Indian Vision/Spanish Mission

The Tainos had many cosmological stories and fundamental cultural
principles. High among these was the organization of people to
produce food and the value of feeding everyone in each community.
Whatever else can be said of their ancient way of life, it contrasted
starkIy with the Spanish idea of economics in 1500. As Las Casas and
others have attested, the migrations to America occurred because no
such principle was at work in Europe during the same and later times.
Even the earliest encounters between Iberians and Tainos provide
evidence of the fundamental American Indigenous thinking about this
human value, which is found throughout the continent and continues to
be one of the contrapuntal arguments between the American Indian
civilization and European civilization as fueled by Judeo-Roman-
Christian precepts.

A telling event occurred when the Spanish were pressing against
Guaironex's Indians in Santo Domingo. Guarionex was one of the main
five caciques of La Espaņola. His territory in the Valley of La Vega
was highly esteemed for its agricultural productivity. In 1494-95,
after Columbus imposed a tribute of gold to be paid by every Taino
man, woman or child, Guarionex went to the first colonizer with a
counter offer. Ctiaironex's main chiefs gathered over one thousand
men with coas (planting sticks) in hand. They offered, if Columbus
would drop the gold tribute, to plant all the food the Spanish would
ever want to eat. They said to Columbus: we will feed you here on the
island and also all of your people back in Castile. You don't even
need to work. But of course, the colonizers wanted gold or, in lieu
of it, slaves and precious woods. This documented event where chiefs
offer men with planting sticks to appease Spanish hunger focuses the
value of land as equalizer, with the provision of basic sustenance as
fundamental right of everyone. (Tyler 1988)

By all descriptions, Taino life and culture at contact was uniquely
adapted to its environment. Population estimates vary greatly but put
the number of inhabitants in Espaņola (Santo Domingo/Haiti) at
approximately half a million to seven million. Estimates for Cuba
vary from 120,000 to 200,000, with newer estimates pushing that
number up.

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