The Tainos were a pre-Columbian indigenous people living in the Caribbean region. Christopher Columbus met their large population when he landed on the island of Hispaniola in 1492. In two previous articles of this series we explored the history of the Tainos, and their status in present day populations of the Caribbean. We learned that although historians had previously declared the Tainos race to be extinct, one study done in Puerto Rico found that over 61% of the population had Amerindian mitochondrial DNA. Those results supported the findings of biology professor Juan Carlos Martinez at the University of Puerto Rico, who conducted his own studies. He suggested that the prevalence of indigenous mitochondrial DNA in people of the Caribbean may be even more than that of Caucasoid and Negroid.

The previously reported facts suggest a future for the Tainos, despite a complete loss of their language and the purity of their traditions. Through historical and archeological study we have learned the Tainos adopted numerous traditions, customs, skills and practices from other cultures they came into contact with. It is therefore difficult to determine what is a wholly Tainos characteristic, in some areas of the culture as it exists today. Yet despite the ambiguity of tradition, many people in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Haiti identify themselves as descendants of the Tainos.

Many heritage groups have formed in the West Indies with a mission to foster Taino culture. Herein lies the controversy, partially because of the reasons mentioned above and partially through the knowledge of Tainos culture being blended with Spanish and African cultures. In reality there is no reason for argument over the purity of traditions practiced today. The implied genocide of the Tainos by the Spanish is a part of the history of the race, just as the adoption and blending of cultural methods, and now the re-emergence of Tainos pride.

There are numerous groups based all over the Caribbean dedicated to celebrating Tainos traditions and teaching future generations about their heritage. Since the original Maipurean language of the Tainos did not include a written component, some groups have created unique scripts. The ideas is to help strengthen interest in the Tainos, both by their own ancestors and by other cultures. Of course the argument here is the inclusion of a Tainos script is not true to the Tainos history because one never existed before. On the other hand, every culture on earth evolves and grows – why shouldn’t the Tainos?

The future of the Tainos is bright, no matter which side of the fence you sit on. There is scientific proof of the existence of Tainos DNA in the population. Heritage groups exist in each region the Tainos inhabited, all with an aim to promote their culture and traditions. Most importantly, there is awareness and appreciation of the unique history of the Tainos.

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