TAINO INDIAN LEADERS AT THE TIME OF COLUMBUS
There were five major caciques when Columbus landed and they had various relations with Columbus. These caciques, their provinces and relations with the Spanish were:
The province of Marien (Bainoa)
This province was on the north east coast + interior, in the area of the bay of Samana in the Dominican Republic.
He wanted Columbus to protect him from the marauding Caribs who often came into this area, and he became a friendly advisor to Columbus and a lifelong friend of the Spanish invaders. His own village was about 2 miles SE of Cap Haitien.
The province of Ciguayos (Cayabo or Maguana)
After the Spanish settlers at La Navidad perpetrated many horrors on local natives, Caonabo led a band which crossed into the province of Maden and killed all the sailors.
Caonabo then became the rallying point for resistance to the Spanish. Under a pretext of making peace, Columbus lured Caonabo into a trap. The Spaniard Ojeda gave Caonabo a gift of polished iron chains and handcuffs. Mistaking them for ornaments, Caonabo allowed himself to be chained and taken away. Columbus then sent him off to Spain.
Caonabo’s brother, Manicatoex, then led an uprising. The Spanish, with their superior firepower crushed the natives and the defeated Arawak/Taino were forced to agree to pay tribute to the Spanish.
There seems to be some unclarity among scholars about these natives. Some claim that these Indians were not from the Arawak/Taino group, but some other tribe. lt does seem that an earlier group, the Ciboney, did live in this area. But, it’s not clear if at the time of Caonabo these were Arawak/ Taino or not.
The province of Magua (Huhabo)
This was a densely populated area. This was good inland agricultural land. In 1494 Guarionex was made to submit, then was imprisoned. The Spanish raped his wife in front of him, then executed him. They suspected him of being involved in the attack which Caonabo led on La Navidad.
A brief digression on La Navidad. Columbus landed at Mole St. Nicholas on Dec. 6, 1492, his second land fall in the New World. On Dec. 24, 1492 he was sailing away and on Christmas Eve the Santa Maria ran aground and sank off the north coast of Haiti, just near Cap Haitien. The Pinta was lost and the Nina could not accommodate all the sailors. Thus Columbus, with the help of Arawak/Taino, salvaged a good deal of the Santa Maria and built a small fort called La Navidad (The Nativity) and left a group of sailors there.
On his return on the second voyage all the sailors were discovered to have been killed. It seems that they began to violate native women and property and the natives rose up against them.
The province of Xaragua
This was in the southwest peninsula. They grew lots of cotton here and also in the cul de sac, north of where Port-au-Prince lies today.
Behechio’s sister was Anacaona, widow of Caonabo. After the Spanish killed Caonabo and Behechio, she succeeded her husband in Xaragua and was much loved by her people. However, the Spanish were threatened by this popularity and the power that went with it. Ovando, a successor to Columbus, went to her village under the pretext of collecting the Spanish tribute. Despite Anacaona’s instructions to the people to be fully cooperative and hospitable, and despite her own friendly welcome, the Spanish began a slaughter, burned the village and took Anacaona prisoner. She was hanged at Santo Domingo.
cacique Cotubanama or Cayacoa
The province of Higuey (Caizcimu)
There were rumors of there being gold in Higuey. De Las Casas reported that infinite was the number of people l saw burned alive in order that the people tell where the nonexistent gold was. (I’ll do a separate piece on De Las Casas, a most interesting fellow.)
After the death of Anacaona, Cotubanama too was considered dangerous. The Spanish attacked his province, captured him and hung him in Santo Domingo.