As we celebrate Black History Month, it’s a perfect opportunity to reflect on the rich cultural heritage and contributions of the African diaspora across the globe. After all, our belief is that black history is not only American history but also the reflection of black history and its global contribution. For black travelers seeking to immerse themselves in this history and heritage, these are countries that I have traveled to in the Americas that have left me reflecting deeply about my identity and our story: Colombia, Brazil, and Cuba.
Having recently embarked on a journey through these three remarkable countries, I can attest to the profound experiences awaiting those who venture there. Among the myriad reasons to visit, the chance to delve into the legacies of palenque communities in Colombia and the vibrant Afro-Brazilian culture in Salvador, Brazil, is particularly compelling.
Colombia: Discovering the Legacy of Palenque
Colombia, often overlooked as a destination for black travelers, boasts a rich tapestry of Afro-Colombian culture waiting to be explored. One of my regrets about my trip to Colombia was not visiting the historic town of San Basilio de Palenque, just outside of Cartagena. Established by escaped slaves in the 17th century, Palenque is considered one of the first free towns in the Americas. Here, visitors can immerse themselves in the rhythms of Afro-Colombian music, savor traditional cuisine, and learn about the resilience of a community that has preserved its African heritage against all odds. However, even though I did not get a chance to visit, everyone echoed on the streets that this is a destination I should have visited, and in talking to travelers who had visited, they shared how happy they were to have gone.
But aside from visiting Palenque, walking on the streets alone of Cartagena will remind you why visiting this country makes sense for black travelers. From seeing the Palenque ladies adorned in their bright, colorful dresses. To the high prise of black Colombians ensuring that you know that they see you as a brother and a sista, they would typically greet you with the saying “Mi Color.” So beautiful.
Brazil: Experiencing the Heartbeat of Salvador
No discussion of Afro-Latin culture is complete without a visit to Brazil, home to the largest African descendants outside of Africa itself. While Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo often steal the spotlight and were the places, I visited. And trust me, you can see a good mix of black representation in these cities. But my goal was to get to Salvador da Bahia. Known as the “Black Rome” of Brazil, Salvador is a vibrant hub of Afro-Brazilian culture, where music, dance, and spirituality intertwine in colorful displays of heritage and identity. From exploring the historic Pelourinho district to participating in a traditional capoeira roda, it has been said that every moment in Salvador feels like a celebration of resilience and pride.
Cuba: Embracing Afro-Cuban Traditions
In Cuba, the influence of African culture is woven into the fabric of everyday life, it is clear! from the rhythms of rumba echoing through the streets of Havana to the sights of black people everywhere. My journey to Cuba took me beyond the tourist hotspots to engage deeply with the Afro-Cuban people who gave me, just like Colombia, a clear sense of their African heritage.
Cuba, in particular, stands out as an excellent destination for black history enthusiasts. The influence of African culture is deeply rooted in Cuban society, from the music and dance to everyday life and traditions. Exploring the streets of Havana, visitors will encounter vibrant Afro-Cuban communities, where traditions such as Afro-Cuban dance and music are celebrated with passion and pride. Whether joining a lively salsa session or exploring the Afro-Cuban art scene, every moment in Cuba offers a profound insight into the enduring legacy of the African diaspora.
As Black History Month reminds us of the importance of honoring and preserving our shared heritage, there is no better time for black travelers to embark on a journey of discovery through Colombia, Brazil, and Cuba. From the resilient spirit of Palenque to the vibrant rhythms of Salvador and the enduring traditions of Cuba, each destination offers a unique opportunity to connect with the past while celebrating the beauty and diversity of the African diaspora. So, this February, I urge you to pack your bags, set out on an adventure, and experience the richness of Afro-Latin culture in these captivating destinations.