El Chorro De Maita Museum
The Museum of Chorro de Maita is based around the discovery in 1986 of a 16th century burial ground at this location. The exhibitions themselves are based on the archaeological material found here over the years.
It is situated on the hill of Yaguajay, near the world famous beach of Guardalavaca, which draws tourists from around the world to Holguín Province.
The Museum protects the remains of an excavated indigenous Taino Indian village and cemetery. On display are the well-preserved remains of 62 human skeletons and the bones of a dog dating from the early 16th century.
Opposite the museum is a reconstructed Aldea Taína (Taino village) that features reconstructions of native dwellings and life-sized figures in a replicated indigenous village. Shows of native dance rituals are often put on for visitors and there is also an on-site restaurant, making the museum and surrounding area an ideal destination for a day excursion from Holguín or Guardalavaca.
Expanding our knowledge of this period
More recent research suggests that indigenous peoples were living in this locality many decades after the arrival of Christopher Columbus' (in 1492) and the subsequent Spanish colonisation.
What is remarkable, however, is how - even at this early stage in history - the cemetery displays an unprecedented ethnic diversity which can only be attributed to the influence and the migratory flows of the Spanish colonial period.
Firstly, the mere existence of a burial ground refutes typical practices of the period, where Taino communities would leave the dying or dead in the woods or in caves to end their lives.
The Chorro de Maita cemetery seems to have adopted a hybrid of local and Christian/colonial customs. The remains have been found here of a North African and a Meso-american aboriginal woman, apparently from Mexico's Yucatan area. In addition, two people of mixed heritage were buried here: one of them a mixture of native and African, and the other one the mixture of Spanish with a native. These inhabitants of mixed race can only have been the product of slaves brought by the Spanish and are probably the oldest Creole known in Cuba and the Caribbean. The remains have also been found of 23 individuals from outside the region, suggesting a level of mobility within the island of Cuba in that era.
In this way, the Chorro de Maita cemetery provides significant insight into Cuban history. As such, it the first of its kind found in the Caribbean and one of the oldest in the Americas.
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