Taino Symbols

Taino Symbols *

This sun symbol is one of my favorite Taino petroglyphs. El sol has always been important to me. My parents gleefully told embarrassing stories of me as an screaming infant—unwilling to stay in a darkened room; I suppose many children are afraid of the dark. As an adult, the dark holds no fears for me, I don’t think, but I do thrive in sunlight.

Another Taino favorite is the symbol for Coquí. The Coquí is a tiny tree frog whose loud, high-pitched cry, “¡Coquí!” fills the countryside at night. These tiny frogs are a beloved symbol of the island; you see their image everywhere and there is even a town named Coquí where my aunt lives in a house built by my maternal grandfather.

The Coquí’s cry or song— it all depends on your perspective, is loud, and when thousands sing at the same time it has been described as deafening; yet, “coquí” always lulled me to sleep when visiting the interior of Puerto Rico. During my last visit I stayed in the San Juan metro area where there are fewer Coquí. Oh, how I missed hearing their song at night!

Legend says the Coquí is unable to live outside of Puerto Rico, but Hawaiians have discovered to their dismay the belief is false; somehow the Coquí have migrated. Hawaiians hate its raucous cry and they have tried to exterminate the Coquí from their islands—to no avail. Yes, we Puero Ricans are stubborn survivors.

I have a little gold charm of a Coquí;  it is not bigger than the tip of my pinky and it is life size.

Coquí sitting on a leaf. This is a pretty orange-red one.

This one is regal in shades of greenish gold.

 * Addendum: In the two years since posting this article, I have learned much about the Taino, the people who greeted Columbus. A quick search of this blog will yield information on their language, writing, symbols, photographs, music, art, dance and culture. In addition, there are videos of present day Tainos performing dance, playing music and recreating some of the ceremonies of their ancestors. Lastly, there is information and photographs of the island they call home, Borikén. Please, look around.



22 thoughts on “Taino Symbols

  1. I love your Coqui charms. Do you sell them? I have been looking for some. I have been going to PR for years. I now spend 3 or 4 months in Rincon in the winter. The Coqui’s sing me to sleep every night.

  2. No, I don’t sell them. There was an online store in Puerto Rico where I bought some beautiful Taino amulets at a good price, and I believe they also had coquí charms but the site is down. Maybe, you’ll be able to find them via email or phone:

    Customer Service URL: http://www.yocahusurfwearinc.com
    Customer Service Email: sales@yocahusurfwearinc.com
    Customer Service Phone: 787-791-2015

  3. By the 1900, due to poverty, puertoricans migrated to the Dominican Republic and Hawaii slooking for jobs. This is why there are “coquíes” in Hawaii.

  4. According to this doctoral dissertation, the coquí was introduced to Hawaii on purpose, which is why the Hawaiians are really upset.

    “The introduction of a species to areas outside its native range can result in ecological and genetic changes of evolutionary significance. The frog Eleutherodactylus coqui was introduced to Hawaii, from Puerto Rico, in the late 1980s and has lost genetic variation in mitochondrial DNA.”


  5. Actually, if you read the dissertation it says the coqui was introduced via nursery plants. It seems they were dormant in the planting material and were transported there accidentally. Some say it was brought over on purpose, but this is highly unlikely because until Hawaii, and now possibily Guam, Puerto Rico was the only place where these little frogs lived or even survived! I just don’t see anyone making a trip halfway around the world just to release some frogs in Hawaii.

    Possible, but unlikely.

    The problem the Hawaiians are having with the Coqui is that the creature has a loud chirp that can drive some people crazy… especially if they are not used to it.

    I myself, love it and miss it something fierce…

  6. Pingback: 2010 in Review | Carole's Kentucky Chronicles

  7. Guess what…they’re here in Aruba too. But only in the garden of the La Cabana Hotel (and they’re not as loud) 🙂

  8. As I understand, the Coqui was accidentally introduced into Hawaii when plants, ordered from a Nursery outside Hawaii had Coqui eggs on them (abt 1980s) & hatched.

    The little Coqui frogs barely an inch long have flourished, but their sound (ko-KEE) irritates most Hawaiians who are used to the quiet of Hawaiian nights which aren’t so “quiet” anymore so Puerto Ricans who love their Coquis dearly have non-profits working hard to humanely solve problem.

    Also, many Puerto Ricans fled to Hawaii, America & other nearby islands a few years prior to 1900 when the U.S. Colonized the tiny island ignoring the fact it was already an independent Nation, separate from Spain.

    There are about 30,000 descendants of Puerto Rican ancestry in Hawaiian alone. Thanks for posting Taino Petroglyphs. Peace.

  9. Thanks for your comment. Would you tell us how the non-profits are trying to solve the coquí problem in Hawaii? I had not heard about that. And yes, we all do love our coquies!

  10. God, you people in Hawaii are so lucky to have the coqui in your island, I wish we had them here in Missouri so I can have a good night sleep. I actually had to buy a CD that has the coqui singing so my kids and I could sleep at night.Oh yes I’m Puertorican.

  11. I am looking to make a quilt for my dad. I wanted to bring some of our home to him there in Florida. Needed some ideas and thought to applique some Taino symbols. Any ideas or help as to where to find good representations or any other ideas for a quiet quilt?

  12. Ytha:

    Although I’ve done a great deal of embroidery, I’ve never created my own transfers and/or applications before, so I can’t give you detailed instructions. That said there are many places on the Internet where you may find Taino symbols reproduced from the cave drawings. Copying the images you like best onto transfer paper and transferring them onto fabric should not be too difficult. Take a look at some of the links below and see if you find any images you like.



    or Google “Taino symbols images.”

  13. I did some research and found those sites. Thanks, they were helpful. I have come up with something that looks like it will work. I tried designing and appliqueing a coqui on to a piece of fabric yesterday to see if I was getting too ambitious. I did it in one afternoon and received approval from my quilting group this morning. I really enjoyed it. Now the trick is in the fabric choices. Instead of the typical bright colors of the island, I will have to use some warm muted colors. I’m really excited about this project, though. Looking good so far.
    Thanks for your response and suggestions!

  14. ytha:
    I am happy you found what you were looking for. Warm muted colors should be perfect, kind of like the soft light of late afternoon just as the sun is about to set and the coquí really start singing. This will be a beautiful quilt destined to be a family heirloom. Please email me a photo of it when it is finished and I’ll give your quilt its own post/page to show it off.

  15. Carole,
    That’s very nice of you to say. We’ll see how it turns out. I would love to send you a photo. I actually can’t wait to see it, myself!

  16. Im a Puerto Rican looking for fabrics with Taino/Puerto Rican style symbols. I have found beautiful Mexican themes fabrics but nothing Puerto Rican/ Taino. Does anyone have ideas?

  17. I find that every time I’m in the market for something like this I need to do a new search. My favorite place for gifts or actually anything Puerto Rican, taino or the Caribbean as a whole is Isla. They used to have a print catalogue, but now are entirely online. Isla has plenty of unusual finds, not many posters, though. Find them at: http://www.islaonline.com

    Two other sites, offering posters: http://www.zazzle.com/taino+posters‎ and http://www.cafepress.com. A bit more pricey than posters are the art prints you will find at http://www.redbubble.com/.

    I hope you find what you are looking for.

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