The second tour I got to do with Alex Rocha was a trip to the first free slave town in the Americas, San Basilio de Palenque. This town is located about an hour south east of Cartagena.
On the way there, we pulled over to the side of the road to where a big sign was posted with Alex’s namesake. He was rightfully full of pride when he told us that the town located 13km down the road is where his family came from. It was already clear from the conversations with Alex the previous and same day how deeply rooted and knowledgable he was about his homeland, but to hear him talk about the the town of Rocha, you could see the pride exude (rightfully so) from his being.
|A proud Alex Rocha!|
Driving a few minutes more down the road, Alex let us know that we would be making a pit stop for some local snacks. He compared it to being in the states, pulling over to a gas station for some food, but honey let me tell you, the states has NOTHING compared to the roadside service of Cartagena.
Upon getting off the bus, Alex let us know, or told us rather, that we’d be trying a favorite snack of the locals. He also made it very clear that he wouldn’t tell us what is was until after we consumed it. Take a look and see if you can guess what it is…
If you guessed iguana eggs, then you were right on the money! To be very honest, it wasn’t terrible. After biting into the rubbery-like outer casing, you’re met with a very thick yolk (which I was able to indentify due to my over-consumption of boiled eggs on a weekly basis).
After that, we sat down and waited for our snack of fried fish and plantains. I was grateful for this time to get to know some “sista-friends” I met while on the tour, but I’ll tell more about that in the next post.
|A little pit stop beverage|
|When the food is too good to take a “before shot”|
|The awesome crew of ladies I was blessed enough to be on the tour with|
The next stop was Palenque. It’s really hard not to be enamored by this place, because its so vibrant not only with the beautiful murals but the aura of the people. As soon as we got off the bus the natives didn’t hesitate to greet us with hugs, waves, and kisses on the cheek. I really felt as if I was at a big family reunion, seeing aunties and uncles I haven’t seen in years.
|Smart man, he is, to be wearing that shirt 🙂|
It was truly a “warm-fuzzies” type of moment, seeing all these people that look just like you: same hair, complexions and features. The only barrier was the language, which seemed to be no barrier at all when I really sit back and ponder.
Walking the streets was like one big party. From the time we got off the bus, walking all the streets, to the moment we got back on, music and laughter filled the streets as people danced, laughed and had a good time. They even included us in the festivities.
|A good time had by all|
|One of the members of Kombilesa Mi|
One highlights of the tour was getting to sit inside of a home and watching a live performance from the Palenque-native group, Kombilesa Mi. This musical group of young people, founded in 2011, fuses urban rap with the traditional rhythms and language of Palenque. Check out some of their music below. Seriously, press play (don’t scroll past) and check it out…their music is sooooo dope!
After the wonderful performance, we passed by some people playing dominoes, so of course, we had to stop again and play.
We ended our time in Palenque visiting the home of a local family and getting to ask them questions.
After leaving the town, we made a stop for a late lunch/dinner where we had…you guessed it…another fish plate dinner. It was so good I think I may have eaten a few bones in the process on purpose (please don’t judge me, it was good)! Two of the people on our tour were celebrating birthday the next coming days, so Alex was gracious enough to have a cake made in their honor which was so rich and chocolate-y and good.
All in all, this day trip was amazing. Even the words I typed up here can’t really do justice to describe the amazing time I had. Again, if you ever head to Cartagena, this tour is a MUST DO, especially if you’re someone that identifies with your African roots.
Also another shameless plug for Alex, but he had the playlist BANGING on our way back to Cartagena…check it out for yourself!
For more on the history of Palenque, visit this link here.