In the sixteenth century on the island of Hispaniola lived a group of people called the Tiano. The Tiano were indigenous to the Caribbean islands of Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, The Bahamas and the Northern Lesser Antilles. They were the first Americans to defend themselves against Christopher Columbus; they also spoke an Arawakan language that was commonly found in the Caribbean and the Lesser Antilles. Hatuey was a Taino chief from the island of Hispaniola during the early stages of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Thirty Spanish ships arrived on the shores of Hispaniola, one of the ships was occupied by Governor Nicolas de Ovando, the ships also brought a large population of Spanish colonizers and African slaves. The enslaved Africans began escaping from the Spanish quarters fleeing into the interior of the island and connecting with the Tiano people. The Tiano were thought of as people who negatively influenced the Africans, in turn, the Africans escaped slavery. The Spanish first arrived in Hispaniola around 1502, bringing with them death and destruction for the Tiano and the Africans they captured. The Tiano were forced to defend themselves if they wanted to survive, and or, keep their lands.
For over a decade, Hatuey led the Tiano people into combat against the Spanish to defend their freedom. Around 1511, Hatuey and four hundred of his soldiers traveled to Cuba on a mission to mobilize the people of Cuba against the Spanish. He warned the Cuban leaders about the vile nature of the Spanish, he urged them to unite and fight. It is said that the Spanish colonizing Priest Bartolome de Las Casas, recorded Hatuey speaking the following words to the Cuban leaders; “the intruders worship gold, fight and kill, usurp our land and makes us slaves. For gold, slaves, and the land they fight and kill; for these they persecute us and that is why we have to throw them into the sea”. A number of the leaders in Cuba did not take heed to Hatuey’s message, a few did join him in his fight to remain free from Spanish domination. As the Cuban forces were being organized to defend themselves the Spanish invaded Cuba led by Diego Velasquez.
The Spanish had superior weaponry and outnumbered the Tiano, but they didn’t have half of the heart and tactics the Tiano possessed. Using guerrilla warfare, the Tiano was able to attack the Spanish and became a legitimate threat. The Spanish were held under siege in for a while in a fort because of the attacks Hatuey led against them. Eventually, the Spanish were able to overtake the Tiano, capture Hatuey and his men, and publicly executed Hatuey on February second of fifteen-twelve. Before Hatuey was murdered, he was asked by a Franciscan Friar if he would repent, become a Christian, and accept Jesus as his lord and savior. Hatuey did not have any knowledge of Jesus, heaven or hell. The Friar was doing his best to convince Hatuey to follow Jesus so he could “go to heaven”. Hatuey asked the Friar if all Christians went to heaven, the Friar told him that all Christians did go to Heaven, Hatuey then told the Friar he would rather be in hell. To one of the first freedom fighters in the Americas, Hatuey, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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