What did the Tainos contribute to Jamaica?
As our Independence celebration here in Jamaica is fast approaching, we remember our fore fathers, those who paved the way for the present generation.
Our African ancestors are usually the most popular topics of discussions during this time. However, it is important that we highlight and give credence to the indigenous people of Jamaica, known as the Tainos.
In some books you may see them being referred to as the “Arawaks”.
The Indigenous People of Jamaica
It is believed that the Tainos were the first group of people to make the island of Jamaica their home.
Their arrival to the island was quite an interesting one. The Tainos were one of the Amerindian people who originated from Central East Asia. As their main source of food (buffaloes, deer and hairy mammoth) started to deplete, the Amerindians left their homelands in search of food.
Their journey commenced during the ice age travelling across the Bearing Strait and entered into North America. Many Amerindians settled in Northern America, but some Amerindian groups, including the Tainos, continued their journey and settled in South America.
After some time, the Tainos sailed to the Caribbean through the Orinoco River in South America and began inhabiting the islands of the Caribbean. The Tainos were known to have settled in the Greater Antilles, Jamaica including, bringing their culture with them.
The Tainos lived simple lives and were described as a quiet, peaceful group of people. These sentiments were echoed by Columbus when the Tainos greeted and showed hospitality to him and his crew upon their arrival.
Physically they were portrayed as being short in stature with olive skin and dark hair. The Tainos did not wear much clothing. Men and unmarried women were usually naked, while married women wore skirts.
However, the most noticeable aspect of their appearance was their body painting. Body paintings were important for ceremonial purposes and when men were going to war.
In addition, they adorned themselves with feathers and ornaments made of gold, shells and other semiprecious stones. Another noticeable physical feature of the Tainos, was their flattened forehead. This was common practice that took place during infancy, where a board was tied to the child’s forehead resulting in them having a flatten forehead.
Like any community, the Taino villages had a social structure. In each village, there was a leader called a cacique, who was at the top of the hierarchy. The cacique had many privileges, such as receiving the best food, living in a larger house and having several wives.
The Tainos diet consisted of a variety of fruit and vegetables that they introduced to the island. For protein, they would fish and hunt small animals, such as iguana, coney, and agouti. They were also noted to be weapon-less and only carried wooden spears and bows and arrows to protect themselves.
Basically, the Tainos lived a simple peaceful life.
However, with the arrival of the Spanish (Columbus) in 1494 to Jamaica, the Jamaican Tainos way of life, as they knew it, changed forever.
Their relaxing, peaceful island paradise transitioned into a mining industry. Tainos who would usually spend their day farming for their families, were now being forced to work in the mines and smelting camps as a result of the Europeans desires to amass gold and silver.
The men dug while the women washed the soil in pans searching for grains of gold and silver. In addition, the Tainos were also forced to smelt the gold into ingots for transportation to Spain.
The harsh treatment inflicted upon them by the Europeans soon caused the Taino race to be completely wiped out. However, some share contrary views. Some believe that the few Tainos who escaped the Europeans sort refuge in the mountains and co-existed with the Maroons.
Whether these ideologies are true or false, the fact still holds that the remnant of the Taino existence and impact on Jamaica is still quite visible.
What has the Tainos contributed to Jamaica?
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Many of the delectable fruits and vegetables that we enjoy today was also once enjoyed by the Taino people. They practiced subsistence living, hence they had no food in surplus.
As such, farming and cultivating crops was a part of the Tainos daily life. In fact, it was common practice for Taino homes to have gardens to plant crops.
- Mammee Apple
- Star Apples
- Sweet Potatoes
- Ground Nuts
The Tainos were also skilful and creative in their cooking methods as well. Many of our delectable dishes that people have come to know and love are inspired by our Taino ancestors.
Bammy – The cassava root was a primary root crop that was cultivated by the Tainos and baked into a flat cassava bread. The dish was prepared by first cutting the cassava into small pieces, after which they would squeeze out the poisonous juice from the cassava pieces.
When this is done they would shape the juiced cassava thrash into slab-like bread and bake them.
