti-vol­ume His­to­ry of the Indies:

There were 60,000 peo­ple liv­ing on this island [when I arrived in 1508], includ­ing the Indi­ans; so that from 1494 to 1508, over three mil­lion peo­ple had per­ished from war, slav­ery and the mines. Who in future gen­er­a­tions will believe this?

Researchers today doubt Las Casas’s fig­ures for the pre-con­tact lev­els of the Taíno pop­u­la­tion, con­sid­er­ing them an exag­ger­a­tion. For exam­ple, Ander­son Cór­do­va esti­mates a max­i­mum of 500,000 peo­ple inhab­it­ing the island.   The Taíno pop­u­la­tion esti­mates range all over, from a few hun­dred thou­sand up to 8,000,000.  They had no resis­tance to Old World dis­eases, notably small­pox.   The encomien­da sys­tem brought many Taíno to work in the fields and mines in exchange for Span­ish pro­tec­tion, edu­ca­tion, and a sea­son­al salary.   Under the pre­tense of search­ing for gold and oth­er mate­ri­als,  many Spaniards took advan­tage of the regions now under con­trol of the ana­bo­rios and Span­ish encomien­deros to exploit the native pop­u­la­tion by steal­ing their land and wealth. It would take some time before the Taíno revolt­ed against their oppressors—both Indi­an and Span­ish alike—and many mil­i­tary cam­paigns before Emper­or Charles V erad­i­cat­ed the encomien­da sys­tem as a form of slavery.

In thir­ty years, between 80% and 90% of the Taino pop­u­la­tion died.   Because of the increased num­ber of peo­ple (Span­ish) on the island, there was a high­er demand for food. Taíno cul­ti­va­tion was con­vert­ed to Span­ish meth­ods. In hopes of frus­trat­ing the Span­ish, some Taínos refused to plant or har­vest their crops. The sup­ply of food became so low in 1495 and 1496 that some 50,000 died from the sever­i­ty of the famine.   His­to­ri­ans have deter­mined that the mas­sive decline was due more to infec­tious dis­ease out­breaks than any war­fare or direct attacks.   By 1507 their num­bers had shrunk to 60,000. Schol­ars believe that epi­dem­ic dis­ease (small­pox, influen­za, measles, and typhus) was the over­whelm­ing cause of the pop­u­la­tion decline of the indige­nous people.

Taíno heritage in modern times

Domini­can girls at car­ni­val, in Taíno gar­ments and make­up (2005)

Many peo­ple iden­ti­fy as descen­dants of the Taíno, most notably among the Puer­to Ricans and Domini­cans, both on the islands and on the Unit­ed States main­land. The con­cept of “liv­ing Taíno” has proved con­tro­ver­sial. The peo­ple and soci­ety were long declared extinct.

Some schol­ars, such as Jalil Sued Badil­lo, an eth­no­his­to­ri­an at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Puer­to Rico, assert that the offi­cial Span­ish his­tor­i­cal record speak of the dis­ap­pear­ance of the Taínos. Cer­tain­ly there are no full-blood Taíno peo­ple alive today, but sur­vivors had descen­dants and inter­mar­ried with oth­er eth­nic groups. Recent research notes a high per­cent­age of mes­ti­zo ances­try among peo­ple in Puer­to Rico and Domini­can Republic.

Frank Moya Pons, a Domini­can his­to­ri­an, doc­u­ment­ed that Span­ish colonists inter­mar­ried with Taíno women. Over time, some of their mes­ti­zo descen­dants inter­mar­ried with Africans, cre­at­ing a tri-racial Cre­ole cul­ture. 1514 cen­sus records reveal that 40% of Span­ish men in the Domini­can Repub­lic had Taíno wives.  Eth­no­his­to­ri­an Lynne Gui­tar writes that Taíno were declared extinct in Span­ish doc­u­ments as ear­ly as the 16th cen­tu­ry; how­ev­er, indi­vid­ual Taíno natives kept appear­ing in wills and legal records in the ensu­ing years.

