The Taino were the indigenous — the first — people of Puerto Rico. Taino is classified as an Arawak language. These languages are or were spoken in the Caribbean, and in more than a dozen South American nations. Some of the words English has borrowed from Taino are “hammock,” “canoe,” and “hurricane.” While Taino is officially a “dead” language (since it has no native speakers), there is a movement to revive the language by teaching it to children.

The Taino people had also been declared extinct, but DNA research has shown that modern Puerto Ricans are more closely related to the Taino than to any other indigenous American population. Researchers estimated, based on data from the 100 Genomes project, that modern Puerto Ricans may have 10-15% Taino DNA.

Oral history in Puerto Rico has long held that the Taino did not die out, but were in fact among the ancestors of the modern inhabitants of the Island. The DNA research provides scientific confirmation.

More than 75% of Puerto Ricans identify themselves as white, according to 2010 census data. All the genomes tested in the DNA research showed European and usually African descent as well. There is no current research identifying modern people who are of primarily Taino heritage. However, 9,399 people in Puerto Rico identified themselves as Taino on the 2010 census.

South American connection

Similarities in language and in DNA show a relationship between the Taino and people of the Amazon basin in South America. It is generally believed that the Taino people moved from South America to what is now Puerto Rico thousands of years ago. They lived on other islands such as Haiti and the Bahamas, too.

Taino connection

Courtesy of Richard Thornton of the Apalache Foundation

Over time, the Arawak people on different islands and in different parts of South America developed different languages and cultures.

Puerto Rico’s Taino people were the ones who welcomed Columbus in 1492. They were a matrilineal society, living in large villages built around a central plaza used for public events. Their economy relied on agriculture, hunting, and fishing, but there is evidence that they traded with the Maya and other South American and Caribbean civilizations.

How does this affect Puerto Rico now?

One possibility is that the Taino could achieve federal recognition as a Native American tribe. The Taino at present are not a federally recognized tribe.

Dr. James Rhodes of the Coweta Creek Confederacy reached out to PR51st claiming that the prehistoric relationship between the Taino and Coweta Creek is also supported by this DNA evidence. Dr. Rhodes invited Puerto Ricans to join the Confederacy, saying “Our only requirement is an ancestral relationship; blood quantum is not a factor as we are an inclusive, not exclusive, organization.”

Rhodes believes that federal recognition for the Taino would lead to opportunities for Puerto Rico. “We believe it is our common destiny that the Taino and the Coweta be reunited at this point for a common good,”he wrote. Dr. Rhodes can be reached via email.



13 Responses

    • There are maps that you can obtain in Puerto Rico, showing the historic location of Taino people throughout Puerto Rico. There are now a significant group of Puerto Ricans, that claim Taino ancestry (like me), that meet every year in a central mountain area of Puerto Rico (Jayuya?). My mother’s grandmother. was from a sector in the Naguabo side of El Yunque called “La Mina”. There are numerous petrogliphs (carvings on boulders) throughout the sector. In my opinion, she had significant amount of Taino blood. I have a few relatives that have “asian-like”features” (Polynesian-like). .There is a place near La Mina where you can stay, that to me reminds me of Paradice. There are small cabins there and at night you can hear the chirping pf the coquis and mall birds. Osvaldo Rendon Herrero.

      • Where and when are these gatherings and how traditional are the events? Where can one find these maps to see the carvings on these stones? I’m trying to find out everything I can about all this as both my grandparents and great grandparents where Tianos.

