Thursday, June 25, 2009


Christopher Columbus
"discovered" Cuba in 1492. The original inhabitants were Guanajatabey people, who came to the island 5300 BCE. Later immigrants were Ciboney and Taino people. The Spaniards enslaved the original inhabitants in forced labour. Together with infectious diseases forced labour practically destroyed the original inhabitants in less than one hundred years

The Guanajatabey communities were economically based on collective property and distribution of communal profits. There economic base was dependent on the harvesting and fishing, and to a lesser degree hunting. The Guanajatabey people collected molluscs, crustaceans, fruits and wild plants and practiced fishing in the river and at sea.

Ciboney people were essentially fishers, but they also practised same works as Guanajatabey people.

The economic base of the Tainos was agriculture. They grew bitter cassava or manioc (yuca), maize, the llerén (yeren), the sweet potato (boniato) and cotton. Tainos also cultivated tobacco (cohiba) for smoking in their ritual ceremonies and as a medicinal plant. Cohiba was Taino word for tobacco. Today Cohiba is one of the finest cigars from Cuba and also a salsa band from Finland. All this was planted in small areas of land called conutos. Tainos also practised fishing.

Tainos gathered fruits of wild flora that grew in the savannas and woodlands. Among these are the pineapple, mamey colorado (in Santiago: zapote), soursop (guanábana), anon, guava (guayaba) and other native plants. Tainos had two basic types of municipal home for the family: caney of a circular base and conical roof and bohío of a rectangular base and two pitches hipped roof. Houses were built of wood and Yagua palm leaves. Tainos areíto ceremony included musical events, dance and theatre and was closely linked with their beliefs and oral traditions. We don’t know how was there music, because not one of their songs and rhythms were recorded by the Spanish conquistadors. Tainos used some primitive instruments like mayohuacán, guamo (fotuto), the bone flute and various rattles.

José Jiménez Santander and Lisandra Jimenez Ortega from Department of Anthropology, Eastern Center for Ecosystems and Biodiversity CITMA (Santiago de Cuba) propose this kind of periodization for aboriginal history:

1. Early Period: the groups named so far as Protoarcáicos, Paleoindian, Mesoindio, Barrera-Mordan etc. (3000 BCE-1001 BCE)
2. Middle Period: the groups called: Archaic, Ciboney Guayabo White, Ciboney Cayo Redondo, Mesolithic, Mesoindio etc. (1000 BCE-301BCE)
3. Intermediate Period: groups called: Mayari, Protoagrícolas, Periagrícolas, Early Ceramists, etc. (300 BCE-600 CE)
4. Late Period: groups called: Subtaínos, Agroalfareros, Farmers, Ceramists, etc.(601 CE-1300 CE)
5. Period Sequel: the groups called: Taino, Neoindios, Neolithic, etc. (1301-1600)