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Cacique (Spanish: [kaˈθike, kaˈsike]; Portuguese: [kɐˈsikɨ, kaˈsiki]; feminine form: cacica), also cassique in archaic English, is a title derived from the Taíno word for the pre-Columbian chiefs or leaders of tribes in the Bahamas, Greater Antilles, and the northern Lesser Antilles. The Spanish, subsequent to encounters with the Taíno upon their arrival in the New World, used the word as a title for the leaders of the other indigenous tribes they encountered in the Western Hemisphere territories they occupied. In the Spanish language, both in Spain and Latin America, the term has come to mean a local political boss who exercises significant power. The derivative term "Caciquismo" has been used to describe a democratic system subverted by the power of such local bosses successfully influencing the electoral process in their favour. It has been used most notably to refer to late nineteenth century Spain and twentieth century Mexico.
The term is also used in the Portuguese language to describe the leaders of indigenous communities in Brazil. It is also frequently used in Portugal to describe how certain influential and well known students use their powerful social character to influence student body elections in the student movement in Portugal's major universities.
In the Taíno culture, the cacique rank was apparently established through democratic means. His importance in the tribe was determined by the size of his tribe rather than his warlord skills, since the Taínos were mostly a pacifist culture. They also enjoyed several privileges for their standing: they lived in a larger rectangular hut in the center of the village and had a special sitting place for the areytos (ceremonial dances) and the ceremonial ball game.
cacique, ca. (De or. caribe). 1. m. y f. Señor de vasallos en alguna provincia o pueblo de indios. 2. m. y f. Persona que en una colectividad o grupo ejerce un poder abusivo. 3. m. y f. coloq. Persona que en un pueblo o comarca ejerce excesiva influencia en asuntos políticos. 4. f. coloq. p. us. Mujer del cacique.
cacique (Of Caribbean origin). 1. m. & f. Lord of vassals in an Indian province or village. 2. m. & f. Person who exercises an abusive power in a community or group. 3. m. & f. colloq. Person in a village or region who exercises excessive influence in political matters. 4. f. colloq. rare. Wife of a cacique.
In Spain and in Brazil the word is most commonly used in the third sense, meaning "a person in a village or region who exercises excessive influence in political matters."
Known caciques 
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See also 
- Varela Ortega, José (2001). El poder de la influencia: Geografía del caciquismo en España: (1875-1923). Centro de Estudios Políticos y Constitucionales. ISBN 84-259-1152-4.
- "Taíno Indians Culture". Topuertorico.org. Retrieved 2012-06-19.
- "cacique, ca.". Real Academia Española. Retrieved January 31, 2013.