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Baracoa, Guantanamo . . . the Cuban Connection

Baracoa, Guantanamo . . .  the Cuban Connection


For the past 8,000 years, there have been extensive movements of peoples, cultural innovations and ultimately cultivated plants, back and forth across an aquatic expressway, which linked southeastern North America with northwestern South America.  Indeed, the indigenous peoples of the southern half of the Southeastern United States can best described as extensions of South American and Mesoamerican cultures, rather than being associated with the traditions and DNA of the remainder of North America.  This is a long article, but you wont’ get any of this information anywhere in the United States, except maybe Miami.



In 2007, the American Museum of Natural History in New York City requested that I read a box full of archaeological reports and Early Spanish Colonial Archives, prior to preparing the architectural drawings for Mission Santa Catalina de Guale on St. Catherines Island, GA.  

The New York archaeologists had relied on some highly respected Georgia archaeologists for furnishing the cultural knowledge base for interpreting the Native American village around the mission.  Unfortunately, the Georgia archaeologists might have gotten the English names of the pottery styles on St. Catherines Island right, but they got everything else wrong.  They labeled all the Native American place names along the Georgia Coast Creek words, when in fact, none of them were.  They labeled the Guale Indians on St. Catherines, Creek Indians, when they were obviously not so.  In fact, the Guale Indians didn’t even call themselves Guale.  It was a name given them by the Spanish friars.

Long after the architectural work was completed, I eventually figured out that between 1565 and 1600, the Spanish killed or drove off the indigenous peoples, living between the St. Marys River, Altamaha River and St. Catherines Island.  The Native people on St. Catherines had been boated there by the Spanish from a location about 15 miles south of Savannah. 

The enigmatic Native American place names puzzled me.  They looked like South American words, but that was totally implausible . . . at least it seemed so at the time.

Then in 2013, Marilyn Rae discovered an ancient book in the Fantasy and Utopia bin of the Brown University Library.  It described the landscape and people of Georgia and Northeast Alabama in 1653.  The author discussed both the Apalache commoners and the elite.  They lived in separate towns. The commoners were identical in every detail to the Creek Indians of the early 1700s.  The author provided information that would not be known to archaeologists until the late 20th century. 

HOWEVER, the Apalache elite were clearly descended from people, who immigrated from South America. It was then that I realized that virtually every cultural trait, which differentiates the Creeks from other tribes came from Peru.  That includes the clothing.  How did those South American get to the Southern Highlands?


Linguistic framework

Once the reader sees the etymology of these indigenous words, it becomes obvious how important they are for understanding the past.  Anthropologists in Latin America often use the word Taina, rather than Taino, for the main Arawak people in the Caribbean Basin.

Format:   English or Spanish name: [indigenous name] (ethnicity) [meaning] – discussion

  1. Baracoa [Parakoa or Barakoa] (Taino) [Ocean – descended from]
  2. Apalache [Aparashe] (Panoan) [Ocean – descended from]
  3. Apalachen [Aparashen] (Panoan) [Plural of Apalache]
  4. Oconee [Okauni] (Itsate Creek) [Water or Ocean – descended from]
  5. Uchee, Euchee or Yuchi [Ueshe] (Derived from Pre-Gaelic Irish) [Water]
  6. Paracusi [Parakushi] (Panoan) [Ocean Elite] – Name of Nazca Plain people and high kings of Apalache and Creek Indians
  7. Savanna [Zabana] (Taino) [Coastal Plain] – origin of Savannah River’s name
  8. Guale [Guali] (Taino & Arawak) [children] – The Spanish friars called the Georgia Indians, children!!!
  9. Toa [Toa or Toali] (Taino & Arawak) [mother] – Large provinces in Cuba and Georgia
  10. Ciboney [Sibone] (Taino) [Stone Balls] – Large provinces in Cuba and Alabama.
  11. Tennessee (Taenasi) (Itsate Creek) [Descendants of the Taina] – Muskogee Creeks called them the Tensaw..

Cuban archaeologists always know when they are digging into a Ciboney village, because they will find hundreds of stone balls.  These were used in bolos . . . a type of hunting weapon still used today in southern South America.  Stone balls are also endemic along the Coosa River in Alabama. The town names recorded by the Hernando de Soto Expedition are not Creek words and thus are probably Ciboney.   You will read later in this article that Cuban archaeologists believe that the Ciboney came FROM the Southeastern United States.  Their homeland may well be Toa in central Georgia or Toasi (Middle Coosa River Basin) in Alabama.  So the oldest stone ruins being found in East Central Alabama may have been built by the Proto-Ciboney.


