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Archaeology of Early Colonial Interaction at El Chorro de Maíta, Cuba$

Roberto Valcárcel Rojas

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780813061566

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813061566.001.0001

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An Indian Town in Times of the Encomienda

An Indian Town in Times of the Encomienda

(p.299) 8 An Indian Town in Times of the Encomienda
Archaeology of Early Colonial Interaction at El Chorro de Maíta, Cuba

Roberto Valcárcel Rojas

University Press of Florida

Abstract and Keywords

Chapter 8 interprets the results of diverse lines of evidence. The demographic differences and mortuary behavior between locals and non-locals, the ethnic composition of the burial population, the chronology of the cemetery and of the non-funerary zones, the particulars of the material culture present, and the historic information for the zone where the site is located, identify this place as a town of Indian encomendados. The cemetery developed under pressure from the Spanish but appears to be maintained by the indigenous population. It is a place of syncretic character that combines diverse cultural traditions and reflects the needs of a region of intense colonial activity. Evidence of Christianization, the abandonment of indigenous practices, such as cranial modification, and the burial of individuals in clothing point to the appearance of the Indio as an individual adjusted to colonial requirements. This place appears as a stage in the process of transculturation in which new individuals emerged (Indians, mestizos, criollos).

Keywords:   Syncretism, Encomienda, Christianization, Indian, Transculturation, Colonialism

The interaction with the Europeans at El Chorro de Maíta was not sporadic or occasional, or brief and centered in capturing exotic components of Spanish materiality, or the exchange of goods and knowledge. A possible initial insertion into the site in a contact situation cannot be ignored, but the aspects of interaction seem to be, as we will see, of a colonial situation.

In this chapter the results of the archaeological investigations in the different areas, and the historic and archaeological information available, are combined to propose an interpretation of the contexts and the indigenous–European interaction on the site. The ideas discussed in chapter 2 frame the analysis of the structuring of Spanish domination and the changes and responses of the indigenous society.

Dominion over the Living Space

Origin, Mobility, and Status of the Mortuary Population

An important aspect of colonial domination was the adaptation of the indigenous society to Spanish economic interests. Colonial domination was based on intensive exploitation that affected the local demography. Loss of the population was compensated with the import of slave labor, first indigenous and later African. This process resulted in multiethnic landscapes where the tasks and positions of workers were adjusted according to their legal and social status, and, above all, according to Spanish economic requirements and dynamics.

The mortuary population in the cemetery at El Chorro de Maíta is basically indigenous, but it includes non-indigenous individuals. Our analyses indicate that the presence of the latter is minimal. However, it could have been more important, because the craniometric evidence used to determine origin ancestry could not be considered for 59 individuals. There is still the (p.300) possibility that some, even with modification, had a non-indigenous ancestral filiation, with a greater probability of mestizo origin.

It is evident that a large group of individuals associated with migratory processes were incorporated into the cemetery. This incorporation forces the careful analysis of the demographic information, because it is not a stable population, nor does it have a homogeneous residence. However, due to the local character of the majority of individuals analyzed to determine territorial origin, and because the cemetery seems to have been established to function within the immediate settlement, many of the people buried in it probably lived on the site. This possibility is sustained by the mostly balanced demographic structure in terms of sex and age of the locals compared to the non-locals.

Although the presence of one individual of Maya origin from Yucatán as part of a casual or autonomous movement is not impossible, it is not probable. If the existence of an African individual is considered to be part of a group that generally arrived to the island as slaves, then this diversity of place of origin seems to have been associated with colonial actions.

This idea is supported in the differential composition of the non-locals and the particular aspects of their mortuary treatments. The non-local indigenous individuals are mostly males, many of them adults, and are relatively younger than local adults. They have no access to ornaments, although there is some evidence of brass, so they could have worn clothing. They follow certain indigenous mortuary patterns but to a lesser extent than the locals, and they show a greater defined link with Christian burial norms. For the non-locals this indicates a limited level of access or knowledge of the customary practices of the locals, and potentially a lack of integration into their community and culture, as well as a consistent connection with Christian funerary patterns, perhaps due to greater dependence on the Spanish. It also exhibits a concentration of one sex (male) that is different from the behavior recognized in pre-Columbian sites reported in chapter 7.

This profile coincides in some ways with the Indian slaves. Although the composition of these populations varied substantially according to place and time, there were certain patterns in its structure. According to Deive (1995:409) the age of these individuals was between 10 and 25 years old; they were mostly males, although women were also imported, as were a few children and elders. Women and young men were more costly; very few children survived the voyage at sea (Mira Caballos 1997:289).

Expeditions from Cuba went in search of slaves in the Bahamas, the Guanaja Islands off the Honduran coast, La Florida, and Colombia (Sued Badillo (p.301) 2001:89; Worth 2004). In 1517 Francisco Hernández de Córdova, commissioned by Diego Velázquez, arrived on the Yucatán Peninsula and initiated in the following years a slave trade in which Cuba played an important role. Between 1533 and 1544 numerous indigenous slave from Yucatán, Panuco (Mexico), and various islands are reported in Baracoa and Puerto Príncipe (Portuondo 2012:33; Sarmiento 1973:101).

The predominance of males among non-locals coincides with the slave profile, but the age is somewhat high for the pattern provided by Deive. Nonetheless, acquiring slaves was a difficult task, and any part of the available population would be taken. On the other hand, the age of the majority of males (26–35 years) is within the range of physically capable individuals. Of course, not all of the non-locals must have been slaves; the presence of older adults could be explained in part as allegados (see chapter 2), a refugee population from Cuban areas outside of the strontium isotope range for El Chorro de Maíta, or encomendados who were moved away from their original settlement.

The African individual follows a Christian burial pattern. This pattern includes the possibility of using clothes, which is inferred from the presence of aglets as well as taphonomic details. It contains proper features of the enslaved population of this origin, in common with the other non-locals in age and sex (male of 26–35 years of age). There is the possibility, albeit minimal, that he was a free servant. Some slaves led labor crews to achieve the demora. On occasion, due to military achievements or important services, they obtained their freedom, and a few (although we are not sure of any such cases in Cuba), were encomenderos (Restall 2000).

We have not found any information regarding Mesoamerican natives in Cuba that were free during the early moments of colonization. The non-locals, like slaves, would be found from the first moment under direct control of the Europeans and, as such, potentially obliged to accept conversion to Christianity and adopt the use of Christian mortuary practices, which could explain the tendency for a consistent use of these patterns.

In historical terms, considering the chronology of the site and the cemetery, the existence of slaves, and the potential connection of the local natives with the immediate settlement, as well as age and sex structure, it is acceptable to assume that the latter was an encomendada population. Encomendados was the legal status that the Spanish imposed on the Cuban natives, except in the case of enslavement for participating in war or rebel acts.

Differential patterns arise when the local indigenous population of the El Chorro de Maíta cemetery is compared with other pre-Columbian Antillean sites. A notable aspect is the distribution of sex (Figure 8.1). Of the four pre-Columbian (p.302) sites where data were obtained, only one has a predominantly female burial population.1 In the rest the majority of the individuals are males, or the sex ratio is reported as balanced. According to Curet (2005:212), this pattern is considered to be normal. In El Chorro de Maíta there are more women, a situation accentuated when you consider only the local natives. This is congruent with historical data from Cuba and Hispaniola that reports a higher mortality for females in encomendado settlements (Moya Pons 1982:129; Mira Caballos 1997:Cuadro IV). As a complementary aspect one can observe the different sex structure of locals and non-locals (Figure 8.1).

The mortality comparison of the different age groups maintains that the local natives had a lesser number of infants and a greater presence of children between five and nine years of age in El Chorro de Maíta. The group of adults of 18–25 years falls to the levels of pre-Columbian sites, but the groups between 26–35 and 36–45 years fall below, maintaining only some parity with the group of over 46 years of age (Figure 8.2). It is of note that these groups tend to show fewer males than females.

If we assume that the locals are members of the same indigenous community, then this pattern is somewhat adjusted to the one described for encomendados

An Indian Town in Times of the Encomienda

Figure 8.1. Mortality rates according to the sex of adults at pre-Columbian sites in Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, and El Chorro de Maíta.

(p.303) settlements with a temporary or permanent absence of the population that is most physically suited to labor, in particular, males. That would explain the low numbers of males in the groups of 26–35 and 36–45 years, when compared to pre-Columbian data. In this regard one would expect a lower number in the 18–25-years group. There should also be a greater number of elders and infants, the people that were left behind in the villages, although the small number of children could be explained by lower birth rates.

The idea of local encomendados is reasonable in light of colonial practices, although the width of the strontium local range allows for the potential presence of Cuban indigenous locals from various places, with a local range and a diverse status, without excluding that of the slaves and naborías. The possibility that the majority of the locals represent an encomendada population is aligned with details of the mortuary behavior.

