The Taino

These are the people Columbus encountered on Hispaniola.

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They called their island Bohio ("home") and themselves Taino, "men of the good," to distinguish their race from the more war-like Caribs.

By all accounts, including those of Columbus, the Taino were a hard-working, peaceful and generous group.


Estimates of the number of Taino living on Bohio (now called Haiti & The Dominican Republic) range from a half-million to seven million in 1492.

Whatever the real figure, within 50 years the culture that had originated in the Orinoco region of South America 2,000 years earlier was annihilated by Spanish disease, slavery and brutality.


Yet traces of the Taino still remain. The Taino had turned the dry southwest into a bountiful agricultural region by bringing water to the fields from the mountains, a method still employed today.

Their square homes made of palm wood with thatch roofs, also called bohios, are still the predominant form of rural housing in the Dominican Republic.

For an excellent overview of the Taino Indian culture, consult The Tainos, Rise and Decline of the People Who Greeted Columbus by Irving Rouse (1992,Yale University Press).

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