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Palenque Qutreach Program


In the interest of the preservation of the precious heritage and history of the Palenque culture dated from the 17th century, The Peter Uba Foundation has made a commitment to work with the community of San Basilio de Palenque in areas of Health (Midwifery), Education, and Agriculture. We believe in preserving this unique oasis of African culture and tradition in the Americas.


The community of San Basilio de Palenque is a Corregimiento (country subdivisions for royal administrative purposes ensuring districts were under crown control as opposed to local elites) of the municipality of Mahates in the department of Bolívar – Colombia. A corregimiento was usually headed by a Corregidor. The Community is in one of the valleys at the foot of the Montes de María, with an approximate number of more than 6,000 permanent inhabitants in the territory. Despite this population there are more than 15,000 made up of the origins of Palenque’s across the regions and away in other diaspora of Palenqueros that are concentrated in the Colombian cities of Cartagena and Barranquilla, and the neighboring country of Venezuela. The community, even though in diaspora, maintains constant direct communication with the territory, upholding and maintaining their African descendant’s close niche heritage and culture through the centuries since arriving in the continent from Africa. The cultural space of Palenque de San Basilio presents a rich intangible Heritage, which is integrated from its peculiar history, as the most important living symbol of the maroon struggles for the emancipation of the enslaved and the first peace process successfully advanced with the maroons. It exemplifies an exceptional form of social organization, Ma kuagro; their own musical expressions, such as the seated Bullerengue and the Palenquero son; their own Creole language, the Palenquero; oral traditions; the funeral rite of the Lumbalú; to the knowledge of their natural environment for medicinal purposes, midwives, and their worldview, among other cultural elements.

Keeping the Traditions of the Palenque Peoples

All the cultural elements that are present in the community today have given great historical and cultural significance to the territory of San Basilio de Palenque, it has earned it important recognition as a territory in the “Peaceful Coexistence Zone and Ethnic-Cultural Territory”. 

In the month of October 2005 Palenque was declared as a Cultural Space of and Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

Tantalize your taste buds with their unique gastronomy language, music, culture, medicine, and societal organization have a rare and special significance in the community. Tourists in Cartagena, the Indies colonial streets can be seen taking pictures among the group of Palanqueras women.

The Palanqueras also travel all over the region sharing their irresistible recipes that have been passed down over the centuries. Their dishes are delightful and delectable to the taste buds. They say “minino a Palenque a kume” meaning “come eat” in Palenqueros. The excellence of Palenque cooking was recognized on the global stage at the Gourmand World Cookbook Award in 2014 held in Beijing, China with more than 15,000 cookbooks written by culinary stars from 184 countries.


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Oral Tradition

The Palenquero oral tradition is a resource of resistance, a tool of struggle and reaffirmation of cultural identity, it is a referent of the past that guides the present and keeps the worldview alive, which contains magical religious manifestations. The wisdom transmitted orally is a basic element for community self-control, hence the word has a lot of value and is one of the ways to maintain identity. Through this oral tradition, community values ​​are also perpetuated from childhood, through stories, myths and legends that guide training in values ​​and anti-values.

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The Palenque language

Creole languages, used as a means of communication by descendants of enslaved Africans, who are in the Caribbean (Haitian, Louisiana French Creole, Papiamento, San Andresano, Palenquero, and others) and West Africa (Saotomense, Principesse, Annobones, among others). At present, the Palenquera language is the only Creole with a Spanish lexical base, a product of the African diaspora in the world. At present this oral manifestation is in processes of appropriation from the different community processes, especially in children and young people who are passive speakers due to the great external influence.

To speak of the Palenquera language is not to limit oneself solely to the grammatical and structural aspects that constitute it, it is to think of a set of solidarity and significant elements that gather ways of being, feeling and interpreting the realities of a community that still maintains its ancestral legacies, evidenced in the dynamics of use of its speakers and in the wide range of traditional practices that still survive. In this sense, the language constitutes a highly rooted cultural construction among its speakers and a possibility for the establishment of imaginaries and worldviews.


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Maintaining the Palenquera Language

The Peter Uba Foundation eagerly works with elders and educators within the Palenque community to educate the younger generations. We work on maintaining the heritage language as well as the modern school curriculums. The language was formed as a necessity for slaves from different countries and cultures on European ships who were deliberately mixed to stop any ideas of mutiny. The slaves, however, came together to create their own language using a combination of Castilian, Portuguese, English, French, Bantu, and Pingui languages. Palenque language used to be spoken in all of the African communities in the Americas, however, today, this language is only spoken in San Basilio de Palenque and is slowly dying out there. Many residents of Palenque retain African first names and surnames.

The Peter Uba Foundation is determined and working to preserve this unique language and society for future generations.

The unique society of San Basilio de Palenque has no police, additionally, there is no crime in the community. The village is organized into Groves called Ma-Kuagro. This system of rights and duties is accepted by all, and citizens watch out for one another. The Cimarroma Guard work for the community’s overall welfare while the Ma-Kuagro manage the community. Approximately 3,500 live inside San Basilio de Palenque 50,000km from the city of Cartagena in the Indies. The Columbian government has declared San Basilio de Palenque a place of “National Character and Cultural Interest” as an international treasure.

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What can be called traditional medicine is a conglomerate of knowledge and intervention techniques on disease and damage that are closely associated with the Palenquera worldview and are treated using words, prayers, and plants. Midwifery has been a manifestation of much use in the territory for the births of the natives, an art carried out by midwives or knowledgeable women who have dedicated to this knowledge for many years, today we highlight that this practice is at risk of continuing, since that has not been included in the representative list of the cultural heritage of the community, the lack of spaces for the transmission of this knowledge to the new generations.

Midwifery is an ancestral knowledge carried by the older women of San Basilio de Palenque during the period from the 1930s to the 1990s. This knowledge consists of accompanying Palenquera women during the pregnancy and childbirth stage, using oral techniques, plants, and the knowledge of the elders.  A Dying African Culture Peter Uba Foundation in Association with the Elders and the People of San Basilio de Palenque are working together to restore a Dying Tradition of Midwifery, an African childbirth skill handed over centuries through generations. We acknowledge these traditional practitioners and aim to educate new practitioners with the help of current practitioners, as well as introduce few additional lifesaving midwifery training and techniques to reduce maternal and infant mortality in San Basilio de Palenque. The Peter Uba Foundation is also introducing a 6-bed maternity and health clinic in San Basilio de Palenque to serve the community. The clinic will be served by a GP and a visiting OB/GYN.

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Most of the activities carried out by the Palenquero men have been characterized by cultivating the land and taking advantage of its three seasons that are used for the cultivation of yams, cassava, banana, orange, papaya, rice, and other commercial fruit trees. The activities of the field in San Basilio de Palenque are associated with the cultural manifestations of the Palenquero heritage, since their crops and products are useful in a first measure for food security, another for the elaboration of typical products led by women natives, who with their punch bowls on their heads take the palenquera culture to different cities of the country. The Peter Uba Foundation is working with the community farmers to commercialize the growing of organic and natural vegetables. The region is known for having a rich fertile soil.


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