Today, these cassava bread are known as “bammy” and it has become a popular Jamaican dish. It is usually coupled with Esctovich fish (a cuisine from the Spaniards). Read more about Jamaican bammy here.
This dish, which is a mixture of meat and vegetable, is described as being rich and savoury. Although some additions have been included in the recipe, Pepper Pot remains an important delicacy on the dining table of many Jamaican homes.
If you interested in trying your own pepper pot soup here’s the recipe. Go ahead and try it out!
But did you know that it was inspired by the Tainos?
Yes, that’s right! It was customary for the Tainos to cook on a grill known as a “barbacoa” (which means heated sticks) made of pimento wood which was used to jerk wild pigs.
The meat would be seasoned and cooked over a low fire. The Tainos jerked meat in order to preserve it for long journeys. Today, we have replaced the “barbacoa” with metal drums.
When the Spaniards first came in contact with the Tainos, they thought that they had small firebrands in their mouths. However, it was really tobacco leaves rolled together.
The Tainos enjoyed smoking tobacco. But it was not only used for recreation, it also held a special place in religious ceremonies, feasts and celebrations.
Many of the artifacts found are a testament to the fine craftsmanship of the Taino people. They were skilled in various areas such as woodworking, pottery, weaving cotton & carving wood and stone.
The Tainos also made their gods, called zemis, out of wood, bone, clay and stone for religious purposes. They also made clay cups, bowls and other vessels.
Today, when I visit the local craft market and see wooden figurines and beautiful Jamaican inspired carving, I am reminded of the Tainos contribution through craftsmanship.
Fish and other sea creatures, like the sea turtles and manatee, were some of the Tainos source of protein. As a result, the Tainos had very skilled fisherman and used unique fishing methods.
For instance, they would tie one end of the line to a remora (suckerfish) and the other on their canoe. They would let the remora swim away from the canoe until it attaches itself to larger fish or a turtle.
Once the remora is attached, they would pull it in and capture their prey. Today, although more efficient methods are being used, fishing remains an important part of our culture.
The Tainos used the cotton they cultivated and wove them into hammocks and used them to sleep in.
The advancement of technology over the years has allowed us to travel around the world at a fast pace. But, we often see some of our ancestors’ mode of transportation being replicated. One such mode of transportation was canoes.
The Tainos island hopped from one country to the next by travelling in canoes which they built out of tree trunks.
As you see the legacy of the Taino still beats strong in the island of Jamaica. And the beautiful thing is that you can still find a few remnants of taino (Arawak) life in many of our museums today. I noticed a few in the National Museum West at the Montego Cultural Center recently.
- Honychurch, L. (1995). The Caribbean People Book 2. United Kingdom: Thomas Nelson & Sons Ltd.
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Jamaica – The Foods We Like And Where They Came From
Photo: Jamaican Jerk Vendor
As we celebrate our Jamaican heritage in the month of October, with Heritage Week being October 10 and ending on Heroes Day, Monday, October 18, 2021, there is so much to talk about. Today we will take a look at our food heritage. Yes, Jamaicans are foodies. We love food – some spicy, some sweet, some sour, and all full of flavour. And don’t blame us, you’ll soon see why. But where did all this food come from to form our food culture? Let’s take a look at some of our favourite foods and their history.
How Did The Food And Recipes Get Here?
It is no surprise to find that the Jamaican cuisine that we have come to know and love was brought here by the earlier settlers on the island.
You will find that there are numerous items as well as recipes that were created by the early inhabitants such as the Tainos, the English, the Spanish, the Africans (who came to Jamaica as slaves), the Indians, the Jews, the Chinese, and even persons from other Caribbean islands.
How Was The Food Prepared?
The foods they consumed were prepared using various cooking styles that were known only to them and were later adopted or passed down to the generations that followed. Some of these foods and recipes are today called traditional foods.
As you can imagine, most, if not all of the meals were cooked on a wood fire in the open air, or in an “old-time” coal stove. Baked products were made in “dutch pots” or in a brick oven.
Though we are now living in modern times with upgrades to our cooking appliances, the same cooking methods have been applied and as a result, does not change the way we actually prepare our meals nor does it change the taste in any evident way. Though lots of persons would say that food cooked the traditional way (over a wood fire and smoke) always taste better somehow.
