PRE-1492: Four thousand years before European contact, the Taíno people come up from the Orinoco and sail into the Caribbean Sea. They inhabit the island and split it into five chiefdoms. Maguá is the Chiefdom in which Cabarete is located.
1492: The arrival of the Spanish sparks indigenous resistance. Within years the Taíno population is decimated due to war, disease, abuse, and enslavement.
1835: The Dominican Republic is under Haitian rule. The Haitian government has freed the slaves on the island just as discriminatory laws in the American South threaten the livelihood of Zephaniah Kingsley and his mixed-race family. He moves to modern-day Cabarete and “founds” the town.
1980’s: Canadian windsurfers find windy conditions in Cabarete, thus bringing international attention to the spot.
WHAT IS ERASURE?
Erasure is defined as “the removal of all traces of something; obliteration.” Cultural and historical erasure, is when a dominant culture erases the culture or history of a people usually in order to perpetuate and/or defend colonialism.
MORE CABARETE FACTS
-Modern-day Cabarete belonged to the Taíno chiefdom of Maguá. At the time of European contact it was run by the Taíno cacique, or chief, Guarionex. In 1497 Guarionex was captured by the Spanish after his inability to quell the rebellion of people in his chiefdom. He was then forced to watch as they raped his wife and was held prisoner until 1502. He was killed when the ship meant to take him to Spain capsized.
-Many of the descendants of Zephaniah Kingsley still live in the area.
Columbusing can seem really innocent. Who cares who actually discovered a place if now we “all” get to enjoy it? Well, for one, it perpetuates a centuries old lie about what the first encounters with the Europeans were like (pro-tip: Columbus was actually horrible), and it strips people of their historical context and often their agency, too.
THE MYTH: COLUMBUSING CABARETE
The myths of Cabarete’s “discoveries” are well-known and oft-repeated: about thirty years ago some folks from Canada stumbled upon a tiny, windy, twenty-house village on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic thus discovering Cabarete for water sports aficionados the world over. But before that, in the 1800’s the town is “founded” by an American who buys a large plot of land to continue a “colonization experiment” with his wife—a freed slave. And even further back, Columbus with a group of 40 men built the first colonial settlement on the island in the winter of 1493 only 25 kilometres away.
But the question remains: how can you discover or found something that was already in existence before your arrival? A place that had a name, had people living on it regardless of how few—people that had cultivated the land for millennia before colonialism so rudely and violently brought that existence to a screeching halt.
A MAP OF THE ANTILLES LABELLED WITH THE TAÍNO NAMES
THE ACTUAL DISCOVERY
Four thousand years ago they came in canoes following the gentle curve of the Antilles dotted across Bagua—the Caribbean Sea. Maybe they were looking for new trade routes or perhaps they were being pushed to the north by the fierce cannibalistic Caribs with whom they shared uneasy and often violent relations. As they paddled through the crystalline waters a lush green forest of palm trees stretched across the horizon. In the distance the mountains were dressed in wispy clouds. The island was large and as they unloaded their supplies the air was filled with the sounds of the forest, the buzz of colibri wings and the call of cotica birds. The land is unspoilt, clean, and the vegetation is dense and proliferous. It will be a good place to cultivate, fish, and hunt.
Four thousand years ago they came in canoes and The Taíno people of the Arawak Nation discover this island and name it Kiskeya—“Mother of all Lands.”
COLUMBUSING AS A TOOL OF ERASURE
Why do the events of over one thousand years ago matter today? Because when we talk about Cabarete being discovered only thirty years ago or even as far back as 200 years ago, we perpetuate the sterilization of Dominican history and the erasure of some pretty important key facts. Before the arrival of Columbus the chiefdom of Maguá, in which modern-day Cabarete is situated, was one of the most densely populated Taíno provinces on the island. European colonization was met with armed resistance. It was ugly, it was brutal, it was part of one of the longest most horrific holocausts the world has ever seen. Erasing this only serves to assuage guilt, and does a disservice to our people who have weathered so much to be here today.
Who we credit with the “development” of Cabarete matters little: Cabarete is Dominican land and it belongs to Dominicans. Not acknowledging this fact, or brushing over it, has allowed for the rise of a Cabarete that is often for everyone except native Cabaretenses and the other Dominicans who have moved to the zone.
Columbusing is a kind of historical plagiarism—you cannot take credit for or ownership of that which isn’t yours. No matter how long you’ve been there or what you think you’ve poured into the economy. To state otherwise, is to attempt to take ownership of land that truly belongs to its people.
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