The Native American Indian Taino Tribe
BORIKEN (PUERTO RICO)
Tau Ti Guaitiaos ah Natiaos
Hello all friends and relatives
I am Carmen Yuisa Baguanamey Colon Delgado, I am hereditary chief of the Taino Turabo Tribe of Caguas Puerto Rico from the line of Chief Caguax, who is the brother of my grandpa Baguanamey; I am also great-granddaughter of Jose Dolores Delgado Rojas, the owner of the Delgado Royal Grant. The Delgado royal grant, the largest grant ever given to anyone by the King of Spain was our ancient territorial tribal land; for the Delgado clan of the Turabo River Valley are the descendants of the two Taino Arawak Chiefs who ruled this ancient territory, prior to the colonizer's arrival. We are mestizo because in those days the Catholic priests were in favor of marrying off the daughters of Taino Chiefs to the second sons of Spaniards to avoid blood shed. In all reality, what this did for them was obtain large tracks of land from the Natives and free labor. I have included here an attachment of a document. The same is a translation completed by myself from the Spanish language of a write up done by our Caguas town historian on my grandfather Caguax, the brother of my grandpa Baguanamey; both our national heroes. They fought valiantly in the Indian wars of 1511 and 1519.
REFLECTIONS ABOUT CAGUAX
Written by: Juan David Hernandez
Translated into English by: Carmen Colon Delgado
This is written with the goal of exposing our position about Chief Caguax and his trajectory, as a representative of our city. Caguax was considered by far one of the most important Taino Chiefs on the Island of Borinken; which motivates our study. When Admiral Christopher Columbus arrived in America on his first trip, he stopped by the Island of Guanahani (San Salvador), Haiti and La Espanola, among others. On his first trip he runs the Santa Maria ashore at La Espanola on 25 December 1492. With its wood, the Fort of the Natividad is built. The name of this religious holiday on which the event took place is given to the Fort. Since Columbus was in need of sailing for Spain, he left 39 of his men back at the Fort, with the promise that he would come back for them the following year. (1) The next year, upon his return to Espanola, Columbus came across a sad surprise. Here is what happened:
"But they found that, the Fort had been destroyed and all of it's armor with their Commander Diego de Arana. They died at the hands of the Indians" (2). Dr. Gonzalez Chanca and Fernandes Mendez, Salvador Brau
From that moment on, the conquistadors knew that their norms which, they imposed were no being well received by the native population. Also, that the armed confrontation was an alternative which the native Antillian Americans would not renounce. This is diametrically in opposition to the reality, which has been presented to us, not only through traditional formal education, but also through the judicial legal system.
Through time we have been led to believe that, our Native American ancestors were peaceful and that our people of Puerto Rico rejected violence. We see that the documents which have been written point towards a contradictory reality; which we can temper down, based upon daily life's reality. Dr. Fernando Pico has written several books related to the violence perpetrated upon the Puerto Rican people such as; "The Least Expected Day, The War after War and The Fighting Cocks," among others.
Supporting this affirmation, Gonzalez Fernandez point out a fact about Oviedo as follows:
Just the same on this coast of the Meridian there are many good ports, and the manner of ships, animals, fish and, trees and the dress and habits of the people do not greatly differ from that of which I have said about the people of Hispaniola. Except that the Indians of Sanct Johan are more war like and better with the arrows, but they do walk around naked and are of the same skin color and size" (3)
When Ponce de Leon gets his mandate to conquer Borinken, he could not conquer it without a fight. This is why Ponce de Leon comes to our Island in 1506 and establishes a treaty of no aggression with the Paramount Sovereign Chief of the Natives, Chief Agueybana. Don Aurelio Tio points out as follows:
"Ponce de Leon arrived at Borinken in 1506 from Santo Domingo. On this trip, Juan Gonzalez arrived as the interpreter. (4) Dr. Alvarez Chanca
We can then infer that, this was a trip of exploration, during which the blood pact (the Guaytiau pact) took place. Dr. Loyda Figueroa sees this event as quite possible. (5)
As Fernandez de Oviedo points out:
"And to this effect, he took a large caravel with some people and good Indian scouts, and it was on the land of the Principal King or Chief of that Island, who was Agueybana, like the river which is named after him. He was very well received, the Indians having given them many things for their sustenance and, showing forth that they were glad to meet Christians and to be their friends. His mother and the stepfather of the Chief demonstrated that they were glad to give things to the Christians, and to Juan Ponce de Leon's Captain; whose name was Luis de Anasco. Chief Agueybana gave his name to Juan Ponce de Leon, him having taken his name of the same; with which they established a peace treaty. This same Chief was a person of good report and very obedient to his mother. She, being a woman of good, being old, had heard news of things having taken place during the conquest and pacification of the Hispaniola; therefore, to be prudent she counseled her son that the Indians befriend the Christians, if they did not wish to die at their hands." (6)
Besides having known that they would have to fight the Natives of the Antilles, the Spaniards knew that, the Indians had contact one with another, and also that there was contact between the Islands. The situation, then required much caution in each movement they made, because of the real possibility that the Natives could form alliances among themselves against the Spaniards.
