|Anthropology, Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Census/Demographics, History, Media Archive, United States on 2015-04-22 19:18Z by Steven|
The Associated Press
SAN LORENZO, Puerto Rico (AP) — In Puerto Rico’s misty, bamboo-studded mountains, elementary school students are studying a nearly extinct language, beating on drums and growing native crops like cassava and sweet potato as they learn about the indigenous people who lived on the island before Christopher Columbus.
The children in four towns in the island’s southeast corner play a ceremonial ball game that was called batey by the native Tainos, who were all but wiped out during colonial times. The boys and girls also learn words from the local Arawak language, which was in part rebuilt with help from linguists, and still exists in varying forms among other native groups in the hemisphere.
Now, a group of academics and educators hope to expand the Taino education program to other public schools around the U.S. territory in an effort to teach children this little known part of the territory’s history.
“If you don’t know your roots, you don’t know yourself,” said anthropologist Carlalynne Yarey Melendez, director of the Taino cultural organization that runs the educational program. “There are so many communities and schools that want the classes, but I can’t keep up with the demand.”
Puerto Ricans’ interest in the territory’s indigenous past has grown in recent years, with 42,000 of the 3.7 million people then living on the island identifying themselves as at least partially Taino in the 2010 Census.
But even though that’s just a little more than 1 percent, Puerto Rico’s legislature is considering a proposal to declare Melendez’s Naguake organization to be the island’s first indigenous-based community. The designation would allow it to receive federal funds under a program that aids native groups, and expand the program to other towns…
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