Social Categories

The Chiefs or Caciques –Maximum authority in the Taino community, was a leader both spiritually as well as in battle, assisted by helpers and a counsel of elders. Also served as judges, imposing punishment for wrongdoings; incest and adultery were heavily condemned, robbery usually lead to death.

Speaking about the caciques in his first trip, Christopher Columbus refers to "all these gentlemen are of few words and very beautiful traditions, and they rule by simply making hand signs, and which are understood that is marvelous."4

The caciques had the right to several wives, although the Tainos in general practiced monogamous marriage. Social positions were inherited and if a cacique died, the order of succession in case he didn't have children, would go to his sister's oldest son. Apparently, women could also reach this position, as was the case with the casica Anacaona, killed in the conquest period.

The Nitainos – were the cacique's assistants, that being the primary males were called "noble" by the Spanish. Las Casas presents them as "centurions and decurions or jury, that had under their government and regiments many more".5

The NiTainos supervised communal labor and were sent to establish trade relations with other regions. The had the best canoes and it is believed that they organized the transportation and storage of harvests.

The Buhuitihu or Behique – Very important figure, was the shaman or a kind of witch-healer that maintained communication with the Taino divinities. Responsible for watching over the health of the community, and, probably, of creating idols and ceremonial objects.

In order to heal, the behique was obliged to follow the same diet as the patient, and after purifying the patient, initiated a ceremony in which he used hallucinogens powders (cohoba). To the beat of the maracas, sang ritual songs to "speak" with the divinities or cemies, who, supposedly, revealed to him the origin of the sickness, seeming like the behique, by taking into his body the patient's sickness, would literately strip it from the patient. Before performing the cure, he would fill his mouth with bone or stone fragments that he would spit as symbols of the disease.

With a good dose of superstition, the behiques still possessed wide knowledge of medicinal plants which contributed to effectively relieved the sick from their ailments. It was in his best interest that the patient lived, because if the patient died, a lot of times, the relatives would avenge the dead by breaking every bone in the behique's body.

Common People –The main population was made up of men and women who labored on the communal survival of the village.
Women helped their husbands with farming, as well as, getting water, preparing food, making pottery, weaving baskets and cloth for daily use.

The men collected fruits, cut trees and conditioned the soil. Excellent fishermen, utilized nets, javelins and hooks made from conch or bone. Another technique was to drug the fish by diluting in the water a tonic made from a plant named baigua. They also worked in the construction of homes and provided the materials for diverse craft projects.

Naborias –Were below the Tainos and were considered servants or servants who worked on the heavier jobs directly for the cacique. It is possible that they may have belonged to the before-mentioned groups that were subjugated by the Tainos.