There are several sources, which establish that, there was a previous trip prior to the actual colonization of Puerto Rico. The fact is self-evident in the cross- examination of Juan Gonzalez Ponce de Leon by the Council of the Indies. This might indicate something different did happen, due to the fact that the questioning of the eye-witness did not happen until after 30 years of the event having taken place.
The colonization of Puerto Rico commenced in 1509. If there is something which we can attest to, is the fact is that the Spaniards came to our Island without a resistance on the part of our Natives. This happened not because the Natives were peaceful, but because they had established a peace treaty with the Spaniards, known as the "Guaytiau" or blood pact. The fact that Ponce de Leon's visit happened before the conquest started speaks of this. Some historians establish that, it was in 1506, others that it did not happen until the year 1508.
We make this affirmation here because, at the Island of Hispaniola there had been a confrontation between the Spaniards and the Natives; which motivated the invaders to carry out this military strategy. This had been confirmed by Chief Agueybana's mother, in her advise given to her son to carry out the pact. Obviously the whole idea that the Natives thought of the invaders as immortal is pure fantasy and what happened to Salcedo is more a legend than an actual historical fact. The reason for us to establish this fact here is because:
1) Our natives were warriors
2) There was communication between the Native aborigines of the different Islands
3) The Guaityau or blood pact carried out between Ponce de Leon and Chief Agueybana
Our aborigines, after the "Guaytiau" pact was carried out, were treated more as mere objects, then as actual human beings; their human needs were neither met nor respected by the invaders. The Spaniards broke the Guaytiau pact, the peace treaty. They carried out a series of activities which, were nefastous in their consequences to the aboriginal peoples. Among these was enslavement of the people. Even though a proclamation went forth, as established by the Spanish Court in 1500, which prohibited the enslavement of Natives, this law was not absolute in its character. The same did not include our Natives.
These having been obtained in a good war; allowed the rescuing Spaniards
to subject them to serfdom in their original societies". (7)
This then means that, the aborigines who would not allow the Spanish to enslave them and took up arms against the Spaniards could be enslaved. Also, the Caribs were left out of the Royal Decree of 30 October 1503. The legal documents of the epoch presented another thing, but for all practical purposes, we see reality as otherwise, which we will try to explain in the following text.