In practice the life of an encomendado Indian was not necessarily better than that of a slave, but they had acknowledged legal rights that were denied to the slaves. Among the most important for the situation under study was the prerogative of keeping themselves under the leadership of a cacique, a person with preferential access to some objects and with differential treatment. They also had to be allowed to return to their villages after the demora,

An Indian Town in Times of the Encomienda

Figure 8.2. Mortality rates of age groups in the general population and local individuals in the cemetery at El Chorro de Maíta compared with pre-Columbian sites in Puerto Rico.

(p.304) where they frequently would keep their traditional ways with little interest in Christian habits and practices. Certain age groups and females who were pregnant or had small children were exempt from work or from certain tasks. In El Chorro de Maíta this could have been expressed in greater liberty, with respect to non-locals, to maintain traditional mortuary practices. Furthermore, perhaps some had the capacity to carry or possess high-status symbols in life and to carry them to their deaths (e.g., the leading elite recognized by the Spaniards). From this perspective, and according to the managed probabilities, this attitude would be enhanced because they (the locals) are found in their own communal space or near to it, and potentially because family connections had been maintained.

The presence of possible mestizos or individuals that include a non-indigenous ancestral component (Nos. 4, 22, and 81) makes it difficult to explain. The initial mortuary treatment cannot be established for individual No. 22, while individual No. 81 might have been disposed in an extended position. Both are altered by very flexed burials of indigenous individuals within a range of local origin (see Table 7.4). Individual No. 22 is distinguished by the dental analysis, which identified enamel hypoplasia, an important indicator of dietary deficiency. Individual No. 4 was slightly altered and found in a semi-flexed position.

The way in which the graves and remains of individuals No. 22 and 81 were altered is related to the dynamics of the cemetery and, in the case of individual No. 81, with a situation of high-paced burials peculiar to a moment of high mortality. At the same time it suggests that they did not receive treatment different from the other indigenous individuals because they had another ethnic identity. In the same sense, the indicators of dietary deficiencies in individual No. 22 reveal similar, or perhaps worse, life conditions than those of the indigenous individuals. It is distinctive that the patterns of the radiocarbon dates point to distortions determined by a high consumption of fish. This is a detail indicating that his diet could have been similar to the indigenous dietary practices.

The semi-flexed deposition of individual No. 4 suggests that this individual also received indigenous treatment and may have possessed this identity. If individual No. 22—“White European and Hispanic/Guatemalan”—was considered “white or Spanish,” then he must have come from a very humble social standing and lived in a rural environment of the period, because he ended up in the same place where the indigenous were interred and could not repose in a regular Spanish burial in a church.

It is difficult to know whether these individuals coexisted with the indigenous (p.305) inhabitants of the site, a situation that is more likely if they were mestizos. In any case, their presence demonstrates the importance of the cemetery as a space open to diverse ethnic characters.

It would not be strange that the population of the site was encomendada, because encomendados towns are reported nearby at essentially the same time as the settlement and the cemetery. In 1526 indigenes from the Bani province were entrusted to Manuel de Rojas, according to the residence judgment against Gonzalo de Guzmán, carried out in 1530 and published in part by Mira Caballos (1997:Appendix XV, 425). In 1528 Gonzalo de Guzmán had an Indian town close to Bocas de Bani, which as we will see shortly is possibly the current Banes Bay, some 27 km from El Chorro de Maíta (Real Academia de la Historia 1888:4:233).

Important People: A Woman with Guanines

Individual No. 57A is a woman with evidence of objects of exceptional character (guanines), proper to the pre-Columbian times of the native elite and later used by the Europeans in exchanges with the indigenous population, especially in the interaction with the power strata. This individual also possesses uncommon ornaments such as pearls and valuable pieces such as quartzite beads that are notable for their reduced size and associated with highly complex craftsmanship. It is a large ornamental set, which between the metal and other material, is composed of 109 pieces, 44 percent of all of the ornaments found in the entire cemetery (n = 247 pieces, including the brass adornment from individual No. 25). There is also evidence of the use of clothing: an aglet, certain taphonomic aspects, and the presence of a valuable European textile. The Christian burial pattern is well defined, except for the Northwest orientation of the head.

It is difficult to establish the exact social position, but without doubt she was an important person, perhaps of the rank of cacica. Because she was a woman, one could argue that she achieved or improved her status through marital links with a Spaniard. However, the postmortem manipulation of her cranium (i.e., present in few individuals and of clear indigenous character) suggests a condition related to native perspectives. The exchange of guanines or their use as gifts was a practice in the contact situation in Hispaniola and perhaps also in Cuba. The evidence of a valuable textile reinforces the idea that the woman received special materials from the Europeans as clear acknowledgment of her special position; this makes the procurement of guanín feasible in that same way.

The delivery of these objects by the Spanish does not seem to make much (p.306) sense in a situation of colonial domination, where the link with the natives was determined by Spanish control and force. But we do not exclude circumstances such as, in particular, the special service of the natives, or close relationships such as matrimony or concubinage. We must remember that the European interest in the guanín was variable, so it might have been used in diverse ways. Even when there is no definitive answer, various explanations can be advanced.

  1. 1) They were objects present here before Europeans arrived. This is thought to be the least likely of the explanations based on the known facts.

  2. 2) They reached people of high status at the site or the zone from exchange or gifts made at the time of contact. They were gathered or transmitted through inheritance or through links of intercommunity alliances to this woman. Very close to the site, in Santana Sarmiento, there is a piece of guanín or tumbaga of Zenú origin, and in El Boniato there is a laminar pendant of guanín (Valcárcel Rojas, R., M. Martinón-Torres, J. Cooper and Rehren 2007), which suggests some regularity of the practice and the Spanish interest in the indigenous hierarchy of the zone.

  3. 3) They were given in colonial times.

    1. a) The woman’s status might have been enhanced by a personal link on the order of marriage or concubinage with a Spaniard. Similar situations have been well documented in Hispaniola and Cuba, reaching even to the male elite, with clear evidence of the many ways the Spaniards used to manipulate this stratum. An interesting example is mentioned by Oswaldo Morales Patiño (1951:381). It deals with the Indian Juan de Argote, supposedly married by Vasco Porcallo de Figueroa to his daughter, the mestiza María de Figueroa. It is believed that he must have been the son of a cacique and that Porcallo married him to his daughter to gain legitimate rights to his land and a greater authority over the natives. In 1562 Juan de Argote declared himself to be over 90 years, and he was respected and considered to be a “hombre principal” (leading man) by the members of the Cabildo de Puerto Príncipe. The story is based on a case of acknowledging and manipulating the indigenous elite, which transcends the end of the encomienda, since the individual continues to be acknowledged by the Spaniards.

    2. b) It could have been a gift or payment. In 1528 Gonzalo de Guzmán (p.307) rewarded the Indians of the Bocas de Bani for their help in the rescue of merchandise from a shipwreck. The details of what was given, 50 shirts and tools, indicate the relevance of this service (Real Academia de la Historia 1888:4:233). The pay for the indigenous labor, called cacona, was regulated by law. In 1544 the Bayamo Indians still received it, but not with the appropriate regularity (Sarmiento 1973:99).

The acquisition of the pieces in either of the last two possibilities connects the elite with Spanish action and their maneuvers to control it. One can assume there was a certain indigenous autonomy at the time the burials were carried out, because the objects were used in this context. The minimal presence of metal ornaments in funerary spaces has been explained, including by the exhaustive Spanish looting, as an expression of their high value, scarce availability, and delivery to participants in funerary rites as part of strategies to maintain or create alliances between indigenous leaders (Oliver 2000:198).

Considering the post-contact inhumation of this individual and the circumstances discussed regarding the formation of the cemetery, the scene changes and is marked by existential stress and a demographic crisis. The common practices had to be readjusted because the reality that justified them had changed, and perhaps even the vision of fate after death. There came to be no neighboring or allied caciques with whom to share the symbols of leadership and power, and the solution was taking them to the other existence, as it was understood by the traditional rituals, or perhaps some place promised by the Christians but in an old indigenous way.

Estancias, Encomiendas, and the Early Colonial Economy in Yaguajay

Yaguajay seems to be inserted in an environment of colonial organization where the control of El Chorro de Maíta was important. An investigation of early historic sources by John Worth and cited by Persons et al. (2007:37–42), suggests the relevance of Yaguajay due to the registration of the nearby coast in the maritime documentation of the period, particularly in the guide prepared by Alonso de Chaves. Called Espejo de Navegantes and written by Chaves from information obtained between 1520 and 1530 (Castañeda Delgado et al. 1983), this guide is of great value for understanding traffic along the Cuban coast and the relationship between the ports and geographical features.

