Cacique (female form: Cacica) is a title derived from the Taíno
Taíno people
The Taínos were pre-Columbian inhabitants of the Bahamas, Greater Antilles, and the northern Lesser Antilles. It is thought that the seafaring Taínos are relatives of the Arawak people of South America...

 word for the pre-Columbian
The pre-Columbian era incorporates all period subdivisions in the history and prehistory of the Americas before the appearance of significant European influences on the American continents, spanning the time of the original settlement in the Upper Paleolithic period to European colonization during...

 chiefs or leaders
Tribal chief
A tribal chief is the leader of a tribal society or chiefdom. Tribal societies with social stratification under a single leader emerged in the Neolithic period out of earlier tribal structures with little stratification, and they remained prevalent throughout the Iron Age.In the case of ...

 of tribes in the Bahamas, Greater Antilles
Greater Antilles
The Greater Antilles are one of three island groups in the Caribbean. Comprising Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola , and Puerto Rico, the Greater Antilles constitute almost 90% of the land mass of the entire West Indies.-Greater Antilles in context :The islands of the Caribbean Sea, collectively known as...

, and the northern Lesser Antilles
Lesser Antilles
The Lesser Antilles are a long, partly volcanic island arc in the Western Hemisphere. Most of its islands form the eastern boundary of the Caribbean Sea with the Atlantic Ocean, with the remainder located in the southern Caribbean just north of South America...

. The Spanish, subsequent to encounters with the Taíno upon their arrival in the New World, used the word as a title for the leaders of the other indigenous tribes they encountered in the Western Hemisphere territories they occupied. In the Spanish language
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

, both in Spain and Latin America, the term has come to mean a local political boss
Political boss
A boss, in politics, is a person who wields the power over a particular political region or constituency. Bosses may dictate voting patterns, control appointments, and wield considerable influence in other political processes. They do not necessarily hold public office themselves...

 who exercises excessive power. The derivative term "Caciquismo" has been used to describe a democratic system subverted by the power of such local bosses successfully influencing the electoral process in their favour. It has been used most notably to refer to late nineteenth century Spain
Spain under the Restoration
The Restoration was the name given to the period that began on December 29, 1874 after the First Spanish Republic ended with the restoration of Alfonso XII to the throne after a coup d'état by Martinez Campos, and ended on April 14, 1931 with the proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic.After...

 and twentieth century Mexico.

The term is also used in the Portuguese language
Portuguese language
Portuguese is a Romance language that arose in the medieval Kingdom of Galicia, nowadays Galicia and Northern Portugal. The southern part of the Kingdom of Galicia became independent as the County of Portugal in 1095...

 to describe the leaders of indigenous communities in Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

(which is a Portuguese speaking country).
In the Taíno culture, the cacique rank was apparently established through democratic means. His importance in the tribe was determined by the size of his tribe rather than his warlord skills, since the taínos were mostly a pacifist culture. They also enjoyed several privileges for their standing: they lived in a larger rectangular hut in the center of the village and they had a special sitting place for the areytos (ceremonial dances) and the ceremonial ball game.

The Spanish RAE (Royal Academy of the Spanish Language) dictionary states:

cacique, ca.

(De or. caribe).

1. m. y f. Señor de vasallos en alguna provincia o pueblo de indios.

2. m. y f. Persona que en una colectividad o grupo ejerce un poder abusivo.

3. m. y f. coloq. Persona que en un pueblo o comarca ejerce excesiva influencia en asuntos políticos.

4. f. coloq. p. us. Mujer del cacique.


(Of Caribbean origin).

1. m. & f. Lord of vassals in an Indian province or village.

2. m. & f. Person who exercises an abusive power in a community or group.

3. m. & f. colloq. Person in a village or region who exercises excessive influence in political matters.

4. f. colloq. rare. Wife of a cacique.

In Spain the word is most commonly used in the third sense, meaning "a person in a village or region who exercises excessive influence in political matters."
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.