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February 07, 2013

This Day in the Maya Calendar (Late Winter)

Cholq'ij, the Maya sacred ceremonial calendar of 260 days—a cycle of 20 Day deities and 13 numbers—is the basis of the Maya spirituality that survives to this time, practiced daily among millions of Maya people, in thousands of communities. The interpretation of the days can vary from one Maya people to another. The interpretations given here are based on sustained conversations and participation over three decades with Maya Q'eqchi calendar priest Roderico Teni and daykeeping families in the area of Cobán, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, by Jose Barreiro (Taíno), head of NMAI’s Office of Latin America, and his wife, Katsi Cook (Mohawk). Glyphs representing the Day lords appear throughout Maya Country; these were painted by Esteban Pop Caal (Q'eqchi Maya) of Cobán.

For more background to this series, please see Jose's introduction, "Living in the Practice." For further insight into the role of the Day lords in everyday life, please see the Maya Journal. For the complete year so far, please see the Maya calendar archive.

Illustrations: Esteban Pop Caal (Q'eqchi Maya), calendar glyphs. Cobán, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala; 2003. Paint on wood. Purchased from the artist. 26/2685. Photos by Ernest Amoroso, NMAI. 

13 I'x  |  Tuesday, March 5, 2013

262685_I'xCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 13 I'x. I'x is Jaguar; 13 is the highest imbalance. I'x is woman's energy day. This is a day to connect with your own land and to pray for its original owners; to pray for and appreciate your house; to pray for the finances to buy and sustain land; to ask for fertility in humans and animals; to request vigor and strength for reproductive organs, particularly female. I'x is a good day to pray to the mountains in favor of the land. It is a good day for a woman to request strength in her husband's commitment to matrimonial stability. People born on I'x have a close relationship to el Mundo and receive good access to precious metals. I'x is a good day for solitude and meditation. —Jose Barreiro  

12 Aj  |  Monday, March 4, 2013

262685_AjCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 12 Aj. Aj is Cane Reed; 12 is the highest balance. Aj begins the women's cycle, sentiments of family and home, the spinal cord. Aj is life and receives life. This is a day of resurgence and renewal, as in the reed and the corn; a day for the triumph of good over evil, life over death; a day of happiness, renewal of food, money, the heart of life. People born on this day renew their communities; they are sickly as children and sturdy as adults; they are especially lucky; they are good awakeners of their families and communities; they make good midwives. Aj is a good day to ask for clarity of destiny, a good day to pray for the protection of your life and of the newborn, a good day to pray for twins, a good day to pray for humanity. —J. B.  

11 Eh  |  Sunday, March 3, 2013 

262685_EhCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 11 Eh. Eh is Bobcat, also the Path and the Tooth; 11 is high turbulence. Eh can orient individuals, groups, or communities to their destiny. Eh is the day to ask for protection from dangers and obstructions during travels—specifically, that on your road the attention of thieves or highway police or border inspectors will be deviated from your trajectory. Solitude is in Eh, light rain, kindness, alignment. People born on this day can be good counselors, spiritual guides with the gift of prayer to Ajaw (Creator) on the destiny of things. Also, good dentists are born on this day. Eh is one of the four pillars of the 20 days, a Yearbearer—a strong, especially sacred day. A prayer started in Batz can be carried by Eh through the full cycle of 20 days. —J. B.  

10 Batz  |  Saturday, March 2, 2013

262685_BatzCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 10 Batz. Batz is Monkey; 10 is a high balance. Monkey braid, monkey fingers, monkey tail, Batz is the grasp of the monkey's hand so tight and braided the fist will not let go, even in death. Batz is a good day for beginnings, and for some Maya daykeepers, Batz begins the 20-day calendar. Batz is unity, a good day to tie things together, a good day for a marriage or to start a construction, a good day for initiation into the ways. Batz is the thread of Time that rolls out from under the earth, weaving life until cut, weaving Time into History. People born on Batz are calm and self-confident; they make good spiritual guides and leaders, and good-hearted architects. —J. B. 

