When we think of rulers of nations we think of men, but Anacaona was the Cacica (chief) of Xaragua in the southwest region of Hispaniola. The Taíno translation of her name is “golden flower” and she came from a long line of caciques. She ruled Xaragua equally with her brother, Brohechío. Her husband, Caonabo, ruled a nearby territory, Maguana. They were two of the top five caciques that ruled all of Quisqueya. When Christopher Columbus came to what is now called Haiti, she and her brother were friendly to the foreigners and worked amicably to negotiate successfully with them. They would later realized their land was being stolen from them and their people enslaved.
Anacaona was left to rule alone after the death of her brother and husband. She was well respected among her people and on day when she was to be honored, the Spanish government ordered her and the gathering to be burned. The Spaniards offered her clemency only if she agreed to become a concubine. As a result of her refusal to accept the sexual demands, she was publicly executed by hanging.
Cacica Anacaona demonstrated bravery and solidarity for her Taino people by choosing death rather than colluding with her enemies. In both Haiti and the Dominican Republic her legend lives on. She is an Icon that lives on as a heron, not just in the island of Hispañiola, but all of the Caribbean. She was known for composing ballads and poems called Areítos in Taino. Aríetos were a type of performance by the Taíno people that involved dancing and singing to convey elements of religion and culture.