Sitemeter

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Taste of Black Colombia


Visiting San Basilio de Palenque












The statue of Benko Bioho of Senegal, in the town Square of San Basilio de Palenque, Colombia. Bioho led a successful slave revolt in the 17th Century, making it the first free black town in the Americas, which maintained its African cultural tradition. 
 

The bus took me far as I could go from Cartagena, Colombia as I headed towards one of the nation´s proudest legacies, San Basilio de Palenque or simply Palenque. A town that was successful in doing what Nat Turner in the U.S. tried to do before he was sold out by uncle toms. The town led by Benko Bioho from Senegal led a successful slave uprising against the Spanish setting an example for the rest of Colombia in gaining her independence from Spain.



The bus driver told me if I was going to Palenque, this is where I needed to get off. Because of the limited public transportation into Palenque, there was a motorcyclist waiting and I had to ride the back.



It was a thirty minute ride into Palenque before I was dropped off at a restaurant across the street from Benko Bioho Square, containing the statue of the legendary liberator Benko Bioho. I had the traditional Palenque meal of fish, rice, and plantains before my tour guide Carlos entered.

Carlos and I walked about town as he explained to me the history of Palenque and the lifestyle of its residents, known as Palenqueros. Carlos himself was born and raised in Palenque before studying at a university in Cartagena. 

I could not help but notice how friendly the people were wanting to know where I was from. One woman kept looking at me and marveling as if she had never seen a black Gringo before. The town itself is so peaceful that they don´t even have a police department. It is virtually crime free. Can't we all get along?

Every year on October 12 San Basilio de Palenque holds a Festival of Drums & Cultural Expressions.

18 comments:

  1. Crime free? Wow. I would like to visit Palenque. Seriously, the statue of Benko Bioho is amazing; it speaks volume about the town history. Nice post. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hidi, there are similar towns I've visited in Ecuador (Valle de Chota) and in Perú (El Carmen).

    ReplyDelete
  3. Amazing to know the African diaspora in Latin America is strong, alive and well. Ecuador will definitely be one of my stops in South America, as I am heading to Paraguay in February.

    BTW- the culture I was referring to in my post is Honduran culture. I definitely think you should take a trip out there and get to know its people.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yes, Miss M, there is area near La Ceiba, Honduras that is on my list of places to visit. I have a friend, Garífuna, from that area. Let me know when you go to Ecuador, I have a lady-friend in Quito who can help you out.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Excellent pictures. I don't know if you've ever mentioned or visited Costa Chica, Oaxaca, Mexico or Limon, Costa Rica, but those places have substantial numbers of black residents.

    ReplyDelete
  6. La Costa Chica is high on my list of places to visit. Have you been there?

    ReplyDelete
  7. Yes, I have. It really is a nice place. It's beautiful. I can't remember the name of the town to which I went, but the residents there were privy to a beautiful beach with fine white sand and all the fishing they could want. I would highly encourage you to go there.

    You should go to Cuajinicuilapa, Guerrerro though and work your way out from there. At least there you will find restaurants and hotels. The town where I stayed had neither.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hey, I really appreciate the referrals and the advice. Did you fly to Acapulco first and then caught a bus? How did you get there? Also, did you run into any of those gang-bangers and drug lords?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Nope. I flew into Mexico City and then took a bus to Oaxaca City. From Oaxaca City I caught a bus going to some place named Pinar or Pinares--the name eludes me. From there, you catch a colectivo going to whatever town you tell the bus driver. I went with a guide, so he handled much of the logistics for me.

    Nope, did not run into any gang bangers or drug lords. We were, however, stopped by the Mexican army on our way back from Guerrerro. That was quite the experience since I did not understand the soldier who was speaking to me.

    Anyway, I would recommend leaving from Oaxaca City because it's a delightful place and you might meet someone who either has family in La Costa Chica or knows about the place and consequently, might be able to help you.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Oh, and I should mention that I went four years ago.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hi, I'm planning a trip to Cartagena next month and I would love to visit San Basilio and check out the dance school (I'm big into African-inspired dance in LAtin America), eat local food, etc. I'm also mindful of respecting locals' privacy, etc. Is the community generally open to tourists? Anything you would recommend for a first-time visitor? Thanks for sharing Carlos' contact, too!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hi Monica,
    The more Spanish you know, the better time you will have. Hi Monica, please e-mail me directly for more information.

    Bill

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi bill,
      Im here in Cartagena and looking for a tour guide to take us to Palenque. I can't find your email, so if you can, please email me the phone number for your guide or any other tips. Thanks!! msanmiguel[at]gmail.com

      Delete
  13. Hi Bill,

    I've been looking at your site because I am trying to visit San Basilio de Palenque this spring. Then I realized you live in Oakland, and I live in South Berkeley! I'm a journalism student at UC Berkeley's journalism graduate school. I would really love to chat about this. Please write me! Thanks, Mariel

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Mariel, I sent you my contact info. You know where to find me.

      Delete
  14. Hi Bill,

    Thanks for your post. I'm also traveling to Cartagena in the near future and would like to make a day trip to visit the town. If you have any additional advice on visiting you could send me, I'd appreciate it.

    Thanks,
    Ashley

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Ashley, please click on my e-mail link and contact me. I'd like to introduce you to a friend in Cartagena.

      Delete
    2. Hi Bill,

      Sorry, I'm having trouble finding your email - could you please contact me directly?

      Thanks! Email me at:

      ashley.b.pierson [at] gmail.com

      Best,
      Ashley

      Delete

I read and respond to all comments, barring unforeseen circumstances, within 24 hours. Anonymous comments will be ignored and deleted.