Indians in Cuba
Indians in Cuba
From Pre-Columbian Villages to the Colonial World
Traditional Cuban historiography has developed a model of the island’s past which tends to minimize the indigenous presence and interpret it as an exclusively pre-Columbian matter. It made claims of the complete disappearance of the native populations, using the indigenous demographic catastrophe as a resource to question colonialism or to sustain a historical vision that includes only the world built after 1492. However, the indios (Indians), understood as an ethnic entity and a colonial category represented by the descendants of the indigenous populations, survived and adapted to the colonial lifestyle while keeping the cultural legacy of their ancestors. Using historical and archaeological data, this chapter discusses the presence of Indians in Cuba from the end of the encomienda system in the mid-fourteenth century to the present. It demonstrates the persistence of this social component, as well as the importance of Indian towns for preservation of Indians and their identity. The author understands the Indians as active social agents, with a strong capacity for adjustment and adaptation. In many cases this adjustment contributed to their historical invisibility, which contributed to their survival. Their importance in the process of the formation of the Cuban nation has not yet been truly recognized.
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