When the Spaniards first arrived at Borinken, AKA Puerto Rico, (Obao Moin or Carib) in the year 1493 there was found there an aboriginal population, which had a very definite lifestyle. Borinken was full of rich gold reserves and of abundant vegetation. Following the model of the expansionist governments, the Spaniards made the Tainos work to benefit them and imposed slavery upon them. One of the first signs of expansionism is that the Natives were treated as objects, not as human beings. It was Juan Ponce de Leon's action in which the Chiefs of all the villages on the Island were "commended", along with their people, to other conquistadors to work their farmland and gold mines. (8)
Forced labor imposed upon the Tainos ensured the Spaniards' food and economic power. This we must frame within a natural system of production of our aborigines, upon whom a labor system is imposed which, in the first place, they did not understand and, in the second place was inhuman, because they were not physically equipped to handle such labor. They resisted this system imposed upon them by the Spaniards. (This is where the saying that we are lazy begins.) This brought about as a direct consequence the resistance with its many variations such as: disease, pacific resistance, armed uprising, the exodus and suicide on part of the Tainos. The tyranny against the aborigines was of such magnitude that, the various religious leaders of the time who were sensible to the situation raised up their voices in protest. Among them was father Antonio Montesino, a Dominican priest. He was put in charge of delivering the advent sermon for the year of 1511. (Religious feast which, takes place four Sundays prior to Christmas.) In his sermon, father Antonio denounced the abused perpetrated upon the aborigines by the Spaniards in the following manner:
"Under whose authority - thundered out the preacher - have you unleashed such a detestable war against this people who were in peaceful possession of their lands? How can you oppress and work them without feeding them or healing them of their sickness, making them die and, killing them under such excessive work, so that you can obtain gold? Are they not men? Don't they have a soul? Aren't you under the obligation of loving them as your own selves? Don't you understand this? Don't you feel it? On such lethargic ground you sleep…Rest assured that, in the present state you are in, there's no salvation for you, the same as there is none for those who reject Jesus' law. (9)
Just the same as father Montesino, there were other religious people of the time who opposed enslavement of the Natives, such as Fray Bartolome de Las Casas.
It was then practically impossible to keep passive under such conditions as stated by father Montesino. This is why the aborigines rose up in protest, even though there had been a pact made between Ponce de Leon and Agueybana. It is obvious that the same was not kept by the invaders; having in this manner forced the aborigines to take up arms to defend themselves.
For all practical purposes, the Natives as a race of people or ethnic group we reduced in numbers dramatically in Puerto Rico, due to the abuse perpetrated upon them by the colonizers. There were also other factors, which accelerated this process, mass suicide, the exodus from our Island and from other places and not having the antibodies to fight off the diseases brought by the invading Europeans. The uprisings that took place in the years of 1511 and 1513, as carried out by the leaders of the aborigines was another element which, greatly reduced the number of Natives on the Island.
By 1493, when Christopher Columbus discovers Puerto Rico for the "Old World",
The Spanish Crown had no intention whatsoever of sending black slaves to America. This is a decision, which did not last long since "the Crown authorized Nicolas de Ovando, governor of the Indies, for the first time in American history to bring black slaves into the overseas provinces". (10) Dona Loyda Figueroa points out in her book "Brief History of Puerto Rico that:
"the Europeans were importing black slaves since 1513". (11)
This shows how early on genocide got started among the indigenous population.
Caguax or Caguas was the Chief of the East-central portion of the Island. His territory was located in the Turabo River Valley, and it was made up of the towns of Aguas Buenas, San Lorenzo, Gurabo, Juncos and Las Piedras. Traditional history has it that, Caguax cooperated with the conquest, that he remained faithful to the new lords of the land and embraced Catholicism. In 1511 the Natives of Puerto Rico raise up under the command of War Chief Agueybana. Only a few natives were on the Spaniard's side. Salvador Brau points out as follows:
"These helpers belonged to the common people, called naborias. The same were used by Ponce de Leon after the last battle to offer the promise of a pardon to all of the rebels who would lay down their arms, obtaining by this means the submission of the Chiefs; alongside their respective tribes, with others from other factions and groups.
The Chiefs who were "reduced" were Caguax, who inhabited the region fertilized by the Turabo river, South-East of Caparra and another one known as Don Alonso (12)
One of the sources researched was the book "History of the Town of Caguas" written by Don Oscar Bunker. In his book he points out and I quote that:
"Caguax did not participate in any of the uprisings against the Spaniards".
During the uprising, of the other villages, Caguax stayed loyal to Ponce de Leon. After the defeat of Guaybana, Ponce offered amnesty to the Chiefs, but only Caguax and the Chief of Otoao, Don Alonso accepted the same. The other Chiefs, even though at the moment they put down their weapon, chose to adopt an attitude of civil disobedience, even though they accepted as unavoidable the fact that they'd have to live around the Spaniards. (13)
This quote by Don Oscar Bunker was taken from Don Salvador Brau the same as:
· Arturo Morales Carrion in his book History of the Puerto Rican People, from It's Beginnings until the XVIII Century, written in 175, p. 104.
