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Puerto Rican Folkloric Dance

Sembrando Herencia 2017
La Promesa Rebelde / The Rebellious Promise

The History behind the Musical

In December 2017, Puerto Rican Folkloric Dance debuted our 15th original musical, La Promesa Rebelde (The Rebellious Promise). It paid tribute to our ancestors who rebelled against slavery in Puerto Rico, including Taino and African slaves, and their descendants. Written in English, Spanish, and Taino, our original production brought history to life through community theater, and traditional music and dance.

Each summer, our Director Dr. Ana Maria Tekina-eiru Maynard returns to Boriken (Puerto Rico) in search of a story that wants to be told. Through delightful synchronicities, the play's theme is always revealed, the keepers of knowledge appear, and as the play is being written, the perfect cast finds our call. La Promesa Rebelde was researched and written by Tekina-eiru during the summer of 2017. What an amazing experience it was to learn oral and documented history from Concilio Taino Elder Fernando "Cujon" Laboy of Guayanilla (top), Margie Lacen of Loiza (bottom), and Archaeologist Juan Rivera of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture.

With Cujon, Tekina-eiru stood on land where our indigenous ancestors fought the Conquistadors during the Taino Rebellion of 1511. With Margie Lacen, Tekina-eiru visited caves in Loiza where runaway slaves hid, and enjoyed her retelling of oral history that Margie learned from her abuela. Each year our musical raises awareness of often-forgotten elements from Puerto Rico's rich heritage, and brings history to life for the actors, dancers, musicians, performing arts students -- and you, the audience -- who share in the experience. We hope your reading of this history inspires you to seek out your abuelos who remember a past that has never been written down!
La Promesa Rebelde is an original story of slave revolt in Puerto Rico, based in oral and documented history. As the topic of slavery in Puerto Rico is extremely broad, researchers at the Institute of Puerto Rican culture encouraged us to find a focus to share -- and that we did! For the first time, our studies of the enslavement of our Taino and African ancestors were not focused on separately, but together - seeking out the overlap and places for collaboration. Enjoy these historical highlights.

In the earliest time period of Puerto Rico's slave history, the Taino and Africans were enslaved together, primarily to work the gold mines. Although the African slave trade to the Americas did not begin until the 1520s, Africans arrived directly from Spain, with Columbus, on his initial voyages to the New World. Thanks to Jalil Sued Badillo's 1986 ground-breaking research, we learned that the first slave revolt in the Americas was in Puerto Rico (1514)! During that time period, the Spaniards were STILL fighting the Taino: thanks to Taino expertise in guerilla warfare, the war against the Conquistadors - the Taino Rebellion of 1511 - lasted into the 1520s. The Taino wars united many Cacikes across our Island, and beyond, to defeat the common enemy. Despite superior weaponry, the Spaniards feared the Taino's fierce fighting skills and lost many men: the Taino could easily kill a Spaniard wearing a metal helmet with only their macana (war club)! In 1513, the Tainos successfully burned down the capital of San Juan (Capparra). Thanks to oral history shared by Taino Elder Cujon, we learned when things became bleak, our ancestors hid the people in refuges high in Puerto Rico’s thick central mountains to save them from the massacre - and the epidemic of smallpox (1519) that greatly reducing the indigenous population. Cujon is a descendant of such a community.

Thanks to another ground-breaker, through Guillermo A. Baralt's 1982 research on slave revolt in Puerto Rico, we learned about an interesting parallel in history: the well-organized African slave revolt of 1821 led by Marcus Xiorro was a revolt that unified many plantations in the region; their goal was to take over the Capital at San Juan. We also enjoyed reading true accounts of rebellions planned through Bomba! Unfortunately, many slave revolts - Xiorro's and others - never took place due to sellouts by informants.

These studies of slave revolt in Puerto Rico inspired the writing of this play, and changed the way saw slave history. We will forever be left with nostalgic wonder about how the health of our Earth would be if the indigenous lifeways around the world had not been interrupted.


