The Taino world, for the most part, had some of the appearance that
modern imaginations ascribe to the South Pacific islands. The people
lived in small, clean villages of neatly appointed thatch dwellings
along rivers inland and on the coasts. They were a handsome people
who had no need of clothing for warmth. They liked to bathe often,
which prompted a Spanish royal law forbidding the practice; "for we
are informed it does them much harm," wrote Queen Isabella. Their

general physical appearance was consistent with the appearance of
other Indians of the Americas. They were rarely taller than five feet
six inches which would make them rather small to modern North

American eyes. They painted their bodies with earth dyes and adorned
themselves with shells and metals. Men and women chiefs often wore
gold in the ears and nose, or as pendants around the neck. Some had

From all early descriptions the Tainos were a healthy people who
showed no signs of distress from hunger or want. The Tainos, whose
color was olive-brown to copper, reminded Columbus of the people of
the Canary Islands, who were neither white nor black. He noted their
thick, black hair, short in front and long in back, and that it fell
over muscular shoulders. On some islands, the women wore short cotton
skirts after taking a permanent man but in others all the people went
naked. In parts of Cuba and Santo Domingo, some of the caciques,
village or clan and nation chiefs, wore a type of tunic on ceremonial
occasions, but they saw no apparent need to cover their breasts or
genitals and they were totally natural about it. The Taino had plenty
of cotton, which they wove into mats, hammocks and small sails and
numerous "bejucos" or fiber ropes. (Tyler 1988)

The Taino islands provided a vast array of edible fruits. The Arawaks
made specific use of many types of trees and plants from an estimated
floral and faunal range of 5,800 species. The jagua tree they used
for dyeing cotton, the jocuma and the guama for making rope, the
jucaro for underwater construction, the royal palm for buildings and
specific other trees for boats, spears, digging tools, chairs, bowls,
baskets and other woven mats (in this art they flourished), cotton
cloth (for hammocks), large fishing nets and good hooks made of large
fish bones.

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