Charles de Rochefort

In 1658, French ethnologist, Charles de Rochefort, wrote l’Histoire naturelle et morale des îles Antilles de l’Amérique.  The encyclopedic book is an astonishingly accurate ethnic history of the Caribbean Basin, plus the states of Georgia, Alabama and Florida. 

De Rochefort stated that the Arawaks originated in Georgia, South Carolina and northern Florida.  They were responsible for the earliest pottery in that region and also for the construction of shell rings.  Most of these proto-Arawaks began migrating southward until they ultimately reached Peru. Some of the proto-Arawaks remained in North America, but degenerated into less culturally advanced migratory bands. 

Ultimately, the Arawaks begin migrating northward again until they reached the Southern Highlands.  De Rochefort stated that immigrants from South America and the Caribbean Basin formerly occupied most of the Southern Highlands, but most were eventually pushed out by immigrants from Mexico and the Apalache.   The elite of the Apalache were from South America, but their ancestors probably arrived around 100 AD or earlier. After around 1735, the Apalache were generally called Creek Indians.

This book is still held in high esteem by scholars in Mainland Europe, but British scholars quickly ignored it, after Great Britain embarked on the ethnic cleansing of the Southeast via the Native American slave trade. Nineteenth century Ivy League academicians tossed the book into the “Fantasy and Utopia” bins of libraries, because it devoted two full chapters to an advanced indigenous civilization in Georgia and northeastern Alabama, called the Apalache Kingdom. Northern scholars assumed that it was impossible for an advanced civilization to have existed in the Southeast because the whites currently living there were so backward.   

The elite of the Apalache in North Georgia and Northeast Alabama lived in identical type houses – complete with stone foundations.


Archaeological investigations in Cuba

Soon after Cuba became an independent nation in 1900, several American archaeological expeditions were made to Cuba. The Museo Antropológico Montané from the University of Havana was the sponsoring institution for academic exchange. These studies were focused on the acquisition of trophy art. They gave little thought to the people, who made this art.  Archaeological reports primarily described the treasures they had found, with little or no mention of the architecture or utilitarian artifacts.

In 1900, ethnologist Stewart Culin, from the University of Pennsylvania, studied descendants of aboriginal communities in the region of Baracoa in Guantanamo Province.  Most of the indigenous population of Cuba had been extinct for centuries due to Spanish military actions, European diseases and slavery.   Culin was intrigued as to why indigenous peoples around Baracoa had maintained their distinct identity.  He eventually discovered that most of these survivors were not Taino Arawaks, but rather descendants of Aruacas and Caribs from Colombia.  

Culin’s observations were published in the book, The Indians of Cuba, two years later.  The professions of anthropology and archaeology were just beginning in the United States.  By the time, these professions had become firmly established after World War II, Culin’s book had been largely forgotten and otherwise deemed irrelevant to the study of North American Indians.

After excavating the Nacoochee Mound in Northeast Georgia during 1915, the Heye Foundation sent its archaeologists on brief surveys of Tennessee, Florida and Texas then began to look around for more exotic locales to study. Mark Harrington, from the Heye Foundation, excavated in various regions of Cuba and edited Cuba before Columbus in 1921.  While in Cuba, Harrington quickly noticed that Cuba’s indigenous peoples had a profound cultural connection to the American Indians of Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee.  Harrington’s exploits were mentioned in a recent article in a Cuban Archaeology magazine.

English translation:  Excerpt of article in “Los Ulitmos Descubrimeintos Arqueologicos en Cuba

Author:  Archaeologist  Fernanando Ortez     Magazine:  Cuba Arqueologica,  Aňo 1, No. 1, p. 35

“As for the southeastern United States, some argue that the Tania Culture moved from the islands to the mainland and not vice versa, being in that area, from the Gulf of Mexico to Tennessee and the Atlantic to the coast of Texas, the typical cassava metate can be found.  Some Taino style petaloid axes have even been discovered in Georgia.”  Note:  Several stone metates and casava or tortilla grills were unearthed at construction projects, I was supervising in the Shenandoah Valley . . . specifically, the Seven Bends Area between Toms Brook and Woodstock, Virginia.

