Colombia is a great country to spend holidays as it not only takes you back to historical places but also provides the true scenery and allows to explore nature. There are many places in Colombia which are worth seeing and one of those places is a small village called as San Basilio de Palenque which is an hour and a half outside of Cartagena. If you want to know why it is a truly unique place in Colombia, just read this article and we are quite sure that at the end of the day, you will be more than interested to visit such a beautiful place in Colombia.
Before telling about the colors of San Basilio de Palenque, it is necessary to know the history of San Basilio de Palenque. Not to be confused with ancient Mayan city of Palenque in Chiapas, Mexico, San Basilio de Palenque has its own historical importance and a completely different place. It has the major milestone of being the oldest African-American settlement in the New World. As Columbus stepped ashore in 1492 in New World, it does not take a lot to Spain to wipe out the entire Caribbean native people either by slavery or by diseases. In order to fill their free labor supply, they turned towards the African slave trade which dates back to the Roman era. In the 1520s, the first Africans were transported to Colombia via Cartagena and within a decade, it became a common norm which occurred at regular interval for the next 300 years. Even Benkos Bioho who alleged to be an African king was also a slave in Cartagena in 1599 and escaped slavery and then surrounded the city with his followers.
He established a settlement that is now known as San Basilio de Palenque at present time. It became a safe haven for slaves from the whole Caribbean coastal area of Colombia. He was such a great leader that even in 1605, the Spanish signed a peace treaty with him that lasted for more than 16 years. Spain broke the treaty and captured Benkos and hanged him in Cartagena which arouses a rebellion wave in San Basilio de Palenque and people of San Basilio de Palenque fought for the next seventy years with Spain for their freedom. At last in 1691, the Spanish leave it as it is and it is free ever since. One of the first things, a tourist experience is the fascinating statue of Benkos Bioho getting rid of his chains.
The Palenqueros have been living in San Basilio de Palenque way more longer than any other permanent settlement in other parts of the country. These people developer their language, music, and culture which is not only unique but also intriguing. It is their unique culture that UNESCO in 2005 listed San Basilio de Palenque as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
In order to get to San Basilio de Palenque from Cartagena, one can use the highway which later leads to a narrow road that leads to Main Street of the town. After passing the statue of Benkos, one can see the monument proclaiming 2015-2024 as the International Decade of African Descendants. Another important thing which is worth mentioning is the Palenqueras which are found everywhere in the tourist section of Cartagena. These are mostly women basically from San Basilio de Palenque and wear bright dresses mostly in Colombian flag colors and carry sweets and fruits on top of their heads. These women are expert at selling goods and sell irresistible sweets which are not only yummy but also produced locally. These women travel across the region too sharing recipes given to them by their ancestors. San Basilio de Palenque has its own special dishes which include catfish mote, seafood rice, smoked catfish, and various others. A tourist can have a picture with them for few pesos and can even enjoy the fruit of the local area.
San Basilio de Palenque is not a civic community but, as a matter of fact, it is a poorer community but this community has given Antonio Cervantes to the world who was the first Colombian to even have a world boxing title. He had 16 successful title defenses and ranked 50th on a list of greatest boxers of all time. Apart from that, the importance of this place lies in the history of this place as its legacy has been preserved for years. People of San Basilio de Palenque have their own language and even it is used nowadays. This language is a mix of African Bantu, Spanish, French, Portuguese, and English. The people of San Basilio de Palenque have unique culinary skills and even won the best cookbook written which includes secret recipes from 38 locals of San Basilio de Palenque. Another important aspect of San Basilio de Palenque is its irresistible music which is also considered as the soul of San Basilio de Palenque. Energetic dancers and beats of drum create a spell of music and the attention of everyone standing around them. Every event is celebrated with the beats of the drum and joy is tremendous. Tourists also hear local artists such as Sexteto Tabala, Radio Matuna, Son Palenque, and many others. One of the best times to visit this place is in October due to Drums and Cultural Expressions Festival. This festival gives the complete overview of the musical culture of San Basilio de Palenque. Another important thing that also differentiates San Basilio de Palenque is its zero crime rate as it does not have any police. i San Basilio de Palenque is organized into different groups called ma-kuagro. The system of rights is accepted by all citizens.
The best way to visit San Basilio de Palenque is to visit this place with a local guide who can show you all the places in the community and provide you a more authentic and realistic experience. The local guides provide detailed information about history as their great grandparents had remained apart of making the history. Local tours can be availed in Spanish and English along with a little touch of Palenquero thrown to provide a basic understanding of the local language.
Normally, a regular tour to San Basilio de Palenque starts from Cartagena. You can travel to San Basilio de Palenque from Cartegena and starts your tour around 10 am. At that time, you will meet your bilingual tour who will not only take you to important places but also show the important landmarks. Apart from that, travel with a local guides will also provide information about different places in the community such as Afroneto music house where tourists sign their names. During your visit to San Basilio de Palenque, you can also have the chance to purchase Neque which is traditional alcohol created in San Basilio de Palenque. You can also have a private tour of San Basilio de Palenque which provides you flexibility and it can be scheduled for any day of the week.
In order to have the most comfortable experience in San Basilio de Palenque, it is advised to wear comfortable clothes and shoes, use sunscreen, and an umbrella as it is always warm and sunny there. Apart from that, if you have a good command on Spanish language, it will also make your travel experience more fun and rememberable. Nueva Lengua Spanish School is one of the best schools in Colombia which offers different Spanish language and course and you can avail their services to learn Spanish.
So, if you are a history lover and wanted to see the first free town in America, San Basilio de Palenque is the true choice for you due to its strong history. It is such a place where you cannot only enjoy the history but also interact with local people who have a unique culture and have their own language. So, what are you waiting for? Just grab your bags and head towards San Basilio de Palenque to have real experience of history and to know about the bravery of Palenqueros who fought with limited resources for several years just to protect the basic right of living i.e. freedom.