Caquetio


Caquetio

Caquetio, Caiquetio, or Caiquetia, were Indians of northwestern Venezuela, living along the shores of Lake Maracaibo at the time of the Spanish conquest. They moved inland to avoid enslavement by the Spaniards but were eventually destroyed as were their neighbours, the Quiriquire and the Jirajara.

The Caquetíos were also present in Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire when these islands were first discovered by Alonso de Ojeda in 1499.

The Indians occupying this region were known as Caquetíos by the Spaniards and their language (Caquetío) belongs to the Arawakan family of languages.

The Caquetío and the Jirajara spoke an Arawakan language (also referred as the Caquetío Language), and their cultures were quite similar.

The Arawakan or Caquetío language is termed a "ghost" language because virtually no trace of it survives. Only the name remains, saved in 17th century texts.

During the first years of colonization, the native Indians of Aruba were described by the Spaniards as Caquetíos. In addition, the Caquetíos in the mainland were the tribe geographically closest to Aruba, and archaeological evidence points towards close ties between both groups during pre-Columbian times. Thus, the most likely scenario is that most of the Indians who returned to Aruba from Hispaniola were Caquetíos, as were also most of those found in Aruba at this time. The latter were likely either deportation escapees or mainland migrants. This scenario is supported by the fact that the Indians that migrated from Aruba to the mainland in 1723 to found the town of El Carrizal were described as Caquetíos.

Perhaps as many as 600 Indians lived in Aruba at the time of the Spanish discovery in 1499. Together with Curacao and Bonaire, Aruba was declared an island without use in 1513, and two years later some 2000 Caquetío Indians from the three islands combined were transported to Hispaniola to work in mines. These Indians presumably comprised the entire population of the islands, but 150 to 200 were returned to Aruba and Curacao in 1526 to work on the exportation of brasilwood, kwihi, and divi-divi. The Indians returned to Aruba and Curacao were mainly Caquetíos, but some Arawaks from other Caribbean islands were included in the group. Because of the complexity of the Aruba cave labyrinths, it is possible that the Indians were mostly natives who had escaped deportation, but they could have been recent migrants from the mainland.

In addition, substantial mainland to Aruba migrations of Indian escapees occurred from 1529 to 1556 during the development of the Venezuelan colony (Haviser, 1991). Aruba was neglected by the Spaniards from 1533 until the Dutch conquest of 1636, when Spanish and Amerindian languages (especially Caquetío) were widely spoken. Upon the Dutch conquest the Spaniards fled, and all the Indians were deported to the mainland because they were regarded as sympathetic to the Spaniards.

However, in that same year of 1636 the Dutch West Indian Company assigned Aruba the duty of breeding horses and cattle, and Indians were chosen for these endeavors because they had a good reputation as wild-horse hunters. Thus, Indian migration to Aruba was stimulated. Also, some Indians in war with Spaniards west of Maracaibo fled to Aruba. The importance of Aruba diminished after the 1648 Dutch Peace Treaty with Spain and the island was neglected again. In 1655, the Dutch West Indian Company recognized free Indians in Aruba as trade partners. These Indians were assigned a piece of land on which to maintain themselves through cultivation; they also cut and sold wood and exploited marine resources. In his description of the Aruban way of life during the second half of the 17th century, A.O. Exquemelin points out that the Indians spoke Spanish, were Catholic, and were visited frequently by Spanish priests from the mainland. As an example of their strong links with the mainland, some 200 Indians agreed to leave Aruba in 1723 to raise the Venezuelan town of El Carrizal under the ecclesiastic jurisdiction of the city of Coro.

Bibliography

*(1948). " Handbook of South American Indians". Volume 4. Washington: Smithsonian Institution.
*Hertog, Johannes (1961). "History of the Netherlands Antilles". Dewitt.
*Hutkrantz, Ake (1979). "The Religions of the American Indians". M. Setterwall, trans. Berkeley: University of California Press.
*Steward, Julian et al, eds (1959). "Native Peoples of South America". New York: McGraw Hill.


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