  1. *US* Hispanic-Puerto Rican Legacy-Macro History Excerpts**
    Ante la Historia–US Hispanic-Puerto Rican good contributions to our noble USA–dates to the initial settlement of our now USA by their Spanish and Other Ancestors that– first came from Puerto Rico to Florida (in 1513)-107 years before the Pilgrims; helped develop our noble USA! Some historic FACTS-
    Prior to Columbus: Puerto Rico Natives (Tainos/Arawack)- Named Puerto Rico- Boriken (Borinquen) “Land of the Valiant Lord”; left traces in our now US before Columbus’ first Trip–
    Christopher Columbus and Crew came to the Western Hemisphere on 12 October 1492 (first landed in San Salvador); during his 2d Trip (19 November 1493), he found Puerto Rico (Boriken). But, in his four Trips, Columbus never touched the Landmass of the now USA…Thus, it was–
    Juan Ponce de León (1st Governor of Puerto Rico) (on March 1513)-who organized an expedition from the now US Territory of Puerto Rico, and set sail with Crew (included Taínos, Blacks, and Women) to find what the Natives called Bimini (now Florida, USA)…
    *1513 (April 2)-In the Spring they arrived at a verdant land which he named “La Florida”… (This dangerous voyage into the unknown put Florida on the Map for others to follow; help develop our USA.
    • Puerto Rico was the historic 1st Gateway to the European settlement of Florida-which opened the doors to the advanced civilized settlement of our now USA–107 years before the Pilgrims landed…
    • Spanish Ancestors are part of the Hispanic roots, heritage and Legacy as they made many positive contributions to our now USA; overtime brought Christianity, Horses, Cattle, Sheep, Pigs, Oranges…; the Spanish language (the US is the 2d largest Spanish Speaking Country in the World); first Thanksgiving; and other good things to “America” (name set by Hispanic/Latino Ancestors)…
    The Hispanic-Puerto Rican Legacy–complements the notable sacrifices & contributions of Natives and Immigrants in the forming and development of our now beloved and noble USA…
    1508 Ponce de Leon founded “Caparra” the first settlement in Puerto Rico, but, in 1509 it was moved… to what today is San Juan (founded in 1521)—the oldest City under the US Flag, and where he is buried…
    1565: St. Augustine (2d Oldest City under US Flag) – was founded by: Spanish Admiral Pedro Menendez de Aviles.
    1585-1587: Roanoke Island, North Carolina- was the English first Colony in our now USA. But, before arrival, the Colonist in 5 Ships, faced a severe storm and took shelter in Puerto Rico which hosted the first English Settlement and Fort in the New World, from where they later left to North Carolina; disappeared without trace; became known as the “Lost Colony”…
    1607: The English stopped in Puerto Rico on their way to Jamestown, which was later abandoned…
    1620: The Pilgrims arrive at Plymouth Harbor/Rock (Massachusetts) on the Mayflower…
    1776-: US Hispanic Ancestors (Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Cubans…)-supported the US Continental Army and fought (for our USA) in the Revolutionary War against the British. General Galvez (Spanish Territory Governor of Louisiana-later made up 15 States), and General Castro (later Governor of Puerto Rico)—provided support; bravely fought in the important Battles of Pensacola (Florida), Louisiana, Missouri, etc.; helped the “US Minutemen Citizen-Soldiers” win the US War of Independence…
    US Hispanic Ancestors, help develop what today are California, Texas, Florida, Louisiana, and 10 Other US States, among many other positive contributions…
    SPAIN—provided support to the US Continental Army; lent the rebelling Colonists, the use of its ports (including Puerto Rico) through which flowed financial aid, food, and arms; sent Hispanic Ancestors to fight in support of US Independence (to include a contingent from Puerto Rico) for US Freedom…
    FLORIDA: Many Flags have flown over Florida: Spanish, British, French, Florida, & now the US Flag!
    PR-1898: The US invades and takes possession of the US Territory of Puerto Rico … Puerto Ricans: are the 2d largest US Hispanic Ethnic Group; are about 9+ m strong with majority living in the States…
    • Since 1898-fellow US Citizens-American Veterans in the US Territory of Puerto Rico (with more US Citizens than 22 States) have: NO Federal “consent of the governed” (NO VOTE for US President; NO just Representation in Congress; NO Parity in Federal Law/Programs/Funds; NO permanent US Citizenship…–which is against the Spirit of our US Constitution (“WE THE PEOPLE”)…Republican form of Government (a “Representative Democracy” with “consent of the governed”)….
    • Puerto Ricans have sacrificed; shed sweat, blood, and tears; fought in the War of Independence…; WW-I, WW-II, Korea, Cold War, Vietnam, War on Terrorism…).
    • The US 65th Infantry Regiment-The Borinqueneers (from PR)-are recipients of the Congressional Gold Medal-highest honor US Congress, with US President, can bestow and other Combat awards.
    The Time is now for Equal Civil Rights for all, not just for some! The Federal Government must let Puerto Ricans VOTE on the only non-territorial Options: STATEHOOD vs INDEPENDENCE…
    SUMMARY: Our good Natives, Immigrants, and Ancestors helped forge what America is today—the best in the imperfect annuals of Human History! Let’s learn from the past; ensure FAIR Treatment-Equal Rights for ALL “WE THE PEOPLE” as we make things better for the Good of All: Family, Community, USA, and Humanity! Evolution with peace builds upon the Good; Revolution with violence destroys all!
    US President R. Reagan said: “Through the years, Hispanic American Citizens have risen to the call of duty in defense of liberty and freedom. Their bravery is well known and has been demonstrated time and again, dating back to the aid rendered by General Bernardo de Galvez during the American Revolution”.
    *NOTE: WE live in an imperfect World that together we can make better! But, there is the Good, Wrong, Bad, and Evil in every Group! We applaud the good; condemn individual bad actions! We should NOT discriminate; Generalize or Stereotype any Group for the sins of one or a few… History can’t be revised or erased…!
    (Dennis O. Freytes, MPA, MHR, BBA—Florida Veterans Hall of Fame-former Trustee Valencia College; Professor (PMS) University of Puerto Rico/ Director (Commander) US Army Officer School (Cadet Brigade-1,000 University Students)…
    *Juan Ponce De Leon and Crew sailed from Puerto Rico to our now USA-1513:

  2. i had my DNA done on ancestry and i came out to be 36-40% taino.he is a little back history my greandmother was half taino my secound grandmother was full blooded taino my 3rd grandmother and 3rd grandfather where full blooded taino they where the last of the taino nation they had to hide who they really were

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