9 Tzi  | Friday, March 1, 2013 

262685_TziCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 9 Tzi. Tzi is the Canine, the guardian; 9 is a triple rotor. Dog, Wolf, Coyote, Tzi can be snarly, terrifying the unprepared with his bark and his bite. Tzi people are zealous to guard the sacredness of ceremony, to identify and punish "intruders," those not disciplined to participate. Benevolent to friends and fierce to enemies, Tzi is steady to reward or punish. Tzi will punish those who disrespect the Days and the spirit of the family. This is a good day to ask for mystic insight for leaders so that they can seek and discover hidden things, so that they can be just. Tzi has strong sexual energy, hard to restrain. When this energy is defined, people born on Tzi make loyal friends, husbands, and wives. —J. B. 

8 Toj  |  Thursday, February 28, 2013

262685_TojCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 8 Toj. Toj is the mystic Fish—the tear of jade and drops of rain, water falling; 8 is a double blance. Toj is a day of making even, a good day to pay spiritual and financial debts and to collect what you are owed. This is a day of evenness for a family, a good day for parents to pay the family's debt to el Mundo, good for the oldest son to appreciate the father and the father to appreciate the mountain. Illness can be deviated from the family by making a ceremonial offering on this day. —J. B. 

7 Anil  |  Wednesday, February 27, 2013

262685_AnilCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 7 Anil. Anil is the fertility in the seed, Anil is Rabbit; 7 is a pivotal number. Anil is red, white, yellow, black—the four colors of corn, the seed of life that is the unity of the world. Anil is renewal after death, regeneration of the earth. Anil people are four-directions people and can be good travelers. This is a day of coming back, a day to generate and appreciate abundance, a day of declaring love to create a new relationship, a day to announce the wish to do business, a day of finding lost things, a day to ask for help in overcoming shyness. —J. B. 

6 Kiej  |  Tuesday, February 26, 2013

262685_KiejCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 6 Kiej. Kiej is the Deer; 6 is a middle, even number. Kiej is the four directions, four hoofs striking the earth at once, the quaternity of the cosmos linked to prayer, highest aviso to el Mundo—the living world. Kiej is the staff of authority, keen energy of a chief to detect danger, perception of the leader buck, his horns. Kiej is a good day to pray for mental and physical agility, a day of agile travelers and good communicators. It is a day also to ask for clarity before gossip and ill intentions. A major gift of nature, Kiej holds indefatigable energy. He is one of the four main carriers of time. —J. B. 

5 Kame  |  Monday, February 25, 2013

262685_KameCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 5 Kame. Kame is the Owl and the recognition of death; 5 is one hand. A day that recalls the night, tranquility, and silence, Kame is a good day to ask for the ancient and recent ancestors who have gone on, to thank them, and to remember them with purpose. This is an appropriate day to extend reconciliation, to feel and give forgiveness, to develop patience, to invoke against mortal illnesses, to access superior knowledge. Without fear, it is a good day to approach the spiritual dimension, "the enchantment." —J. B. 

4 Kan  |  Sunday, February 24, 2013

262685_KanCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 4 Kan. Kan is the Snake; 4 is a balance. Kan is the ancient origin—Gucumatz, the Plumed Serpent. This is a day of strict and impartial justice, a day of definition and maturity, and a good day to offer respect and to thank the corn. On Kan, matters of justice, judges, and courts can be cleared up. This is a good day to pray that truth and justice manifest in the Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth; a good day to put aside jealousies and request equilibrium in life and in the family. It is a day to ask for physical strength and patience, to contemplate our spiritual evolution, and to rekindle the internal fire. —J. B. 

3 Kat  |  Saturday, February 23, 2013 

262685_KatCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 3 Kat. Kat is Spider, also Web and Fire; 3 is a rotor. On Kat the unity of the people is paramount, and knowledge is deepened. Kat is the network of the sacred heart, the family hearth. Today is a good day to pray for your family fireplace, the spirit of the fire that belongs in the home, the one that calls other spirits to ceremony and speaks for them. Kat is the net that hauls in the fish and the net that holds the ears of corn, a day that can bring the fruition of things and the untangling of complications. This is a good day to help free prisoners from captivity, to request vigor and power for the weak. —J. B.

2 Aqbal  |  Friday, February 22, 2013

262685_AqbalCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 2 Aqbal. Aqbal is the Dawn, also Bat; 2 is duality. Aqbal is clarity, the separation of darkness and light as the Sun disperses the fog and obscurity of night. This is a good day to ask for a peaceful and happy daybreak, a day to find hidden and lost things, a day to wash away tears of sadness. On Aqbal, the sacred fire is recognized and appreciated. Aqbal is a good day to clean the ashes (renew the heart) of a fireplace and to present a new baby to el Mundo. A potential bride or groom can be revealed on this day. Harvesting of corn can begin on this day. People born on Aqbal relate in the present and are a special link between past and future. They are early risers, good workers, tranquil and kind, strong before an enemy, good researchers and finders of hidden things, often called "the candle of the home." —J. B.   