According to Worth, the section in the guide located between Puerto de Manatíes and Punta de Cubanacán corresponds to the current coastal stretch between Bahía de Manatí and Punta de Mula. The correlation of the old name (p.308) of the ports with the actual geographical names is complex, and some of the places that Worth identified might be incorrect. The same thing happened with Bocas de Bani, which is proposed to correspond with Bahía de Nipe. However, I believe that the description gathered by Chaves does not coincide with this place, and that it better fits with the nearby Bahía de Banes.2

In any case, Worth’s general positioning of the coastal stretch seems to be appropriate and points to the acknowledgment of a large number of ports in that area in the early sixteenth century. In fact, it has the highest concentration of ports on the island, considering the extent of the coastal segment. The stretch is registered with greater precision and detail than in other parts of Cuba, which suggests that the pilots and seafarers of the time had ample knowledge of the area because of its greater maritime traffic. The names of some of the ports mentioned by Chaves—port of Duero, of Hernando Alonso, of Narváez—coincide with important people of the period, such as Andrés de Duero, Hernando Alonso, and Pánfilo de Narváez. For Worth, this reflects connections between the coastal spaces and interior areas, where wealthy colonists were involved and possessed encomiendas.

The book by Chaves indicates that Bocas de Bani was an entrance located two leagues to the east-southeast of the Punta de Cubanacán. According to what has been seen, Gonzalo de Guzmán had his “Indians there,” a detail consistent with the possibility that other nearby settlements, among them El Chorro de Maíta, were also encomendados. There could also have been mining interests in the use of these encomiendas, because gold nuggets have been found in the northwestern part of the Cerro de Yaguajay. One of them is considered to be among the largest nuggets ever found on the island (Guarch Delmonte 1988:170).

The exploitation of alluvial gold even today is maintained at an artisanship level in Cuatro Palmas, 9 km west of El Chorro de Maíta. Cuatro Palmas forms part of a zone known as Río de Oro (River of Gold), a name that is also used for the nearby River Naranjo. The most important gold deposits closest to the site are in Aguas Claras and Guajabales, some 45 km west of El Chorro de Maíta. These were exploited in the sixteenth century (Albanés 1971; Marrero 1993b:18).

Manuel de Rojas sent his Indians to the Bani province to the mines of Puerto Príncipe, some 200 km from the Banes area, according to the Marrero map (1993b:back cover). It was this way until 1526, when he abandoned them in favor of Pero de Guzmán, because he did not want to move them so far away, due to the effects of such movement, and to the disgust of the encomendados (Mira Caballos 1997:425). If Indians from Bani covered such (p.309) great distances, it is very probable that they also worked or had worked in nearby places such as Aguas Claras and perhaps Yaguajay.

The concentration of population at mines and nearby mining labor must have been supported by farms (estancias) established to provide food. Such labor might have taken place in the zone next to the coast described by Chaves, using the many cited ports for the entry and exit of goods, products, and peoples. An aspect congruent with this view is the discovery of early type Olive Jar sherds in the Río Naranjo site. This archaeological space is located in a river mouth that opens toward the bay of the same name, identified by Worth as the Narváez port (Persons et al. 2007:38). Because of the topography and the materials found—only European ceramics so far—it could have been an embarkation point linked to early colonial traffic.

The Río Naranjo site is located only 6 km to the northeast of El Chorro de Maíta, and 2.5 km from the gold zone of Cuatro Palmas. The El Porvenir site, 3.3 km from El Chorro de Maíta, has a lot of evidence of interaction with the Spanish and is integrated within the setting of colonial activity near Yaguajay. Among its materials, the presence of horseshoes is distinctive. Horses were scarce and costly during the first stages of the conquest. In 1519 Hernán Cortez was able to take only 16 of them to Mexico, a number considered to be large. The numbers would only grow due to local breeding, making it an important economic activity in the following years. Due to their value in continental incursions, the price of horses was so high that in 1579 one horse cost almost as much as an estancia (Marrero 1993b:93, 94).

Horseshoes appear in other contexts with a large presence of Spanish material and of a late profile, such as El Yayal and Alcalá, in the latter of which the skeleton of a horse was found (Valcárcel Rojas 1997:69). This suggests a link with enclaves of intense economic exploitation in colonial times. There is also a noticeable presence of pig in El Porvenir. From this data we can discard the predominance of a contact situation in El Porvenir, considering it instead a site revealing colonial interaction and perhaps contemporaneous with El Chorro de Maíta.

We do not know the historical data regarding indigenous villages where indigenous, African, and mestizos were concentrated, which could be correlated with what is seen in El Chorro de Maíta. However, this pattern occurred in Spanish estancias, farms where the colonists or their administrators or stewards lived, which were dedicated to agriculture, ranching, and/or pig breeding (Le Riverend 1992:24–25). By 1537 the register of 22 estancias in the Santiago de Cuba jurisdiction shows 10 of them with a mixed population. In total, there were 92 Indian encomendados, 56 slave Indians, and 193 African (p.310) slaves. According to Mira Caballos (1997:Cuadro XX), who published these data, the African predominance is due to the preferential use of Indians in the mines and of blacks in estancias and sugar mills.

This still unedited register is also referred to by Levi Marrero (1993b:112) and was consulted by the author in the Archivo General de Indias (General Archives of the Indies).3 It provides details of great interest, such as a description of a visit made by Gonzalo de Guzmán, lieutenant governor of the island, to the estancias of Santiago de Cuba. The purpose of the visit was to determine whether the regulations were being met regarding the treatment of encomendados and slaves, especially their living conditions and their religious instruction (AGI, Santo Domingo 77, Ramo 4, Número 98).

This document reports that several of the encomendados, originally from the island, were outside of the estancias because they were in their towns at the time of the visit. Among the Indian slaves there were some non-Cubans, originally from the Guanaja Islands. Many of the encomendado Indians were ladinos; in other words, they spoke Spanish and had Christian names as well as life experiences with the Spanish. Certain Indians declared that they also served in mines, and there is mention of a cacique and also a “principal Indian” in charge of the local natives from the two estancias. These details confirm the existence of indigenous villages with a population that moves to the estancias for the demora, and the permanence of indigenous hierarchies or leadership in the workspace.

A general census of the laborers under the control of the residents of Sancti Spíritus and Trinidad in 1534 reflects the strength of the indigenous component: 269 Indian encomendados, 180 Indian slaves, and 28 black slaves (Mira Caballos 1997:Cuadro XIX). The indigenes that worked in the mines resided in their own village when they were not in the demora, as demonstrated by the organization of the Indian encomendados in Guaycanama in 1532 (Marrero 1993b:10). Frequently, they were also forced to work in haciendas and estancias, even during the resting period.

The mines were another space of ethnic convergence, because slaves, black and indigenous, labored in them according to the economic possibilities and interests of their owners and certain regulations of the colonial administration. Agricultural, livestock, and mining enterprises were environments of sexual interaction and colonial domination, marked by the harsh treatment of the workers. In the estancias of Santiago de Cuba various managers were cohabitating with female Indians. Their population included small children of various origins, including mestizos. In almost all of them, the Africans and natives would complain about their malnutrition, their poor or lack of (p.311) religious education, and, in many cases, punishment. There is even mention of an Indian that followed orders of the Spanish by watching over the work of the other Indians in the mines, who denounced their mistreatment by this Indian servant (AGI, Santo Domingo 77, Ramo 4, Número 98).

After the imposition of the encomienda in 1513, many indigenous villages in Cuba remained inhabited by the original population and came to be known as Indian towns (pueblos de indios). As seen in the repartos, among them the one from 1526, a large number of the encomendados are referred to by the name of their communities and caciques (Torres de Mendoza 1880:4:109–128). Even in 1544 Bishop Sarmiento comments on Indians that continue to live in these communities (Sarmiento 1973). The Spanish apparently did not live there, although in Baitiquiri, near Santiago de Cuba, three that were found in one of these towns were killed by Indians during a revolt (Marrero 1993a:187). However, there is no precise information concerning whether they were based there or if they were passing by. An indigenous objection to the presence of Spanish in their communities is apparent from the documents. The usual mechanism was to visit the place when the Indians were taken to work.

I do not exclude that towns with an encomendada population were converted into places of Spanish economic exploitation, especially in faraway locations that were near areas of economic interest, such as the mines. In 1518 when Hernán Cortés prepared his trip to Mexico, “envió un navío a la punta de Guaniguanico, a un pueblo que allí estaba de indios, que hacían cazabe y tenían muchos puercos, para que cargase el navío de tocinos, porque aquella estancia era del gobernador Diego Velázquez” (“he sent a ship to the Guaniguanico cape, to a town of Indians that was in the area, that made cassava and had many pigs, so they could fill the ship with bacon, because that was the estancia of Diego Velázquez”) (Díaz del Castillo 1963:70). The Indians were part of Velázquez’s encomienda, as is made known when they are again granted to a resident of Havana around 1526; at this time they still lived in the same town (Mira Caballos 1997:Appendix XV, 417).

