Destinations | South America

San Basilio de Palenque

The first impression of the village was rural areas and has strong resonances of African culture. It located quite far from the main road. Most of the houses made from bamboo and covered by the dry mud, and I noticed that they didn’t have a front door. While we were waiting for our lunch we looked around, we only saw dark people and the village was quite dry as we could imagine as we were in Africa. They were chilling out under the trees and the gazebo got the breeze to keep their skin dry from the sweat. It’s so hot and humid in here, indeed.

After we had lunch at a small restaurant near the square, one of the local offered us to wander around the village. Luis and I totally forgot who his name, so let’s call him Arthur. Arthur showed us what is around the village. From the important houses, until the boxer statue. He took us to his mother’s place also. Arthur’s mom was sewing near the entrance when we arrived. It was a humble house with no front door made from the mud as well as the houses around. One bed next to the entrance just had two pillows without mattress, very simple. There were his nieces also inside the house. All of them have beautiful eyes. I couldn’t resist taking a lot of pictures of them.

Arthur’s mom told us that San Basilio de Palenque has own language called Palenquero and she could speak fluently. The language has fascinated linguistics since they began studying it several decades ago, combining African Kikongo languages from Congo and Angola with Portuguese and Spanish. In 2005 San Basilio de Palenque village was proclaimed Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO because of the African traditions that still survive here such as through language, dance, and music.

For instance, when we went back to the main square, we heard an ethnic music. Apparently, there was music rehearsal by a local group. We went inside and watched them closer. A group of the local teenager was playing Afro-Colombian music with their unique mixture of traditional and contemporary sounds. They played it with the accompaniment of maracas, claves, guacharaca, tumbadora, and bongo playing in the Palenque percussion’s style, while two vocalists fill in the melody. They called it Sexteto Tabala music. It is one of the most representative musical expression of the Africans communities in Colombia.  They sang a song for us before we left. On the way back, we have agreed that the beauty of San Basilio de Palenque is the people. Their generosity stuck in our heart. They are beautiful from the inside.

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