Let me give you some insight as to where our Jamaican cuisine is coming from.
What Is The “Barbacoa”?
Photo: Jerk Chicken and Fesival
So, how do you think people cooked their food before the brick oven and the coal stove became a thing? Thanks to the Tainos and their ingenuity in creating the “barbacoa” (a piece of cooking tool resembling a wooden grate that stood on four forked sticks placed over a slow fire) we were able to make a modern adaptation to this device which we call the barbeque grill. The barbacoa was the barbeque grill of their time and they used it to roast fish and meats. Modern-day grills are inspired by the barbacoa. It is used for barbequing and most importantly for Jamaicans, jerking. In Jamaica, while grills are used, it is most common to use a homemade version made out of a metal drum or 100lb cooking gas cylinder cut in half. Jerking incorporates the African method of curing meats by placing it in the jerk pan atop live coals and closing it to trap most of the smoke inside. Today we apply this process to pork, chicken, seafood, sausages and even vegetables.
What Foods Did The Tainos Bring To Jamaica?
The Tainos are believed to have come from South America and settled in the Caribbean some 5000 years ago. They brought with them sweet potatoes, corn, beans, callaloo, pineapples, guavas, papayas (or most commonly known as paw-paw)conies, iguanas, and cassava (which they used to make bread). I’m sure you will agree that their contribution to the foods we now enjoy in our Jamaican cuisine is truly invaluable.
What Foods Did The Spanish Bring To Jamaica?
The Spaniards first arrived in Jamaica in 1494 and some 150 years later, they brought horses, cattle, goats, pigs, and lard from the fat of animals. They also brought several trees such as lemon, lime, Seville orange, Valencia orange, pomegranate, ginger, plantain, date palm, figs, grapes, coconut, bananas, and sugarcane. Additionally, popular dishes such as escovitch fish, and peas and bean dishes originated in Spain. Try picturing a Jamaica without these items. These contributions are also invaluable to our culture.
What Foods Did The English Bring To Jamaica?
As you know, the British took over from the Spaniards in 1655 and continued their colonization right up to 1962 when Jamaica got independence. What foods did they bring? They introduced foods such as otaheite apples, breadfruit, ackee, oranges, mangoes, rose apples, mandarin, black pepper, turmeric, and coffee. As plantation owners and involved in the cultivation of sugar cane (done by the African slaves) they exported rum and molasses in exchange for pork, flour and pickled fish.
A number of the English sweets and dishes are still entwined in Jamaican cuisine today such as corned beef, roast beef, salted beef, Christmas puddings, Easter bun, pies, tarts, jams and marmalades. Even porridge that is so well-loved is said to be a legacy of the Scottish.
What Foods Did The Africans Bring To Jamaica?
Now we get to the Africans and their contribution. The Africans contributed dishes such as duckunoo (dukunu and various other spellings) and fufu. They were also noted for the famous mackerel (rundown) and bananas and even our national dish, the ackee and saltfish, are both said to be the invention of the African peasants after slavery.
What Foods Did The Indians And The Chinese Bring To Jamaica?
The Indians who were brought to Jamaica as indentured servants did not leave their culinary skills behind, they were the ones that actually created and left with curried goat. They also brought spices like curry powder, turmeric. They also introduced curried potato, bitter gourd, eggplant, okra, roti, and callaloo.
The vegetable pak choy is also a legacy of the Chinese. The Chinese also introduced soy sauce, a now popular addition to most Jamaican meat dishes for both colour and flavour. They also introduced the oyster and hoisin sauces as well as the infamous sweet-and-sour sauce.
These are all without a doubt, significant contributions to our local cuisine. I’m sure you can see how each group and the items they brought have added to the variety and flavour of Jamaica’s cuisine.
With all of these foods that have been introduced by our earlier settlers, it is no wonder that our Jamaican cuisine is highly accepted and favoured by worldwide travellers. The richness in delicacies and variety in spices is what makes our food so special both locally and internationally and I dare say, the best.