The previous information is confusing, but it leaves open the possibility of an estancia attached to the same Indian town. In other words, an Indian town was probably converted to an estancia or rural farm. This is congruent with the idea maintained by some researchers that the encomienda entailed the Spanish use of the indigenous land and its crops, even when the distribution of land was an independent act (Novoa Betancourt 2008:19). This transformation makes a lot of sense if we remember that the indigenous settlements used places of great environmental quality, with ease of access to diverse resources that were essential to any occupation, permanent as well (p.312) as provisional. This would also allow for the direct control of the workforce. From this information, a hypothesis can be made that in the indigenous town of El Chorro de Maíta, with an encomendada population, an economic activity was established under Spanish control that was linked to the agricultural-ranching or mining exploitation, with or without resident Spaniards.

The estancias were characterized by the presence of one or various bohíos and by minor equipment that included indigenous and European tools. In 1579 a ranch near Havana had four hoes, 10 machetes, two burenes, two bucanes (this could be a barbecue used for roasting meat, or perhaps a cibucán, which is a compression basket used to extract the toxic juices from the yuca), one grindstone, one hivis (an instrument used to refine the yuca flour during the making of cassava), and one toa (there is no description of this tool) (Marrero 1993b:113). The situation was similar in other islands and was more accentuated in the early moments of the colonization, as is illustrated in the 1511 inventory of the estancias of Nicolás de Ovando, in Hispaniola (Chacón y Calvo 1929:351–358). Of interest is the lack of mention or limited presence of weapons, furniture, or domestic utensils, such as tableware and storage vessels, a situation referred to even in enclaves of greater importance due to their size and number of workers, such as the Toa royal haciendas in Puerto Rico between 1514 and 1528 (Sued Badillo 2001:291–294).

The mining camps, located near the mines where the indigenous or African labor force resided while gold was extracted, used straw sheds or canopies prepared for the occasion. The equipment was poor but contained a greater diversity of tools than did the estancias. Sued Badillo describes those used in Puerto Rico: wooden trays, hoes, iron bars and jimmies, levers, almocafres, picks and axes, and, to a lesser degree, machetes and ropes. With the exception of the trays, everything else was imported from Castilla. The food (cassava, pig, fish) also came from other places (Sued Badillo 2001:310, 323, 327). In the majority of cases, there was no access to the variety of tools previously mentioned. Costs were reduced by using the largest number of workers possible and investing little in equipment. On occasion the Indians had to work with their own wooden and stone tools. According to Sued Badillo (2001:327), one way to attempt to make production profitable was to concentrate workers in the indigenous settlements and use them as mining camps.

The presence of iron artifacts is very limited in El Chorro de Maíta, although we do not exclude the possibility that cultural materials, especially ceramics, were comparable to those in estancias and mining camps, from the simple equipment utilized at many of these places. In any case, the Indian settlements offered a very important resource: the bohíos (huts) needed to (p.313) shelter the labor force. The pig remains that have so far been analyzed for strontium isotopes do not show any local animals, which suggests that food was imported to sustain the workers, a common practice of the period. Such a possibility seems to have little congruence with an estancia or with a settlement of Indian encomendados, because both enclaves could have fostered pig breeding. At this time it is difficult to determine what happened, because only a few of animals have been analyzed.

The place could also have served to support tasks for activities developed in nearby enclaves—mining or agriculture, for example. A characteristic aspect of the site’s ceramic assemblage is the abundance of Olive Jars, which are typical storage vessels. Their use is common in indigenous sites with European materials (Domínguez 1978, 1984), but in El Chorro de Maíta they achieve a particular dimension because of the poor Spanish evidence of other types of ceramics. Perhaps the natives obtained and used them due to their association with the Spanish, or in this setting the colonists may have deposited food or containers to use for storage or for transport to other places. The existence of other European ceramics, some of monetary value, and even the non-local indigenous ceramics and coins, indicates the possibility of access to Spanish materiality through the residence of Spaniards in this village or a strong relationship between the settlement and the ranches or Spanish sites in the immediate area. Of course, the location could have changed its objectives and tasks over time from its original character as a town of Indian encomendados, which perhaps included diverse activities at particular times with different levels of Spanish presence.

It emphasizes, in any case, that the Spanish presence, if it did occur, does not appear to have been numerically important. This does not imply that there was no effective control over the indigenous population. The estancias of Santiago de Cuba had on average only one individual in charge of between nine and 32 people of diverse ethnic origin, most of them males (for the composition of these estancias, see Mira Caballos [1997]:Cuadro XX). It is probable, within this hypothesis of colonial functioning, that control over the population of El Chorro de Maíta was not permanent, and that they were given space to maintain their own practices, as indicated by the cemetery.

The site was possibly related to the El Porvenir settlement within a scheme of local organization of the indigenous labor force, from which different uses were assigned to the indigenous spaces and its population. It is significant that El Porvenir, unlike El Chorro de Maíta, reports diverse weapons and tools. Perhaps its greater proximity to the coast and its location on a small elevation of the coastal plain determined functions different from those of El (p.314) Chorro de Maíta, which is far from the coast and at a relatively high altitude, with difficult access.

A region with so much colonial activity would dispose of a diverse population; because of this, many of the individuals buried in the cemetery—locals and non-locals, encomendados and slaves—could have resided in settlements somewhat close by. The residence of non-local indigenous individuals in El Chorro de Maíta cannot be discounted, because non-Antillean indigenous objects have been found at the site, and it is possible that they were imported in conjunction with the population of this type. As one individual’s origin has been identified as Yucatán, the presence of Mexican redware ceramics in non-funerary zones is very relevant. There is also evidence of Aztec IV ceramics and the possibility of a Mesoamerican origin for a guanín bell that was found with female No. 57A. The evidence of strong naval movement in nearby areas and of intense colonial economic activity could be related, from the perspective provided by such data, with the existence of long-distance connections and indigenous slave traffic from Mesoamerica and other places.

In El Porvenir the leg of a metate was found. This type of artifact is not reported in Cuban indigenous contexts. It was manufactured with local materials, and it is interpreted as the result of the presence of Mesoamerican Indians associated with colonial action (Rives 1987). There are no data concerning its contextual or chronological position, but this finding connects El Porvenir with El Chorro de Maíta to indicate Mesoamerican individuals in the area. It also indicates possible colonial mechanisms of integration in the sites of Yaguajay.

The local character of the two possible mestizos or individuals that include a non-indigenous ancestral component (Nos. 22 and 81) is peculiar. The wide range of strontium isotopes impedes the more specific evaluation of their origin, but it is Cuban. Their presence supports the idea of resident individuals of these origins here or in nearby places as part of the image of a region with strong colonial use.

Many places with rebel or fugitive populations show a multi-ethnic composition and even included Christianized individuals, but the existence of a regional context with the referred indices of colonial organization, as well as the diverse indicators of domination previously discussed, tends to rule out this possibility for El Chorro de Maíta. This idea is also questionable because of the presence of women and infants with high social status, a situation more likely to have occurred within a population adjusted to Spanish rule, but not to the circumstances of rebellion, where always, at least from the historical data, masculine individuals played a major role.

(p.315) The Spiritual Domain

Christian Indians

The establishment of the encomiendas and their influence on indigenous life generated high mortality rates. In a dramatic cycle, the diseases brought over by Europeans and Africans increased their impact due to the precarious life, nutrition conditions, and lack of immunity among the indigenous population. In the case of El Chorro de Maíta, the mortuary behavior of certain age groups, in particular children of between five and nine years of age, indicates the high possibility of the impact of epidemics. The frequency of alteration between burials, among other aspects, points to an increase in mortality rhythms chronologically connected with the indigenous–European interaction. There are no data to compare this process with a time prior to contact, but considering the potential labor status of the inhumed population in the cemetery, it seems to reflect an increase in mortality typical of Antillean colonial environments.

The extended position is clear evidence of Christian treatment in the burial of some of these individuals. The details of the graves and the disposition of the bodies refer to certain regularity, perhaps related to the action of ordering and differentiation in regard to the indigenous practices. The case of the little-flexed burials could be an indication of people related to or interested in Christianity. The extended position is found only in a third of the post-contact burials, which also show, in greater quantity, flexed positions that are indubitably indigenous. This points to a selective employment, above all in the locals where it is less frequent.

Another aspect of Christian origin could be found in the ornaments made of European materials or imported by Europeans, such as jet and coral, especially the former, which are common parts of Spanish religious paraphernalia. Of eight individuals with nonmetallic ornaments, only three—all locals, two children and a female, extended in two cases, and without cranial modification in one of the children—have evidence of such material. Due to the special character of the female (individual No. 57A), it is clear that in this group there is a link between high status and the act of Christianization.

Children and adults of the indigenous elite were at the center of the evangelizing interests, and in the colonial environment discussed in the previous paragraph, the existence of people converted to Christianity is understandable. The Christian condition could have been attributed to some children without cranial modification, therefore distinguishing a significant group of people, locals as well as non-locals. The absence of cranial modification is of great interest, because in early Christian cemeteries in the Maya zone, (p.316) this practice and other artificial modifications disappeared as part of the religious change (Cohen et al. 1997).

