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Macu

Caves were sacred to the Taíno—the heart of their spirit and culture. Deep, dark, and cool: The caves protected worshippers and supplicants from the wind, the rain, and the all-powerful, all-seeing sun. 

The legendary figure Macocael—“He of the Unblinking Eyes”—was the fierce guard who presided over one of the Taino’s most prized caves. His macus—“big eyes” or “eyes without lids”— kept unending vigil over the sacred site. 

Today, in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, you will sometimes hear the descendants of the Taíno refer to the large eyes of friends as “macos,” in honor of Macocael.

We were overjoyed to discover a symbol resonant with the nazar boncuks—the famed Turkish eye of watchfulness and protection, and a touchstone of Turkic design— carved in the patterns of circles and wedges that adorn the stone and ceramic Taíno amulets, duhos and cemís that now sit in international museums and sacred grounds.