Of the cacique



Keywords: of the cacique
Description: Cacique Duties. The term "cacique," refers to ancient tribal leaders of the pre-Columbian era. These chieftains were encountered by colonial explorers and conquerors throughout the Greater and Lesser Antilles of the Caribbean. After the Spanish found cacique leaders all across this region, the term was applied more generally to indigenous...

One of the principle duties of the cacique was to organize the harvest for his tribe. The chieftain was in charge of determining the best places to plant the crops. All caciques had the right to clear land if they wished to grow produce at a given spot. He was also in charge of deciding when to plant and when to harvest the fields.

The cacique was very much like the commander in chief. He decided when to go to war with another tribe. Indigenous groups such as the Arawaks in what is now Jamaica and the Taínos of Puerto Rico weren't always peaceful. Violent disputes over territory called for a cacique to take command of his warriors and send them into battle.

Construction was an important part of life for primitive tribes in the Caribbean, and caciques were essentially the foremen. A cacique had to delegate tasks to his people. Some were instructed to build huts, places of worship or fortifications. Others were tasked to build canoes, utensils, weapons and tools.

Caciques were polygamous. They had multiple wives to tend to all their needs. Much like some of the political marriages in European history, these tribal leaders often married the daughters of other chieftains to form alliances and bring about peace between tribes. One of the most common ways to gain an ally was to pay a suitable dowry in order to marry the favorite daughter of another cacique.

Another responsibility held by the cacique was the administration and hosting of most religious ceremonies as well as many festivals. The indigenous people in the Caribbean and Latin America were spiritually oriented, and the cacique was in charge of conducting ceremonies in honor of the gods and nature. These chieftains also hosted regular events to celebrate yearly festivals such as summer solstice and the first day of harvest.

One last duty of a cacique was to judge his people. Members of the community followed basic laws pertaining to theft, murder and infidelity. The cacique had to decide what punishments were suitable for certain crimes, and to sentence the perpetrators after a period of deliberation. For instance, Arawak chieftains often sentenced thieves to death by impalement.






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