Puerto Rico in the 16th century, Lopez Leon Dorian, Enciclopediapr.org, http://enciclopediapr.org/en/encyclopedia/puerto-rico-in-the-16th-century/

The Encomienda System, De Jesus Rivera, Ed, Enciclopediapr.org, http://enciclopediapr.org/en/encyclopedia/the-encomienda-system/

The Encomienda in the Caribbean Islands, by Viera Vargas, Ph.D., Hugo R, Enciclopediapr.org, http://enciclopediapr.org/en/encyclopedia/the-encomienda-in-the-caribbean-islands/

Puerto Rico's Economy under Spanish Rule, Cintróguilúíar, Enciclopediapr.org, http://enciclopediapr.org /en/encyclopedia/economy-under-spanish-rule/

Puerto Rico Negro, Jalil Sued Badillo and Angel Lopez Cantos, Editorial Cultural, 1986. [ Book ] First Slave Revolt in the Americas - Puerto Rico, 1521. [Blog summarizes Badillo research] http://roqii-monroe.tumblr.com/post/3708884802/first-african-slave-revolt

La primera rebellion esclavos negros en Puerto Rico y en America, Jalil Sued Badillo, Revista Insituto de Cultural Puertorriquena, October/December, 1984, No. 86. San Juan, Puerto Rico. https://issuu.com/coleccionpuertorriquena/docs/primera_serie_n__mero_86/17

Slave Revolts in Puerto Rico. Conspiracies and Uprisings 1795-1873, Guillermo A Baralt, Markus Wiener Princeton, N.J. 2007., December 17, 2014. https://www.amazon.com/Slave-Revolts-Puerto-Guillermo-Baralt/dp/1558764631

1514, July; Unnamed Tropical Storm, Puerto Rico Hurricane Center, Hurricanes and Tropical Storms in Puerto Rico from 1500 to 1899, http://huracanado1.tripod.com/history.html America's First Slave Revolt: Indians and African Slaves in Espana, 1500-1534, Erin Woodruff Stone, Vanderbilt University 2013. Also found: Ethnohistory 2013 Volume 60, Number 2: 195-217, Duke University Press Journals ONLINE, Dukejournal.org. https://mvlindsey.files.wordpress.com/2016/01/ethnohistory-2013-stone-195-217.pdf

Slave Revolt in Puerto Rico: Conspiracies and Uprisings, 1795-1873, Guillermo A. Baralt, Marcus Weiner Publishers, 2007. [ Book ]

Marcos Xiorro, Wikipedia, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcos_Xiorro CIMARRON (1809): Movie helps us understand what life was like on a Puerto Rican plantation in the early 19th century, Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIPg6Pm9W1g

Afropedea.org: Afro-Puerto Rican, Revolts. www.afropedea.org/afro-puerto-rican#TOC-Revolts

La Historia de la Esclavitud Negra en Puerto Rico, Luis Diaz Soler, Editorial Universitaria de Puerto Rico, 1981. https://run.edu.ng/media/11596923283297.pdf

Women and men on Plantations, Port Cities Bristol, http://www.discoveringbristol.org.uk/slavery/routes/places-involved/west-indies/women-men-plantations/

History of Organic Farming, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_organic_farming

Excavations at MARIA de la Cruz Cave and Hacienda Grande Village Site, Loiza, Puerto Rico, Irving Rouse, Ricardo E. Alegrí Department of Anthropology and the Peabody Museum, Yale University, 1990. [ Book ]

Jimenez de Wagenheim, Olga, "Puerto Rico: An Interpretive History from Pre-Columbian Times to 1900," Markus Wiener Pub., 1998.

Wagenheim, Kal and Jimenez de Wagenheim, Olga, "The Puerto Ricans: A Documentary History," Markus Wiener Pub., 1996. (Before I read this book, I hated history. ;) A facinating book that presents history in the words of those who were there.)

Kal Wagenheim, "Puerto Rico: A Profile", Praeger Publishers, New York NY, 1970.

Morales Carrion, Arturo, "Puerto Rico: A Political and Cultural History," W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1983.

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For more information:
Dr. Ana Mara Tekina-eir Maynard
Puerto Rican Cultural Center
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