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7836: Quisqueya, etc. A reply from David Geggus

From: David Geggus <dgeggus@history.ufl.edu>

Some modern scholars think Quisqueya is bogus on both linguistic and 
historical grounds. Certainly, there is only one piece of evidence in its 
favor. That is the writings of Peter Martyr, the cleric at the Spanish 
court who interviewed returnees from the Americas through the 1490s. He 
recorded the Taino had used three terms to designate Hispaniola: 
Quizquella, Haiti, and Cipango. No other contemporary mentioned it.

Usage of Ayt´, on the other hand, is well attested. Ramon PanÚ (probably 
the first European to learn Arawak), Las Casas, and the chronicler Oviedo 
all gave it as the name for the island. Columbus's physician, Dr. Chanca, 
wrote in 1494 that it was the name of the island's easternmost province. 
The cartographer Andres Morales, who mapped the island in 1508 applied the 
term to a region approximating the  Montes Haitises in the modern DR.

PanÚ said Bouh´ was an old name for any of the islands, and Columbus also 
recorded the term. Las Casas thought this an error. As bohio meant hut (as 
it still does in local Spanish), there may have been some confusion with 
the concept of home.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, writers tended to give equal status to 
Quisqueya and Haiti, but by the late 18th century Haiti seems to have been 
the preferred term. In 1788, a French writer suggested renaming Saint 
Domingue, A´ti.  When the DR briefly became independent in 1821, it took 
the name Hayti Espanol. Thereafter, hostility toward the name set in among 
Spanish-speakers, and Dominican writers revived Quisqueya and fabricated 
justifications of its authenticity that some Haitian writers later copied.

There's more on this in my "The naming of Haiti," New West Indian Guide 71 
(1997): 43-68; revised version forthcoming in Haitian Revolutionary Studies 
(Indiana U.P.).
David Geggus
POB 117320
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32611

tel (W):  352 392 6543
fax (W): 352 392 6927