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9196: estimated population, Hispaniola, 1492 (fwd)

From: Stuart M Leiderman <leidermn@cisunix.unh.edu>

from Bob Corbett, [undated], Pre-Columbian Hispaniola-Arawak/Taino
Native Americans,

There is a great debate as to just how many Arawak/Taino inhabited
Hispaniola when Columbus landed in 1492. Some of the early Spanish
historian/observers claimed there were as many as 3,000,000 to 4,000,000.
These numbers seem to be based on very little reliable evidence and are
thought to be gross exaggerations. However, since nothing like a census
was done, the methods for estimating the numbers are extremely shaky,
whether by these early historians or later critics.

One long technical article on the population comes in the with the low
estimate of 100,000. Several other modern scholars seem to lean more
forcefully in the area of 300,000 to 400,000. Whatever the number, what
happened to them is extremely tragic. They were not immune to European
diseases, especially smallpox, and the Spanish worked them unmercifully in
the mines and fields. By 1507 the Spanish were settled and able to do a
more reliable job of counting the Arawak/Tainos. It is generally agreed
that by 1507 their numbers had shrunk to 60,000. By 1531 the number was
down to 600. Today there are no easily discerned traces of the
Arawak/Taino at all except for some of the archaeological remains that
have been found. Not only on Hispaniola, but also across the Windward
Passage in Cuba, complete genocide was practiced on these natives.

- - - - - - -

>From Richard A. Haggerty. 1989. Chapter 6: Haiti: Historical Setting:
Spanish Discovery and Colonization, in Haiti: A Country Study. Federal
Research Division, Library of Congress.

The Taino Indian population of Santo Domingo fared poorly under colonial
rule. The exact size of the island's indigenous population in 1492 has
never been determined, but observers at the time produced estimates that
ranged from several thousand to several million. An estimate of 3 million,
which is almost certainly an exaggeration, has been attributed to Bishop
Bartolom de Las Casas. According to all accounts, however, there were
hundreds of thousands of indigenous people on the island. By 1550 only 150
Indians lived on the island. Forced labor, abuse, diseases against which
the Indians had no immunity, and the growth of the mestizo (mixed European
and Indian) population all contributed to the elimination of the Taino and
their culture.

- - - - - - -

Stuart Leiderman <leidermn@christa.unh.edu>
"Environmental Refugees and Ecological Restoration"
Environmental Response/4th World Project
University of New Hampshire-Durham 03824 USA
  portfolio available upon request

- - - - - - -

...query from a colleague about where to find an authoritative estimate of
the number of indigenous people on Hispaniola at the time of Columbus'

Elizabeth Chin, Associate Professor of Anthropology
Occidental College, 1600 Campus Road, Los Angeles, CA  90041-3314
ph (323) 259-2757, fx (323) 341-4969  ejc@oxy.edu