The Christian adjustment was accompanied by the use of clothing, referenced by the brass and taphonomic aspects, in four extended burials. From these data Christian features are manifested as the result of integrated action during which the appearance of people was transformed and the cultural and ideological baggage removed, which also supposes the renunciation or the abandonment of previous forms of mortuary treatment under pressure from the Spanish.

Christianization is most notable, because it is done in an environment where indigenous demography was high and where many of the natives did not seem to accept it, as they continued with their traditional mortuary practices. Even then, the local character of the individuals that appear to be Christians, in particular Nos. 57A and 58A, forces us to think of evangelization in the area.

In 1544 Bishop Sarmiento admits to the difficulties of the religious men in visiting areas far from the Spanish town and remaining in the Indian villages to instruct them; he insists on the lack of friars and the lack of interest of the majority in such a task. He comments on something that is not usual, the task of a Franciscan settled in Santiago de Cuba, who ensured the conversion of the Indians and visits Bayamo, Puerto Príncipe, and other places in the region (Sarmiento 1973:97–98). Puerto Príncipe is much more distant from Santiago de Cuba than the zones of Banes and Yaguajay. Eventually, access to the region was possible for the clergy, and evangelization centered on the individuals who could help sustain it: the elite and children.

A Different Cemetery

The existence of Christian Indians and their burial as such is notable, since although both were proclaimed as objectives of the colonial enterprise, there is very little information about their attainment. What stands out is the total disinterest of the encomenderos in this matter. In the estancias of Santiago de Cuba, the majority of the workers declared that they did not receive religious instruction, and many of them had not been baptized. Only some said that they were Christian, but they did not know the Hail Mary or Our Father prayers. According to the same priests, as with Bishop Sarmiento, the Indians were not interested in this creed, and the Christian ones were a minority. In the domain of Vasco Porcallo, in the center of the islands, they were few, and they served the houses of Spaniards and did not deal with other Indians (Sarmiento 1973:98).

(p.317) Information about the burial of Indians indicates that their inhumation was supposed to be in a church and in Christian cemeteries, while the data from Cuba and Hispaniola show how the encomenderos abandoned the cadavers without any funerary treatment or charged other Indians to dispose of them (Mira Caballos 2000a:155, 264). This must have been accentuated in the enclaves far from the Spanish towns where the churches and cemeteries were. Such locations were unique burial spaces appropriated for Christian use, because Christians must be buried in consecrated soil (Malvido 1997:32). The situation was so critical that in 1544 the king ordered the blessing of a site in the country to bury the blacks, to avoid bringing them to Santiago de Cuba. Another provision from 1554 indicates the benediction of locations in faraway places so that Christian Indians, slaves, and poor and miserable people who died far away from the cities would not lack ecclesiastical burial (De Altoaguirre y Duvale 1927:142; De Paredes 1973:91).

The El Chorro de Maíta cemetery lacks the regularity of orientations and the homogeneity of the burial positions recognized in cemeteries and churches in Spanish towns and in the missions in diverse parts of the continent (Graham 1995, 1998; McEwan 2001). Its internal chronology is not clear, but it assimilates bodies in indigenous positions in post-contact times that, in some cases, because of the alteration order between burials, are later than the extended burials. Due to their abundance in post-contact times, the burials in different forms of flexion (BDFF) must have been known or made in a public manner. Even when the extended burials have certain regularity, that is not due to a formal cemetery and was not made under the control of a permanent clergy, since the Christian spaces did not include burials far from the ritual.

In Spain the authorities watched to identify any attempt to avoid the standard aspects of position, orientation, and funerary paraphernalia, because it could imply the false conversion to Christianity by Jews and Moors (Martínez Gil 2000:598–601). In certain missions of La Florida, where the Spanish sought not to interfere with the native practices, the basic aspects of the Christian rituals were not modified, but instead they included indigenous components adjusted to Spanish religiosity. For example, the use of mortuary offerings was maintained but entailed objects given by the clergy, such as rosaries, crosses, and rings (McEwan 2001:636).

In early funerary contexts such as La Isabela (end of the fifteenth century) or Campeche, in Mexico (mid-sixteenth century toward the end of the seventeenth century), the burials have no ornaments, only some very simple objects of a religious nature, such as medallions and perhaps rosaries. The bodies were inhumed without clothing or were in shrouds. In the case of (p.318) Campeche, this is true for Europeans as well as indigenous natives, Africans and mestizos (Tiesler and Zabala 2010:83). In Spain during this period, the norm would be burials in shrouds or with religious habits; coffins were rarely used (Martínez Gil 2000:396).

Clothing was scarce in the sixteenth century, particularly among Indians; because of this, its use in mortuary settings at El Chorro de Maíta is peculiar. This situation is difficult to explain and points in some way to the indigenous base, where it might be considered as a kind of offering. In this sense it is relevant that the indications of clothing are found not only in the burials in the extended position but also in some of those with flexed legs. There is evidence of clothing with the African individual as well, so the use of clothing could have been due to other circumstances in some cases, for example, burials hurried during a situation of high and rapid mortality, or perhaps a certain generalization of its usage that converted clothing into a quotidian object.

The use of ornaments and of a valuable textile with female No. 57A, and the presence of ornaments in other individuals, is congruent with indigenous practices and in certain cases refers to the character of offerings, as could have happened with the clothing in various burials. From these data and considering the topics of position, orientation, and the lack of cemetery boundaries, the mortuary space ends up as a place where the indigenous decisions and attitudes regarding death are important and are framed within traditional as well as Christian perspectives. Nonetheless, these are fostered in the circumstances of interaction, given the dominant chronology of the burials and the absence of these types of contexts in Cuban and Antillean sites with Meillacan pottery. In the same way it seems to reflect different levels and moments of Spanish control over the population.

Such a setting allows us to establish the explanatory hypotheses that the conception of the cemetery was part of the solution to the needs of a mortuary organization that approximated Christian ideas, and not in a wide and coherent action of Christianization. It is very difficult to know if it was consecrated as a cemetery, because it is irregularly ordered from the perspective of this period, and the fact that it must not have been under the control of priests or clergy. There is also no answer to the question of whether the cemetery was established over a pre-Columbian burial space, although if so it acquired the character of a cemetery only in colonial times, since this concept did not exist in Cuba before the arrival of Europeans in communities like the one based at El Chorro de Maíta.

The fact that the individuals buried in Cerro de los Muertos cave are in the strontium isotope range considered local for the cemetery leaves open (p.319) the possibility of its use by the inhabitants of El Chorro de Maíta. This could have occurred primarily in pre-Columbian times, if we follow the typical mortuary behavior of the areas for this period. The cave is only 1.1 km away and is visible from El Chorro de Maíta. In it the bones of at least eight individuals were found alongside evidence of food offerings in ceramic vessels. There is no indication of interaction with Europeans (Valcárcel Rojas et al. 2003). There is also the option of the use of a rocky refuge, such as the burial found near the western border of the site (see chapter 4). The finding of a human bone fragment in Unit 10, from pre-Columbian times, suggests funerary treatments outside of the Burial Area, although it is difficult to evaluate the frequency of this practice or whether it might only reflect ritual activities.

Perhaps the presence of various estancias and Indian towns with an encomienda regimen in areas near El Chorro de Maíta justified the creation of a cemetery for a large worker population that died relatively rapidly. With this they fulfilled the minimum basic requirement of the Burgos Laws for the Indians: the burial of the bodies. Ordinance No. X indicated that in the case of estancias where there were no friars, the burial of the Indian would be done by the Spaniard in charge in the estancias’ church, and if there was no church in the place, then burial was done in a place determined by the estanciero or encomendero. Burial was required under penalty of a fine of four gold pesos; it is not specified whether it would be a Christian burial, although Muro (1956) assumed that it was when he analyzed the laws.

The cemetery possibly emerged through the interests of the estancieros and encomenderos for burying the encomendados Indians and slaves. The Christian character of particular Indians could also have provided an incentive. If people from nearby places were moving there, then there must have been some knowledge among individuals that controlled the estancias or other Spanish enclaves about this place, and a level of acceptance of its use. Nonetheless, the various forms of body disposition were, as occurred on many other occasions at this time, under indigenous control. The choice of the place could have been due to the acknowledgment of the importance of this Indian town, sustained from pre-Columbian times.

The indication of a possible late tendency in the burial of non-locals and the extended burials would be part of the diverse formation rhythms that the space could have in respect to the life of this place, to the Christianization of the population, and to regional ties. The existence of a large local population in the settlement, which dwindled from diseases and work, could also have influenced the selection of this space.

