In 1493 Christopher Columbus claimed Puerto Rico for Spain. The Taino were agricultural people enslaved and almost eliminated by the colonists. They were replaced on plantations and in sugar mills by black-African slaves. Because of small farmers,
, that raised staple crops the slave population remained small. In 1898 Puerto Rico became part of the United States as a result of the Spanish-American War. They were not granted citizenship until 1917. The right to self govern was won in 1947 and commonwealth status attained in 1952. Social and cultural tensions between the 40 percent of Puerto Ricans that live on the U.S. mainland and the remaining 60 percent on the island has created two distinct communities. The majority of the Puerto Rican population today is of Hispanic descent.
The village of Loiza Aldea’s population comes primarily from African origins. The contributions of the African culture to the music and dance of the island is evident here and can be experienced during their festivals. Taino language , food and musical instruments also survived. Puerto Ricans still use the Taino name, Borinquen, for the island in honor of the Taino history and culture.
The Golden Flower
introduces us to the Taino people. A small child walks the dry land in search of food. He finds none but catches several small seeds floating on the wind. His attention to these small pieces of nature holds the key to the land called Borinquen. This land gives them all they need to live a full life. The respect the Taino have for nature is seen in the seed necklaces crafted by the Puerto Rican people today. Seeds are never discarded but saved and strung for adornment and pleasure. Rather than ignoring seeds contained in our foods we will collect, catalogue and prepare seeds for necklaces and future planting. Soft seeds such as peas are best strung when frozen and allowed to air dry while hard seed shells such as the sunflower should be soaked in warm water to soften the outer layer.
Two pre-Columbian instruments used by the indigenous people were the guiro and maracas. Guiros were made from dried , scored long neck gourds. A metal fork was then scraped across the ridges producing a rasping sound. Gourds can also be dried for maracas. The small rounded ones most resemble the nuts from the calabash tree originally used. Cut holes in each end and allow to air dry. (Keep in mind the size of the dowel you wish to use.) This can take several weeks. For this reason collect , we cut and dry gourds during October when they are plentiful in local grocery stores. They are stored for later use . Dried seeds are put into the gourds and a stick or dowel inserted through both holes
Arnaldo Roche Rabell (1955) was born in Puerto Rico and bridges art and nature in his oil on canvas painting entitled “You Know I Am Aware”. Through an intricate process of scraping paint off the prepared canvas he created a face of leaves peering out into the world. It is part of the collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. We will examine how camouflage can protect living organisms while posing the question, “What is nature aware of?”. Oil crayons layered on thick paper and painted over with black tempera can allow students to explore this technique of scraping away color to produce a picture.