1 Iq  |  Thursday, February 21, 2013 

262685_IqCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 1 Iq. Iq is Wind, also Moon; 1 is the beginning. Wind is powerful, violent, driven of itself, identity. A day of strong emotion, Iq is also a healing day. Good wind is nutritional for human minds; it is the mystic breath and vital inspiration of nature. On Iq, a breeze or wind that splits against your face is a blessing and a cleansing to purge your head and body of illness. Respiratory ills are prayed over on this day. This is a good day to appreciate all of Creation. The Day lord Iq is one of the four Yearbearers, or mams, a creator who helped finish the world and put breath (essence) in human beings. People born on Iq are inclined toward spiritual ways and can impulsively tap into cosmic sources. —J. B. 

13 Imox  |  Wednesday, February 20, 2013

262685_ImoxCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 13 Imox. Imox is Lizard; 13 is the higest turbulence. Imox is the very force of gravity and a good day to pray for creativity and for rain. Imox can open el Mundo to receive cosmic messages. Known as a "crazy" day, Imox requires much concentration and control. A day of high male intelligence, also impatience and agitation, Imox can be difficult. Grounded on its left side, left arm, this day is easily unbalanced and in need of clasping left and right hands. Imox can be good if held in the balance of the Heart of Sky and Heart of Earth; unattended, Imox can manifest imbalance, mental nervousness, and even death. People born on Imox are open and sincere, but indecisive—in need of ceremony to set the positive to override the negative. —J. B.  

12 Ajpu  |  Tuesday, February 19, 2013 

262685_AjpuCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 12 Ajpu. Ajpu is Caracol, Spiral Shell; 12 is the highest balance. Ajpu is the Sun, captain of Time, a day of personal strength and for good to triumph over evil. Ajpu, who cares for boys and guides men, begins the men's cycle. This is a day to connect with the ancestors, who can reward and punish. Death is reachable and amenable; spirits can ask permission to enter el Mundo, the living world. Day of the warrior and blowgun hunter (cerbatanero), Ajpu is the strong blow of the dart that hits its target, a good day to pray for stealth or for a break in enemy lines. Ajpu is also a good day to start building on a house, a good day to make prayers for women and for success in lactation. —J. B. 

11 Kawoq  |  Monday, February 18, 2013

262685_Kawoq

Corresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 11 Kawoq. Kawoq is Turtle, also Sky Serpent; 11 is high turbulence. Kawoq is a high woman day—a day of duality in all of nature and a guardian of contentment. It is the day of woman and man, lightning and thunder, fecundity and imagination; a day of midwives; a day of prayer for unity within the home, strength within the family, renewed strength for convalescents, and the smoothing of all irritation. This is a good day to turn bad medicine back on itself. Kawoq attends to young women in pregnancy, labor, and delivery, and to full realization for all women; it is a day of their sash. Kawoq is also a good day to commemorate the Staff of Authority, a good day for the men of a family and community to pray for the coffers (good fortune) of the women and for the protection of the home. Good midwives, writers, and architects are born on this day. —J. B. 

10 Tijax  |  Sunday, February 17, 2013

262685_TijaxCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 10 Tijax. Tijax is Fish, also Obsidian; 10 is a high balance. Tijax is a day of doctors, good to pray for surgeons and all medical practitioners; a day of sacrifice and liberation from suffering; a day of sharp, cutting objects, of knives and scalpels and scissors. Tijax is a safeguard for domestic animals against predators, a good day to pray for all animals that are sacrificed, both in ceremony and in everyday life. Tijax is a good day to use metal (a machete, scissors) to "open the sky"—to solicit rain, solicit life, split black clouds. Gossip, calumny, and sorcery, on money and sexual matters, can be overcome on this day; on a high-number day, disputes can turn public and become debilitating. Tijax is a good day for seasoned masters to fortify daykeeping trainees against ridicule by envious countrymen or evangelicos. It is not a good day to plant. —J. B. 

