Yaguana, Jaragua, Ayiti
|Known for||being one of two Taíno female Caciques (chiefs) along with Yuisa from where is now called Loíza, Puerto Rico|
Anacaona (from Taíno anacaona, meaning "golden flower"; from ana, meaning "flower", and caona, meaning "gold, golden") was a Taíno cacica (chief), sister of Bohechío, chief of Xaragua. Her husband was Caonabo, chief of the nearby territory of Maguana. Her brother and her husband were two of the five highest caciques who ruled the island of Ayiti (now called Hispaniola) when the Spaniards settled there in 1492. She was celebrated as a composer of ballads and narrative poems, called areítos.
Anacaona was born in Yaguana (today the town of Léogane, Haiti) in 1474. During Christopher Columbus's visit to the chiefdom of Xaragua in what is now southwest Haiti in late 1496, Anacaona and her brother Bohechío appeared as equal negotiators. On that occasion, described by Bartolomé de las Casas in Historia de las Indias, Columbus successfully negotiated for tribute of food and cotton to be paid by the natives to the Spanish invaders under his command.
The visit is described as having taken place in a friendly atmosphere. Several months later, Columbus arrived with a caravel to collect a part of the tribute. Anacaona and Behechío had sailed briefly aboard the caravel, near today's Port-au-Prince in the Gulf of Gonâve as his guests. At first relations between natives and Conquistadors were cordial, the natives realizing too late their lands were actually being stolen and their subjects enslaved. This model was later repeated in Mexico with Moctezuma II due to its original Caribbean success.
Anacaona's high status was probably strengthened by elements of matrilineal descent in the Taíno society, as described by Peter Martyr d'Anghiera. Taíno caciques usually passed inheritance to the eldest children of their sisters. If their sisters had no children, then they chose among the children of their brothers, and when there were none, they fell back upon one of their own.
Anacaona had one child, named Higuemota, whose dates of birth and death are lost to history.
Arrest and death
Anacaona became chief of Xaragua after her brother's death. Her husband Caonabo, suspected of having organized the attack on La Navidad (a Spanish settlement on north-western Hispaniola), was captured by Alonso de Ojeda and shipped to Spain, dying in a shipwreck during the journey — as many other Taino leaders died on Spanish ships away from their native lands. The Taínos, being ill-treated by the conquerors, revolted and made a long war against them.
During a feast organized by 84 regional chieftains to honor Anacaona, who was friendly to the Spaniards, the Spanish Governor Nicolás de Ovando ordered the meeting house to be set on fire to burn them alive, similar to what centuries later occurred to Rigoberta Manchu's family in Guatemala. Cacica Anacaona and her Taíno noblemen were arrested — all accused of conspiracy for resisting occupation and executed.
Prior to her execution, Anacaona was offered clemency if she would give herself as concubine to one of the Spaniards which was common in the era. Standing with her fellow Tainos in solidarity, the Caribbean indigenous female leader (cacica) chose execution over colluding with her Spanish enemy, her refusal cementing her legend. In contrast with Aztec La Malinche who became mistress of Spanish Conqueror Hernan Cortes or Native American Pocahontas who married John Rolfe, Anacaona remained rebellious and independent until her violent public death.
Because Anacaona refused the sexual offer of the Spanish intruders while others were shot, Anacaona was executed by hanging. She was only 29 years old.
Her immortalization in the intertwining histories of Haiti and the Dominican Republic has resulted in the use of her name for various places in both countries. Many in Haiti claim her as a significant icon in early Haitian history and a primordial founder of their country.
Renowned Haitian American author Edwidge Danticat wrote an award-winning novel, from The Royal Diaries series, Anacaona: Golden Flower, Haiti, 1490, in dedication to the fallen chief, and a more recent novel has appeared about Anacaona, "Ayiti's Taino Queen/Anacaona, La Reine Taino d'Ayiti" by Maryse N. Roumain, PhD. She is immortalized in music by Haitian folk singers Ansy and Yole Dérose in "Anacaona", as well as by Puerto Rican salsa composer Tite Curet Alonso in his song "Anacaona" and Irka Mateo "Anacaona".
- Bartolomé de las Casas: A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies.
- Peter Martyr d'Anghiera: De Orbe Novo.
- Samuel M. Wilson: Hispaniola - Caribbean Chiefdoms in the Age of Columbus. The University of Alabama Press, 1990. ISBN 0-8173-0462-2.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1891). "article name needed". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton.