EPISODE 58: Reclaiming the Language That History Wanted Lost

At Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Newton, MA, Priscilla reads to youngsters from her children’s book, A Twisty Vine. For many young readers, it offers their first taste of Taíno, with words and phrases popping up on the pages.

Imagine being told you don’t exist.

And not just you, but everyone like you. All you have to do is read some earlier accounts of the history of America. Or even later ones that drew from these histories.

What you’re told is that you can’t possibly be Taíno because the Taíno are gone. Vanished—from Puerto Rico and all the other Caribbean lands where they were thriving in that fateful year on the European calendar of 1492.

Priscilla Colón never believed it.

Her Puerto Rican parents immediately batted the idea away. You’re Taíno, they assured her, and pretty much left it at that.

So Priscilla, who’s worked with languages for 20 years—translating, publishing, developing curriculum—set out to prove it. To reclaim her heritage: which is to say, to restore the Taíno language.

In this moving conversation she has with Steve, Priscilla publicly announces her Taíno name for the first time. Then she shares, also for the first time, the emotional revelation about her Taíno ancestors that, quite literally, came to her.

“After 530 years of silence,” Priscilla says, “the Taíno people are retaking their language.”

Fans of Priscilla’s YouTube videos on Taíno got to meet her at Indigenous People’s Day. “I was in awe of them,” she says. “You just never know who you’re impacting.”


Listen on iTunes by clicking here: America the Bilingual by Steve Leveen on iTunes. Or on SoundCloud here.

Bonus: hear the story behind Casa Areyto

Hear how Priscilla named the organization she founded to spread the word about Taíno, and what it means. An episode extra:

Learn about Taíno

Get all the info that Priscilla shares on social media and through her newsletter using this one link: https://linktr.ee/casaareyto.

Want to talk Taíno?

Priscilla’s YouTube videos are a marvelous, totally non-threatening introduction to the language and a fascinating look at the culture. You’ll find them through the link above. And you can learn some of the language through either English or Spanish.

Her Taíno headdress tells a story, too

The headdress speaks a language of sorts; read what each color means on both Priscilla’s and her husband’s headdresses.

 Bo-guatukán! (Many blessings!)

Among the people who came to hear Priscilla speak at Indigenous Peoples’ Day was a Taíno healer.


Thanks to members of the America the Bilingual Project team for this episode: Fernando Hernández and Luis Raúl López of the Mexican production house Esto No Es Radio, which provides sound design and mixing; Mim Harrison, editorial director of the project, who also wrote and directed this episode; and Karla Hernandez at Daruma Tech, who manages our website.

Music selections in this episode include “Flush Your Rolex” and “Over the Water, Humans Gather,” by Doctor Turtle; “Autumn Sunset” by Jason Shaw; “Border Blaster” instrumental version by Josh Woodward; “La Bella” by Mr. Smith; and “Eastminster” by Kevin MacLeod, all used with a Creative Commons Attribution License.

Meet the entire America the Bilingual team—including our bark-lingual mascot, Chet—here.

We welcome your comments here, on our new America the Bilingual Review page of Medium, and on Facebook.

Be sure to check out our Book page, to see why one grateful reader calls America’s Bilingual Century “a must-read for every parent.”

Enjoy the book in your favorite format. Click here.


2023-02-02T14:16:16-05:00By |Episodes|

One Comment

  1. Ao Jean-Louis March 17, 2023 at 12:47 pm - Reply

    perfect I like the message – Casa areito has been doing a great job – As Christina said we feel the calling inside and we can not run out . It is there . to all the brothers , sisters out there , Heketiwa .

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