The Heart of the Taino people

Jayuya Travel Blog

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As someone with an incredible passion for indigenous peoples of the world, I was excited to learn more about the Taino people of Puerto Rico. This would not be possible without a visit to the center of this beautiful island. Jayuya sits at the base of a valley in the central mountain ranges. We arrived and found a Community Center/Cooperative in the center of town. We entered with only the expectation to maybe buy some knick-nacks and some books for me. After perusing the amazing crafts from the local community, Angela and I heard this contagious laugh coming from the other room. The women behind the counter had a spirit and character unmatched (one of those virbant personalities often found in Latin America). I asked her in Spanish for book recommendations on the history & culture of the Taino people. I have been told that I have a pretty good accent when I speak Spanish, however my pink skin (now more red from the sun), blonde hair, blue eyes and other obvious gringo features, she replied to me in English. This was not a bad thing as my friend did not speak much Spanish at the time. We began a long conversation about the indigenous Taino people, Puerto Rico in general and the work of this association. She invited us to come back later that year for their annual festival. After completing our purchases, I proceeded to tell her about myself and my committment to indigenous rights. I informed her of my involvement with the United Nations that coming May. She was excited that I was on this path and provided me with a multitude of names both inside and outside of Puerto Rico that could be key informants if I was to seek more knowledge of the Taino people. She took Angela and I outside and led us to a sacred circle on the grounds. She explained the ritual of entering the circle, kneeling in the center and asking the sprits for guidance. Angela went first, then I went (both barefoot, trying to concetrate as the rough grass nibbled at our feet). Clear your mind, concentrate! Upon my exit, the women stopped me and told me that I had not sufficiently cleared my mind and that I need to give it another go. I re-entered this time, now with more focus, and honestly feeling a lot more emotion and vulnerability. I kneeled in the center and immediately began to cry. This re-entry caused an eomtional reaction in me - between the beauty of the natural surroundings, the charismatic and nurturing nature of this women, feeling a connection of sorts with this place and so many other things. We left this place feeling rejuventated. This random and spontaneous experience provided us with a new lens at which to percieve this land which we were traveling through. On our exit out of town, we stopped and had some lunch along the river, where the combination of rock carvings and young children playing demonstrating the beautiful culture to which we were priveleged to experience.
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