9 Noj  |  Saturday, February 16, 2013 

262685_NojCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 9 Noj. Noj is Woodpecker; 9 is a triple rotor. Noj is a woman's highest intelligence. Maya knowledge and wisdom live in this day—good science to support positive deeds, good projects, good business, a good home. On Noj good ideas are available through the intelligence connected to the movement of the earth. Boys born on this day have important female qualities and can be attentive to the knowledge of nature, which rules all. Girls born on this day can be clear leaders. This is a good day to hear advice and make decisions, a good day to feed the mind, recognize curiosity, and strengthen memory. Noj is one of the four Yearbearers. —J. B. 

8 Ajmac  |  Friday, February 15, 2013

262685_AjmacCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 8 Ajmac. Ajmac is Bee, also Vulture; 8 is a double balance. On Ajmac ancestor spirits can detect and smooth the thread of time in our lives. Prudence, intelligence, ancient wisdom are in this day. This is a day to plead forgiveness for serious faults and to be judged. It is a day that demands moral rectitude, respect, and sincere analysis. On this day our faults (stains) must be faced and paid for; humble request for pity is encouraged. Ajmac is a propitious day for the women of a household to make peace with one another after conflict, to apologize for sharp words; it is a good day to pray for smooth relationships and the renewal of agreements among women. Hard luck can face those born on Ajmac. —J. B.  

7 Tz'ikin  |  Thursday, February 14, 2013

262685_Tz'ikinCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 7 Tz'ikin. Tz'ikin is Bird, best represented by the Hummingbird, also the Quetzal and Eagle; 7 is a pivotal number. Tz'ikin carries messages between the Heart of Earth and Heart of Sky. Cold, heat, light, air, cloud are its elements. Love, intuition, precognition are strong in those born on this day. Tz'ikin is a good day for humans to follow birds to the corn—to find good material luck. This is a good day to ask for revelation and intelligence, for vision, and for abundance; a good day to ask for collaboration in projects or for personal freedom. On this day, women have the privilege to ask for their husbands and sons to triple the family money. —J. B. 

6 I'x  |  Wednesday, February 13, 2013

262685_I'xCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 6 I'x. I'x is Jaguar; 6 is a middle, even number. I'x is woman's energy day. This is a day to connect with your own land and to pray for its original owners; to pray for and appreciate your house; to pray for the finances to buy and sustain land; to ask for fertility in humans and animals; to request vigor and strength for reproductive organs, particularly female. I'x is a good day to pray to the mountains in favor of the land. It is a good day for a woman to request strength in her husband's commitment to matrimonial stability. People born on I'x have a close relationship to el Mundo and receive good access to precious metals. I'x is a good day for solitude and meditation. —J. B. 

5 Aj  |  Tuesday, February 12, 2013

262685_AjCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 5 Aj. Aj is Cane Reed; 5 is one hand. Aj begins the women's cycle, sentiments of family and home, the spinal cord. Aj is life and receives life. This is a day of resurgence and renewal, as in the reed and the corn; a day for the triumph of good over evil, life over death; a day of happiness, renewal of food, money, the heart of life. People born on this day renew their communities; they are sickly as children and sturdy as adults; they are especially lucky; they are good awakeners of their families and communities; they make good midwives. Aj is a good day to ask for clarity of destiny, a good day to pray for the protection of your life and of the newborn, a good day to pray for twins, a good day to pray for humanity. —J. B. 

4 Eh  |  Monday, February 11, 2013 

262685_EhCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 4 Eh. Eh is Bobcat, also the Path and the Tooth; 4 is a balance. Eh can orient individuals, groups, or communities to their destiny. Eh is the day to ask for protection from dangers and obstructions during travels—specifically, that on your road the attention of thieves or highway police or border inspectors will be deviated from your trajectory. Solitude is in Eh, light rain, kindness, alignment. People born on this day can be good counselors, spiritual guides with the gift of prayer to Ajaw (Creator) on the destiny of things. Also, good dentists are born on this day. Eh is one of the four pillars of the 20 days, a Yearbearer—a strong, especially sacred day. A prayer started in Batz can be carried by Eh through the full cycle of 20 days. —J. B. 

