When Columbus and his men first landed on the islands of the Caribbean believing that they had made it to Asia, they encountered a thriving civilization of people who had been living there for thousands of years. Mistaking his location, Columbus referred to these people as Indians. In fact, they were the Taíno, Lucayan and Carib, the Indigenous Peoples of the Caribbean. They were the first people of the Americas to be victims of European invasion, enslavement, and colonization, which resulted in devastating consequences for the Indigenous peoples of the Americas. It is vital to confront our history and the reality of its impact.
Anacaona (1474 (?) –1504) also known as Golden Flower, was a Taíno cacique (chief), religious expert and poet born in Xaragua (Haiti). Before the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492, Ayiti, now known as the island of Hispaniola (Haiti and Dominican Republic) was divided into five kingdoms (Xaragua, Maguana, Higuey, Magua and Marien). Anacaona was born into a family of chiefs, and was the sister of Bohecio, the chief of Xaragua.
She succeeded her brother Bohechio as chief of the Xaragua after his death. Under Anacaona's rule, the Spaniard settlers and Xaragua people coexisted and intermarried.
In 1503, during his visit to Xaragua, governor of the island Nicolas Ovando suspected an insurrection among the present Taino chiefs including Anacaona. Ovando gave the order for the chiefs to be captured and burned, and Anacaona was arrested and hanged much to the horror ofher people.
Anacaona was born in Xaragua, Ayiti in 1474. Ayiti is the Taíno word for Haiti and means "the land of high mountains". Hispaniola was divided into 5 kingdoms: Jaragua, Maguana, Higuey, Magua, and Marien. Anacoana's husband, Caonabo, was the highest cacique (leader) of Maguana and her brother Bohechío was highest cacique of Jaragua.
The Taíno initially welcomed Columbus and his men in 1492 and even helped them build their first fort La Navidad. However, fighting broke out between the Spanish and the Taíno and the fort was destroyed. Anacaona's husband was suspected of organizing the attack and was kidnapped in 1493 and sent away on a ship where he died. Anacaona went to live with her brother in Jaragua. When he died, she became the cacique. Anacaona tried to maintain peace while asserting her people's rights to their own sovereignty. She was known as a great religious leader and a composer of ballads and narrative poems called areítos.
Despite her efforts to maintain friendly relations, in 1504, Spanish governor Nicolás de Ovando desired to take over more land from the Taíno. He tricked 80 Taíno noblemen into coming to a festival. There, he initiated a surprise attack and they were massacred. Ovando then accused Anacaona of treason. In 1504, Anacaona was hanged much to the horror of her people. Ovando's actions also horrified Queen Isabella. When she heard of his crimes, she dismissed him from his post as governor. Anacaona, "Golden Flower", is remembered as a martyr for the Taíno people.
Anacaona "Golden Flower"(1474-1504)Taíno cacique, poet, and martyr