· Blanca Silvestrini, in her book History of Puerto Rico, the Path of a People. This book was written in 1991, p. 82.
· Francisco Moscoso, summarizes all of the above presentations by supporting his position in his book Caguas During the Spanish Conquest of the XVI Century, page 6 (14)
This fact here stated gives us a perspective regarding our own Chief Caguax.
Basically, all of the historians coincide in stating that Caguax suffered the "most abject submission", as Francisco Moscoso would put it. This would place him as a traitor to the Taino cause. These historians have a source in common from which this information is derived: Salvador Brau and his book History of the Colonization of Puerto Rico. In our analysis we try to critically investigate Don Salvador Brau, the same as other source to get to know Caguas from a just perspective.
Brau points out:
"In the meantime, some who were of lesser spirit, believed futile to resist the conquistadors, of whom they said that many could do as much harm as a few, the bellicose legion having had decided to self-impose exile rather than surrender". (15)
These factual statements made here leave us with some data, which must be analyzed. For instance, the fact that there was amnesty offered and accepted,
of necessity poses the circumstance that there had to have been a crime committed. This is specifically the case of the armed uprising. Caguax obviously rose up in arms against the Spaniard and, if he requested amnesty in the year 1511, the same as don Alonso, he did this for very particular reasons.
Don Salvador Brau continues pointing out:
"…That which this witness knows of this question is that this witness saw Juan Ceron with his position having taken from Juan Ponce de Leon Chief Mana, Chief Guacabo, Chief Orocovix and Chief Caguax, whom the same Juan Ceron "commended" to the people he best saw fit. Even Juan Ceron took for himself Chief Caguax, because this witness saw him serve himself of him and, take people into the mines, the rest which is contained in this question I know not of " (16)
This is done by Ceron to give continuity to the domain, carried out by the Spaniards, but we consider that in this case, Caguax had no need to continue to be loyal, since the pact was made with Ponce de Leon, not with Ceron. This is why we uphold that at this opportunity Caguax did not feel he was any longer under the obligation to continue to obey the Island's governor.
Pretty soon Caguax dies or disappears out of view, according to Brau:
"Caguas did not live long after the conquest, having handed down his rights given him by the Spaniards to his daughter, Baaganame, baptized by the name of Maria" (17)
These facts lead us to conclude that, Caguax and Baguanamey did not stay in the Valley after the uprising of 1513. There are documents in existence quoted by Vicente Murga Sanz, Don Francisco Moscoso and Don Victor Torres Lizardi, which attest to the fact that Caguax had been at the King's Farm, at Utuado. (18). We understand that, because of the confusion with the last names exposed in these documents we could be led to understand that, there could have been more than one Caguax. This we can see when clothing and food stuffs are handed out to the aborigines at the King's Farm at Toa, in which there is no distinction made of Caguax as a Chief, as opposed to the Chief of lesser category. For instance, in the case of Chief Francisco Guaybanex, who is classified as such in the handouts while Caguax is classified as Captain. This same passage was presented by Don Victor Torres Lizardi in an article written by him and published in "La Semana" newspaper, 1973 edition. We understand, therefore that, this must not be the same Caguax, as he is treated with such arrogance by Ceron and Ponce de Leon, whom they present as servile and as cooperating with the Spanish cause.
After the imposition of the Spanish peace on the Island and, coming on board governor Juan Ceron, the difficulties between the aborigines and the Spaniards continued. The communication between the natives of the Islands also continued.
