Place names – Jamaica, Haiti, Cuba
One formerly English, one French and one Spanish Island which today still speak their respective European languages actually have Taino names: Xamaika for Jamaica; Ayti for Haiti; and Cubao for Cuba. More generically, the word Kaya or Cay in English refers to a small island and is common across the Caribbean, whereas a variation Key is familiar in Florida.
Hamaka – Hammock
That comfortable resting place where we all dream of lounging when spending time on a Caribbean beach owes its name to the Taino. The word is thought to originally mean fish-net and was documented by early Spanish colonialists who traded with the Taino. Hammocks became popular with European sailors as a comfortable place to sleep on ship and thus found their way into western culture.
Kanowa – Canoe
Canoes are the boats originally thought to have been used by the Taino to travel from South American rivers and across the Caribbean. Their use was heavily documented by the Spanish who made first contact with the native peoples. The average Taino canoe would carry 15-20 people, but were often much larger.
Barabakoa – Barbecue
This Taino method of preparing meat by cooking it on a grill of sticks above a flame was first documented by Spanish explorer Gonzalo Fernández De Oviedo y Valdés, in 1526. Its first documented use as a verb in the English language was made in 1661 in Jamaica.
Batata – Potato
Used by the Taino as the name for what is now called a sweet potato, the English derivation, probably via the Spanish patata later became used for the potato which originated in Peru. This staple of the western diet was first exported to Europe by the Spanish in the second half of the 16th century.
Tabaka – Tobacco
Finding its way into English via the Spanish tabaco, this plant was popularly chewed or smoked in a pipe as documented by Spanish explorers such as Oviedo. Tobacco use was originally thought to have been for ceremonial or medicinal purposes rather than the recreational stimulant it was quickly to become.
So there we have it. Holiday makers who spend their time in Jamaica or Cuba lounging in a hammock while eating grilled chicken and fries should spare a thought for the largely forgotten native people who made it all possible.