1. Gabriel Haslip-Viera, The Myth of Taíno Survival in the Spanish-Speaking Caribbean, NiLP Guest Commentary, Dec. 6, 2011.
2. Roberto "Múkaro" Borrero, A Taíno Response to "The Myth of Taíno Survival in the Spanish-Speaking Caribbean," NiLP Guest Commentary (Dec. 11, 2011).
3. Gabriel Haslip-Viera, Rejoinder to Roberto "Mukaro" Borrero's A Taíno Response to "The Myth of Taíno Survival in the Spanish-Speaking Caribbean," NiLP Guest Commentary, Dec. 14, 2011.
Since the time of the conquests by Spanish and Portuguese adventurers in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, indigenous peoples have generally been quite useful to political elites in Latin America. But they have been most useful dead. Or, where the vestiges of Taíno culture are hard to avoid, at least erased from living and contemporary national memory. In the place of live Indians, Caribbean political and revolutionary elites have, over the course of the last several centuries, deployed a political and uni-racial mestizaje and mulatería as a new standard of purity, which was first used against Spanish race hierarchies of the colonial period. They then used these against the racial purity of politics deployed by North Americans in their quest to replace Spain as the dominant colonial power in the Hemisphere. Its continued utility in Cuba stands out in contrast to its abandonment in much of Latin America after the 1940s.
Dead, the Indian could be transformed, generalized, denatured, and repackaged for the benefit of emerging elites. The Indian became a key ingredient in the construction of a new indigenous people in the Caribbean. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, indigenous people supplied the foundations for a trope, both literary and political, which is essential for the construction of cultural, ethnic, racial, and political identities distinct from the traditional colonial masters of emerging Latin American states, as well as from that great power to the north. This trope, in turn, was part of a larger discussion within Latin America pitting a mestizaje-based political and literary theory against nations with large mixed populations. It also placed a more North American perspective in places like Argentina and Chile with smaller indigenous and African populations. Indigenismo thus fractured in meaning—pointing to original peoples, the blended post-conquest populations, or the indigenous characteristics of a dominant European population in its new territory. (From Backer, From Hatuey to Che, supra at 202-204)