Roberto Ordúñez: The 21st Century Mark Harrington?

Columbus landed in Baracoa, Cuba on October 28th, 1492 calling it the most beautiful land eyes had ever seen. He encountered the Taíno Amerindians, descendants of the Arawak who populated South America and the Caribbean.

The treatment by the Spaniards of the Amerindians in the Americas was brutal.  In the Caribbean, approximately 3 million Taínos died within the first fifty years of Spanish governance.  Check out the Smithsonian article on this link: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/what-became-of-the-taino-73824867/.

Thousands of Taínos fled the Spaniards into the mountainous area that is eastern Cuba (read more on my website: Meet Berta - Presentations tab).  Descendants of the Taíno still live among the general population, but their existence was denied for centuries.

It wasn’t until the U.S. anthropologist and archeologist Mark Harrington took an interest in Cuba’s indigenous past that the world learned about the Taínos in greater detail.  Harrington is credited with locating Taíno cave paintings, clay artifacts and human bones.  However, his findings were largely ignored by Latin American archeologists, even those in Cuba. Only in the last 35 years with the advent of DNA and greater interest in ancestral roots have Taíno descendants scientifically been identified on Caribbean islands, and finally acknowledged by the Cuban government.

About 13% of the population in the eastern region of Cuba has documented Amerindian mitochondrial DNA (see link: http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20190205-cubas-tano-people-a-flourishing-culture-believed-extinct).

Sadly, I remember history texts stating flatly that the Taíno people had totally disappeared in Cuba from disease or Spanish brutality.  Little mention of the Taíno was made in any book that was assigned to me as a student years ago in various degree programs in Hispanic Studies at the University of Illinois, the University of Miami, or Northwestern University.

Today, Roberto Ordúñez has become the voice for the Cuban Taíno culture. His Arqueología y Significado de los Pueblos Originarios de Cuba en Baracoa published in 2020 continues the scholarly research begun by Harrington one hundred years ago.

I am honored that Roberto included me in his book’s Dedicatoria and Acknowledgements. I hardly qualify for this honor but thank Roberto nonetheless.