Cuba DNA Project - News

Personal thanks to Dra Ana Oquendo Pabón for sharing the following information with us. This is of special interest to our members with Haplogroup A results:

Yesterday, almost three and a half years since the launch of the Puerto Rican DNA Geographic Project, one of our biggest goals was achieved. We have received word that FTDNA has agreed to and will designate as "of Taíno ancestry" anyone who matches those with indigenous mtDNA in our project who have oral history of Taíno ancestry or traditional documentation of Taíno ancestry.

For all of us in this project, this is not only a monumental step for the descendants of our indigenous people but of historical importance especially since it is happening in a public DNA project. Additionally, DNA testees whose roots are in Cuba or Santo Domingo who match anyone in our Puerto Rican Project with oral history or traditional documentation of Taíno ancestry may also request that their ancestry be listed as Taíno.

This has come about largely due to the unceasing and active recruitment of participants to test not just their yDNA but their mtDNA and especially to the very special persistence of select project members with known Taíno roots.

A little history:
The Taíno, an Arawak people from the Orinoco-Amazon Delta region of South America populated the Caribbean Islands. Puerto Rico, was one of their three main centers of culture, Hispaniola (Santo Domingo/ Haiti), the second and northern Venezuela, the third. Prior to the time of Columbus, they had already reached and populated the eastern territory of Cuba. They were very similar in culture to the Ciboney of the central and west coast of Cuba, the Lucayas of the Bahamas and the aboriginals of Jamaica, all islands on which they also lived. They were excellent sailors and traded by navigating between the neighboring islands, the northern South American continent and the Yucatan peninsula in the 100 men canoas which they invented. The words canoe (canoa), huracán (hurricane), sabana, (savannah), barbecue, (barbacoa), maíz (maize), hámaca (hammock) manatí (manatee), tabáco (tobacco), iguana and other words persist in our Spanish language as well as English. So, when you say one of these, remember they came from the Taíno people.

While on his second voyage to the New World, on the 3 of November, 1493, while anchored in the bay of the island of Guadalupe, Cristóbal Cólon (Columbus) embarked briefly to explore the small island with his men. During this respite, he and his men discovered Taíno natives who had been captured by the Caribe Indians who inhabited that island. The Caribes ruled from Togo and the Windward Islands to our own island of Vieques. There were 12 native females and two youths whom Columbus took on board after they passionately implored him to take them west to their island named Boriquén. From the 10th of November, the ships continued westward finding so many small islands, he named them the 11,000 Virgins. On the 19th of November, an island came into view that was much larger and more beautiful than any of the rest (those words are from the actual first historical account of the encounter). Upon seeing their island and despite the distance, the Taíno Indians who had been captured by the Caribs on Guadalupe, jumped excitedly into the sea. They swam to the shores of their beloved Boriquén followed by Columbus and his men. BIG mistake, that. (Only political statement I'll make).

Columbus named the island San Juan Bautista after Don Juan, the prince son of Ferdinand and Isabela.

Puerto Rico had about 20 or more Caciques at the time that Columbus arrived on his second voyage to the New World. Agüeybana who ruled in the southwestern part of the island in what is now Guánica, was the Chief Cacique of all the Taínos. The name Borikén means "Great land of the noble lord". Cacique Guarionex ruled the island of Quisqueya or Santo Domingo. Taino caciques were polygamous and had arranged marriages that served to cement alliances between the cacique's lineage and those of his allies. Right to rule was matrilineal. Women could also be caciques.

From genetic studies on fossil remains, the Taíno people are known to primarily belong to Haplogroups A and C. Consistently, throughout the history of our project, on viewing their match pages, those with Haplogroup A and C indigenous roots have, across the board, seen a list of people mainly from within our group or names of other Puerto Ricans not in the project. There have also been a few Dominicans and Cubans whose mtDNA have also matched our members. There are an overwhelming number of exact HVR1 and HVR2 matches among those within the Haplogroup A group as well as within the Haplogroup C group. Of 140 mtDNA participants, 83 or 59.3% have indigenous results. Within the indigenous group,

50 (60.2%) are in Haplogroup A (one group with 11 exact matches, two others with 7 and 10)

29 (35%) are in Haplogroup C (Largest group is one with 17 exact matches. This haplotype matches one of the fossil remains in the first article below)

3 (3.6 %) are in Haplogroup B (all 3 are exact matches)

2 (2.4%) are in Haplogroup D (both are exact matches)

Understandably, the reluctance to designate anyone at the outset in 2003 as being of Taíno ancestry has been due to the fact that the indigenous roots may have been derived from one of the several natives known to have been brought to the island of Puerto Rico in the Post Colombian era. However, it is a historical fact that the overwhelming majority of this small group was native men brought from the surrounding islands brought to work in the mines to dig for gold. A very scant few were women. With such a large number of participants from families who have been endogamous from the 1500s to this day, our members represent indigenous mtDNA inherited from ancient maternal ancestors from every corner of our island. It is inconceivable that they be anyone other than the descendants of our "extinct" Taíno people, the first to greet the European to the New World.

We are grateful to all of our participants, from natives on the island, to those on the mainland and as far away as Iraq and other overseas locations who have been so active in upgrading their mtDNA.


Excellent Articles:

C. Lalueza-Fox, F.Luna-Calderon, F. Calafell, B Morera and J.Bertranpetit. MtDNA from extinct Tainos and the peopling of the Caribbean. Ann.Hum.Genet.(2001),65,137-151.


C.Lalueza-Fox, M.T.P.Gilbert, A.J.Martiínez-Fuentes, F.Calafell,and J.Bertranpetit. Mitochondrial DNA from Pre-Columbian Ciboneys From Cuba and the Prehistoric Colonization of the Caribbean. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 121:97–108 (2003)