The Origins of the Palenque

If you look up palenque, you might get a couple of different results. The first ones to show up will likely be about the Mayan city-state that was actually named Lakamha, now a collection of ancient ruins in Chiapas that is heavily marketed by the Mexican tourism industry for its historical value. This has overtaken the term palenque’s more common usage, which you’d have better luck finding if you look up synonyms in other languages, like Quilombo, Mocambe, or Maroon. If you really look, you also might be able to find San Basilio de Palenque, Colombia, one of the best examples of the original term.
Palenque was the term the Spaniards used to refer to runaway slave communities, first for Indians then for the Africans that replaced them. The Spanish word for fugitive slave, Cimarron, would eventually be corrupted into the English Maroon. This particular variation was most often applied to the Maroon communities of Jamaica, who regularly raided and ambushed the British colonial forces until the latter were forced to sue for peace. The military prowess of some palenques was so great that their Maroon militia (and their descendants) decisively ended more than a few battles between colonial powers. These communities, and many others throughout the Americas, maintained their autonomy so well that some remain relatively isolated even today.
The palenque and the cimarrones that resided within them were instrumental in developing and maintaining Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Latino culture, and at times even Pre-Columbian Indian culture. Some even helped shape the greater cultures of their nations, like the former palenque of Loiza in Puerto Rico, where Bomba was born and of whose instruments and rhythms can be seen and heard in the musical styles that came after. Though usually occupied by a majority of Africans and Afro-descendants, palenques became melting pots of culture, language and ideas, and the people that emerged from them were altogether unique. That is what inspired us to choose the name palenque – we seek to form our own community, where people and culture from all over the world can mingle freely.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s