Doña Ines

Map of Guaynía, the area along the south coast of Puerto Rico in pre-Columbian times. Image Credit: WikiCommons.

By Gabby Storey

Doña Ines was a fifteenth-sixteenth century caciqua of Taíno origin, the Taínos being the indigenous inhabitants of the Bahamas, Greater Antilles, and some of the Lesser Antilles.

We know that she was the mother of two caciques of Puerto Rico, Agüeybaná I and Agüeybaná II, who ruled the area of Guaynía in the sixteenth century. The colonisation of Puerto Rico by Juan Ponce de León, starting 1508, is when she begins to appear in the records.

Doña Ines is recorded during her son, Agüeybaná I’s, reign, and was noted as being a highly active political figure who exerted great influence over her son, providing him with counsel.

It is not known whether her title of caciqua was due to her legitimate female rule over the area, which she then delegated to her son, or whether it was due to her position as mother of the legitimate chief.

Doña Ines and Agüeybaná I negotiated a peace treaty with the Spanish, in the wake of surrounding conquests, although this was not to last.

She was married to Don Francisco, who is identified as not being cacique or the father of the Agueybaná I. When Doña Ines and Agüeybaná I died in 1510 of natural causes, his brother Agüeybaná II inherited the chiefdom.

We only know this woman as Doña Ines as it was her baptismal name: of her birth date, early life, or much of her reign we know little. After her death, the region descended into unrest as Agüeybaná II led the Rebellion of the Caciques of Boriquén against the Spanish conquistadors.

Recommended Reading

José R. Oliver, Caciques and Cemí Idols: The Web Spun by Taíno Rulers Bteween Hispaniola and Puerto Rico (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2009)

Ronald Fernandez, Serafín Mendez Mendez and Gail Cueto, Puerto Rico Past and Present: An Encyclopedia (Westport: Greenwood, 1998).

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