San Basilio de Palenque: I love being Black


I had a wonderful time on the Real Cartagena Tour with Alex Rocha and was excited to go to San Basilio de Palenque with him the following day. On the drive to Palenque, I took the opportunity to face time my mother. I turned the camera towards Alex and my mother blurted out,”I thought all Colombians were light-skinned” I was EMBARRASSED but Alex laughed and informed her that there are plenty of Afro-Colombians in Cartagena who looked just like him.

Alex and I

I must admit, I too just recently learned about afro-latinos after watching a documentary called Afrolatinos: The Untaught History. Our history often depicts Africans being sold into slavery in North America. Truth be told we were also taken to places such as Cuba and Latin American countries. It is important to research and educate yourself because others may omit important information about who and where you come from.

We stopped at Los Chicharrones de Turbaco for breakfast.  6B269440-D384-4F1B-9504-7EE8E37C1431

Fried pork belly, yucca and plantain.

Benkos Bioho founded San Basilio de Palenque along with 10 other escaped slaves. Bioho was apart of the royal family in present-day Guinea Bissau. (I was excited because I recently discovered that my roots are from Guinea Bissau and Sierra Leone via Ancestry results) In 1599, Bioho’s first escape attempt occurred after the boat he was on sank. He was recaptured but re-escaped again to the Southeast of Cartagena. After successfully escaping, he helped to free other slaves from there slave owners. During that time, Governor Gerónimo de Suazo y Casasola often tried to defeat Bioho and the Maroons. On July 18, 1605, the governor declared a peace treaty with the promise that Bioho would not help any more runaway slaves become free. Unfortunately, in 1619, the Spaniards violated the peace treaty as Bioho carelessly walked into the city. In 1621, he was hanged and killed. In 1713, it was declared the first free village by the king of Spain after futile attempts to attack the Maroon hideaway in the mountains.


Statue of Benko Bioho

We stopped at a school where the students were performing at an assembly.


We went to visit a local group called Kombilesa Mi, they were making drums out of tree trunks and sheepskin. They are rappers from Palenque but they use traditional instruments and the local language to tell other people about the daily struggles in Palenque.


Carving drums from treetrunks


We sat with them for several hours and used Alex as our translator as we speak very little Spanish and they speak very little English. As artists, they wanted to know who we thought was the greatest rappers of all times. I could offer no input as I’m not a huge fan of rap. (I know my black card may be revoked after that statement)

They asked us about going to school and attending college. I informed him that I attended college and graduated but will probably owe Sally Mae for the rest of my life. They were appalled by the cost of college and decided that they would rather stay in Palenque. LOL, It made me think about America being called the “land of the free”. I was taught that I should obtain a higher degree to receive a better paying job only to be in debt by school loans. The cycle of debt makes me face my reality, I am not living in the land of the free!

What I really enjoyed about the conversation is the fact that they invited us to come live and visit Palenque because we were family. They also believe that although some of the descendants have not been back to the motherland, they have a place in Africa because that is there home.


It is important to preserve your history and roots. Due to the fact that many people don’t know their history, they are not proud to be from Africa. In school, people were called African Booty Scratcher as to imply there is something wrong with being from Africa. I’m grateful for the opportunity to travel to learn more about my roots as a black person and learn from others who despite a language barrier look exactly like me.


On the way back home from Palenque we stopped for dinner and had the most delicious whole fried fish. I normally eat deboned fish but I’m changed person, I will eat the fish from now on.


I love the Palenque women aka palenqueras who go into Cartagana to sell fruit.



  1. Excellent write up, keep doing what you’re doing. The best rapper is a subjective choice, you still have access to the black card…lol

  2. I love that you explored San Basilio. That I love being black sign is everything. Thank you for sharing your experience in Columbia with people that look like us.

  3. Wow this is truly amazing didnt know Cartagana was rich in African history. I pinned this for later so i can reference it I would love to make a trip here.

  4. There was so much joy and pride within your post. I loved see the brown-skinned natives and their beautiful smiles. The murals were so bright, political, and encouraging. Columbia is really different from how I’d imagined it. Thanks for sharing your personal experience.

  5. I love seeing people who look like me when I travel. AS always, it looks like you had a great time learning the culture, eating good food and meeting good people.

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