Chorro De Maita – The World Columbus Saw

The first look at the people of the New World by the Admiral Christopher Columbus, who thought he had found the Indies, was certainly what can be seen today in the Ta?o Indian village of Chorro de Ma?a in eastern Cuba.

Located just seven kilometers from the seaside resort of Guardalavaca at Holgu? province, you can find this unique site in Cuba, which is also a rare one in the Antilles. The village of this community of agricultural collectors is located on the exact place of the Indian settlement, at the Yaguajay fault overlooking the sea. The village consisted of caneyes, circular dwellings with a conical roof that housed the Ta?o family in a dormitory also used for rites, each one with its god; a kitchen for cooking and working ceramics; sloping walls grounded with poles to protect the musical instruments; and finally, the house of the priest-doctor, second in tribal hierarchy and link to the Ta?o Olympus.

Visitors can notice that everything is a replica of the original structures in this part of the Banes domain. Thirty-six figures of Indians are represented in their exact dimensions (on average the men were one meter 56 centimeters tall and the women somewhat shorter) with the cranial declivity pressed into the forehead of the newborn and over the first two years of life as the skull bones solidified. This deformity was considered a mark of beauty and a tribal differentiation. The figures also include the priest-doctor exorcising the evil spirits from a young woman with labor pains; a dance group; cotton spinners; cooks preparing yucca to make cassava bread; and the chief smoking; children playing with their dogs; women bathing and sunning themselves in a stream, wearing only woven bracelets; and men also bathing in colorful robes.

The dancers move in a circle at the feast of Areito, held to celebrate the harvest, a wedding or a religious ritual. Beyond them, it can be observed somebody planting sweet potatoes, corn, tobacco or yucca.

Across from the village you can also find the Chorro de Ma?a Museum, dedicated to the largest Indian burial ground discovered in Cuba and the Antilles. It covers 22000 square meters with 108 graves, an important number of offerings and objects of gold. Although the cemetery precedes the arrival of the Spaniards, it contains elements indicative of the Indian contact with them, such as: bells made by Europeans, fragments of brass and Majorcan china respecting the form of Old World pottery but decorated with details added by the Indians.

From the beginning of the 20th century, Chorro de Ma?a, named for the spring that stars there and the owner of the property (Ma?a, from “mamita” or little mother), was visited by individual collectors who learned from hungry peasants of skeletons, necklaces, pieces of gold and pink coral jewelry. Archaeology lovers will find this place a remarkable stop in their itinerary. They’ll enjoy the local mysteries and legends as well. Along with the aboriginal remains archaeologists found the cranium of one white European man about 20 years old, who was buried according to Indian tradition, naked and without sword or helmet, presumably as one more member of the tribe who joined the community without imposing his habits or customs. Another interesting mystery that catches visitors’ attention is the gold head of an unknown bird, a small figure unconnected to local divinities.

So, if you like archeology and history, Chorro de Ma?a offers you a magnificent vision looking back 500 years, being one extraordinary experience in your Cuba vacations.

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