“Holmes (archaeologist) drew attention to the fact that the characteristic decorative motifs of the Tainan ceramics are found among the Indians of this northern region, supposing that there was a southern influence brought from the Antilles by Taino immigrants. In Florida, the Seminoles use the Cuban bohio, which is aboriginal, and the nutritional use of the root of coonti bread is similar the casava bread of the Indians of Cuba. In fact, the Indians in Florida, who preceded the Seminoles, cultivated cassava.  However, the tips of flint arrows, pipes, or other typical objects of that area of the United States are not similar to those of the Taino culture.”

“Fewkes (North American archeologist) when referring to the primitive culture of Cuba, the Ciboney, said that the connection of the fishermen of Cuba with the population of the Florida Keys in intimate, but he still can not determine which proceeded the other.”

“Harrinigton noted that the Heye Foundation Museum has identical objects from Cape San Antionio, found in the Florida Gulf Coast and South Atlantic Coast regions. They are the same tools, axes and snail vessels, as the Ciboneys of Cuba. If it could be shown that the Cuban fishing villages received their culture from those of Florida, it would be necessary to think of an ancient North American settlement of Cuba and Haiti. The Ciboneys later fought, but were then dominated by a South American invasion of Auracas and Tainos.”

“As for the origin of the Taino culture, it will be necessary to study the origins of the Taino in South America, where numerous Aruacas and Caribes still live. But as for the Ciboney origin nothing can be certain, and its North American origin in Florida or Georgia is quite possible.”

The Aruacas were the “Sea People”

Nowhere in North American anthropological literature today are the Aruacas of Baracoa mentioned as living in Cuba or being skilled mariners, who traversed the entire Caribbean Basin.  Apparently, Baracoa was their main base of maritime operation, but they were actually a part of the Tayrona Civilization in Colombia.  It is currently believed that they were also the original priesthood for the Itza Mayas . . . who were not really ethnic Mayas.

Many POOF subscribers will probably remember watching a BBC documentary film on the Tayrona Civilization in 2016.   The Tayrona built all the strictures with field stone that we also see in North Georgia and Northeast Alabama . . . including stone cairns.  The Tayronas also chiseled out round water basins in rock boulders in order to see into the future.  These basins are legion in the mountainous part of Georgia and Upper Piedmont.  Such customs were also common among the Bronze Age peoples of western Ireland and southern Scandinavia.  It could well be that there was a Pan-North Atlantic Culture during that era.

Very few, if any, museums in the United States accurately portray the Creek People as they dressed prior to the mid-1700s.  Even into the early 1700s, Creek men wore conical hats and long shirts, plus carried those ornate “travel bags” that you still see today among peoples of northwestern South America.  The travel bag tradition continued into the late 1800s.


Timeline of Prehistoric Cuba

This section is a verbatim translation from pages in an anthropology book, used in introductory classes taught at Cuban universities.  You will notice that it tells a very different story about Cuba’s past than is seen in North American references.


The main sources of information on the pre-Columbian inhabitants of Cuba are the stories and chronicles of the so-called “chroniclers of the Indies”, so it is nuanced by the Europeanizing and Christian view of them. One of these chroniclers, Bartolomé de las Casas, distinguished three different types of cultures in terms of ethnic, linguistic and technological and social development, which he called Guanahatebey, Siboney or Sibuney and Taína. The first could be traced to the first migrations from Central America (Belize, Gulf of Honduras), while the other two would proceed to different waves of Arawak groups from the N. of South America.

Another additional source of information is the archaeological, ethnological and morphological studies carried out during the 20th century that have made it possible to know better the life of these first inhabitants of the island. These studies have led to the classification of pre-hispanic human groups in Cuba into three groups: the age of the shell (corresponding to Guanahatebey), the age of the stone (corresponding to Siboney) and the age of pottery . . . The Taína).


The Cuban aborigines are the result of several migratory waves that arrived in Cuba from different parts of continental America. It is thought they could use rustic boats or canoes. It has been proven that it was possible to navigate in them from South America by the trip of the well-known Cuban naturalist Antonio Núñez Jiménez. The migrations reconstructed by archaeological evidence are:

First Migration: c. 6000 BC. From the Gulf of Mexico and North America.  All of the mega-mammals had died out in North America by around 8000 BC.  However, some still lived in Cuba in 6000 BC. These first groups were Paleolithic hunters, who came from the Mississippi, Florida and Bahamas behind the Giant Cuban Ground Sloth (Megalocnus rodens), manatee, almiquí, jutía and others. The groups coming from the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, came more specifically from the area of ​​Belize and Gulf of Honduras.

