Yesterday my mother-in-love, my husband & I had a chance to tour Palenque de San Basilio in Colombia. Our tour guide was Alex Rocha of Experience Real Cartagena. Palenque is significant because it is the first free town for Africans, established in the Americas by former slaves.
Cartegena de los Indias, had over 1.1 million enslaved Africans enter their ports. Some of the slaves escaped & established these Palenques which means “walled city.” Palenque de San Basilio is one of the last of the surviving Palenques & thru still maintain many African traditions & customs. Cartegena is 70% black, and Afro-Colombians make up 10% of the national population.
Caption: Benkos Bioho was the liberator of the people of Palenque. There is a school there named after him and a statue in the town square.
Palenque is about a 60-90 minutes drive away from Cartagena, into the mountains, rural area. When we arrived, I felt super emotional, to learn about my people, to see where they lived with my own eyes & to know that they had been making their way since 1691, when the Spanish Crown guaranteed Africans of San Basilio de Palenque their freedom.
I am so grateful to Alex, who also runs a youth Center in Cartagena & his family for the experience. Alex teaches the youth English, which is the key to better a economic future. My experience in Palenque is one I will never forget & it is one of the most impactful experiences I’ve ever had traveling abroad.