|Monument to Benkos Biohó, San Basilio de Palenque founder|
|Sara arriving in Palenque via mototaxi|
"Palenques" ("walled cities"), were small towns founded by escaped slaves in the 1600s. San Basilio de Palenque, about 50 km from Cartagena, was the first such town and the only one still in existence in Colombia. Most of the some 3,500 residents are direct descendants of these escaped slaves and they have a unique culture reflective of their African roots, including having their own language. The town has been recognized by UNESCO as an important cultural space.
|Me with Maria & a friend|
Sara was all for visiting Palenque and the adventure of getting there. We took a ~45 minute local bus from downtown to the bus terminal, then another ~45 minute bus trip to where the road to Palenque met the major "highway." From there you take a "mototaxi" the ~3 miles to Palenque itself. A mototaxi is a motorcycle that takes a paying passenger; no, it's not a legal business but they are widespread here on the coast. Having seen the mototaxis speeding dangerously through the jam packed streets of Cartagena, I never wanted to take one, but here it was our only option. I asked my helmetless driver for a helmet but there was none to be had. I will say that our drivers drove quite carefully and slowly over the partially paved/partially unpaved road in to Palenque and it wasn't so bad. Still, I don't anticipate taking one anytime soon in Cartagena.
|El Maestro in front of his portrait|
There are a couple of Palenqueras who work outside of my school & I had asked one, Maria, for advice on how best to visit her town, knowing this would mean we'd end up with a guide, which was fine. She set us up with her daughter (who I didn't realize was only 13, but that's ok...) and had us start out at the "Maestro's" house, an older gentleman who leads a Palenquero musical group that has traveled around the world, which we discovered when we met him. It was interesting, and quite a contrast, to hear him talk about his international travels while we were sitting in the back yard of his very humble home in this town which has only had electricity since the 1970s and where many people don't have running water.
|The swimming slash laundry hole|