History of Dominican Republic

The Taínos

The Arawakan-speaking Taínos moved into Hispaniola, displacing earlier inhabitants, c. AD 650. They engaged in farming and fishing, and hunting and gathering. The fierce Caribs drove the Taínos to the northeastern Caribbean during much of the 15th century. The estimates of Hispaniola's population in 1492 vary widely, including one hundred thousand, three hundred thousand, and four hundred thousand to two million. Determining precisely how many people lived on the island in pre-Columbian times is next to impossible, as no accurate records exist. By 1492 the island was divided into five Taíno chiefdoms.

The Spanish arrived in 1492. After initially friendly relationships, the Taínos resisted the conquest, led by the female Chief Anacaona of Xaragua and her ex-husband Chief Caonabo of Maguana, as well as Chiefs Guacanagarix, Guamá, Hatuey, and Enriquillo. The latter's successes gained his people an autonomous enclave for a time on the island. Nevertheless, within a few years after 1492 the population of Taínos had declined drastically, due to smallpox, genocide, execution and other diseases that arrived with the Europeans, and from other causes discussed below. The last record of pure Taínos in the country was from 1864. Still, Taíno biological heritage survived to an important extent, due to intermixing. Census records from 1514 reveal that 40% of Spanish men in the colony had Taíno wives, and some present-day Dominicans have Taíno ancestry. Tainos were stated to be extinct in Hispanola by as a result of genocide by the Spanairds. "By 1535, say the leading scholars on this grim topic for all practical purposes, the native population was extinct." Remnants of the Taino culture include their cave paintings, as well as pottery designs which are still used in the small artisan village of Higüerito, Moca.

Spanish rule

Christopher Columbus arrived on Hispaniola on December 5, 1492, during the first of his four