New Study Finds Taíno DNA Is Still Present Despite Paper Genocide Perpetrated By European Colonizers

The island now named Puerto Rico was once home to between 30 and 70 thousand people collectively known as Taíno. They all descended from various ethnic groups that settled on the island as far back in history as 3,000 B.C. In the 15th century, after the colonizers arrived, the official story was that a century of conquistadores wiped any trace of these indigenous peoples. They were thought to be extinct —or so said the official recordings.

A DNA study last year found that 61 percent of all Puerto Ricans and roughly a third of Cubans and Dominicans have Native American mitochondrial DNA.

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It was a common belief —until now— that Puerto Rico’s indigenous Taíno people were exterminated shortly after the Spanish conquista took place in 1511. “[The indigenous people] show the most singular loving behavior… and are gentle and always laughing,” Columbus recorded. Conquistador Diego Velázquez’s arrival in 1511 would change that forever. Those Taíno who had never before been put to the sword or worked to death fell victim to smallpox, influenza, and measles. The diseases from Europe presented a biological attack the native people could not survive. Within 100 years of Columbus’ landfall, virtually the entire indigenous population – heavily concentrated in the fertile lowlands of eastern Cuba – had perished. Yet contrary to popular belief, Taíno bloodlines, identity, and customs were never completely extinguished.

The overall population of the Taíno people fell dramatically after being submitted to forced relocations, starvation, disease, and slavery. Colonizers killed off the population during the savage and brutal conquest of the New World. They even removed them from censuses. “Christian converts”, “Wives of colonists” and “other” were some of the categories they were put into. These official records and other colonial documents have reinforced the narrative that the indigenous peoples were completely extinguished. 

The tribe’s supposed extinction was a ‘paper genocide,’ according to experts.

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Recently, people from all over the Caribbean have spoken out to National Geographic, declaring that they identify as Taíno and that their people survive to this day. Chief Jorge Baracutei Estevez, the head of the Taíno organization Huguayagua, describes the historical wipe-out of the tribe’s existence as a ‘paper genocide.’

According to Estevez, people were made to disappear on paper: “The 1787 census in Puerto Rico lists 2,300 pure Indians in the population, but on the next census, in 1802, not a single Indian is listed,” Estevez writes. “Elsewhere in the Caribbean, Spaniards who were reluctant to free their Indian slaves simply reclassified them as African on the census, Estevez writes.”

“We’re told our past is a thing that went extinct,” says Maria Nieves-Colón, an anthropological geneticist at Arizona State University, told The Atlantic.

Credit: higuayagua / Instagram

Growing up in Puerto Rico, the story was different. Her friends and neighbors would share oral histories about traditions that were passed down to them from Native ancestors, who must somehow have survived to share these customs. Over the past 10 years, Nieves-Colón has been working to collect tiny fragments of DNA from ancient remains. From three archaeological sites on the island, she and her colleagues acquired 124 skeletal remains, which all dated between A.D. 500 and 1300. They then searched teeth, bones, and dental plaque for genetic fragments—a difficult task, since DNA breaks down quickly and readily in tropical conditions.

Nieves-Colón was able to confirm through genetic research, that pre-Columbian populations share DNA sequences with modern-day Puerto Ricans. 

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Her team managed to completely decipher the mitochondrial genomes from 45 precontact people, and partial nuclear genomes from two of them. These sequences confirmed that indigenous Puerto Ricans were strongly connected to Amazonian groups from Venezuela and Colombia, and likely originated from that region. They also contained genetic evidence connecting pre-colonial populations with modern ones.

Modern-day Taínos have fought to correct the historical record and claim their identity.

Credit: wearetaino / Instagram

“Through marriage certificates, baptismal records and a scant few census reports, I was able to identify a few family members (in the mid-1700s) who were officially ‘identified’ as Negro one year, but categorized as ‘Indio’ just a few years prior,” Maritza Luz Feliciano Potter told National Geographic. “While I don’t deny my European or African ancestry, I deeply feel it’s long due that my family relearns, remembers, and reclaims our birthrights as Indigenous Boricuas [Puerto Ricans]. We Are Taíno! We are still here!,” she continued. The modern-day Taino have fought to correct the historical record by lobbying for accurate census categories that allow them to be counted.

This research provides the first concrete proof that indigenous ancestry in the Caribbean has survived to the present day.   

