I’m still processing the events of the past 8 days of arriving in Colombia’s Caribbean coast… Not long ago I was in San Basilio de Palenque (the first acknowledged settlement of liberated Africans in the Americas) on a filmset of Cameroonian filmmaker Jean-Pierre Bekolo, then just days ago I joined the march surrounded by hundreds of Palenqueras (the iconic images we see of black women from Palenque in colourful gowns balancing a bowl of fruits on their heads) in the streets of Cartagena demanding to be respected… A stark reminder of the resilience of Palenqueros through history… I was part of history being made once again!
On the 26th March, a rally took place in the historical centre of Cartagena, sparked by police harassment of a prominent Palenquera the previous week. Angelina Cassiani, often chosen as the official Palenquera to be pictured with statesmen and Miss Colombia Beauty Queens, was harassed and fined by police for selling in her produce in the same spot she’s been a vendor at for decades. This act was captured on video which went viral…
For the first time ever, Palenqueros, informal vendors, activists, leaders, human rights representatives and those in solidarity came together to protest against the injustices Palenqueras (and other informal vendors) face on a daily basis. The march tore through the streets of old Cartagena causing some disruption in the streets, though most commuters seemed amazed – after all, when else have they seen so many colourful Palenqueras gathered together in such a spectacle?
Despite being celebrated tourist icons in the city of Cartagena, Palenquera women continue to be subject to racism, marginalisation and police harassment in and around the historic center. This march was a reminder that Palenqueras are are an invaluable part of Cartegena’s history.
I’ll be sharing more about Palenqueras, the #LaPalenqueraRespeta march and my stay both in San Basilio de Palenque and Cartagena!… Join me!
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