The Tainos were the original, indigenous inhabitants of the Caribbean islands, not to be confused with Thanos, the big, purple, death-worshipping bad guy from Marvel Comics and the upcoming AVENGERS movie. Also, the Tainos were not the Caribs; although there is frequent confabulation of the two peoples (I’ve been guilty of it) they were not one and the same. The Caribs were cannibals, while the Tainos, it seems, were not. The word “cannibal” even comes from the former tribe. Somehow Christopher Columbus got “cannibal” from “Caribes,” and the word went down in history.
The Tainos were previously thought to be extinct, having disappeared rapidly after that first contact with European colonizers, spearheaded by Columbus, but new evidence shows that they live on in the present-day inhabitants of the Caribbean, who owe some 10 to 15 percent of their DNA to the Tainos. There are also charges that Columbus and his ilk deliberately misidentified islanders as Caribs or cannibals, because it was lawful to enslave them, for their own good, of course. That Columbus guy was a real jerk. And while I don’t think ol’ Chris made up the accounts of cannibalism whole-cloth, it wouldn’t surprise me that he used the charges to his benefit and chose to paint with a really broad-headed brush. He was a cannibal of a wholly different, but no less repulsive, sort. He ate people, too, whole swaths of them, to feed not his physical hunger but his hunger for the bling-bling.