Last week, US President Barack Obama was in the Caribbean city of Cartagena, Colombia for the three-day Summit of the Americas, the sixth such summit since 1994. The last day of the summit, April 15th, saw Obama attend a ceremony in Cartagena’s Plaza San Pedro, in which land ownership titles were restored to representatives of Afro-Colombian families who had been displaced from their homes by armed rebel groups. Cartagena (and Colombia as a whole) has a large Afro-Colombian population, and an estimated 21 percent of the country’s population are of African descent.
Many of the families involved in the land-ownership ceremony come from the town of San Basilio de Palenque, two hours east of Cartagena. The town was founded by run-away slaves in the late 16th century, and was an important center of resistance against Spanish rule and slavery. It has preserved its cultural traditions well (the town’s language is a unique blend of Congo River languages fused with Spanish), resulting in UNESCO declaring it an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Go in October, where you can savor the annual musical and cultural festival, Festival de Tambores de Palenque.
You can find out more about San Basilio de Palenque, Cartagena and Colombia in VIVA’s new Colombia Adventure Guide, available in a variety of e-book applications directly from VIVA, as well as in print format from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.