- Sean Bellaviti
The term variously refers to a large-scale ceremonial/celebratory event, the music-dance practices performed on these occasions, and a “song” based on the recitation or singing of ancient histories (e.g., genealogies), laws, and possibly specific song lyrics. The tradition was practiced by the Taíno (Arawak) peoples living in the Greater Antilles prior to and shortly after the Spanish Conquista (Conquest). Our knowledge of areíto is very limited, based primarily on the accounts of early European chroniclers (namely Pané, Las Casas, and Oviedo) and archaeological evidence. While no documentation of the specific poetic and musical practices exist today, areíto likely involved the use of specific musical instruments and sound makers (such as the mayohuacán [a slit-drum], rattles, and perhaps maraca), musical techniques (e.g., antiphonal singing) and dance routines. As a community-based group activity, areíto is variously described as a ceremony, celebration, funerary rite, or form of recreation, or as serving specific pedagogical functions....