Anacaona - native Taíno ruler
She was hailed as a composer of ballads and narrative poems, called areitos. She was the ruler of the Taíno kingdom of Xaragua, the last to fall to the Spanish colonialists. Her husband Caonabo, the ruler of the kingdom of Maguana, was deported to Spain in 1494. He died en route.
In 1502 he Spanish Governor Nicolas de Ovando ordered the arrest of Anacaona, who was captured by deceit, similarily to Toussaint Louverture about 300 years later and then executed by hanging in the town of Santo Domingo in the year 1503. The survivors of the 1502 massacre at the court of Anacaona, during which she was captured, fled to the island of La Gonâve. (Arawak: Guanabo or Guanarana).
Anacaona is celebrated as one of the heroes of Haiti's struggle against colonialism and one of the many women in the fight that ultimately led to the successful Haitian Revolution and the Act of Independence in 1804. Anacaona is also frequently mentioned alongside other Haitians of great historical significance, such as Toussaint Louverture and Jean Jacques Dessalines.
Las Casas on Anacaona
Bartolomé de las Casas, (1484 - 1566), a Spanish Dominican priest gave this account of the Spaniards murder of the Taîno queen:
"Xaraqua is the Fourth Kingdom, and as it were the Centre and Middle of the whole Island, and is not to be equalled for fluency of Speech and politeness of Idiom or Dialect by any Inhabitants of the other Kingdoms, and in Policy and Morality transcends them all. Herein the Lords and Peers abounded, and the very Populace excelled in in stature and habit of Body: Their King was Behechio by name and who had a Sister called Anacaona, and both the Brother as well as Sister had loaded the Spaniards with Benefits and singular acts of Civility, and by delivering them from the evident and apparent danger of Death, did signal services to the Castilian Kings. Behechio dying the supreme power of the Kingdom fell to Anacaona: But it hapned one day, that the Governour of an Island [Nicolas de Ovando], attended by 60 Horse, and 30 Foot (now the Cavalry was sufficiently able to unpeople not only the Isle, but also the whole Continent) he summoned about 300 Dynasta's, or Noblemen to appear before him, and commanded the most powerful of them, being first crouded into a Thatcht Barn or Hovel, to be exposed to the fury of the merciless Fire, and the rest to be pierced with Lances, and run through with the point of the Sword, by a multitude of Men: And Anacaona her self who (as we said before,) sway'd the Imperial Scepter, to her greater honor was hanged on a Gibbet. And if it fell out that any person instigated by Compassion or Covetousness, did entertain any Indian Boys and mount them on Horses, to prevent their Murder, another was appointed to follow them, who ran them through the back or in the hinder parts, and if they chanced to escape Death, and fall to the ground, they immediately cut off his Legs; and when any of those Indians, that survived these Barbarous Massacres, betook themselves to an Isle eight miles distant, to escape their Butcheries, they were then committed to servitude during Life." (Las Casas)
Book by Edwidge Danticat
The Haitian writer Edwidge Danticat has written a book of fiction - aimed at younger readers - detailing the arrival of the Spanish in the Caribbean Sea from the view of the native Taíno.
- Casas, Bartolomé de las. (1552). A Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies. Seville. Original title: Brevísima relación de la destrucción de las Indias. Re-published: (1689) London. R. Hewson. (Available as Project Gutenberg etext.)
- Danticat, Edwidge. (2005) Anacaona: Golden Flower, Haiti, 1490 (The Royal Diaries). New York: Scholastic Inc.. ISBN 0439499062