We are truly blessed as a nation, to have so many cultures which makes, the Jamaican cuisine so unique.
- Jamaican Cuisine – Past to Present, Jamaica Land We Love, https://www.jamaica-land-we-love.com/jamaican-cuisine.html
- Before the Europeans came | West Indies | The Places Involved | Slavery Routes | Bristol and Transatlantic Slavery | PortCities Bristol, Discovering Bristol, https://www.discoveringbristol.org.uk/slavery/routes/places-involved/west-indies/before-europeans/
- 175 years of Indians in Jamaica, Jamaica Observer https://www.jamaicaobserver.com/opinion/175-years-of-indians-in-jamaica-towards-closer-cultural-and-economic-cooperation_194277
- Sweet and savoury – the beloved Chinese-Jamaican food, Gleaner Jamaica, https://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20110703/arts/arts2.html#
- Use Heritage Week to thank frontline workers — Grange, Jamaica Observer, https://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Use_Heritage_Week_to_thank_frontline_workers_Grange
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Caribbean History: Everything You Need to Know about the Taínos
Photo Credit jamaicaglobalonline.com
I’ve often noticed that people don’t give much importance to Taínos most of the times, but they should. See, Taino Indians were once the largest indigenous group of settlers in the Caribbean islands, until they weren’t. Though plenty of their lineage was lost, their influence is still ever-present in our society today. Now, where are my Caribeños at? Because this one is all for you.
Taino Indians roamed the earth during 1200 to 1500 A.D. They left their mark in the lands they inhabited of the Greater Antilles, which are today’s Cuba, Haiti, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.
Taíno Indians or Taínos as they’re commonly referred to as, were a subgroup of the Arawaken Indians. The Arawaken were once a group of American Indians in northeastern South America. These people greatly influenced Taíno culture a lot. For instance, Taínos adopted some of the Arawakens creations such as their use off ballparks as well using their developed universal language. The ballparks were similar to what we have nowadays except that the boundaries around the park were marked by stone upright dolmens. They played in two teams and their goal was to beat the opposing team. They even used a rubber ball! However, as opposed to the reasons we try to win nowadays (there’s too many if you ask me) winning for them was just thought as good luck to the families winning in the sense that it was meant to increase their harvesting production and longevity. As you can see, Caribbean people have been going hard at sports for quite some time now.
Another thing that was important to Taínos was their formation of hierarchy. They had an intricate system that allowed them to be organized among each other. Taínos had three social classes. They had the naborias , nitaínos , and the caciques . The naborias were considered the working class, the nitaínos were the sub-chiefs and noblemen, which also included their priests and medicine men — the bohiques , and the caciques was the highest rank — the chiefs. Each village, named yucayeques in their native language, had one.
Surprisingly, some democratic aspects were used to choose the members of the hierarchy.
Usually, most indigenous tribes would choose their highest rank based on their war skills. This was not the case for the Taínos. Instead, they based their selection on how large their clan was. I suppose this could’ve meant that these individuals were great leaders and gaining a following was not a difficult task for them. But, the best part of their selection is that they didn’t discriminate in regards to genders. It was a fair game for everyone, including women. Imagine if we had that type of progress in today’s society, amirite?
Taino carvings in Puerto Rico, Photo Credit ancient-origins.net
All I know is that the impact Taínos have had on the world should not be overlooked. They also were skilled crafters and farmers. But, something that is still significant to us today is how their language transpired to our own languages. Have you ever used a hammock or used the word hurricane? Chances are you have and you have the Taínos to thank for that. They used to call it jurakan and jamaca. It’s incredible to know that their language trickled into the English language as well. English vocabulary derived from Taínos include iguana, guava, and cassava, to name a few.
Sadly, Taínos were exposed to dangers that were outside of their power. That danger wore a full name: Christopher Columbus. Though in their time Columbus was celebrated for discovering America (or the blatant robbery of the Americas), he suppressed an entire group of people.
