Palenque de San Basilio, a village near Cartagena, Colombia, was founded by runaway slaves who resisted many Spanish attempts to recapture them. With a variety of images and multiple voices, the documentary portrays the community and then links it with the coastal city. As we watch their daily life, we realize that many African customs have survived in the town.
This film presents the townspeople' customs and traditions, their livelihood, and the economical/labor relationship they have had to develop with cities on the coast. Today Palenqueros make their living from agriculture (especially corn) and the women-folk make daily trips to sell their fruit and produce. In candid voice over interviews, the Palenqueros speak for themselves, discussing their struggles to survive and the racial discrimination and stereotypes they face (one of the visual stereotypes of Cartagena has become the Palenqueras on the beach selling fruit from large basins carried on their heads). They describe their desires for social mobility for their children, who they wish "won't have to work out in the sun."
In Comparative Culture, Anthropology, Ethnography courses, this documentary can help to illustrate the life in one of the few remaining maroon villages in the Americas. It should be shown after establishing the historical context of the maroon society during the slave era in Spanish America. An introduction might include a map of Colombia, showing Cartagena and the town of Palenque de San Basilio in Cartagena's hinterland. Another map showing the location of several other palenques (“runaway slave communities”) during the colonial period and the nineteenth century will help set the stage for the discussion as well.
The film is also useful for comparing North American and Latin American concepts of "blackness" and "racial mixture.