San Basilio de Palenque: African Tradition in Colombia
On the Colombian Caribbean Coast, at a distance of one hour from the city of Cartagena, between mountains and swamps, there is a place where, in spite of the passage of time, its inhabitants live guided by African customs, traditions and rites, just as their ancestors did several centuries ago.
This place, known as San Basilio de Palenque, is famous for its symbol, the palenqueras, dark-skinned women who, dressed in multicolored dresses and swaying their hips, walk while they balance bowls of fresh fruit on their heads. Its inhabitants prefer to have their community called San Basilio de Palenque not Palenque de San Basilio, with the argument that the village does not belong to the saint, rather it is the other way around.
The palenqueras are the image representing the difficult, complicated history of their ancestors. They symbolize the struggles of the black cimarrones – slaves who courageously escaped from their owners in search of a better future.
Since the 15th century, San Basilio de Palenque is considered the first village of free slaves in South America, as well as the birthplace of the African cultural wealth of Colombia. The palenqueras preserve the African traditions brought by the slaves who disembarked on these regions of the South American continent during the Spanish Conquesti. Soon after, in colonial times, palenques began to appear on the mountains.
These were settlements of rebellious cimarrones. The term “palenque” turned into a symbol of freedom because anyone who became a member of one was automatically free.
Social Organization
The palenqueros live by the norms of the social organization inherited from their African ancestors: the ma-kuagro, according to which every society is divided into age groups to allow the division of labor, the protection of the territory, and the preservation of traditions based on honesty, solidarity, and a collective spirit.
Another form of social organization in San Basilio de Palenque is the junta, a committee of sorts that is formed for a specific purpose – an illness, for example – and disappears once its purpose has been fulfilled.
The Palenque language is the only Creole language used in the world that is based on Spanish and African elements. The Palenque language is a Creole language based on Spanish lexicon, but with the morpho-syntactical characteristics of the African continent’s autochthonous languages, especially Bantu. Researchers have also detected that the Palenquero lexicon includes words from the Kikongo and Kimbundo languages.

The statue of Benko Bioho of Senegal, in the town Square of San Basilio de Palenque in Colombia. Bioho led a successful slave revolt in the 17th Century, making it the first free black town in the Americas, which maintained its African cultural tradition.

This type of Creole language originated as a response to difficulties in communication between Europeans and the various representatives of different linguistic families who arrived in South America.

Teodora’s adventures in culture: a new chapter

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One day, Teodora decided to be an artist. Readers may be certain that this is old

  news, but a fetching surprise awaits those who persevere.


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“They appear identical, yet are  not,” she  pointed out to an imaginary audience,

 practicing early in the  unlikely event of  a  sudden lecture invitation.


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  At  6:oo PM, Teodora removed her new salmon-colored beret and began

chopping the last of the begonia leaves into a classic Autumn Desert Salad.   “Let’s

see,” she mused as she whisked a fried egg into a light dressing of Heinz Catsup,

“Tomorrow I shall manage a hedge fund.  Either that or tow barges up the

 Mississippi  River by tug boat”

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Teodora  bit into a large begonia leaf and reconsidered as she chewed.

“On the other hand,”she remarked “Considering the current state of the fine arts,

 perhaps I should extend  my  contributions for several days, even a week…in any

case, it’s straight to bed for me”

Perhaps recalling her general ignorance of the fine arts, Teodora had slipped off

her stool before completing this sentence,  and was halfway down her bedroom

 hall as the  last hint of her plans drifted back to the kitchen.




“Theatre .. Century .. American novel…



A long pause:


We can only  pray that our young heroine develops an intense interest in

industrial hygiene before tomorrow morning.



Photos/ Paintings / Text / Claire O’Brien  © 2014

A night of Chican@ literature


Community activists with heart, spunk and vision.

Tu Libro Master
Although I missed the boat on the  great event below (my  apologies to all!), I decided to post it anyway as an example of the many ways in which Tu Libro combines community literacy, literature, culture, politics and resistance.

Georgina  Perez

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~

La Revista Paso del Rio Grande del Norte invites you to “A Night of Chican@ Literature” in
 celebration of IndigenousCommunities and Diversity
This Friday, October 10th at Cafe Mayapan, 6:30pm
Performances include Danza Azteca Omecoatl, Wise Latinas, Chican@ Writers, and more… in English, Spanish and Spanglish

In Lak’ech Ala K’in

   Georgina Cecilia Perez
EmpowerLove. Educate.
Mercado Mayapan located to the side of the restaurant

Mercado (Market) Mayapan, which houses Cafe Mayapan along with numerous other vendors. Nearly every Mexican village and town has an outdoor mercado of some kind, and cities have several. Only several miles from Mexico, the Mercado Mayapan is El Paso’s indoor adaptation of the traditional.

