[Ep. 41] Connecting To My Ancestral Taino Roots | Irka Mateo (Taino Medicine Woman)


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I was given a very unique name growing up: Luis Monroig Mojica III. I am the third generation of this name lineage and I never quite understood it until recently. Like a seed that sits dormant, waiting for nutrients. My name sat there out in the open waiting to be nourishing with curiosity and inquiry.
Growing up, I would often ask what my name meant. I was visibly white but my name and soul were not. My grandfather and father would always say "Spanish Indian". This never made any sense because he came from Puerto Rico. So I would say "Which tribe?" and no one would answer. It was like an unthinkable question was asked.
Then several years ago I received results from a DNA test that said I my Latino DNA came from Indigenous Puerto Rico & North Africa: Los Tainos y Los Guanches peoples. Amazing! So many confirmations came flooding in. My affinity for the tropics, my pagan nature, and my deeply profound connection to Native American culture.
Since then, I've been connecting with friends, elders, and scholars around these first peoples and learning more about them - my ancestors. This episode is part of that journey.
I welcome Akutu (Grandmother) Irka Mateo to tell me about her journey of reclaiming her indigenous Taino heritage in a world that claimed it had gone extinct. She shares that story, her own wisdom, traditions, and a very powerful medicine song.
Let this be a reminder to us all: we're all indigenous to somewhere. Your heritage can unlock some profound body wisdom and gift you with a compass to navigate yourself with. This does not create "tribalism" as a way to separate from one another. Instead, it shows us how alike we all our as we are all children of the same mother, Earth, and because of that we are all related.
Akutu Irka is a Taino medicine woman (bohutio), ceremonialist, singer-songwriter, and teacher. She practices animism and ancestors’ reverence in the tradition of Caribbean and South American indigenous spirituality. Guided by her compassionate spirit guides, Irka conducts the healing ceremonies through spontaneous sacred chanting and the playing of Taino ancestral instruments, such as the Mayowakan (drum), rattles, and playing Pre-Hispanic ceramic whistles – replicas of which she makes herself.
For more information on Irka, you can visit her at:

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