Hyarima was said to be born around the beginning of the 17th century and was most probably Nepuyo, which was a tribe of Araucan. He grew up in one of the northern encomiendas, but it was not clear if this was Tacarigus or Arauca. Around 1625, he escaped from the slavery and harsh conditions of the encomienda into the north eastern area of the Island which was outside Spanish control.
Hyarima military prowess, and relentless determination to rid his country of Spanish colonis, made him the obvious choice for warchief or cacique.
He was an able leader and a great warrior, and he soon formed military alliances with Amerindian groups in the neighboring islands as well as with Dutch traders in Tobago.
In 1636 and 1637, he joined with Dutch forces based in Tobago to rate Spanish out posts in Trinidad and along Orinoci. On October 14th 1637 the most devastating attack was carried out against St. Joseph the main Spanish settlement on The Island. During the attack, the Church and town buildings were looted and burned to the ground, with significant lost of life. The destruction of the town forced the survivors to withdraw temporarily to the main land.
Hyarima was both feared and respected by the Dutch and Spanish forces, who referred to him as ‘the great Chieftain of the Nepuyo people’, and his military activities in the North East of the Island was one reason why the Spanish authorities were never able to effectively establish control of this area. It is often thought that Arima was name after Hyarima, but it is more likely that he took his name from Arima when elected Chieftain, as it was Araucan custom to name their Chief’s and Caciques after the villages and settlements.
Hyarima the folk hero has many attributes of the man– a great warrior and Chieftain who devoted his life to preserving the way of life of his people and to expelling the Spanish invaders from their ancestral lands. His fierce and profound hatred and distress of the Spanish extended to the Church and its missionaries and he resited their entry into his lands.