3 Batz  |  Sunday, February 10, 2013

262685_BatzCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 3 Batz. Batz is Monkey; 3 is a rotor. Monkey braid, monkey fingers, monkey tail, Batz is the grasp of the monkey's hand so tight and braided the fist will not let go, even in death. Batz is a good day for beginnings, and for some Maya daykeepers, Batz begins the 20-day calendar. Batz is unity, a good day to tie things together, a good day for a marriage or to start a construction, a good day for initiation into the ways. Batz is the thread of Time that rolls out from under the earth, weaving life until cut, weaving Time into History. People born on Batz are calm and self-confident; they make good spiritual guides and leaders, and good-hearted architects. —J. B. 

2 Tzi  | Saturday, February 9, 2013 

262685_TziCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 2 Tzi. Tzi is the Canine, the guardian; 2 is duality. Dog, Wolf, Coyote, Tzi can be snarly, terrifying the unprepared with his bark and his bite. Tzi people are zealous to guard the sacredness of ceremony, to identify and punish "intruders," those not disciplined to participate. Benevolent to friends and fierce to enemies, Tzi is steady to reward or punish. Tzi will punish those who disrespect the Days and the spirit of the family. This is a good day to ask for mystic insight for leaders so that they can seek and discover hidden things, so that they can be just. Tzi has strong sexual energy, hard to restrain. When this energy is defined, people born on Tzi make loyal friends, husbands, and wives. —J. B.  

1 Toj  |  Friday, February 8, 2013

262685_TojCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 1 Toj. Toj is the mystic Fish—the tear of jade and drops of rain, water falling; 1 is the beginning. Toj is a day of making even, a good day to pay spiritual and financial debts and to collect what you are owed. This is a day of evenness for a family, a good day for parents to pay the family's debt to el Mundo, good for the oldest son to appreciate the father and the father to appreciate the mountain. Illness can be deviated from the family by making a ceremonial offering on this day. —J. B.  

 

 

262685_Batz Batz 

262685_Eh Eh 

262685_Aj Aj 

262685_I'x I'x 

262685_Tz'ikin Tz'ikin 

262685_Ajmac Ajmac 

262685_Noj Noj 

262685_Tijax Tijax 

262685_Kawoq Kawoq 

262685_Ajpu Ajpu 

262685_Imox Imox 

262685_Iq Iq 

262685_Aqbal Aqbal 

262685_Kat Kat 

262685_Kan Kan 

262685_Kame Kame 

262685_Kiej Kiej 

262685_Anil Anil 

262685_Toj Toj 

262685_Tzi Tzi

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February 01, 2013

Hemispheric Journal: San Juan de la Maguana, Taíno Capital of Quisqueya (the Dominican Republic)

There are places that hold layered memory, places recognized long ago to hold spiritual density. Our common ancestors knew such places, gathered and “opened” communication—connection—with the alignments, the patterns of wind and water, the visual signals of seasons and moments. There is always revelation in this, if difficult to describe.

San Juan de la Maguana, in the Dominican Republic (DR), is one of those places where density of space blends with continued human attachment to the indigenous memory. I was there with Ranald Woodaman, from the Smithsonian Latino Center, on behalf of NMAI's Caribbean Indigenous Legacies research project. We traveled to various places in the DR to open up a discussion of our anticipated exhibition Consciousness of Taíno: Caribbean Indigeneity.  

The Indigenous Legacies project, with collaboration from the National Museum of Natural History and many others, seeks to understand and appreciate the variety of Caribbean indigeneity found today in a broad range of topics. 

In Santo Domingo, at the Museo del Hombre Dominicano, we met with established figures of Dominican scholarship, including Manuel García Arévalo, Frank Maya Pons, and Bernardo Vega, as well as members of the group Guabancex, a Taíno epistemic, or shared-knowledge, community. Scholars and various participants commented on the ideas and themes of the proposed exhibition and related productions. In Santo Domingo, we also visited museum collections, stopped by to chat with Minister of Culture Jose Antonio Rodriguez, and teamed up with Eduardo Diaz, director of the Smithsonian Latino Center, to host a dinner for the American ambassador, the Honorable Raul Yzaguirre. Later in the week, we would travel to La Romana and Altos de Chavon to visit an accomplished Taíno-based curriculum-development project. 

Indigenous Forum
Caribbean Indigenous Legacies forum, hosted by the Museo del Hombre Dominicano. Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, 2013.


In a country of presumed extinction of indigenous identity and culture, San Juan de la Maguana—in the island's old cacicazgo of the Taíno queen Anacaona—stands out for its concentration of people who profess and relish the indigenous heritage of Quisqueya and the Caribbean, broadly identified as Taíno. 

