Located in the outskirts of the Puerto Rican town of Ponce, the Tibes Indigenous Ceremonial Center was rediscovered when Hurricane Eloise wrecked havoc in 1975 and flooded nearby Rio Portuges to reveal perhaps the most significant discoveries in the Caribbean region.
A Two Millennia Discovery
Plots of land surrounded by what may have been ceremonial engraved stones (known individually as batey), these were used by Puerto Rico’s ancient pre-Taíno and Igneri cultures in celebration of activities like the musical ceremony known as areyto. This discovery apparently dates back some two millennia.
The discovery revealed the country’s largest indigenous burial ground with more than 180 remains found. Although there is no evidence that their dwelling quarters were built there the Igneri and Taíno Indian tribes probably constructed the structures called bohíos now preserved in the Tibes Center.
The Ceremonial Ball Court
The cultures of both tribes are well-maintained by the Center with this museum and nine out of the 12 spaces are open to the public. Several of the stones that surround the plaza have petroglyph inscriptions, perhaps by the Taínos who inhabited the country prior to the 1492 arrival of Christopher Columbus.
The most interesting part of the Tibes Indigenous Ceremonial Center is perhaps the ceremonial ball court where the tribe played diversional and ceremonial games which involved fishing and body strength races. The warrior fights, however, were simulated events held here that people came to watch.
This is according to Spanish historian Pedro Martir de Angleria’s account which stated that these simulated fights and body strength games were played out for the townspeople with the special presence of the village cacique, the Spanish word for tribal leader.
There is also the batey which was an indigenous ballgame played with a ball referred to as batu made from vegetable leaves and rubber. Call it pre-Columbian basketball without stopping the ball’s movement. Unlike the NBA, however, the losers here were sacrificed to the tribal gods.
Prehistoric Trees, Birds, and Artifacts
Artifacts from that pre-Columbian era have been meticulously preserved at the Tibes Indigenous Ceremonial Center where vessels, pottery, charms, idols, and utensils, tools, and jewelry can be seen today. It is also where prehistoric species of trees can be found such as higüero, guanábana, and corazón.
Here you will also find aviary specimens that existed during the time of these tribes such as the ruiseñor (nightingale), carpintero (woodpecker), martinete (hammer), and múcaro (owl). Fascinating is the word to describe indigenous plantations from long ago – tobacco, corn, yucca – that can be found in the site.
Get a truly educational dose of history that’s anything but boring when you go to the Tibes Indigenous Ceremonial Center where interesting exhibitions and an informative video chronicling the life of these South American tribes can be viewed.
Enjoyable for all ages, the Tibes Indigenous Ceremonial Center would be especially interesting for curious pre-teens, adventurous seniors, young adults who want to experience something different, honeymooners with a penchant for history, and solo travelers who, figuratively, want to go back in time.