Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1493 Taino cacique
Subjectcacique chief
Culture: Taino
Setting: Caribbean 15thc

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Deagan/Cruxent 2002 p31-32
"Taíno caciques could be either men or women (although male caciques were far more common than female), and they wielded a great deal of centralized political and ritual power.  They were able to command labor, material goods, and possibly tribute.  They lived in special houses, wore special garments, were carried on litters, and ate special food.  The caciques, along with other members of elite lineages, practiced polygyny, and paramount chiefs were said to have had as many as twenty or thirty wives.
    "The various noble clans of Hispaniola interacted regularly with one another through intermarriage, ritual gift exchange, official visits, and political alliances.  They also engaged in warfare, which has been interpreted by some as indicating an emerging class-stratified society.  Although inter-chiefdom warfare took place among the Taínos of Hispaniola to resolve territorial or political disputes, the various Taíno chiefdoms did have a common enemy before the arrival of the Spaniards.  The Island Caribs, a poorly understood group who lived in the Lesser Antilles, were apparently feared by Taínos throughout the Bahamas and Greater Antilles."


* Deagan/Cruxent 2002 p27-30
"The Spaniards were fascinated by the absence of clothing among the Indians of Hispaniola, and Columbus used the adjective desnudos some thirteen times in his Diario of the first voyage. He reported to Ferdinand and Isabela that 'the people of this island ... all go naked, men and women, as their mothers bore them, although some women cover a single place with the leaf of a plant, or with a net of cotton which they make for the purpose."


* Deagan/Cruxent 2002 p29-30
"The Taínos, like the Spaniards, used a variety of personal adornments. Body paint was apparently common and noted by many chroniclers, including Columbus: 'Some of them paint themselves black ... and others paint themselves white, and some red, and others what they find.'  Dr. Chanca's comments about Taíno personal decoration are typically ethnocentric and considerably more negative: 'The decoration of men and women among them is to paint themselves, some with black, others with white and red, becoming such sights that to see them is good reason for laughter.  Their heads are shaved in places and in places have tufts of tangled hair in such shapes that it cannot be described.  In conclusion, whatever there in our Spain they might wish to do to the head of a madman, here the best of them would regard as a great honor.[']
    "The Taínos practiced face and body piercing as part of personal adornment, using ear plugs, nose ornaments, and labrets (lip plugs) made of stone, bone, wood, shell and gold. ...  They also made and wore finely carved beads, pendants, and amulets of stone, shell, bone, or gold.  Fray Pané reported that some of the stone ornaments known as cibas were tied about the neck and arms, and these probably had ritual significance.  They may have functioned as protection or as supplication to the spirits in the manner described by Peter Martyr D'Anghiera: 'The Indians call these images zemes, of which the smallest of them, which represent little devils, they wear in front when they go to fight enemies; attached by cords which you see.  They think that they obtain from these the rain when it is lacking, and the sun when they need it.'
    "Caciques also wore metal ornaments known as guanines in the ears, 'which they perforate when they are small.'  The metal was an alloy of gold and copper, probably obtained through trade with South America."