The lives of Taínos are often framed through a colonialist lens. While Christopher Columbus’ violent colonization after stepping foot in Hispaniola in 1492 changed the course of history for Taínos, this Indigenous group didn’t just go extinct immediately after 1492. And a new exhibition is putting this into focus by exploring Taíno identity and legacy beyond Columbus.
Titled Taíno: Native Identity and Heritage in the Caribbean, the National Museum of the American Indian exhibition aims to offer a fuller picture of this group, including how Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, their diaspora in the US celebrate Taíno heritage. It also seeks to provide context on how Indigenous histories coexist with Blackness.
“In terms of this this exhibition came about, the Smithsonian Latino Center and the National Museum of the American Indian have a long history of working together to explore issues of shared heritage (and conflicts, too) between Latinxs and Native peoples – especially if the Smithsonian has relevant collections,” Ranald Woodaman, exhibitions and public programs director for the Smithsonian Latino Center, tells Remezcla via email. “We considered that the story of the conquest and colonization of the Greater Antilles to be one of the most important [chapters] in human history, but that we needed it to retell it from the perspective of Native survival and living legacies. In other words, we didn’t want to do just another archaeology show; instead, we wanted to flip the Columbus story on its head and focus on Native legacies after 1492 and the relevance of Native knowledge in the present.”
There’s a lot to explore in this exhibition, including the new issue of La Borinqueña. Created by Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez, the comic book follows the story of an Afro-Latina superhero. The second issue of the Somos Arte work will make its debut at the exhibit. “When you read the second issue of La Borinqueña, you’ll note how much more the narrative taps into Taíno heritage,” Edgardo tell us.
Taíno: Native Identity and Heritage in the Caribbean is on view from July 28, 2018 until October 2019 One Bowling Green, New York, New York.
Update, September 15, 2018: This post has been updated to correct a spelling error in Woodaman’s first name.