Sitemeter

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Night in Cancún


















I was only in Cancún 13 hours waiting for a flight to Havana, Cuba. Cancún is not my type of vacation. The city itself did not seem to have any culture. It is only a resort--nothing more. My purpose in traveling, especially to a Latin-American country, is to immerse myself in the language and culture, and not to experience a foreign imitation of my own.




Catching my flight from Cancún to Havana (La Habana), Cuba.





There was a group of us from the Northern California spending the night in Cancún as we all were on our way to Cuba (correctly pronounced "Koo-bah"). We chipped in to pay a $45.00 (USD) cab fare to our hotel. Upon arrival, we heard loud rap music. I'm thinking the hotel staff was trying to entertain us and lure us into a snack bar that served only hamburgers and hot-dogs. What happened to the Mexican culture where I would have preferred to immerse myself; cumbia and ranchera music, chiles rellenos, quesadillas? If I wanted to hear loud rap music and eat hamburgers, I could have stayed in Oakland and saved some money. The only good thing was that the people, such as the hotel employees, cab drivers, airport personal, and restaurant workers, were pleased that I was speaking Spanish. Although, there were those who could speak English, my Spanish made their job easy and I get to practice :-)







While waiting for my flight to Havana, I spent the night in a Cancún hotel.








The next day, My group piled into a cab and headed back to the airport to catch our flight to Havana. As we were passing through Cancún, I could not help notice its natural beauty. But that was all. I was so happy to be going to Havana, where the culture is so thick, you can cut it with a butter knife.

Monday, June 28, 2010

African History in Vera Cruz, México

If you travel through the hills of Vera Cruz, México, a state on the East Coast of Mexico bordering the gulf, you will notice some of the towns having African sounding names like Mocambo, Mozambique, Mandinga. When Spanish forces moved in and occupied a land we know today as Mexico, which the Spanish called Nueva España (New Spain), there were were some 30 African slaves for every Spaniard.

One escaped slave was Gaspar Yanga, said to be a member of a royal family in an area of West Africa now called Gabon.


Not surprisingly, by the year 1609, large numbers of escaped slaves and indigenous people fighting for their land and freedom had reduced the rural areas of New Spain to desperation, especially up in the hills of Veracruz. One escaped slave was Gaspar Yanga, said to be a member of a royal family in an area of West Africa now called Gabon. For three decades, Yanga and his African warriors survived and thrived by swooping down on caravans bringing goods to Veracruz, and raiding local Spanish settlements and slave plantations.

The Spanish colonial government dispatched troops to go after Yanga and his African warriors.

It was that year, 1609, that the Spanish colonial government decided they had enough and dispatched troops to go after Yanga and his African warriors. The fierce battle between Yanga's warriors and the Spanish forces resulted in heavy losses for both sides. However, the better equipped Spaniards were able to push their way into Yanga's fortress and torch it into huge flames as Yanga's men turned to guerrilla warfare from the surrounding, dense, jungle-like terrain. Yanga's men knew this terrain backwards and forwards. Finally, the Spanish agreed to parley. They signed a treaty with Yanga and by 1630, Yanga founded the town called San Lorenzo de los Negros de Cerralvo.

In Yanga, as in other other towns of fugitive African origin in the hills of Vera Cruz, only the African names remain and their history forgotten.

In the 1950s, descendants of Yanga's warriors petitioned the Mexican government to change the name of this town from San Lorenzo de los Negros de Cerralvo to Yanga after the great leader Gaspar Yanga, whose statue now stands on the outskirts of the town. Today, almost almost 400 years of interracial marriages, interracial relationships, and migrations, there aren´t many blacks left in Yanga. The people of modern day Yanga have been living their lives as we always have, making the adjustments necessary in a changing world." In Yanga, as in other other towns of fugitive African origin in hills of Vera Cruz, only the African names remain and their history forgotten.


South America's Nat Turner
























Benkos Bioho, a successful slave revolter in Colombia who left a legacy of a free black town that stands to this day.

As I plan my next trip to South America, I'd like to share a Facebook message I received from a new-found Afro-Colombian friend in preparation for my return trip to South America, where Colombia will be added to my intinerary. He tells me that it is super easy to find and that descendants of one of the first freed slaves in the Americas can be found 40 minutes from Caragena, Colombia by car.




















The all black town of San Basilio de Palenque in Colombia boasts of being the first town in the Americas to free themselves from slavery.

We hear about Nat Turner and Denmark Vessey who planned the biggest slave revolts in the United States of America until some house-slaves snitched to the slave masters. Other slave revolters were much more fortunate and successful in places like Yanga, Mexico, Esmeraldas, Ecuador, and a place called San Basilio de Palenque in Colombia. In Colombia, a slave, once an African King in an area now known as Guinea Bissau by the way of Benkos Biohó, from an area of West Africa we now call Guinea Bissau by the name of Benkos Biohó escaped slavery in Colombia's Port of Cartagena by boat down the Magdelena River and settled in an area now known as San Basilio de Palenque.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Hip-Hop Cubano (Cuban Hip-Hop)















Many young blacks in Cuba are very unhappy with the system, particularly with Cuban racism, and the economic disparity between the blacks and the browns, and the whites.


