Monday, January 4, 2016

Black Colombians the First to Win Freedom from Spanish Rule


Anyone visiting the city of Cartagena on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, South America should check out the historical African village about two hours south known as San Basilio de Palenque (or simply Palenque). It is a village that won their freedom from Spanish rule Nat Turner style. 

Upon arrival, you will have the opportunity treat yourself to a scrumptious, fresh fish dinner with rice and plantains and a tour by one of the locals. There is one catch; the tour is in Spanish. The only other language spoken in this crime-free village is Palenquero, a mixture of Spanish and various West African languages. 

The people are friendly and curious about visitors, especially if you are black. When they saw me, they marveled as though they had never seen a black gringo before.

Even if you speak a little of Spanish, it will go a long way in helping you connect with the people, and if you don't, you will still have a worthwhile experience.

San Basilio de Palenque is a town of about 3,500 residents  established by slave revolt leader named Benko Biohó from Senegal, West Africa. He set a precedent, not only for the nation of Colombia, but for all of South America more than 200 years before the renown liberator Simón Bolívar was born.

Of the many palenques (fortresses of escaped slaves) that existed during slavery in the western world, San Basilio de Palenque is the only one, other than the town of Yanga in Mexico, that survived. Many of the oral and musical traditions have roots in Palenque's African past.

In 2005, the village of San Basilio de Palenque was declared Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).  

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