Who were the Taíno?
The Taíno were an indigenous people who mainly inhabited the island of Puerto Rico before the arrival of the Europeans. The Taíno became extinct in the 15th century after being subjected to violence and disease after colonization.
DNA evidence is helping people of today discover their Taíno heritage. In the 2020 U.S. Census, over 92,000 people in Puerto Rico self-identified as Indigenous; which aligns with recent scientific evidence that suggests that modern-day Puerto Ricans have approximately 14% Taíno DNA.
The Taíno were a peaceful people who loved nature and spending time outdoors. In fact, the word “Taíno,” itself, means peace and goodness. This group of indigenous people has a rich history of cultural traditions and art.
About the Conference Logo
Region II Head Start Association is grateful to hold its annual conference on Taíno land. As a way to show appreciation, gratitude, and respect to the Taíno culture, the Region II Head Start Association has incorporated Taíno symbols and artwork into its conference logo – the sun god.
The Taíno used petroglyphs (rock carvings made by pecking directly on the rock surface using a stone chisel and hammerstone) for written communication. In the past, written communication was difficult and time-consuming; therefore, if something was given a symbol by the Taíno, it was very important to the culture.
The Taíno were polytheists and worshipped gods called zemis. Incorporated into the conference logo is the symbol for the Taíno sun god. This symbol is depicted in a petroglyph located in Jayuya, Puerto Rico, and is often referred to as “El sol de Jayuya.” In Taíno culture, the sun represents everything from the rise of a new day, warmth, light, health, the circle of life, strength, and power. The sun god is considered one of the most powerful gods in Taíno culture. It has been widely used and is one of the most recognized symbols of Taíno heritage.
About the Awards
Our awards this year feature the Taíno cemi stone. Cemi or zemi, are deities or ancestral spirits in Taíno religion and is also the name for the sculptural object depicting the god or spirit. Many scholars believe that the three-pointed cemi stone was meant to mirror the shape of the nearby mountain range, Tres Picachos, which had a special importance for members of the Taíno community of Puerto Rico.
There were three main religious practices in Taino culture:
Religious worship to the cemi themselves;
Dancing in village courts during special festivals, and
The consultation to the cemi for advice and healing by medicine men or priests.
These practices were performed in public ceremonies with song and dance and often involved the use of a sculptural cemi.
Region II Head Start Association is proud to present these awards, which hold a special meaning of thanks to both the recipients and the past, current, and future Indigenous stewards of Puerto Rico. We are so fortunate to share this experience together.
We hope you will join us at the 2023 Region II Conference in Puerto Rico this year. The Conference will be hosted October 16th-19th this year. To register and view accommodations, click here.