Café Mayapán is more than just a restaurant. It’s part of a nonprofit organization that provides job training and neighborhood revitalization. Housed in an old El Paso warehouse, the Cafe employs workers who were displaced when that factory closed. Next door is a mercado, selling arts and crafts, and several community organizations are housed elsewhere in the building.


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Ballet dancer strikes a pose outside her home in Khayelitsha, So

I’m an African child

who fights for justice,

who never prays for war,

vocalizing the one language of love.

I’m an African child
Who dances to the true African music
The world could not be complete without me.
By  Onyekachukwu  Vincent Onyeche
from “The Weary Blues,” by Langston Hughes:

Droning a drowsy syncopated tune,
Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon,
     I heard a Negro play.
Down on Lenox Avenue the other night
By the pale dull pallor of an old gas light
     He did a lazy sway . . .
     He did a lazy sway . . .
To the tune o’ those Weary Blues.
This image is from Historical Ziegfeld:
 He used to carry his guitar in a gunny sack
Go sit beneath the tree by the railroad track
Oh, the engineers would see him sitting in the shade
Strumming with the rhythm that the drivers made
People passing by they would stop and say
Oh my that little country boy could play.
Go go!
Go Johnny go
Go Johnny go
Go Johnny go!
By Chuck Berry
While the Black bands sweatin’
And the rhythm rhymes rollin’
Got to give us what we want
Gotta give us what we need
Our freedom of speech is freedom or death
We got to fight the powers that be
Lemme hear you say
Fight the power[Chorus]
As the rhythm designed to bounce
What counts is that the rhymes
Designed to fill your mind
Now that you’ve realized the pride’s arrived
We got to pump the stuff to make us tough
from the heart
It’s a start, a work of art
To revolutionize make a change nothin’s strange
People, people we are the same
No we’re not the same
Cause we don’t know the game
What we need is awareness, we can’t get careless
You say what is this?
My beloved lets get down to business
Mental self defensive fitness
(Yo) bum rush the show
You gotta go for what you know
Make everybody see, in order to fight the powers that be
Lemme hear you say…
Fight the Power!
Public Enemy




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The problem of young men



Last Thursday was business as usual in America; that is, there was another school shooting. This one was about ninety minutes away from me, in Roswell, New Mexico. A twelve-year-old boy shot two of his classmates with a sawed off shotgun; a teacher stepped in and the shooter handed him the gun,  then sort of crumpled against the wall. The boy had recently written about wanting to bring the weapon to school in his English class journal, and had also confided in several of his friends.

“Evil visited Roswell today,” proclaimed a local official.

I’d have to agree: a desperate child in a violent national culture was ignored by a community of adults beyond his ability to endure it – while provided with unlimited access to lethel weapons

We will run out of everything else in rural New Mexico before we run out of guns. They are everywhere, seeming almost to be underfoot, and everyone over the age of ten knows how to use them. They are as close as your father’s pick-up truck, which is where I am 90 percent certain the Roswell shooter got his weapon.


As the  two wounded middle schoolers were flown to a Texas hospital, a fifeen-year-old boy lay dying of a heart attack in El Paso, alone in a U.S. border patrol detention room. He had risked swallowing a hopelessly deadly amount of liquid methamphetamine right in front of the agents, insisting it was only tea. They had relied upon the delusional  judgement of a young adolescent whose cognition was insufficiently developed to grasp cause, effect and mortality –  and left him to his death .

Earlier last week, not far from the checkpoint where the teenager would soon die,  one young man shot another to death over a $75 debt  — along with his target’s two young children

And today, a twenty-two year-old conveience store clerk I have come to know over the past year remarked cheerfully that he planned to put a bullet through his temple on his 30th birthday.

“I just know I don’t want to live any longer than that,” he said. “That’s when the things that make life bearable start to get outweighed by the things that make life unbearable. I’ve watched the same thing happen over and over. Guys like me, all we have is youth  – we can work hard all day and drink every night. But we get old fast – old drunks with fucked up backs and knees and feet. I’m checking out before that starts to happen”


There’s a huge toxic discrepency between what Americans say and what we experience: everyone responds to it. It isn’t that young men occupy some inexplicable separate sphere; rather, they respond like young men to the impossible  contradictions that choke the rest of us.

