The people of Colombia have a rich culture and are deeply rooted in their Spanish history. The country of Colombia was founded on July 20th, 1810 but before that Colombia was under an autonomous rule, it was known as the Kingdom of Grenada in 1499. During Spanish rule, Colombia overwent a period of colonization where the Spanish brought fruits, vegetables, disease, slaves etc. Slaves were primarily brought from Africa and were taken all over the new world.
Fast forward more than 500 years later in a region of northern Colombia known as San Basilio de Palenque, in a village named Palenque, is comprised of African slave descendants who are believed to speak the only Spanish based the Creole language in Latin America. The language is known as Palenquero. The Palenque live in a village with walls, originally the walls were created to protect the runaway slaves from the Spanish and colonials. The word ‘Palenque’ actually translates to ‘fortified village of runaway slaves’.
The village sits in a jungle with fertile soil and plentiful land. Within this jungle, the Palenque grew Manioc, also known as Yuca, and was their main source of survival. Today the Palenque are struggling to keep their cultural identity intact because more and more of them assimilate into the surrounding cultures in order to curry favor and generate wealth. Today, only over 1,500 of the community’s residents actively speak Palenque.
On the bright side, one of the cultural advantages of the Palenque is that since they’re such a small and compact community, they tend to be tighter knit, one can infer that they treat everyone in their community as an extension of family and can share a connection along with a certain form of collective-ness to them which other bigger societies do not have. Everyone in the community speaks Palenquero which means that they probably have a more intimate understanding of each other. On the not so bright side, one of the cultural disadvantages would be that since a lot of the residents of the village of Palenque speak only Palenquero, they can become targets of discrimination based on their language, most people in Colombia speak Spanish.
The Palenque would only leave their village because they need to trek elsewhere for work since the village cannot generate enough wealth to be self-sustaining anymore. The moment they ask for a job, their prospective employer would probably decline or ridicule them because of the language they speak. One villager, Concepcion Hernandez Navarro said, ‘we were subject to scorn because of our tongue.’. The advantage of being a lingual minority would be that they can speak secretly among themselves in Palenque and no Spanish speaking person would not understand (which makes inside jokes even better).
The tangible advantage of being a majority group is that there are more Spanish speaking Colombians which gives them majority rule. They can use this power of numbers to change a law and bring about change to a certain community. Majority groups can speak out with more to the public and can garner support if needed. The tangible advantage of a minority group is that the Palenque people can communicate more efficiently and can operate as collective in a more uniform and organized way. They tend to be tighter knit and from that comes a sense of unity which is much coveted by bigger societies.
In Colombia, most people speak Spanish because they used to be a colony of Spain and the Spanish language was passed on. Cultural advantages of speaking Spanish are pretty obvious. Being a Spanish speaker opens up a world of understanding and connection to Central America, parts of South America, Spain, Morocco and indirectly other countries who have languages similar to Spanish. With this understanding of each other, you can form friendships and bonds with people all over the world (who speak Spanish) and even benefit monetarily through business connections. The cultural disadvantages of speaking exclusively Palenquero would be trouble securing a job or wealth.
Some Palenque leave their village, learn Spanish, and find jobs with their knowledge of Spanish in order to secure wealth and survive. Another disadvantage would be the cultural superiority complexes majority cultures tend to have and it could prove to be frustrating and downright rude. In the article, it states, ‘only two of eight of Ms. Hernandez’s children live here; five are in Cartagena (which is a coastal city in Colombia and very touristy) and one moved as far as Caracas, drawn by Venezuela’s oil boom.’. This states that a lot of Palenque are leaving their homes in order to survive and create a living. The next generation of Palenque descent may not even speak Palenquero because a lot of them will be born outside the village and would probably learn only Spanish. As this culture starts dwindling more and more people are becoming attentive to this matter and want to help.
The fight to preserve Palenque is being mounted but it is not looking good. Many scholars are creating dictionaries and lexicons of the Palenquero language in order to preserve it. But the best way to preserve this culture would probably be to stimulate the economy of the village and to open the possibility to Colombians to taking up the language of Palenquero. Mr. Salgado, a school teacher believes that his culture will survive and said, ‘Our ancestors survived capture in Africa, the passage by ship to Cartagena and were strong enough to escape and live on their own for centuries…We are the strongest of the strongest…No matter what happens, our language will live on within us.’.