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A Taino treat - Visitors enjoy day of indigenous festivities

Published:Wednesday | June 7, 2017 | 12:00 AMOrantes Moore
Senior archaeologist at the Jamaica National Heritage Trust, Lesley-Gail Atkinson-Swaby (right), poses with students and other visitors at the Taino Areyto Day festival, which was held last week at the Taino Heritage Camp in Oracabessa, St Mary.
At the Taino Areyto Day festival in Oracabessa, St Mary, students from St Mary High and the University of Winnipeg in Canada played Makaibari, an ancient Taino wrestling game where participants must stay inside a nine-foot ring and score points by slapping opponents on their calves.

Last week, history lovers and groups of local and international students travelled to the Taino Heritage Camp (THC) at Eden Park in Oracabessa, St Mary, for a one-day festival celebrating Jamaica's rich but relatively unknown indigenous legacy.

During the THC's annual Taino Areyto Day, visitors were exposed to a selection of interactive workshops, which taught them about the lifestyle, customs, and habits of the Taino people, Jamaica's main residents in the late 1500s when Europeans first made contact with the island.




According to senior archaeologist at the Jamaica National Heritage Trust, Lesley-Gail Atkinson-Swaby, the THC and the event were both useful resources for those who want to learn about Taino history through storytelling, dance, art, food, and competition.

She told Rural Xpress: "Today, I did a presentation, which was just basically public education and trying to spread appreciation for the Taino culture because we tend to think of them as a lost or dead culture, but it is still very much alive in contemporary Jamaica.

"From the 1980s, there has been a big resurgence in people wanting to know more about the Tainos, especially across the region in islands such as Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, and some of that has spread over to Jamaica where we are seeing the benefits.

"Although maybe we romanticise a bit, I think Jamaicans do have some sort of an attachment to the Tainos because if we didn't, we wouldn't still have them on our coat of arms; we could have changed that many years ago, but never did. I think things are improving, and with more knowledge and more of our own people from the region studying, we can have a better understating and appreciation."