The lack of archaeological information prevents an adequate evaluation of (p.320) the subject, but we do not exclude the presence of a chapel attended by the Christian Indians in proximity to the cemetery. The Burgos Laws ordered the construction of churches in places where there were various estancias with Indians (Muro Orejón 1956:37). In this period churches and cemeteries were always next to each other.

The creation of chapels by Cuban Indians is documented in moments of initial contact in the provinces of Cueyba and Macaca on the eastern side of the island. In one of the events, a Spanish sailor saved by Indians instructed them in the veneration of the Virgin Mary, who was then viewed as a powerful cemí. In both cases altars were erected in houses within the villages and were decorated with cotton weavings (Oliver 2009; Ortiz 2008). The syncretic treatment given to the Virgin in one of the villages, attributing to her military victories and the increase of the local cacique’s prestige, suggests that these spaces could have contained other aspects of indigenous religiosity.

The proximity of the cemetery to Unit 6, where they have found numerous ornamental objects and a bone spatula (an instrument used to provoke a purifying vomit prior to many indigenous ceremonies), allows us to establish the hypothesis of a space of this type, where the syncretic treatment of certain Christian aspects could have taken place. Also of note is the great quantity of Spanish material found there. This points to a dominant post-contact chronology for this area of the site, perhaps as part of its relationship to a settlement zone used by Europeans or their representatives, or by Christian Indians with greater access to such goods.

Clothing: From Indigenous to Indians

The effects of domination resulted in the transformation of the natives into a dependent and exploited subject, obligated to accept another religion. This process was complemented with changes in diverse spheres of their life that converted them into something different: an Indian. From very early on, dressing the natives was considered to be part of a civilizing act and an evangelical effort, in contrast to indigenous nudity, with its lascivious and sinful implications. Ordinance No. XX of the Burgos Laws ordered the payment of one gold peso to the Indians for the acquisition of clothing. The caciques and their women would be given a greater sum of money, so that they could get full clothing appropriate to their rank. The laws of 1513 ordered that all men and women had to be clothed within two years (Muro Orejón 1956:62).

Las Casas commented on the impossibility of dressing the Indians with such insufficient funds. In any case, the practice was fostered even when in (p.321) the Hieronymite interrogation of 1517 in Hispaniola, the low quality of vestments was criticized. Clothing was made with poor-quality materials and used by the Indians until it rotted on their bodies (Mira Caballos 1997:137). According to Oviedo, with time clothing began to be generally used, and toward the 1530s the majority of Indians on the estancias and in towns on Hispaniola were clothed (Fernández de Oviedo 1851:167). The gift of clothing formed part of the peace negotiations with Enriquillo in 1533, and that in some way demonstrates its importance among natives.

In Hispaniola the use of clothing among indigenous and African slaves turned into a marker of Christianity (Larrazábal 1975:108 cited by Kulstad 2008:267). The denial of its use and nudity also served to identify fugitives and Maroons (Rueda 1988:225 cited by Kulstad 2008:267).

In the initial contacts in the Antilles and Yucatán, the pieces given to the natives in the exchange of gifts included bonetes (bonnets), jubones (doublets), sayos (jerkins), zaragüelles (drawers), and, above all, camisas (shirts) (Fernández de Oviedo 1851:528; Las Casas 1875a, 1875b). In 1506 in Hispaniola, as payment for their labor in the works at the city of Santo Domingo, the caciques Yaguax and Caicedo and their people were given “24 camisas de lienzo labradas y unas naguas de paño y tres bonetes colorados de grana y dos sombreros guarnecidos y dos pares de caraguelles” (24 shirts of canvas, and a cotton skirt and three red bonnets and two decorated hats and two pairs of drawers) (Mira Caballos 2000a:107).

The list of clothing given in Puerto Rico between 1515 and 1517 to the cacique of Caguas, his captains, Indians, and naborías for their work in the Royal Hacienda of Toa, includes 115 shirts in different types of textiles, three sayos, 38 caperuzas (hoods), two bonetes, seven pairs of enaguas (skirts), 46 paños de cabeza (head kerchiefs), 10 pairs of alpargatas (hemp-soled slippers), 14 zaragüelles, a pair of cordobán (goatskin) shoes, a belt, and some other objects (Tanodi 1971, cited by Daubon 2004).

There is little information about Cuba, although in his 1524 will Diego Velázquez bequeathed clothing to his Indians. The clothing would be distributed through the caciques, so it could benefit all of them. There is mention of clothing as something given in an usual manner, and it specifies the name of certain favored Indians and naborías; it includes sayos, zaragüelles, camisas, and shoes for the men, and camisas, enaguas, servillas, and paños (kerchiefs) for the women.

The delivery by Gonzalo de Guzmán to his Indians of Bocas de Bani, of 50 shirts, confirms the tendency seen in Hispaniola and Puerto Rico regarding the basic character of the shirt in the established vestments for the Indian. (p.322) Zaragüelles and enaguas, as pieces for the legs, completed the outfits in the case of males and females, respectively. These would be given out with less frequency, perhaps due to their greater durability. Sayos were also given but in lesser quantity, and for their dress character to use over shirts; and they were given only to caciques.

Perhaps some types of shirts were long and used to cover the body. Burials with long shirts or with shirts, zaragüelles, or enaguas could generate taphonomic patterns of delayed filling identified at the ribs and at the coxae in the cemetery at El Chorro de Maíta. The presence of aglets also suggests the use of clothing. As previously mentioned, various articles of clothing in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries used agujetas. Sayos, enaguas, and zaragüelles were large and loose articles of clothing.4 For this reason they could be adjusted to the waist or legs with agujetas or cords with aglets (see Anderson 1979:216). Infrequently, in some pictographic sources of the sixteenth century, the use of agujetas has been observed on sleeves and shirt collars (Anderson 1979:Figure 93; Bernis Madrazo 1978:Figure 75). When long shirts were the only item used, these cords with metal aglets could be used for their adjustment, since belts were costly.

The type of cloth found with individual No. 57A is lino (linen), with which diverse cloths were manufactured in Europe (Bernis Madrazo 1978:26). Because of its location it could be part of a head kerchief, an item referred to among the female Indian garments, although in this case it is a cloth of value and elegance, given to an important woman. The presilla (a plant textile) and cañamazo (hemp or canvas) were very common clothing for poor people, and they are the most frequently mentioned in the inventory of clothes for Indians.

In sixteenth-century Europe they wore various other articles of clothing over the camisa and calzas. Walking about with only the shirt would be considered being naked, which was not common or decent, even among poor people(Bernis Madrazo 1962). In the Caribbean the weather forced the Spaniards to be in shirts and calzas alone, but it was not proper, and the tendency was to be dressed the best way possible. Dressing the Indians with the poorest clothes and minimum number of pieces kept them naked by European standards. This reproduced the elemental Spanish codes that placed the natives in the lowest strata in the colonial environment, and in the same way it reinforced and identified them as a subordinate group. Wearing clothes would also imply the loss or substantial weakening of the symbols of indigenous identity connected with their nudity, such as the use of corporal paints and body ornaments. In 1566 the Quito council in Ecuador insisted on (p.323) dressing the Indians and eradicating the use of body paints, because of their connection with magical and heretical religious practices (Patiño 1990).

Regarding the inhumation of the encomendados and Christian population, it is very likely that the burials with aglets were more often of clothed individuals than of people with metal ornaments (e.g., individual No. 25). There are no observable distinctions between genders in access to clothing, a detail that points to a general practice, at least among adults, because there is little if any indication of clothing among juveniles. The mortuary consumption of clothing could be connected with its use as offering in some cases. Nonetheless, the circumstances of the change in appearance and Christianization recognized here could also reflect the popularization of its use and its insertion into indigenous daily life. In this sense it would be part of the emergence of new identity parameters.

It can be deduced from the available data that they would not only be dressed in a variety of cases, but that they were dressed in the proper manner of Indians and people of a marginalized condition. This reflects the colonial character of the subjects and of the places from which they came, as well as the intensity of the identity transformation they suffered.

In the cemetery there is a convergence of natives with distinct legal status (encomendados and slaves), social status (commoners and principals), religious practice (Christian and non-Christian), and territorial origin (Cubans, Antilleans, and non-Antilleans), referencing a verified reconfiguration in the same Indian town or in nearby places. Even when certain aspects point to distinctions, the Christianization action and the change of appearance set off by the use of garments and the abandonment of practices such as cranial modification, establish a scheme of homogenization under Spanish norms. This scheme minimizes and relegates the characters of ethnic, cultural, and territorial origin, and builds a new identity: the Indian. It is a process of ethnogenesis from which a new individual emerges, not only because of their appearance but also because of their circumstances and life priorities.

Indians Who Desire Liberty and without Respect for Anything of Virtue

With the phrase above, Queen Juana, daughter of the Catholic sovereigns, lamented the difficulties in getting the Indians to adopt a Christian and civilized way of life. This attitude persisted after the end of the encomienda, and it places the indigenous individuals as active agents confronting the circumstances (p.324) of colonial domination and searching for ways to sustain their existence and their identity.