There are facts which, have been corroborated by several sources such as Salvador Brau and Aurelio Tio that: the fight continued on the side of our Chiefs, conspiring against the Spaniards These historians speak of sixteen Chiefs being Extradited to Hispaniola, for conspiracy. One of the Chiefs was our own Caguax. This is presented by Aurelio Tio on Juan Gonzalez Ponce de Leon's cross examination; which we will present ahead. Brau point out the following in pages 230-231 of his book; The Colonization of Puerto Rico:
"besides these three groups, which communication with the islanders of the leeward Island was easy and presented serious care, there were dispersed through the central mountains some of the people, in caves, hiding from which they came out at night, marauding, falling then into the hands of onlookers and carrying these out unto them the order of putting them to work in the mines as slaved. Don Diego disposed of sixteen of these captives, having been had for Chiefs having had among them, they were put in chains and sent to Santo Domingo, making the punishment be harsh by extraditing them out of their mother land, this was done so the that there would terrible consequence, unless for the intervention of Juan Gonzalez Ponce de Leon, the interpreter and leader who in his employ continued being more to his credit, as his masquerade as a native was very effective to discover the renegades' hiding places. Now, while the sixteen Chiefs were sent on their way to Hispaniola, the admiral moved to San German, wishing to see for himself that area which he, himself had named, and since this was necessary for him, to cross the mountain pass, having found out about his trip several of the natives, they decided to prepare an ambush in which they could entrap the governor and his entourage upon his return. In this manner they hoped to avenge the extradition of their Chiefs. Juan Gonzalez having discovered their plans, quickly prevented don Diego of the danger by guiding him and his entourage over areas which were more accessible to the flat land near the sea until he left them in Caparra".(19)
The punishment was planned ahead since, by July 25 1511, as a result of the native uprising, they wanted to make a public example of the Chiefs who conspired against the Spaniards. The king, through S. A. Lopez de Conchillos stated the kind of punishment imposed upon the renegades:
"I having been informed, it would be convenient to propose to the renegades a peace treaty, bringing them in with this promise, and once we come upon them, to put them in chains, forty or fifty of the worst offenders and let them be extradited to Hispaniola, and there let them serve as slaves in our mines. You must be very diligent in putting your hands on all of the Chiefs who took part in this evil doing, sending them in this manner to the foresaid Island, where their captivity will be their punishment and they be mande in this manner a public example, so that the others who see and hear of this, will never try to do any such thing".(20)
These events are corroborated during the cross-examination of Juan Gonzalez Ponce de Leon, which has been presented in Aurelio Tio's book, New Sources on the History of Puerto Rico , pages 37-39:
"They know for a fact that, the same Juan Gonzalo that same night had given word of the Indians would have burned down the village and, would have killed the admiral, along with all of the Christians, because these were unarmed having many of them been asleep and if you know that that night they saw Juan Gonzalo take people of whom he pleased of the settlements, from each village and he would go around screaming like a wild Indian, painting himself, leaving the Christians and he would go with them, having armed himself with bow and arrow, he would go into the houses with the Indians, then making signs he'd have his people order to attack, then the Indians would say the Christians are coming. He would then embrace the Chief and hold him down until his men would arrive. In this manner he took alive eleven of the Chiefs, whose names were, Big Mabo and Abee and Cayey and Guaryana and Guayaboa and Guayama and Hayabrey and Baguanamey and Yaba and Huamay and Yogueras and Cabuas and Guamanike and Mabo Damoca and Canobana and Huanicoy, so say the eye witnesses. - (This adds up to 16 ) - And do you know that after these Chiefs were taken prisoners, they were brought by Juan Gonzalez Ponce de Leon before the admiral and do you know how the admiral extradited them to the Island of Santo Domingo and do you know that in this manner were the Indians pacified and Juan Gonzalo brought many Indian people peace and, that said admiral once he knew that the area had been pacified sailed for Puerto Rico and Juan Gonzalo with him and do you know that in the town called Guayaney the Indians would have killed the admiral had it not been that Juan Gonzalo had gone naked and painted into a large canoe where there were many Indians and certain of their Chiefs, while they talked about how they would kill the admiral and all the Christians with him and do you know how the same Juan Gonzalo gave warning and they rode their canoe and found the admiral and the Christians and do you know how, after having fought that night with the Indians for a long time, Juan Gonzalo took the admiral and the Christians through hills and the sugar cane fields to some large valley and away from danger and do you know that he took us away from a very bad pass where the Indians would have waited in ambush and could have overtaken us and kill us all, yes, we all would have died, ask the eye witnesses if this is not so".(21)