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7836: Quisqueya, etc. A reply from David Geggus
From: David Geggus <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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
University of Florida
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