The maintenance of indigenous mortuary practices in moments and circumstances of interaction with the Europeans, parallel to the entrance of Christian ideas, is a key marker of an independent or differentiated position in the cemetery at El Chorro de Maíta. The burials in different forms of flexion (BDFF) can be contemporaneous and also posterior to the extended burials. It indicates the knowledge, and the lack of use, of the Christian alternative. It is difficult to specify the causes of this attitude, which is seemingly connected to the non-Christian character of many of the individuals. However, this attitude might be interpreted as an act of resistance and preservation of their ancestral spiritual and ritual heritage. This might have been facilitated by its occurrence in a cemetery where there is no complete Spanish control and where the norm seems to be the indigenous decision in the disposal of bodies.

Even in some cases of extended burials (e.g., Nos. 57A, 107, and 31), there is postmortem treatment of the crania as an expression of the conjunction of indigenous and Christian perspectives. Woman No. 57A, on the other hand, displays ornaments and a textile unadjusted to the moderation of a Christian death. This could mask the true religious character of the individual or a religious syncretism where, according to the definition of Stewart (1999:58), different traditions are combined. In this sense, people could express a particular way of assuming Christianity, without rejecting aspects of indigenous spirituality.

The adornment of individual No. 25 (elaborated in cloth and brass) demonstrates a creative and autonomous handling of Spanish materiality specified from indigenous symbolic perspectives. Individual No. 94 does not have cranial modification but does use earspools in an indigenous manner. In individual No. 84, also unmodified, the ornaments used are materials associated with the Spanish; nonetheless, they are ornaments that refer back to the indigenous interest in such practice. A similar perspective could be present in some of the cases of clothing use if it is assumed to be an offering. It is a counterpoint between appearance requirements of the new times and the traditional practices, perhaps adjusted or minimized but not lost or abandoned.

This duality, also visible in the mortuary practices previously mentioned, points to the topic of a multiplicity of attitudes that are raised and activated in an environment of interaction. As Anderson-Córdova (1990) comments, some positions are formulated for engagement with the Spanish in their environments, and others are maintained in indigenous spaces. In the cemetery of El (p.325) Chorro de Maíta, it might not be only the attitudes, but also identity markers, of self-acknowledgment and identification with a group, inherent to the Indians as an ethnic entity in the effort to construct themselves without losing their roots. It also signals the potential coexistence with people that assume or begin to assume diverse identities regarding the colonial category of the Indian: individuals that do not accept it and see themselves in the framework of their original roots, and others that consciously or not, voluntarily or involuntarily, project themselves in a different way as Indians and carry this identity.

In a setting with a presence of a majority of BDFF burials, the extended inhumations and, above all, woman No. 57A suggest an interaction with the Europeans and their religion, formulated in an individual way or at the level of certain groups. The special ornaments of some individuals distinguish them from the rest of the population and perhaps qualify them, even within a greater nexus of dependence, for different connections with the Spanish. As Schortman and Urban (1998:108) establish, it is the individuals and not the cultures that interact, and people will prioritize their interest. Woman No. 57A is part of the elite, and in that sense she possibly found solutions for herself and some others. This selective link could have been wider and could have applied to some children. The spatial proximity of individuals No. 57A and 58A is very significant, as is the complexity of their ornaments. They could represent a set inhumation of people related through family ties and important position.

Status gave advantages in the relationship with the Europeans, but its recognition also seems to have been maintained in the indigenous environment. There is only one set of adornments similar to the one from No. 57A, but the other pieces found are also valuable and are distributed among local females and children, some of them in the flexed position. This is an important marker of female performance in the place, exemplified above all by woman No. 57A, which potentially is related to a population imbalance generated by the encomienda (i.e., the departure of men in order to comply with Spanish labor demands), and with the increase of female leadership in response to this situation. The presence of ornaments in the cemetery, connected to the restriction of the capacity of the non-locals to use them, points to an important position for the wearers and refers to the validity and functioning of the components of the indigenous social organization even in circumstances of labor and political submission and demographic crisis.

From this perspective we can suggest that basic aspects of the community structure were preserved, although they were readjusted to the loss of population and the transformation of the rhythms of labor and life. The indication of continuity in the indigenous culture in the funerary, as well as the non-funerary (p.326) zones, points to a certain degree of success in maintaining social cohesion and the function of quotidian space. It points to a limited Spanish influence that left space for indigenous agency, and seems to coincide with the historical comments regarding the tendency of Indians to recover their life schemes once they returned to their towns after the demora, as well as the desire to avoid dealing with the Spanish in these places.

The town’s permanence as an integrated community has a historical counterpart in the Indian town of Guanyguanyco on the western side of the island. Its population was part of Velázquez’s encomienda in 1518, when the place was visited by Hernán Cortez’s people. Therefore, it is very possible that Velázquez took the town in encomienda during the beginning of the distribution of Indians, around 1513. In 1526, 13 years later, the town was still maintained (Mira Caballos 1997:Appendix XV, 417). In this year it was divided between two individuals (encomenderos), which suggests a number of inhabitants of certain importance.

Perhaps the relative stability of the indigenous settlement in El Chorro de Maíta, indicated by the dates and the continuity of autochthonous aspects, must be due in part to a colonial action that attempted to limit the intrusion into the communitarian space and, when possible, to attenuate the loss of population. This occurred, although apparently not too often. For example, some encomenderos such as Manuel de Rojas were recognized for their more humane treatment of the Indian, reflected in the sustaining and increasing of the towns under their control (Marrero 1993a:239).

The Emergence of the “Others”: Indians, Mestizos, and Criollos

The cemetery reveals identities constructed in a colonial environment. It is the case for the Indians and also the possible mestizo or people that include a non-indigenous ancestral component, individuals that had to confront a particular sense of relationship with their environment due to the places where they had to live and their birth in Cuba. From this perspective, the notion of the criollo seems to apply to individuals No. 81 and 22, given their local territorial origin.

The site exposes a panorama of intense human and cultural diversity, with multiple identities and different interrelations and transformation that refer to a process rather than to an end result. The situation of ethnogenesis, the syncretic peculiarities of some of the burials, and the intermediary nature of the cemetery as a colonial product that safeguards and combines indigenous and Christian practices, all respond to a setting of transculturation where (p.327) these colonial populations can acquire, lose, and create cultural practices, identities, and even new individuals. Here are the moments and processes of Ortiz’s concept and also its products.

The presence of possible mestizos or individuals that include a non-indigenous ancestral component that lived in environments close to the Indian is an important indicator in this respect. Independent of the rights that the conventions of the epoch granted, they must have faced the exigencies of their environment and perhaps unfavorable social circumstances, their interrelations with the indigenous offering opportunities that in some ways minimized the mutual differences.

Keys in the Historic Identification of El Chorro de Maíta

In the testimony given by the scribe Juan de la Torre, of the Indians distributed by Gonzalo de Guzmán from April 25 of 1526 to August of 1530 (Torres de Mendoza 1880:4:114), there is the following piece of information: “Yten se encomendaron a Francisco Osorio e Antonio Velazquez, vecinos desta dicha cibdad, el cacique de Yaguayhay de Cubanacan, que estaba encomendado al dicho Andres del Duero, e de consentimiento del dicho Antonio Velazquez se le quedó todo el cacique e yndios al dicho Osorio, por quanto de otros yndios suyos dio veynte e cinco personas” (and commended to Francisco Osorio and Antonio Velazquez, settlers of this city, the cacique Yaguahay of Cubanacan, that was commended to Andres del Duero, and by consent of the previously mentioned Antonio Velazquez the cacique and Indians remained to the previously mentioned Osorio whom he gave twenty-five of his Indians).

A version of these repartos is mentioned in the residence judgment against Gonzalo de Guzmán (Mira Caballos 1997:Appendix XV). The reparto previously mentioned occurred in 1530 and is indicated as follows: “el Obispo y Guzmán encomendaron a Antonio Velazquez y a Francisco Osorio el cacique Yaguahán que estaba encomendado a Duero” (the Bishop and Guzmán commended to Antonio Velazquez and Francisco Osorio the cacique Yaguahán that was part of Duero’s encomienda).

There could have been problems with the documents that prevent us from fully knowing if Yaguayhay and Yaguahán are the same place or person, or if Yaguayhay was a town and Yaguahán was a cacique. Nonetheless, it is clear that it is the same encomienda, previously owned by Andres de Duero, and the reference to Cubanacán supports the indication of a spatial location.

