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Monday, January 12, 2015

Celebrating Puerto Rico's Little Black Angels

I recently gained a greater, heartfelt appreciation for an album I purchased years ago by salsa music icon Willie Colón. It was an instrumental album that is very pleasing to the ear called “El Baquiné de Angelitos Negros” (celebration of little black angels) in which I learned the album's cultural and traditional meaning upon consultations with some Afro Boricuas (Puerto Ricans of African ancestry).

A Banquiné (pronounced Bah-Key-NAY) is a type of funeral celebrating (versus morning) the death of innocent little black children entering heaven to be with God. The evening before the child's funeral, family, friends and loved ones would gather for the event. Traditional games and songs would be shared long into the night until the sun came up, followed in the morning by the burial.

The Baquiné, which is part religious and part festive, is an old and vanishing tradition not widely known outside of the predominately black town of Loiza Aldea, Puerto Rico. In fact, a Baquiné has not been celebrated in over 20 years. Because of modern medical advances, the death of young children is not so common anymore.