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“This shows that there really are ties to populations that are indigenous to the island, and survived through colonization, and are present in modern peoples,” researcher Benn Torres told National Geographic. “This is something that some people have said all along, based on their oral histories and other ways of knowing.”

READ: Ecuador Was In Chaos After Massive Protests But The Government Has Reached A Deal With These Indigenous Activists

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A Tourist Was Arrested For Illegally Climbing Up The Pyramid of Kukulkán


A Tourist Was Arrested For Illegally Climbing Up The Pyramid of Kukulkán

It is important to be a responsible tourist. This means following rules, acting responsibly, and not violating sacred places. That is something one tourist learned the hard way when she climbed the Pyramid of Kukulkán in Chichén Itzá.

Here’s the video of a tourist running down the steps of the Pyramid of Kukulkán.

The Pyramid of Kukulkán is one of the most iconic examples of Pre-Hispanic architecture and culture in Mesoamerica. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most visited archeological sites in Mexico. In 2017, more than 2 million visitors descended on the site.

Of course, #LadyKukulkan started to trend on Twitter.

You know that Twitter was ready to start calling out this woman for her actions. According to Yucatán Expat Life Magazine, the woman was there to honor her husband’s dying wish. The woman, identified as a tourist from Tijuana, wanted to spread her husband’s ashes on the top of the pyramid, which it seems that she did.

The video was a moment for Mexican Twitter.

Not only was she arrested by security when she descended, but the crowd was also clearly against her. Like, what was she even thinking? It isn’t like the pyramid is crawling with tourists all over it. She was the only person climbing the pyramid, which is federally owned and cared for.

The story is already sparking ideas for other people when they die.

“Me: (to my parents) Have you read about #ladykukulkan?
My Dad: Yes! (to my mom) When I die, I want you to scatter my ashes in the National Palace so they call you “Lady Palace,” sounds better, no?” wrote @hania_jh on Twitter.

READ: Mexico’s Version Of Burning Man Became A COVID-19 Super-Spreader Event Thanks To U.S. Tourists

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A Brazilian Photographer Is Documenting Indigenous Tribes In The Amazon


A Brazilian Photographer Is Documenting Indigenous Tribes In The Amazon

Indigenous tribes are the most important connection between man and nature. These tribes have lived off the land before modern society and many have never interacted with modern society. Ricardo Stuckert is going through and documenting the indigenous Amazonian tribes in Brazil.

Ricardo Stuckert is photographing indigenous tribespeople in the Brazilian Amazon.

The indigenous community is something sacred that most people agrees should be protected. They are more connected to the land than we are. Their customs and traditions are more ingrained in this world than ours are and it is so important to protect them.

The indigenous community of Brazil has been subjected to horrible attacks and conditions from the Brazilian government.

One of the most widespread attacks against the indigenous Brazilians living in the Amazon has been for the land. President Jair Bolsonaro has tried to take land away from the indigenous communities to allow for logging and mining. A bill he sent to the congress sought to exploit the land for commercial purposes, even legalizing some of the attacks we have seen on indigenous people since President Bolsonaro took power.

Stuckert wants to preserve the indigenous culture and customs through photos.

“I think it is important to disseminate Brazilian culture and show the way that native peoples live today,” Stuckert told DailyMail. “In 1997, I started to photograph the Amazon and had my first contact with the native people of Brazil. Since then, I have tried to show the diversity and plurality of indigenous culture, as well as emphasize the importance of the Indians as guardians of the forest. There are young people who are being born who have never seen or will see an Indian in their lives.”

The photographer believes that using photography is the best way to share culture.

“I think that photography has this power to transpose a culture like this to thousands of people,” Stuckert told DailyMail. “The importance of documentary photojournalism is to undo stigmas and propagate a culture that is being lost. We need to show the importance of indigenous people to the world, for the protection of our forests.”

You can see all of Stuckert’s photos on his Instagram.

Stuckert’s work to documented the indigenous community is giving people an insight into a life many never see. Brazil is home to about 210 million people with around 1 million having indigenous heritage. The diverse indigenous community of Brazil is something important to showcase and that’s what Stuckert is doing.

READ: Indigenous Photographer Diego Huerta’s Photos Of Oaxaca’s Indigenous People Celebrates Their Beauty

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