Yuzia-Taino Cacique

Above: Detail of artist Samuel Lind’s ‘Yuiza’, Indian Cacique Chief.

The Legends of Loiza are many but perhaps the most popular one is about the only female Taino Cacique ( chief) named Yuiza ( Yuisa, Loaiza, Luisa, Loiza). Of all the Taino Chiefs of the Caribbean there were only two who were women, only one in Boriken ( Puerto Rico).

When the Spanish Conquistadores invaded Puerto Rico and enslaved the Taino Indians the indians resisted. They never adapted to slavery, most of the Taino men were killed. Many of the women lived on as wives of the spanish sailors.

Legend has it (that to protect her people) Yuiza became the lover of mixed conquistador Pedro Mejias and because of this she was killed by other Taino Caciques ( who felt she was a traitor to have been with a spaniard). She actually was a hero and greatly admired by her own tribal people, even today. This may be the legend that gives meaning to the mix in Loiza of black Africans and Taino Indian, or it may, in fact be a historical truth. In actual fact, there are no historical documents to prove this, her marriage with Mejias.

History records show that the colonial government of Puerto Rico, by a crown decree from Spain in the 1600’s, was instructed to place runaway slaves from the British colonies in what is today Loiza Aldea. This area was chosen by the Crown because it was the weakest flank of defense of the island, and they hoped that the freed slaves would help defend the island against British invaders. It is said that the majority of these Africans were from Nigeria.

Somewhat inexplicable would be the great quantity of fishermen among the people of Loiza Aldea. Fishing by escaped slaves was considered an aberration because slaves were traditionally taught a fear of the sea as a way to keep them enslaved. Historians argue that the Africans of Loiza developed their fishing skills through direct contact with the Tainos of Puerto Rico. The presence of Amerindian mtDNA in Loiza, supports this hypothesis. Loiza is populated by the largest community of African descendents on the island of Puerto Rico

“ . . The legend is that the name Loiza was that of a Taino woman, Chief Loiza or Yuisa, who governed a territory called Jaymanio in the margins of the Cayrabon river now named the Rio Grande de Loiza.”

… let us stick to the legend of this stately Taino Chief, Yuiza. In 1972 an artist from Loiza had a vision in which Loaiza came to her. She ( Lolita Cuevas) painted her vision in the dark at 2 am. Loaiza spoke to her and asked her to paint her but said she would not return. This drawing now hangs in City Hall in Loiza.

Below is the drawing made by Lolita Cuevas, from her vision.