It is traditional to consider Cubanacán as an Indian province located in the central part of Cuba; see De la Torre (1841) reproduced by De la Sagra (p.328) (1842), and Mira Caballos (2000a:197–201). Such an idea follows a commentary by Bartolomé de las Casas (1875a:324), who mentions

una provincia que se llamaba Cubanacan cuasi en medio de Cuba, porque nacan quiere decir, en la lengua destas islas, medio ó en medio, y asi componían este nombre Cubanacan, de Cuba y nacan, tierra e provincia que esta en medio ó cuasi en medio de toda la isla de Cuba. Esta provincia, Cubanacan, era muy rica de minas de oro (a province that was named Cubanacan almost in the middle of Cuba, because nacan meant, in the native tongues, middle or in the middle, and that was the composition of the name Cubanacan, of Cuba and nacan, land and province that is in the middle or almost in the middle of the island of Cuba. This province Cubanacan was rich in gold mines).

The mention of the Indians of Gonzalo de Guzmán “en Cubanacan junto a las Bocas de Bani” (in Cubanacan next to the Bocas de Bani) allowed Alfredo Zayas y Alfonso (1931:290) to consider that Cubanacán was associated with the Bani province in northeastern Cuba. It also maintained, in tune with this criterion, that Yaguayhay of Cubanacán, with Indians that were part of Duero’s encomienda, would therefore not be far from there, coinciding with the Yaguajay zone in the contemporary municipality of Banes, and not in a space of the same name located today in the Sancti Spíritus province in the central part of Cuba, and next to the supposed province of Cubanacán.

Pedro P. Godo (2003) questions the identification of Zayas y Alfonso, because Gonzalo de Guzmán also distributed the Indians in a town called Aguahay, situated in the province of Maniabón (Torres de Mendoza 1880:4:114). As Yaguajay of Banes is next to the Maniabón hills, he understood that Aguahay could be this place, and so the Yaguayhay mentioned in the same document would be found in another place, closer to the center of Cuba, as the Cubanacán of Las Casas.

The data of the maritime course of Chaves corroborate the existence of places called Cubanacán and Bocas de Bani in the northeast of the island. The first is the name of a point and a port; the second, a port. According to John Worth (Persons et al. 2007), Cubanacán Point corresponds to Mulas Point, and the Cubanacán port could be some protected part of the coast to the south of Mulas Point. This idea seems to be correct, because Cubanacán Point is a coastal feature represented in this area by diverse maps of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Another argument in favor of the relationship of Cubanacán to the Banes zone is the case of an Indian commended by Gonzalo de Guzmán in 1526 called Alonsillo de Banico de Cubanacan (Mira (p.329) Caballos 1997:Appendix XV, 416); Banico and Cubanacan are the places of provenience, and Banico could be a way of referring to Bani.

The position of Bocas de Bani in an area near Nipe Bay and Banes Bay is supported by Pecciolem’s 1604 map reproduced by De la Sagra (1842) (Figure 8.3). As previously mentioned, the description provided by the Chaves text about Bocas de Bani seems to coincide with the entrance to Banes Bay, at the end of which there is an indigenous site with Spanish materials (Esterito), establishing a possible relationship with the encomendado Indian town of Gonzalo de Guzmán.

There is information about the early presence of the toponym Yaguajay near the current location of the Sancti Spíritus province. A map of 1681 reproduced by Levi Marrero (1975:202) shows Yaguajay creek in the area. We have not found early cartographic evidence of Cubanacán in this part of Cuba, while it is found in current toponymy. In the Yaguajay of Sancti Spíritus, there are Agricultural Ceramicist sites, but at the moment there is little archaeological evidence of indigenous Spanish interaction (Chirino 2010:88), a situation that might be the result of the limited amount of research in the area.

The list of Indian towns commended by Guzmán in 1526 includes the town of Yaguayguano in the Camagüey province. It is another toponym with the particle aguay or aguahay, and it suggests that there might have been various places named Yaguahay or Yaguajay. From this perspective the location of Cubanacán in the northeastern area could be proven, even if the only mention by Las Casas is in the central part; this detail favors the placement of Yaguajay of Cubanacán in the east.

It is also significant that the name Duero appears among the names of ports near Yaguajay and Banes that are registered in the maritime courses of

An Indian Town in Times of the Encomienda

Figure 8.3. Matheum Nerenium Pecciolem 1604 map.

From De la Sagra (1842:Table 5, Figure 3a), digitally modified by Roberto Valcárcel Rojas.

(p.330) Chaves; Duero refers back to the initial encomendero of the Indians of the cacique Yaguayhay of Cubanacan. Andrés de Duero was considered one of the wealthiest men of the period, and when he died the redistribution of his Indians by Gonzalo de Guzmán identifies his encomiendas in seven different places, including Cubanacán (Torres de Mendoza 1880:4:114; Mira Caballos 1997:Appendix XV). In at least four cases, the place-names that could be located in one way or another are on the eastern side of Cuba. This suggests that his Indians were located in this part of the island, which would locate Yaguajay near Banes. Nonetheless, the major encomenderos had Indians throughout the archipelago, so it is difficult to securely identify its location.

For the moment the available information does not permit a positive identification, although there is a strong possibility that the material and humans remains that are deposited in El Chorro de Maíta belong to this Indian town of Yaguayhay of Cubanacan. Even when the chronological aspects open the possibility of a continuation in use of the site and the cemetery, at the beginning of the second half of the sixteenth century, the data obtained indicate it is unlikely that it was maintained past this period. In any case we cannot deny that a remnant population could have lived here toward the end of the encomiendas. If that was the case, and according to the historical information that exists about the area, the indigenous community does not seem to have remained there for long or to have been transformed into a peasant settlement.

The realengo character of these territories at the beginning of the eighteenth century suggests that the zone was not inhabited, at least to recognizable population levels. This merits deeper study, because there is mention of an indigenous population in nearby spaces during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Fifteen leagues from Nipe Bay, there was a settlement in one of the hatos of Barajagua in 1612. It had an Indian population that became involved in the veneration of the Virgin’s image, which was later recognized as Our Lady of Charity. A settlement under Spanish control associated with cattle and/or agricultural exploitation existed in Barajagua la Vieja in 1598 (Peña et al. 2012). It was located very close to, or perhaps directly over, an indigenous village that was inhabited in the first half of the sixteenth century (i.e., the Barajagua archaeological site, which is located 55 km south of El Chorro de Maíta) (Figure 8.4). We do not know whether by the end of the sixteenth century there were still Indians there, but it is very probable.

There could also have been a connection of this site to spaces of economic exploitation related to the hatos of Barajagua, in which one of them the Virgin was received in 1612. The existence of remnants of the indigenous population next to Nipe Bay around the eighteenth century is inferred from (p.331)

An Indian Town in Times of the Encomienda

Figure 8.4. Map of spaces documented near El Chorro de Maíta.

Sites with European materials: 1) Río Naranjo; 2) El Chorro de Maíta; 3) El Porvenir; 4) Esterito.

information about the recognition of this ethnic component among the population that could be used to foster Spanish settlements in the area (Peña et al. 2012). Many of the first inhabitants of Mayarí were Indians, who in the mid-eighteenth century lived a very short distance from the bay. During this period there was the founding of Holguín town, with an indigenous presence, some 50 km to the southwest of El Chorro de Maíta.

The inhabitants of El Chorro de Maíta and of other settlements near the Banes region could have moved to the places mentioned previously, although they could also have stayed where they were in a situation of isolation and a very low population. Even though the population was in decline, the archaeological investigation discussed here indicates that they had important capacities of integration and of human and identity resistance, aspects that without a doubt help to explain the processes of Indian presence documented for the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries.


(1.) For the analysis of sex, the data from El Soco was provided by Luna Calderon (1985), and the data from Tibes, Punta Candelero, and Paso del Indio by Curet (2005). All of the sites are Agricultural-Ceramicist, although there are differences in their ceramics. The El Soco phase as well as the La Margarita phase belong to the El Soco site in the Dominican Republic; the first is related to a Chican Ostionoid component and the second to Ostionoid ceramics. These sites and phases were selected because they represent relatively well-defined occupations.

(2.) I base this assumption on the criteria of geographer Ridel Rodríguez (personal communication 2013). The steep walls and shallow waters mentioned for Bocas de Bani are not in Nipe Bay, but are present in the Banes Bay.

(3.) The document is titled Testimonio de la visita hecha en la ciudad de Santiago para investigar los indios y esclavos negros que había en sus términos (1537, March 7)(Testimony of the visit made to the city of Santiago in order to investigate the Indians and black slaves that were in the area), AGI, Santo Domingo 77, Ramo 4, Número 98.

(p.358) (4.) According to Carmen Bernis Madrazo (1962:108, 110), the sayo was a male outfit with skirts that was used directly over the doublets. Its length varied from mid-thigh to the ankles, although after 1540 the sayo in fashion was very short. It could have sleeves or not. The zaragüelles were a masculine type of clothing similar to breeches, sometimes reaching the knees, and at other times the ankles. They were similar to short pants, and women could wear them as underwear. Information regarding other pieces of the period mentioned in the text can be found in Bernis Madrazo (1962, 1978, 1979) and Anderson (1979).