Second Migration: c. 2500 BC from Central and South America, especially the territories that occupy Mexico, Honduras and Venezuela. They settled on the southern coast of Cuba (Ciénaga de Zapata, Isla de Pinos and Guanahacabibes). They were platform fishermen and coastal collectors. They used knives, hammers, mortars with shells, spikes, etc. They had a matriarchal society and buried their dead.

Third Migration:  c. 1400 BC from Florida.  These people had pottery and built shell rings.  They lived for a few centuries on the edge of the Gulf of Batabon then apparently migrated elsewhere. The hunter-gatherers, living elsewhere in Cuba, did not learn pottery making from them.

Fourth Migration: 500 BC from Florida, Georgia and possibly the Mississippi River Valley. They settled in Matanzas and spread throughout that area of ​​the north coast. These peoples had the same cultures as the North American Woodland Period and introduced pottery making to Cuba.  Note: I suspect these people were part of the Deptford Culture, which originated in the Savannah, GA area.

There is some evidence for western and southern Cuba being visited by Maya traders between 100 AD and 1500 AD, perhaps on slave raids, routine trading or mining expeditions.  However, no permanent Maya towns have yet been identified in Cuba. Many archaeologists think that a Chontal Maya port was located on Juventud Island, but this has not been confirmed by archaeological excavations.

Fifth Migration: Sixth Century AD – First migration of Tainas from the Antilles. They were located mainly in the eastern zone of Cuba, around the current Banes. They introduced maize, cassava, tobacco, and many other implements of the agro-food economy. They had rituals and had a social organization.

Sixth Migration: First half of the 15th century AD. They used the same migratory route as their predecessors and settled essentially in Mayarí. According to the Father de Casas, these were the Caribs, coming from the coast of Venezuela. They were more advanced and practiced the agriculture of maize and cassava, in addition to making very fine pottery.

The culture of the Guanahatabeyes is considered direct heirs of the towns of the first two migrations. The villages at the end of the second migration that came from the north of Venezuela could be associated with the siboney who would have reached Puerto Rico by 1000 AD.

The Taínos proper or classic Taínos could be associated with the fifth migration. While the sixth migration could be associated with the classic Taínos and with Carib peoples. Due to these identifications the oldest settlers of the island would have been the ancestors of the Guanajatabeyes, followed by the ancestors of the Ciboneyes and later the classic Taínos.

At the time of the arrival of the Europeans, all these aboriginal Cuban peoples would have had in common a matrilineal society with divisions of labor by sex and ages and a form of animist religion and cult to the ancestors.


Aboriginal Groups

The first inhabitants of the island are given three types: Guanathabeys, Ciboneys and Taínos. The first group was rustic, reddish-skinned, did not cut their hair, lived in caves near the sea and had a technologically simple culture. The other two groups were different, they lived in houses, they used elaborate clothes, they cut their hair using a guira and, in general, they had better instruments of work.

The first group is called hunter-gatherers and the second is farmers-potters. These groups were the result of different migrations and of the internal historical development itself.

The technological phases

The aborigines of the Conch Age had a mesolithic culture, settled on the south coast of the west of the main island of Cuba and on the Isle of Pines. Mollusks, crustaceans and birds proliferated in this region. Its main activities were platform fishing and littoral collection. They developed techniques to make instruments with the sea shell, hence their classification. They lived in the open air and rarely used the caves.

Aborigines of the Stone Age, also late Mesolithic, settled on the north coast of the west and center of the island. Although they constitute the first migration were more advanced than the previous group. They developed the hunting and the fishing, without leaving the collection. They mastered the fire and knew the technique for the carving of the flint stone. They lived in caves and ravines.

 Aborigines of the pottery age had a Neolithic type culture. They were part of the same linguistic family as the Aruacos and settled along the whole island. Note: The Aruacos were NOT Arawaks, but were originally a Chibchan speaking people.  Chibchan is the predominant linguistic group of southern Central America and northwestern Colombia.  Somewhere along their travels, the Taino absorbed an Arawak language. This fact is never mentioned in North American references.

They were farmers, and with their main crop, cassava, they made cassava, food that could not only be eaten at the time, but could also be preserved. They made ceramic objects and vessels and possessed a varied instrument of shell and polished stone. They lived in houses of wood and guano in various forms: from the classic cubic (bohio), circular (caney) or on piles (barbecue), always in a circular layout around a central space (batey).   The Aruaco villages were identical to Uchee villages.  The Uchee were typically known as the Round Town people.

