Palenqueras, a historical and cultural icon of Cartagena
Palenqueras are one of the symbols of Cartagena's culture.
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When you arrive in Cartagena, Colombia it is almost impossible not to find a Palenquera selling fruit in its Historic Center. These women attract a lot of attention with their colorful dresses and punch bowls full of fruits, such as mangos, bananas, watermelons, pineapples and papayas that they carry on their heads.
The Palanqueras are a group of women from San Basilio de Palenque, a township located 45 minutes from Cartagena that is known for being the first free Black slave town in the Americas.
What makes them so special?
In their blood, the Palenqueras carry the legacy of African culture and like all Black people, these women are also descendants of slaves during the Spanish colonial era, heirs of captive slaves who through struggle and tenacity won their freedom by escaping to faraway places.
The Africans who escaped from the Spanish went to mountainous, remote and difficult to access regions. Protected by geography and their thirst for freedom, these men and women created the "Palenques," fortresses where they were able to maintain their customs, traditions and above all: be free.
The culture of Palenque is unique. This town, besides passing down recipes from generation to generation, has its own dialect and festivals such as the Drum Festival, which attracts thousands of visitors every year.
Currently, some of these women travel daily from their homes in Palenque to Cartagena, while others have decided to permanently migrate to the cit, because they have always been well received and also have more job opportunities, allowing them to give a better quality of life to their families.
Where to find the Palenquera women?
Palenquera women can be easily found in tourist places such as the beach, the San Felipe Castle, the Clock Tower and in squares and parks of the Historic Center, such as the Bolivar Square, San Pedro Claver Square. They are also outside the Santo Toribio Church, walking the streets or sitting on the corners, in small groups with their long skirts that attract attention with their colorful skirts and bowls full of fruits or sweets.