If you’re one of the travelers seeking authentic and historically rich experiences, then San Basilio de Palenque, a hidden treasure south of Cartagena, is your ideal destination. The vibrant streets of Cartagena, with Afro-Colombian women selling fruits and sweets, are an iconic image of this coastal city. However, how many know the fascinating history behind these women and their place of origin, San Basilio de Palenque? In this article, you’ll delve into the captivating history of this town, its unique traditions, and its influence on Colombian culture. We’ll take you on a journey to this unique town in the foothills of the Montes de María, south of Cartagena. Discover why this place, declared a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, deserves a prominent place in your itinerary.
Palenque, located in the foothills of the Montes de María, doesn’t often appear in tourist guides, but its history is essential for understanding the African heritage in the Americas. Founded in the 16th century by Benkos Biohó, a former African king who escaped slavery in Cartagena, this town became the first free settlement in the Americas.
Palenque was not only a refuge for enslaved people seeking freedom but also preserved many of their African traditions. Palenquero, a creole language based on Spanish and African Kikongo, is spoken here, making it a unique linguistic gem in the world. Additionally, Palenque’s funeral traditions, known as “lumbalú,” have been studied by historians and anthropologists.
San Basilio de Palenque has given the world some of the finest talents in music, boxing, and acting. With renowned boxers like ‘Kid Pambelé,’ influential musicians, and actors like Evaristo Márquez, this town has left an indelible mark on Colombian culture.
Every October, San Basilio de Palenque comes to life with the Festival of Drums and Cultural Expressions. Over three days, local and international musicians gather to celebrate Palenque’s rich musical heritage. This festival is a highlight in Colombia’s cultural calendar and a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in Palenque’s music and culture.
San Basilio de Palenque, located in the foothills of the Montes de María, doesn’t often appear in tourist guides, but its history is essential for understanding the African heritage in the Americas. Founded in the 16th century by Benkos Biohó, a former African king who escaped slavery in Cartagena, this town became the first free settlement in the Americas.
Palenque’s cuisine is not only delicious but has also been internationally recognized. A recipe book written in Palenquero language won the prestigious Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in 2014. This demonstrates the uniqueness and importance of this town’s cuisine.
The Palenquero language is a unique linguistic treasure in Colombia and the world. It emerged from the need to communicate among enslaved people from different African regions and cultures. Despite the challenges, this language has endured and is still spoken by some residents of Palenque.
San Basilio de Palenque is an unparalleled society where there is no police or crime. The community organizes itself into groups called “ma-kuagro,” where everyone takes care of each other. This system of rights and duties is an example of how collaboration can maintain peace and harmony in a community. The Cimarron Guard works for the well-being of San Basilio de Palenque, and the ma-kuagro handle localized community matters, such as “lumbalú,” a nine-day funeral ceremony with chants, dances, and feasts in honor of the deceased.
San Basilio de Palenque, the first free town in America, is a unique place that immerses you in history, culture, and tradition. From its linguistic legacy to its vibrant music scene and delicious cuisine, this town offers an unforgettable experience. Come and discover the magic of Palenque, where freedom and African culture have left an indelible mark on the heart of Colombia.
If you’re planning a trip to Colombia, you can’t miss the opportunity to visit San Basilio de Palenque and explore its rich heritage. Join us on this exciting journey and be part of Palenque’s history!