The origins of the Taino Nation has been subject to much controversy and different theories. Modern studies have relied on the narratives from Friar Inigo Abbad written in 1782 and Chronicles by Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo, in 1535.
The Taínos were pre-Columbian inhabitants of the island now known as Puerto Rico. They also populated what is known now as Bahamas, Cuba, Hispaniola (Haiti and Domincan Republic), and the northern Lesser Antilles. It is thought that the Taínos are a relative of the Arawakan people of South America. The Taíno language is a member of the Maipurean linguistic family, which ranges from South America across the Caribbean.
Tainos were a gentle race. Friendly and peaceful who primarily survived as farmers and avid fishermen. They called the island BORIKEN.
At the time of Columbus's arrival in 1492, there were eighteen Taíno chiefdoms and territories on Puerto Rico each led by a principal Cacique (chieftain), to whom tribute was paid. Hispaniola (modern day Haiti and Dominican Republic), also, was divided into chiefdoms. Their villages were known as yucayeques. These villages were close to a water source. They built their Bohios (round thatch roof huts) around a plaza or Batey. This plaza was used for Areytos (ceremonies) and other activities such as dancing or ball games.
As the hereditary head chief of Taíno tribes, the Cacique was paid significant tribute. During the Areyto they wore a kind of cape called the Mao. Caciques enjoyed the privilege of living in a square hut called Caney in a central location on the edge of the Batey instead of the round ones that the villagers inhabited, and sitting on wooden stools when receiving guests. They were assisted by a Bohike (priest or medicine man) and the rest of the village was composed of two additional social classes, the Naborias, who perform hard labor, and the Nitainos (noblemen), who were the Soldiers, Leaders and Craftmens.
Physically, the Taino man and woman were short in stature, however the man was well built. The Taino head was flat on front and back for what is now believe the result of mothers carrying the infants on their backs with a padded board secured to the baby's forehead. They had no facial hair and thick black hair.
Tainos wore no clothes with the exception of the married women who wore a nagua (frontal slip). However they painted their bodies with bright colors and intricate drawings or designs. Arm and leg ties signified ranking and they wore many jewelry made of seashells, feathers, teeth, bones, stones and gold or other semiprecious stones.
At the time of the Spanish conquest, the largest Taíno population centers may have contained over 3,000 people each. The Taínos were historically enemies of the neighboring Carib tribes, another group with origins in South America who was more violent, cannibalistic and lived principally in the Lesser Antilles.
At their arrival the Spaniards expected the Taíno Indians to acknowledge the sovereignty of the king of Spain by payment of gold tribute, to work and supply provisions of food and to observe Christian ways. The Taínos rebelled most notably in 1511, when several caciques conspired to oust the Spaniards. They were joined in this uprising by their traditional enemies, the Caribs. Their weapons, however, were no match against Spanish horses and firearms and the revolt was soon ended brutally by the Spanish forces of Governor Juan Ponce de León.