Photo Credit commdiginews.com
In a very Columbus-style, he let greed take over him when he encountered the beauties that were the Taínos and Taínas. He quickly took over their land and forced them to follow Spain’s regime. Though they tried to fight back, Columbus and his Spanish crew had more advantage over them with their revolvers and other varieties of weapons. Their attempts at rebellion often led to mass deaths, hence rapidly diminishing the presence of the Taínos in the world. Aside from mercilessly killing, the Taínos with their more advanced weapons, they also killed them with the diseases they brought into the islands. Unfortunately, the Taínos didn’t have the same immune system the Spanish had, so they were quickly wiped away when they contracted their diseases. All throughout that bloody mess, the Spanish were also marrying and many times raping the Tainas. This could be the cause of the mixed roots Caribbean people carry within themselves.
There is no conclusive study on how much indigenous DNA lies within the people of the Caribbean today because the genomes constantly vary, but they are still working on it. Curious enough, throughout these studies, an average of 15 percent of Puerto Ricans are found to have some sort of indigenous DNA in them. I guess the Taínos are still among us after all in some way.
Overall, Taínos should be regarded as a really special part of history. Whether people like it or not, Taínos indirectly lives within them and today’s society. This just goes to show you the strength and value history has. Yes, we are constantly moving forward, but it’s all thanks to the past. Ponder on that.
Guisell Gómez is the Senior Deputy Editor for BELatina News. She is a Colombian immigrant based in Miami, Florida. Gómez writes about politics and current affairs, culture, and issues affecting underrepresented communities. When she’s not writing, you can find her traveling, reading, or expanding her foodie knowledge. You can contact her via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Potential winners will be required to submit student ID or proof of Fall 2022 semester registration. Winners agree to be featured in BElatina’s Social Media platforms either by Name, Name & picture or Name & Video from winner stating they are a winner of the sweeps.
Odds of winning the prize depend on the number of eligible entries received.
8. Limitations of Liability. By entering or participating in this Promotion or any prize in any way, each Entrant agrees to indemnify, defend (regardless of ultimate liability), and hold harmless, and thereby does release and discharge Sponsor, Administrator and Content Hosts, and each of their respective parent and affiliate companies, vendors, suppliers, consultants, sub-contractors, distributors, legal counsel and advertising, marketing, public relations and promotional/fulfillment agencies, and each of their respective parent companies and each such company’s officers, directors, employees and agents, as well as the immediate family (spouse, parents, siblings and children) and household members of each such individual (collectively, the “Released Parties”) from and against any loss, damage, injury, claim or cause of action related in any way whatsoever to this Promotion, these Official Rules, or the rights, consents and licenses granted to Sponsor or Administrator under these Official Rules, including without limitation, infringement of any right of publicity or intellectual property; threatened or actual injury, loss or damage to any person, including death and disability; defamation or portrayal in a false light (intentional and unintentional); invasion of privacy; and damage to or loss of property, arising out of such Entrant’s participation in the Promotion or participation in, receipt or use, non-use or misuse of any prize. To the maximum extent allowed by law, in no event will Released Parties be responsible or liable for any damages or losses of any kind, including indirect, incidental, consequential or punitive damages arising out of this Promotion. (Some jurisdictions may not allow the limitations or exclusion of liability for incidental or consequential damages or exclusion of implied warranties. Check local laws for restrictions regarding these limitations or exclusions.)Entrants waive any right to claim ambiguity in these Official Rules. The Released Parties are not responsible for: (1) technical failures of any kind; (2) incorrect or inaccurate information, whether caused by Entrants, any internet or email service provider, any promotional or advertising agency, printing or computing errors, or by any of the equipment or programming associated with or utilized in the Promotion; (3) unauthorized human intervention in any part of the entry process or the Promotion; (4) technical or human error that may occur in the administration of the Promotion, the processing of entries or the announcement of the winner or prize; (5) any injury or damage to persons or property, including without limitation computers, phones and tablets, that may be caused, directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, by Entrant’s participation in the Promotion or access to the Promotion materials; (6) the participation in, receipt, use or misuse of any Promotion prize; or (7) any other errors in any materials, information or announcements associated with the Promotion. If for any reason an Entrant’s entry is confirmed by Sponsor and Administrator to have been erroneously deleted, lost or otherwise destroyed or corrupted by Sponsor or Administrator, Entrant’s sole remedy is another entry in the Promotion, subject to availability and provided that the Promotion Period has not then expired.EACH ENTRANT WAIVES CALIFORNIA CIVIL CODE § 1542 (AND ALL SIMILAR LAWS OF ANY STATE OR TERRITORY OF THE UNITED STATES), WHICH READS: “A GENERAL RELEASE DOES NOT EXTEND TO CLAIMS WHICH THE CREDITOR DOES NOT KNOW OR SUSPECT TO EXIST IN HIS FAVOR AT THE TIME OF EXECUTING THE RELEASE, WHICH IF KNOWN BY HIM MUST HAVE MATERIALLY AFFECTED HIS SETTLEMENT WITH THE DEBTOR.” EACH ENTRANT REPRESENTS AND WARRANTS FULL UNDERSTANDING OF, AND ACKNOWLEDGES THE SIGNIFICANCE AND CONSEQUENCE OF, WAIVER OF CALIFORNIA CIVIL CODE § 1542 (AND ALL SIMILAR LAWS OF ANY STATE OR TERRITORY OF THE UNITED STATES).
