What Pegman Saw: Inomoca

It was Inomoca who was first to see them—far from shore, in a canoe as vast as the biggest hut in the village. It carried with it the billow of a cloud the very color of cassava flesh.

It was Inomoca who ran tall to the beach to greet them—those strange men with their bird-colored legs, who covered their bodies in women’s aprons. It was Inomoca who traded his sister’s earrings for a silver hat as hard as the mountain.

It was Inomoca who outsmarted Guama, and won the right to make all future trades. It was Inomoca who made his new hut the grandest in all the Taíno villages. It was Inomoca who took more wives than even Anacoana.

And it was Inomoca who was first to lose a hand when the men came back, and he had failed to fill the hawks bell up with gold.

149 words

This has been an edition of What Pegman Saw. Click here to read more stories inspired by this week’s location (Dominican Republic), or to submit your own.

As is sometimes the case in writing, I could not get this story to go exactly where I wanted it to go, and so I had to settle with a cautionary tale of greed.

When Columbus landed on the Caribbean islands in 1492, he said this of the Taíno people:

“They traded with us and gave us everything they had, with good will … they took great delight in pleasing us … They are very gentle and without knowledge of what is evil; nor do they murder or steal…Your highness may believe that in all the world there can be no better people … They love their neighbours as themselves, and they have the sweetest talk in the world, and are gentle and always laughing.”

On his second voyage, Columbus began to require tribute from the Taino. Each adult was expected to deliver a hawks bell full of gold every three months. If the tribute was not paid, the Spanish cut off the hands of the offending Taíno, and left them to bleed to death. Then, by early 1500, small pox arrived to finish the job. Within sixty years, only a few hundred Taíno remained.

Remnants live on, both in fragments of DNA found in islanders, and echoes of their language, which can be heard whenever we eat barbecue (barbacoa), paddle a canoe (kanoa), smoke tobacco (tabaco), or hunker down for a hurricane (juracán).

As always, thanks for reading!


  1. Lyn

    They are very gentle and without knowledge of what is evil; nor do they murder or steal… Columbus should never have made a return journey. Either that or stayed and became civilised. How very sad 😦 Thank you, Karen, I’ve learnt something new today.

    1. It was shocking to me to hear how kindly Columbus spoke of these people, only to enslave and murder them. I learned something too! Thanks so much for reading.

  2. Excellent historical piece. I love your language in this. The unexpected (to Inomoca, anyway) ending gives it a marvelous, tragic tension. Well done.

    1. Thank you kindly! You are such a master at historical fiction, your words mean a lot!

  3. Dear Karen,

    Wonderfully told piece of history. Love the repetition of “It was Inomoca…” very effective.



    1. Thanks Rochelle. I’m glad you thought it worked. Thanks for reading!

  4. Horrifying but all too accurate. European colonization was very brutal and one of the reasons why some communities are replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day.

    1. A good replacement. It was a tragedy.Thanks for reading!

  5. Dale

    I have to agree with Rochelle, I love the repetition of the “It was Inomoca..” You may have not gone where you wanted but you definitely got somewhere good!

    I’m considering trying out this challenge of yours!

    1. Please do, Dale! Love your stories 😀

      1. Dale

        Awww shucks!

  6. I’ see a theme! LOVE IT! #FridayFictioneers

  7. […] a while now, wondering if I should play or not.  Today I decided to play!  Of course, when I told Karen I was considering it, she encouraged me to do so.  So I did. […]

  8. Wow. Love all the research you put into this. I read every word of the story and the follow up with great interest. How strange that Columbus thought the Taino were such a wonderful people, then he turned around and nearly killed them all.

    1. I found that astonishing too! Thanks for reading.

  9. Lavanya

    As always, I learnt a new piece of history when I visited your site. Unfortunately, this was the fate of many indigenous cultures when technologically superior colonists arrived.

    1. It was indeed. Thanks so much for reading, Lavanya.

  10. An all too familiar tale of how a select few in the name of ‘honest’ trade robbed, destroyed and corrupted countless colonies. But I would have never guessed the gruesome end from the sing song narration – just like they didnt know. Loved your story!

  11. Great story!
    You really worked hard to imagine how one of the Taino would have described the arrival of Columbus; it’s very effective. Like others, I liked the sing-song repetition of ‘It was Inomoca’. And then that startling conclusion – wow, what a twist!

    1. I was trying to see it through his eyes! Glad you found it worked for you. Thanks so much for reading.

  12. I agree with everything everyone says, Karen. You really get into the character of Inomoca, until the very end. I learnt so much here, for your story and description, it sounds as though that were a fragment of Eden. And yet again, we destroy it. Sigh.

    1. Big sigh. Oh the things that greed will do! Thanks for reading Kelvin & thanks for your kind words.

  13. As you say, Karen, it’s all the more shocking to learn Columbus thought the Taino quiet, peaceful people and then proceeded to aid in their decimation. But then, he no doubt took the condescending European view of the ‘Native’, seeing them as lesser beings there to be converted and conquered for their own good. There was definitely a view that indigenous people weren’t making ‘good use’ of their land (some were still hunter gatherers for goodness sake!) so deserved to have it taken away to be shown how to use it properly.
    Your tale is a sobering reminder that so many initial contacts between developed countries and new worlds were brutal and led to extinction. Sad but real

    1. It is so very sad! Thanks for reading, Lynn 🙂

  14. Thank you for your account, in agentle tone to describe such colonial brutality. I didn’t know about the Taino People before, or their trusting gentleness. – I’ve learnt from your story.

    1. I’ve learned so much from doing Pegman. I knew that indigenous peoples were extinguished, but some of the specifics astonished me. Thanks for reading.

  15. I had a feeling this wasn’t going to end well for poor Inomoca. Not the first or last culture to be destroyed in the name of progress and discovery.
    I liked the repetition of “It was Inomoca…”

    1. Those things hardly ever seem to end well, do they? Thanks for reading!

  16. peterkirsch

    And so began Manifest Destiny. Will we ever be rid of it?

  17. I learned a lot and it is sad….
    cos Columbus sure did sail the ocean blue in 1492 – but he should not have made the return trip.

    thanks for the history here….

  18. Love the historical take on the prompt! Well done 😀

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s