Story Of The Underdog

The Dominican Republic is a popular vacation destination with a number of beautiful beaches.  If lying on the beach doesn’t sound like enough to fill your week long vacation don’t fret there are plenty of things to do! If you’re looking to explore the history and culture of the island check out Tainopark in Samana to experience the effects of Columbus’ discovery from the other side, a version not taught in schools.

Photo courtesy of Christian Cordova

Photo courtesy of Christian Cordova

While Columbus may have discovered a new world it certainly wasn’t lost or unknown as there was a large population of natives, primarily the Arawak/Taino Indians. The Arawak Indians, named for the common language they shared, were spread from Venezuela throughout the Caribbean and South America all the way to Florida! The Tainos, meaning good and noble, were a colony of Arawak Indians who had settled in the Dominican, originally from the Amazon Basin.

Columbus’ arrival may mean great things for the Spanish but was a death sentence for the Taino Indians. Not only did the Spanish bring unfamiliar diseases with them, but Columbus required tribute from the Taino Indians. They were expected to pay a certain amount in gold or cotton and if they could not contribute the required amount they became slaves for the Spanish. It is estimated that before Columbus’ arrival there was a healthy population of 300,000 to 400,000 Taino Indians but by 1507, when the Spanish did their first census, there were only 60,000. In 1531, the population had virtually died out with only 600 Taino Indians remaining. Now, the only evidence of this once large and vast people is a couple archeological remains and artifacts.

The Tainopark museum helps tell the story of the Taino people through 25 exhibits explained through a self-guided audio tape available in five languages. Learn some of the contributions the Tainos made to modern society, including a number of English words that originated from the Arawak language. Stop for some refreshments and browse the gift shop full of Taino items.

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