“So, I love you because the entire universe conspired to help me find you.” -Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Entrance to Jobos, Puerto Rico La Cara de Indio my own photo 2011

Taino Population on Española from 1496-1570

The population timidly surged upward between 1510 and 1520 due to the importation of Indians from the Bahamas by the Spaniards in a desperate 
attempt to palliate the inexorable loss of the original Haitians. The Taino population thus increased from 61,600 in 1509 to 65,800 in 1510 and again, from 26,700 in 1512 to 27,800 in 1514.

A lot of reasons have been advanced explaining the disappearance of the original Haitians. Many scholars explain the annihilation of the Taino by 
pointing to the introduction of European diseases in the Americas. Indeed, the introduction of small pox, measles, whooping cough, bubonic plague, 
typhoid, influenza, Malaria, and yellow fever wiped out an important section of the Taino population whose immune system was not accustomed to those diseases. For example, the outbreak of the small pox epidemic in Espanola in Dec 1518 extinguished about one third of the native population in a few weeks. What must however be understood is that the decline of the population also occurred in years when there was no epidemic.

The main factor in the Taino population reduction directly results from Spanish obsession for gold and the establishment of the Encomienda and the  Repartimiento, which destroyed the rhythm of their lives, and their social structure. The Taino family structure was broken up as the men were sent to work on gold mines all over the island. They suddenly faced the obligation to spend most of their day working for a master whose cruelty and punishments were swift and justified by greed. Malnutrition quickly developed and the Taino suffered from protein deficiency and overwork. Another factor was the deliberate cruelty the Spaniards displayed towards the Indians. In their inexorable march for conquest in the island, the Spanish destroyed and burned entire villages. The treacherous massacre of the Taino of Xaragua was one of the most cruel and complete mass killings of Taino on the island.

An Indian chief who was being executed was about to be baptized. The priest promised him that if he did get baptized, he would go to paradise. He asked the priest:”Are there any Spaniards in your heaven?”. The priest responded that only good ones go to heaven. At those words, the chief refused the baptism retorting that “even the best one of them is worth nothing; I do not want to go to any heaven where I stand to meet one” 

 

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