Sola Rey

Taina Warrior Chief of Xaragua: Anacaona from Hispaniola/Haiti

Anacaona was born in Yaguana (today the town of Léogane, Haiti) in 1474. During Christopher Columbus‘s visit to the chiefdom of Xaragua in what is now southwest Haiti in late 1496, where Anacaona and her brother Bohechío appeared as equal negotiators.

She fought the Spaniards who was trying to colonize Hispaniola at the time.

Anacaona (from Taíno anacaona, meaning “golden flower”; from ana, meaning “flower”, and caona, meaning “gold, golden”) was a Taíno cacica (chief), born into a family of chiefs, and sister of Bohechío, chief of Xaragua. Her husband was Caonabo, chief of the nearby territory of Maguana. Her brother and her husband were two of the five highest caciques who ruled the island of Ayiti (now called Hispaniola) when the Spaniards settled there in 1492. She was celebrated as a composer of ballads and narrative poems, called areítos.

On that occasion, described by Bartolomé de las Casas in Historia de las Indias, Columbus successfully negotiated for tribute of food and cotton to be paid by the natives to the Spanish invaders under his command.

The visit is described as having taken place in a friendly atmosphere. Several months later, Columbus arrived with a caravel to collect a part of the tribute. Anacaona and Behechío had sailed briefly aboard the caravel, near today’s Port-au-Prince in the Gulf of Gonâve as his guests. At first relations between natives and Conquistadors were cordial, the natives realizing too late their lands were actually being stolen and their subjects enslaved. This model was later repeated in Mexico with Moctezuma II due to its original Caribbean success. Quote: At a ceremony which took place On March 5, 2015, President Martelly unveiled the statue of our favorite Haitian Icon, Anacaona who now stands tall at the Place d’armes de Leogane.

Anacaona’s high status was probably strengthened by elements of matrilineal descent in the Taíno society, as described by Peter Martyr d’Anghiera. Taíno caciques usually passed inheritance to the eldest children of their sisters. If their sisters had no children, then they chose among the children of their brothers, and when there were none, they fell back upon one of their own.

Statue of Anacaona in Haiti.

Anacaona had one child, named Higuemota, whose dates of birth and death are lost to history.

Above a statue of Anacaona in Haiti.

Anacaona became chief of Xaragua after her brother’s death. Her husband Caonabo, suspected of having organized the attack on La Navidad (a Spanish settlement on north-western Hispaniola), was captured by Alonso de Ojeda and shipped to Spain, dying in a shipwreck during the journey — as many other Taino leaders died on Spanish ships away from their native lands. The Taínos, being ill-treated by the conquerors, revolted and made a long war against them.

During a feast organized by 84 regional chieftains to honor Anacaona, who was friendly to the Spaniards, the Spanish Governor Nicolás de Ovando ordered the meeting house to be set on fire to burn them alive, similar to what centuries later occurred to Rigoberta Manchu‘s family in Guatemala. Cacica Anacaona and her Taíno noblemen were arrested — all accused of conspiracy for resisting occupation and executed.

Prior to her execution, Anacaona was offered clemency if she would give herself as concubine to one of the Spaniards which was common in the era. Standing with her fellow Tainos in solidarity, the Caribbean indigenous female leader (cacica) chose execution over colluding with her Spanish enemy, her refusal cementing her legend. Anacaona remained rebellious and independent until her violent public death.

Because Anacaona refused the sexual offer of the Spanish intruders while others were shot, Anacaona was executed by hanging. She was only 29 years old.

Her immortalization in the intertwining histories of Haiti and the Dominican Republic has resulted in the use of her name for various places in both countries. Many in Haiti claim her as a significant icon in early Haitian history and a primordial founder of their country.

Renowned Haitian American author Edwidge Danticat wrote an award-winning novel, from The Royal Diaries series, Anacaona: Golden Flower, Haiti, 1490, in dedication to the fallen chief, and a more recent novel has appeared about Anacaona, “Ayiti’s Taino Queen/Anacaona, La Reine Taino d’Ayiti” by Maryse N. Roumain, PhD. She is immortalized in music by Haitian folk singers Ansy and Yole Dérose in “Anacaona”, as well as by Puerto Rican salsa composer Tite Curet Alonso in his song “Anacaona” and Irka Mateo “Anacaona”.

Anacaona, from the bronze statue of Columbus in Santo Domingo Above.

1-1-1804 Dessalines: “I have avenged America”. “Hayti” = The land of the mountains. The name Saint-Domingue given to the colony by the French was abolished and the land re-named in honor of the original inhabitants of Haiti, the Taino (Arawak, Caribs) whom suffered almost complete genocide at the hands of foreigners. “Though the original Taino-Ayisyen inhabitants are no more, the country they called “Hayiti” will be returned to its former glory. They shall continue to live on in the minds and hearts of the African-Ayisyen, who defeated the slaughterers of the original Taino-Ayisyen.”


Haiti History 101: Guacanagaric, Anacaona and Caonabo or …

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