The Tainos are the indigenous people of the Caribbean, including part of Florida. We are different from Hispanics and Latinos. Hispanics are people from Spain. Latinos are people from Southern Europe. Before 1492, there were no Afrikans or Spaniards on our land, or people of any other race. There were only Tainos. Some people may think of us as “Native Americans” or “American Indians”. While the etymology of these terms can be debated, this is correct.

“Latino” comes from “Latin”. Latin is the root language of all the Southern European languages, known as the “romance languages”. From “Latin America” comes the colonial identity “Latino”. The term “Latin America” was coined by the French economist, Michel Chevalier. It was a political move to ally the conquered now Spanish-speaking and Portuguese-speaking part of “the Americas” with “Latin Europe” in their struggle with “Teutonic Europe,” “Anglo-Saxon America” and “Slavic Europe”. Our people have been used as pawns to fight Europe’s wars, against each other.

As for Hispanic, “Hispania” was the name the Romans gave to the Iberian Peninsula during their conquest. From “Hispania”, you get “Espana” and “Spain”. From “Hispania” you get “Hispanic”. In my head, I pronounce it, “HiSPAINic” for clarity, because the term only describes things from Spain, just like “Latin” is for all things Southern European.

There is a reason Tainos got tricked into calling themselves “Hispanic” and “Latino”. After colonization began, we forgot who we were. Queen Isabella of Spain was one of many monarchs who instituted laws forbidding us from practicing our indigenous religion, forbidding us from speaking our indigenous language, and making slaves out of us. They did this on purpose. Why? For power. For our land. If they stole who we were, it would be easier to govern us, because we would start thinking that they were us.

Why are we taught to call ourselves “Hispanic” and “Latino” instead of Taino? Why don’t we think of ourselves as Native American, American Indian or Indigenous? It’s all political. We are taught to claim our identity through our conquerors from 1492 because it hides us from the truth of our history. When people are robbed of their history, they are robbed of their humanity. We should be proud of being Taino. When we call ourselves “Hispanic” and “Latino”, it prevents us from being proud of our heritage. It also keeps us from the rights we deserve, like the right to govern our own land.

Knowing who you are gives you happiness and a purpose. If this is your first time being exposed to Taino knowledge, please share with your friends and family who are Taino but don’t know it yet. Use this knowledge to inspire others to reclaim their Indigenous pride and fight for our people’s rights.

For someone who has gone their whole life not knowing who they really are, this knowledge can be shocking. Some might not know what to do. We, the indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere, experienced genocide, leading to the death of 95% of our population. Our people have psychological damage from not knowing who we are and being denied our ancestral pride. Let us heal this psychological damage by being supportive of each other. After more than 500 years, it is time for the Tainos to wake up. Let’s do this, together.

You know what “Hispanic” and “Latino” really mean now. Welcome to being Taino. Welcome to finding out who you really are and who you were always meant to be. Be Taino. Every time you call yourself Taino instead of “Hispanic” or “Latino”, you are making a difference and you are honoring your people.