It was July of 1998, when I was in Havana, Cuba with a group of Americans studying Spanish at the University of Havana. I just happened to be only one of a handful of American-Americans in the group when an Afro-Cuban host was explaining to us that when you hear music, you put your hands in the air to show that you are having a good time. I was so tickled to say the least. I was humored because I'm a native New Yorker where hip-hop was born long before it reached the island of Cuba, let alone the rest of the world.

My mind went back to one of the first hip-hop groups to hit the airwaves, the Sugar Hill Gang, when in their song "Rappers Delight," they sang the following line, "put your hands in the air like you just don't care." I then thought to myself, who does he think he's talking to, LOL.

Today after work, I saw a filming of “Inventos: Hip Hop Cubano” or Cuban Hip Hop, which combines traditional Cuban rhythms with that of hip-hop along with lyrics dealing with social and political issues, as well as globalization, poverty, and identity on the island.

The Cuban Hip-hop movement is an awakening opportunity for young people to discuss their realities in informal, grass roots locations such as the back yard of someone's house or on a stage with microphones. In this film, you see the same attitudes and styles of African-American rappers. Only it is in Spanish with English subtitles.








Video of the Cuban hip-hop group "Orishas.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Language Stereotype of Blacks


black Latinos, Afro-Latinos
As a friend pointed out so eloquently, this video was funny as well as sad with an olive complexioned Latino making derogatory remarks about blacks in front of a black guy who just happened to be a native Spanish speaker. Well, it wasn't so funny when I got a taste of such ignorance when a Spanish-speaking client at the agency where I work assumed that I did not speak Spanish.

What frustrated me was the fact that the receptionist was unable to help her without an interpreter.

This morning, when I entered the lobby of my workplace heading for my office, I overheard a woman trying to get help from the receptionist. The problem was that she was Spanish-only and the receptionist was English-only. I stopped to help the receptionist as I have done so many times in the past by serving as an interpreter. It was obvious that this mono-lingual Spanish-speaking woman had more confidence communicating with the receptionist because she fits the stereotypical, physical profile of a Latina.

It was obvious the woman had more confidence communicating with the receptionist because she fits the stereotypical, physical profile of a Latina.

What frustrated me was the fact that the receptionist was unable to help her without an interpreter. I was the only one president. I felt as though I were being stereotyped because of my color. Thus, I insisted to her in Spanish that if she needed any help she needs to talk to me. She finally complied.

So, why would a Latin American come to this country and assume that blacks are limited to English and Ebonics?

As in every race and culture, you will find it's share ignorant people; the Latino community is no exception where so many are so quick to assume that if you are not of olive-skinned complexion with high cheekbones, you cannot possibly speak Spanish. You would think they'd know better because there are blacks, Asians, Middle Easterners, and Europeans in every Latin-American country from Mexico to Argentina who speak Spanish as their first language. So, why would a Latin American come to this country and assume that blacks are limited to English and Ebonics? How do you look at someone and determine what language one is capable of speaking?

Monday, June 7, 2010

La Mitad del Mundo

The Middle of the World - On The Equator in Ecuador
R1-21A

Usually when I travel, I avoid touristy stuff. My motive for traveling, especially in a Spanish-speaking country, is to immerse myself in the cultures while developing my Spanish. But La Mitad del Mundo, a famous tourist attraction in Ecuador, was irresistible. For more than I year, I wanted to get my picture taken with one foot in the northern hemisphere and the other foot in the southern.

R1-11A
There are a lot of souvenir shops where I bought alpaca knit sweaters, t-shirts, and the panama hat that I'm wearing, which costs $22.00 (worth more than $150.00 in the states).

It was December 2009 when I finally made the trip as planned. I paid $80 (USD) for a luxury bus, Ormeño from Lima, Perú where I was spending the first part of my vacation; I got off in Ecuador's southern city of Guayaquil, then flew to Quito, the nation's capital for $105.00 (USD).

Gloria, a friend I met through a Facebook friend in Germany met me in downtown Quito and we took a 40-minute bus ride to the equator--La Mitad del Mundo (the Middle of the World). Because the equator runs right through the Andes Mountains, the weather was windy and chilly enough for a long-sleeve shirt. In fact, the wind blew my newly purchased panama right off my head.

R1-20A
Standing on the equator with one foot in the northern hemisphere and one foot in the southern.

R1-13A
This was myfirst time seeing live llamas. They did not let me get too close to them.

R1- 3A
There was also a cultural museum where I took photos of this Afro-Ecuadorean exhibit.