The remnants of the Guanajatabey group were discovered by the Engineer Jose A. Cosculluela on the Guayabo Blanco mound in the Zapata Swamp, at the end of 1913. This finding belonged to the period or age of the shell; Its characteristic artifact was the gouge, its skull was not deformed like Taina skulls. It was large with 1382 c.c. capacity,

Lipsi-Subbrachycephalus. He has been nominated by the wise men of the Guamá Group, “Man of Cosculluela”. This group lived on the whole island, but at the time of the discovery it had diminished notably and had taken refuge in the western part of Cuba, current province of Pinar de Rio and in some cays in the south coast of the island. Its origin is not known exactly.

The origin of the siboneyes in Cuba would go back to cultures after the initial Guanajatabey; Although it is still discussed whether the most direct predecessors of the Siboneys were earlier than those of the Guanajatabeys, or whether he preceded him on his arrival in Cuba. The beginning of the culture that seems to correspond with the siboneyes belonged to the second period or age of the stone.

Their characteristic instruments were gouge, ball and dagger. Its typical settlements were: Pico Tuerto del Naranjal, Cayo Redondo and Soroa. Its small skull without deforming, 1165 c.c. Mesocephalic has been denominated “Man of Montané”. The ancestors of the Siboney inhabited throughout the island and in times of European discovery, the Siboneys had been subjugated by the classical Taínos. Like the Taínos the Ciboneyes were of Arahuaco origin and came from South America, its language similar to the Taino, although surely not directly intelligible with him.

Finally the origin of the Taínos seems to go back to the third period or age of the pottery. The predecessors of the last Tainos had as their characteristic instruments the petaloid axes and the earthen vessels. Its typical places: Baracoa, Banes, Morón and Cienfuegos.

The Cuban anthropology book made the astonishing statement that Arauaco villages were identical to Uchee villages in Georgia.


Hunter-gatherers: They lived near the coasts, in caves where their utensils were found, were gouges, knives and stone spoons. They made on the walls pictographs preserved until these days. They had reddish skins, short stature, and long black hair. They hunted iguanas, collected fruits from nearby trees but their basic source was fishing.

Agriculturalists and ceramicists:   They were more developed. They lived in different houses that they built. Among them the bohíos, still today used, somewhat modernized, by rural Cubans. In addition to hunting jutías and birds, they fished and collected the abundant fruits of intricate mounts, but the most particular thing was that it practiced the pottery and the agriculture. In this last one, with the coa, they opened holes to the fertile soil and they threw the seeds of maize or another plant that they wanted to cultivate. They pricked their hair, walked in rudimentary clothes and practiced various religious festivities.

Working tools:  These Aborigines had various instruments of work. They could be bone plates like picker-hunters or pots like potter-farmers. The latter had many weapons for hunting. Among them spears, bows and arrows and macanas that were like a sword to them. With shells, bones and stone they made their knives too. Although it was only for the cacique they learned to make chairs, which were made of wood. They also had instruments for the accomplishment of the cassava or to make music.   



by José Martí


José Martí (1853-1895) was the father of Cuban Independence.  He was a poet, essayist, journalist, revolutionary philosopher, translator, professor, publisher, Freemason, political theorist, and supporter of Henry George’s economic reforms.  While he lived in exile in the United States, he became highly respected by North Americans.  A statue was erected to honor him after his death in combat against the brutal Spanish army.   The poem, Guantanamera, was written shortly before his death.

Fidel Castro, Raul Castro and Ché Guevara pretended to be followers of José Martí, until they liquidated all pro-democracy leaders . . . then they betrayed the Cuban People. The song is so popular that the few remaining diehard Communists in control can’t ban it.  However, when you hear the Cuban musicians below singing this beautiful song, it is really a prayer to return Cuba to the democratic ideals of José Martí.  That is why Diana Fuentas is singing with her eyes closed.  It is a secret signal, that we spiritual freedom fighters use around the world. She is the young woman at the beginning of the song, with a voice like an angel.


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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history. Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.



    Thank you, Richard! You have just made my day!

    • You are quite welcome . . . but I don’t know quite how I made your day. Is it that you are lusting after my three feet tall collards plants? LOL


    The three images, including Sweetwater Creek Stele in Georgia, are rebuses, a form of writing whereby letters are combined to make a recognizable object, whose message reads left to right, top to bottom. Thus all three groups were literate with the same language. This accounts for the odd shapes, three eyes, three fingers, etc.


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