It would be a wonderful world, if you could consider each and every person as a human being, without any labels, any trademarks and accept them without judgement.
But the world is divided, global only in the eyes of the multinational corporations, the societies are divided, and there are even micro divisions. Divide and conquer, was the motto of the British Imperialists during their heyday.
For the present, a cultural identity becomes very important, for more than anything to navigate through the complex world that surround us. When the world was simple, as in the time of the Los Indios before contact, they did call every one a PERSON and a group of Persons, a PEOPLE.. That is why all the indigenous names that refer to themselves as PEOPLE whether it is in North or Central or South America.
Our America, peopled by immigrants, modeled after metropolitan societies, and as Bolivar would have it, cleansing themselves of their colonial burden to be free, is also the home of the most ancient people on the Earth. Los Indios. Archeological evidence from Chile shows inhabitation by the indigenous people there to be at least 35 000 years old, so long before Europe became civilized in the parlance of the European, there were organized societies and cultures in the American Continent, obvious to any student of History.
What followed was a destruction of the social and spiritual life of the indigenous peoples, a history most of you know very well. Here I am to talk about a recent phenomenon, recent enough for all of us to remember personally of adoption of Indian Cultural Identity by Non Indians of this continent, whether mulatos from Puerto Rico or Europeans of Argentina, Bolivia, Canada, USA etc.
And they recreated Indian tribes which had long been lost to oblivion, culturally speaking and took over the ownership of the tribe and its presumed customs. They began parading themselves to the world , generally ignorant of the Indigenous cultures of the Americas, as true descendants of the Native peoples of this continent.
The question posed on this presentation is :
Why do mulatos of San Juan, Puerto Rico; Spanish descendants of Camaguey, Cuba want to claim themselves to be members of the extinct tribe of Tainos? Why did this happen in Cuba at a time of great economic difficulties in the island? What motivates them to hijack the identity of genuine Cuban rebels such as Hatuey?
The investigative work for this presentation was done among the indigenous peoples of various countries of the American continent and also with academics of various institutions and ordinary non Indian peoples of this continent.
From the beginning, there is one thing that well accepted. These Pseudo Indians are not accepted or liked by the general population of the countries in which they live. Pseudo Tainos are not respected nor accepted as Indians in Cuba by the intelligent population of Cuba, the Wannabee Indians of USA are looked down upon by the white people of USA, the Blacks of the Caribbean look down upon the newly found Indian identity among the blacks of the Caribbean, such as in Trinidad and Tobago.
Why do people descended from Spanish conquistadores and other European adventurers and their slaves want to claim an identity which they destroyed in Cuba and in many other countries ( Jamaica, Trinidad among them ). We have to look at it in the context of the globalization that is occurring and heralded by the rich countries.
Many Europeans have lived and worked among the Indigenous peoples of the America without stealing their cultural identity. Brazilian writer Moacyr Scliar and Peruvian writer Mario Vargas LLosas both have written novels based on the true stories of Europeans who have lived for long time with the Indians.
Pseudo Indians arose out of, to tabulate:
Lack of Spiritual Satisfaction with the everyday religious life prompted some clever Europeans to delve into the history of their countries and try to make connections to extinct tribes of their countries, in our case, Taino and Siboney
This arising out of an economical need, either for personal gain in the form of advancement of career or financial gain
These articulate men and women, fully aware of their intentions, hijacked the the history of the tribe and sold like parcels of land, like their invading ancestors had done, a picture of serene spirituality to hordes of people who are dissatisfied with their own cultural identity, the best examples being Mulatos from Puerto Rico who live in USA, marginalized by the majority society.
The so called leader of the Taino Community of Baracoa had publicly stated: Before I was a peasant but now I am an Indian, there is more money in it. He does not realize that he is being manipulated by the selfish interests of Cubans and Puerto Ricans who live in USA .
One of the ways to distinguish Indians who live their culture or have strong identification with “Indianness” is the universality of their thoughts. It is not particular, to that place or to that city or the region but universal. Two examples come to mind.
The so called leader of the Tainos in Baracoa, often says very standard pronouncements like mother is our earth and obvisouly coached by the Europeans who would like to hear such words reinforcing their feelings that all Indians are ecological. These false Indians do not have any universal concepts which most other Indians do posess. In fact one of the fundamental differences that I have noted between Indians and Non Indians is that: Indians have universal concepts while Non Indians have much geographical concepts. A simple example of this: I am an Australian because it is the country of my citizenship, but I never say I am a human being. Whereas most Indians wouldn’t say: I am an American or Canadian but would say their name all of which denote or refer to the fact that they are people.
You can maintain a local identity of a larger universal identity which is valid only in that country. The best example of this are the Jews of Jamaica. They claim themselves to be Jewish, attend synagogue, but follow no universal concepts of Judaism: kosher food, centrality of the state and people of Israel, kindred feelings towards other jews. Understanding of the jewish philosophy of life, community and religion. But rather jewishness in Jamaica denotes a social status within the society which is so stratified. Very little religious connotation in that many of the jews practice other religions as well, attend churches, get married in churches and even buried in church graveyards But the Non Jews accept them as jews in Jamaica and elsewhere. These jews have historic and genetic connections with the jews who came to Jamaica long before Blacks arrived.
How far does one goes to identify himself..
A good example is Afrikaner in South Africa
MANY PEOPLE CAN CLAIM TO BE AFRICANS, SOUTH AFRICANS, AFRIKANS SPEAKERS , OF EUROPEAN DESCENT , OF DUTCH DESCENT
STILL DOES NOT PECULIARLY DESCRIBE AFRIKANERS
COLOUREDS OF CAPE PROVINCE HAVE ALL THE ABOVE CHARACTERISTICS. BASTERS OF REHOBOTH HAVE ALL THE ABOVE CHARACTERISTICS.
BUT WHAT DEFINES AN AFRIKANER, IS THE EXCLUSIVITY OF HIS CULTURAL IDENTITY.
A PERSON WHO CLAIMS TO BE AN AFRIKANER CANNOT BE SO IF:
HE IS NOT
OF EUROPEAN DESCENT
OF DUTCH DESCENT
IS A SOUTH AFRICAN
IS AN AFRICAN .
This is not a TRANSFERABLE CULTURAL IDENTITY, cannot withstand geographical dislocation. A Puerto Rican Mulato claiming to be a Taino has no understanding of the universality of the Indian spirit. Indian Cultural Identity is not transferable, in this case, not only geographical transfer but also symbiotic transfer to other cultures, whether Black as in Puerto Rico or white as in Cuba.
DESCRIPTION AND THE REALITY MAY NOT BE CONGRUENT.
Many educated so called “Indian” intellectuals claim that you can remain Indian even if you don’t look Indian, even if you don’t speak Indian, even if you don’t belong to a community of Indians ( many of these wannabee marry Indians to legitimize their position ).
These wannabees claim that just feeling INDIAN is enough.
Then are many of the aboriginal peoples around the world, who TECHNICALLY feel native or Indian,
Be classified as Indian
The fifty odd million Mexican Americans
Who look Indian
Who are descended from Indians
Who have many characteristics of Indians
Many of whom want to be Indian, usually tribes which are extinct.. caddo, karankawan etc
Are they to be considered Indian?