For many years, political elites,especially in Cuba and Puerto Rico, have assumed the extinction of the indigenous populations of those islands, or at least their absorption into a mixed population that served as the basis of a new “indigenous” people who could then be mobilized to face outside threats, usually the North American. I have written about this in the context of the construction of a “Cuban” politically and culturally useful ethno-racial type. See, e.g., Larry Catá Backer, From Hatuey to Che: Indigenous Cuba Without Indians and the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,
American Indian Law Review, Vol. 33, 2009.
A group in Puerto Rico has been working to destabilize these assumptions, as well as the racism and cultural privileging inherent in these ideologically driven histories. They have produced a film speaking to these issues noted on the United Nations Radio Spanish language Website
Una película sobre la extinción del pueblo Taíno, oriundo del Caribe, explora el tema de la autodeterminación de la identidad indígena y las raíces de la población en Puerto Rico. Pero además reflexiona sobre la negación de los orígenes indígenas, un problema actual inspirado en el racismo y la exclusión de esos pueblos.
Reportage: La polémica sobre la existencia de los Taínos, United Nations Spanish Radio (August 11, 2010) (directed by Alex Zacharías).For those interested, a more general (and also short) broadcast on Latin American indigenous rights is also available. Los derechos indígenas y las doctrinas coloniales United Nations Spanish Radio (Aug. 9. 2010).