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Diving into Taino History: Chicho Spring – Part 1

May 4, 2011 | Author: | Posted in Travel and Leisure

Chicho spring is one of four individual caverns that make up the Padre Nuestro complex. The fresh water cave called Padre Nuestro, is located just 15 minutes from Bayahibe almost at the extreme south-eastern portion of the Dominican Republic. It is one of the country’s premiere cave diving locations and offers not only a spectacular experience, but this is also one of the few archaeology sites on the Hispaniola island that gives insight in the indigenous Taino (Ta’no) peoples.

The cavern is fed by a massive underwater tunnel that is filled with limestone stalagmites and stalactites and leads in to the main cave. The main cavern is has a large open space and is fed fresh air from small channels leading to the surface. There are many more caves and tunnels in the area that have yet to be discovered and explored. Some of the local hotels use these water holes as natural cisterns to provide drinking water to their establishments. However, this site was also used long before modern times by the Taino peoples for gathering fresh drinking water.

Created during the Pleistocene origin, the Padre Nuestro complex is made up a series of water-filled sinkholes in the limestone. The cave entrance of Chicho spring is access from a steep slope that descends about 25m to a freshwater pool in a large 30m wide and 20m high underground chamber. Which is lit The underwater pool itself is 8m wide by 20m long and has depths of 8m.

There is no flow of water or current and very little runoff which results in very little sedimentation, making for crystal clear water that stays a constant 25 degrees Celsius year round.

Mythology

Caves are the central theme in the Ta’no mythos. Ta’no believed the first peoples of Hispaniola came from two caves in a mountain named Cauta. As such, caves were closely connected to the spirits of their ancestors and the reverence of the caves were of vital importance to the Ta’no people’s belief system.

The ancestral Ta’nos emerged from one cave that was named Cacibajagua and the ancestors of the non-Ta’no peoples came out form the other that was named, Amayaoena and that the Sun and the Moon emerged from a cave called Iguanaboina.

To the Ta’no, life existed along a vertical filament separated by three layers. The earth was in the middle plane, with the celestial above and the bottom layer was a watery underworld known as Coaybay, which was the dwelling place of the dead.

The cave served as the portal between the Earth and Coaybay and their ancestors. The Ta’no also believed that the island of Hispaniola was a monstrous living beast. The head of the monster was at the eastern end of the island, in the chiefdom of HigYey. Two caves in HigYey were seen as the beast’s eyes.

The bats of the island were closely associated with the Ta’no’s mythos as well and as such are one of the most predominantly depicted animals in Ta’no art. They believed the bats were the spirits of the dead, called op’as, would be transformed in to bats to emerge at night to feed on Guava fruits. These spirits of the dead were called op’as and the bat is one of the most frequently depicted animals in Ta’no art.

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