9. LICENSE FROM ENTRANT. To the extent allowed by law, participation in the Promotion in any way or acceptance of, or participation in, any prize constitutes each Entrant’s consent for, and grant of a non-exclusive, sub-licensable and assignable license to Sponsor to use, publish, post and display Entrant’s name, social media handles, likeness, photograph, voice, statements and hometown, regardless of whether altered, distorted, or used alone or with other material, in Sponsor’s sole discretion, for promotional, advertising, trade and publicity purposes in any medium now known or later discovered, worldwide and in perpetuity, without review or approval, and without further notice, payment or consideration of any kind.
All rights, consents and licenses granted to Sponsor and Administrator under these Official Rules or the Release will survive the termination of this Promotion. Such consents and licenses may only be revoked in writing, and the mere ending of this Promotion is not sufficient to revoke such consents or licenses.
10. Right to Modify or Cancel. The invalidity or unenforceability of any provision of these Official Rules will not affect the validity or enforceability of any other provision. In the event any provision is found invalid or unenforceable, these Official Rules will otherwise remain in effect in accordance with their terms as if the invalid or unenforceable provision was never included. Sponsor’s or Administrator’s failure to enforce any provision of these Official Rules does not constitute a waiver of that provision.
Sponsor may cancel, suspend or modify the Promotion or any part of it, in any way, if Sponsor determines in its sole discretion that the Promotion is not capable of executing as Sponsor intended, or that any error, omission, fraud, technical failure, tampering, computer virus or other factor, technical or otherwise, beyond Sponsor’s reasonable control, impairs or may impair Sponsor’s or Administrator’s ability to properly conduct the Promotion, subject to any applicable law or regulation. In such event, Sponsor may, but is not obligated to, award any applicable prize by conducting a random drawing from among the eligible entries received up to the time of the cancellation, suspension, or modification of the Promotion. Inclusion in such random drawing is Entrant’s exclusive remedy under such circumstances.
In the event of an inconsistency between these Official Rules and any disclosure or other statement contained in any Promotion-related materials, including without limitation, a Promotion entry form or any point-of-sale, radio, television, print or online advertising, these Official Rules will prevail and govern.
11. Disputes; CLASS ACTION WAIVER. Except where prohibited by law, Entrant agrees that: (1) all disputes, claims and causes of action arising out of or connected with this Promotion or any prize awarded will be resolved individually, without resort to any form of class action, and Entrant consents to the personal jurisdiction of the appropriate federal or state court located in Dallas County, Texas, United States for such purpose; and (2) all claims, judgments and awards will be limited to actual out-of-pocket costs incurred, including costs associated with entering this Promotion, but in no event attorneys’ fees. All issues and questions concerning the construction, validity, interpretation and enforceability of these Official Rules, or the rights or obligations of Entrant, Sponsor or Administrator in connection with the Promotion, are governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of Texas, United States, without giving effect to any choice of law or conflict of law rules that would cause the application of the laws of any other jurisdiction.