Museum visit
Director Cristian Martinez (center) giving Jose Barreiro (foreground) and Victor Siladi a tour of the exhibits at the Museo del Hobre Dominicano. Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, 2013.


At each of more than 20 kilometers on the highway nearing San Juan markers depict a sculpted Taíno cemi. Entering town, the Plaza of Caonabo, with its statue of the tough early cacique breaking his chains, signals the mentality later expressed by local leaders. Caonabo was Anacaona’s husband and the chief who wiped out the first Spanish garrison left by Columbus in the Americas.

At the forum in the Municipal Center, in her formal greetings, Mayor Hanoi Sánchez made it clear that her constituents in San Juan de la Maguana take seriously their indigenous heritage. The mayor has been a leading power behind the strong identification of civic institutions with indigenous Taíno legacy. She asserted with much pride that San Juan de la Maguana is the “capital of aboriginal culture” in the country.

The Native-identification of the mayor and testimonies by a number of other speakers gave intellectual and cultural bent to a conversation that invited local and national researchers in these themes to share their work and to lead us to all possible approaches to the subject.

As always, some express a belief in the total extinction of their indigenous roots while many point out pieces of indigeneity in the puzzle of identity and culture of the area. As always, too, in these types of meetings in the Greater Antilles, people of apparent Indo-Caribbean ancestry approach, wanting to explore more of their indigenous culture and legacy. One middle-aged woman asked for orientation in conducting oral interviews with her aging mother, “who knows many of our Indian things.” Others spoke of Indian roots that undergird Afro-Dominican socio-spiritual movements, music, religious practice, memory in place.

Piedra Sanadora
Carmen de La Rosa, guardian of the Healing Stone, active in ritual practice. Maguana Arriba, San Juan de la Maguana, Dominican Republic. Photo by Pedro Amoros.


A local group including Dr. Sobieski de Leon guided us to the Plaza of Anacaona, known locally as the Corral de Indios. This is a sacred space in the old cacicazgo, a large circular ceremonial field, with a stone—the Stone of Anacaona—at the center. It was fascinating to me that the stone is identified as having been in place for more than five hundred years since the massacres that were committed at this exact site. A local prayer woman (oradora), blending Catholic saints and "world alive" practice, normally cares ceremonially for the stone. However, she was not there for the day.

Stone
Respecting the Stone of Anacaona. San Juan de la Maguana, Dominican Republic, 2013.


On behalf of the group, Dr. Sobieski wondered if we would conduct a greeting ceremony for the Anacaona Stone, and I acceded. We cleaned up, burned sage, and announced our greetings to the sacred space of Anacaona's old areito ceremony, located notably near the exact center of the island. The place and the elements of wind and sun were with us, strong imaging in the clouds, undeniably a sacred landscape to be acknowledged and appreciated.

Not far up the mountain, where roads turned to dirt and stone, we later arrived at the altars of the region's Liborio tradition. This, too, is a context of sacred landscape, a sacred water place still guarded by young men of descendant families. 

Liborio is a legendary figure—clairvoyant, curandero, natural mystic leader of the early 20th century. Christ-like for some, source of inspiration and spiritual strength for many, Liborio left a legacy in the history and memory of his intense and extensive movement. Liborio's blessing of the water at this site is remembered in the ritual and bathing in the mountain’s sacred water, observance that strongly persists.

Here, too, we offered our respects to the cave altar, the “path of crosses,” and the sacred water. In conversations with the young people guarding the site and with ethno-documentalist Ariel Mota and scholars Fatima Portorreal and Glenis Tavares, all gave testimony of many family ceremonies to water still performed in the area. 

As we visit sites and peoples in our approaches to indigeneity, often there is call for ceremonial formality. We opt to respect local tradition and share in "world alive" ceremony, purely traditional or blended with other beliefs that reflect a basis of respect. 

Just these brief visits around San Juan de la Maguana and elsewhere in Dominican Republic offered evidence of rich orality and currents of identity and belief of considerable indigeneity. The challenge of our research and exhibition project is how to continue to gather and interpret this layered reality, how to decipher, correspond, compare across islands and localities the evidence of indigeneity in the Caribbean world. 

—Jose Barreiro

Jose Barreiro (Taíno) is head of the Office of Latin America within the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. 

To read more about the Indigenous Legacies project, please see a related short essay by Smithsonian Latino Center Director Eduardo Diaz.

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