Anthro­pol­o­gist and archae­ol­o­gist Dr. Pedro J. Fer­bel Azacarate writes that Taíno and Africans lived in iso­lat­ed Maroon com­mu­ni­ties, evolv­ing into a rur­al pop­u­la­tion with pre­dom­i­nant­ly Taíno cul­tur­al influ­ences, as they had the advan­tage of know­ing the native habi­tat. Fer­bel doc­u­ments that even con­tem­po­rary rur­al Domini­cans retain Taíno lin­guis­tic fea­tures, agri­cul­tur­al prac­tices, food­ways, med­i­cine, fish­ing prac­tices, tech­nol­o­gy, archi­tec­ture, oral his­to­ry, and reli­gious views. How­ev­er, these cul­tur­al traits are often looked down upon by urban­ites as being back­wards.   “It’s sur­pris­ing just how many Taino tra­di­tions, cus­toms, and prac­tices have been con­tin­ued,” says David Cin­tron, who wrote his grad­u­ate the­sis on the Taíno revi­tal­iza­tion move­ment. “We sim­ply take for grant­ed that these are Puer­to Rican or Cuban prac­tices and nev­er real­ize that they are Taino.”

A 2002 study con­duct­ed in Puer­to Rico sug­gests that over 61% of the pop­u­la­tion pos­sess Amerindi­an mtD­NA.  Oth­er stud­ies indi­cate a wider range. Juan Car­los Mar­tinez, a biol­o­gy pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Puer­to Rico who con­duct­ed his own mtD­NA stud­ies, says, “Our results sug­gest that our genet­ic inher­i­tance of indige­nous ori­gin can’t be very low and could be even high­er than the inher­i­tance from the oth­er two races (Cau­ca­soid and Negroid).  “On aver­age Puer­to Ricans pos­sess approx­i­mate­ly 10–15% Native Amer­i­can MtD­NA, most of it Taíno in ori­gin; it is mixed into the genome in short pieces, con­sis­tent with a sin­gle short peri­od of unions between the races sev­er­al hun­dred years ago.   Hap­lo­types A and C have been found, indi­cat­ing more than Taíno Amerindi­an ances­try, as their ances­tral group, the Yanoma­ma, do not have hap­lo­type A.

Her­itage groups, such as the Jat­i­bon­icu Taino Trib­al Nation of Boriken (Puer­to Rico) (1970), the Taíno Nation of the Antilles (1993), Unit­ed Con­fed­er­a­tion of Taíno Peo­ple (1998) and El Pueblo Guatu Ma-Cu A Boriken Puer­to Rico (2000), have been estab­lished to fos­ter Taíno cul­ture. How­ev­er, it is con­tro­ver­sial as to whether these Her­itage Groups rep­re­sent Taíno cul­ture accu­rate­ly. Some Taino groups are known to ‘adopt’ oth­er native tra­di­tions (main­ly North Amer­i­can Plains Indi­an). Many aspects of Taíno cul­ture have been lost and/or cre­olized with Spaniard and African cul­tures over time on the Caribbean Islands. Peo­ple who claim to be of native descent in the islands of Puer­to Rico, His­pan­io­la and East­ern Cuba have been try­ing to main­tain cul­tur­al con­nec­tion with their his­toric iden­ti­ties. Anto­nio de Moya, a Domini­can edu­ca­tor, wrote in 1993, “the [Indi­an] geno­cide is the big lie of our his­to­ry… the Domini­can Taínos con­tin­ue to live, 500 years after Euro­pean contact.”

Taíno activists have cre­at­ed two unique writ­ing scripts. The scripts are used to write Span­ish, not a retained lan­guage from pre-Columbian ances­tors.   The orga­ni­za­tion Gua­ka-kú teach­es and uses their script among their own mem­bers. The LGTK (Liga Guakía Taí­na-ké) has pro­mot­ed teach­ing their script among ele­men­tary and mid­dle school stu­dents to strength­en their inter­est in Taíno identity.