When you arrive in Colombia, African influences is seen in every aspect of Colombian lifestyle – from the food, music, which is heavily influenced by countries like Ghana, Senegal, Angola, and Sierra Leone to name a few, as well as traditions and customs that can be traced back to the Atlantic Slave trade,
that has influenced the region ever since. Colombia has one of the largest Afro-Colombian populations in Latin America. There is much about the country that resonates with Black travelers.
Here are a few sites worth visiting if you’re visiting Colombia and would love to explore the African Influences.
San Basilio de Palenque
San Basilo de Palenque is the first ‘free town’ in the Americas, Palenque founded by those who fled a life of slavery in colonial times, has been preserved intact in Colombia. It’s a unique place, famous for its culture, language, gastronomy and, of course, its history.
The people of palenque have maintaned their African oral and musical traditions, including the only Spanish-Bantú spoken on earth, known as Palenquero. Influenced by the Kikongo language of Angola and Congo, it is only spoken today by roughly half of the Palenque residents and is recognized as the only Spanish-based Creole language that exists in the world. Palenque’s African-influenced funeral traditions, known as the lumbalú, have also been maintained and studied extensively by historians and anthropologists.
As you move through this special place, you’ll encounter the palenqueras. These women are known for their colorful attire, and for selling scores of delicious goods like coconut cake, sugared papaya, and much more.
Cartagena was the largest slave port in Colombia. Cartagena is a city that is deeply connected to Afro-Caribbean culture. There is a significant amount of people with direct African descent and a legacy shaped by the transatlantic slave trade. This cultural influence is evident in everything from the city’s cuisine to its nightlife. Travelers can explore the city’s Afro-Caribbean roots, and visit museums and landmarks highlighting Black history. They also can connect with local communities to gain a deeper understanding of Cartagena’s unique identity. This vibrant coastal city is equal historic as it is diverse with everything that it offers.
If you want to learn about Black history in and around Cartagena, Black-owned tour companies like Experience Real Cartagena can guide you.
Take an Afro-Colombian Drum Workshop
Music and dance run through the soul of Cartagena. You’re bound to hear the sounds of instruments as you stroll the streets of the city, most notably the beat of a drum will captivate your senses. Drums are a huge part of Afro-Colombian culture, so what better way to get the full experience than by taking a drum workshop? You can find classes and tours all over Cartagena promising to teach you the rhythm and sounds of Afro-Colombian music.
And if you can swing it, try to visit in October when the San Basilio de Palenque Drum Festival takes place. Also known as the Festival de Tambores, the event is held over a few days and celebrates the beauty of the region through live music, dancing, food, and cultural workshops.
Santiago de Cali and Medellín
Cali, located on Colombia’s Pacific Coast, has the second-highest Black population in Latin America. It’s home to the Petronio Alvaréz Festival, which celebrates Afro-Colombian heritage.
This electric event has been a Cali staple for more than 20 years, and it goes on for six days. If you’re in Medellín, be sure to try the delicious cuisine. There’s also the Festival of Flowers, which has roots in the Black experience. It lasts 10 days in early August .For the last 27 years, hundreds of thousands of people have traveled to the city to celebrate Afro-Colombian food, fashion, arts and crafts, a local moonshine, and most importantly, music.