Wednesday, January 14, 2015

San Basilio de Palenque, Colombia- First Free Town in America

San Basilio de Palenque or Palenque de San Basilio is a village about an hour's drive from Cartagena, Colombia, along the Via de la Cordialidad. In 2005 the village was declared Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. Palenque is also considered the first free town in America.

Spaniards introduced kidnapped Africans slaves in South America through Magdalena River Valley. Its mouth is close to the important port of Cartagena de Indias where ships full of Africans arrived. Some Africans escaped and set up Palenque de San Basilio, a town close to Cartagena. They tried to free all African slaves arriving to Cartagena and were quite succesfull. Therefore, the Spanish Crown issued a Royal Decree in 1691declaring free to Palenque de San Basilio Africans. These Africans were the First Free Africans in America. 

The village of Palenque de San Basilio has a population of about 3,500 inhabitants and is located in the foothills of the Montes de María, southeast of the regional capital, Cartagena. The word "palenque" means "walled city" and the Palenque de San Basilio is only one of many walled communities that were founded by escaped slaves as a refuge in the seventeenth century. Of the many palenques of escaped slaves that existed previously San Basilio is the only one that survives. Many of the oral and musical traditions have roots in Palenque's African past.

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