We tell 18-year-old boys they are men, and that a man stands on his own –  without providing millions of them any skills to support themselves. Just when their need for support in making a huge social transition is greatest, we leave them to themselves at a point when most  families are simply unable to fill gap.

We send them into armed combat before they are old enough to drink a beer, and incarcerate them as adult at 16 and 17,  even though we are well aware that key areas of  their brains (not involving intellect, but impulse control, judgement, and a full concept of the future) are years away from full development.  There’s simply nothing for it but to stop wailing about individual pathology ( anti-social,  crazy young white men) and hinting at cultural pathology (gang-related violence/young Black and Latino men) and focus on social policies that reflect our actual experience – by meeting our actual needs.

Our foreign policy makes our military crazy with the kind of wars that give an army PTSD.  Our Congress acts out the chilling contradictions of our domestic policies in a kind of grotesque  and surreal vaudeville show. Working-class people are middle class and poor people are invisible: yes,  this is class war – and not so nakedly revealed since the turn of the 20th century.  National “Conversations on Race” are obscene charades functioning to obscure the desparate trap to which white Baby Boomers abandoned a massive African-American underclass over 30 years ago.
Gay rights somehow became a new issue 43 years after those sissies at Stonewell astonished their tormenters with a fist in the face.  Disability rights have essentially disappeared from the conversation. Without the constant pressure historically required of them, Liberals have reverted to appropriating social and political inequities into a cottage industry, buttressing their traditional self-interest.

And what was that incredibly weird Year of the Woman ABOUT?  News flash: we won those gains 30 years ago. When did we agree to legitimize the fiction of a reasonable discussion by participating in it – and on such a simplistic level  How did we even get drawn into a conversation about working mothers in the first place? From there it was a slippery slope to reproductive rights – straight down to “legitimate rape”.

What’s wrong with young American men? Let’s diagnose and fix this crazy nation, and re-visit that question in ten years.

I learned it in New Mexico. Number 1: Crows brought light back to the world.


              Ξ R A I N B O W  C R O W Ξ

 Rainbow Crow©2013 by Gail Garber/


 Rainbow Crow was the most beautiful bird in the world with the most beautiful voice. Once upon a time, the world went dark and the animals were frightened. The great gods in the sky had stolen the light from the world! The animals wondered what to do to return the light and save their world. Rainbow Crow, who was strong and brave, volunteered to fly to the gods and ask that the light be returned.
Indigo Crow 2
               FLYING  TO  HEAVEN
Rainbow Crow flew and flew, high into the sky. His muscles were weary but he kept on flying higher. Finally, when exhaustion threatened to overcome him, he arrived at the home of the Gods. With his beautiful song, he asked them to return the light. Perhaps because the Gods so enjoyed his enchanting song, they consented. The Gods gave Crow a burning torch to carry the light back to Earth.   Rainbow Crow departed for the long flight home.Crow flew and flew and, as he winged his way homeward, the smoke singed his iridescent feathers and made his beautiful voice harsh and raspy!
Indigo Crow 3
There is still a rainbow.
Finally, he returned the light to the Earth. All the animals and they were happy. But Crow was very sad. He cried because his once beautiful feathers were now blackened and, instead of a rapturous song, he had only a croak for a voice. Today, if you look closely at the feathers of a crow or raven in just the right light, you can see all the colors of the rainbow reflected in them. The rainbow still exists!
Crows are among the smartest and most ingenious of all birds. Thus, long ago, they realized that in spite of what they had lost, their beauty nevertheless reigns supreme.  However, being by nature modest, they try not  brag.
Crows still talk about Rainbow Crow, but then again, they have something to say about nearly everything.

2,151 HITS!

Electrica in the Desert is celebrating 2, 151 viewer hits. We (that’s the editorial ‘we’) meant to celebrate at the 2,000 hit mark, but we forgot.

Young tumbler, Dodge City, Kansas parade/Claire O’Brien 2009

I know it looks out of focus, but when you look at his shorts, you can see  (I think) that it’s not. Photographers: what do you say? I’d appreciate feedback.

Young parade performer, Dodge City, Kansas/Claire O’Brien 2009

Poverty kills people: Harvard stumped, Academy of Sciences “baffled”

Just when we thought we were all middle class, the Academy of Sciences caved in and said the P word, about six weeks before the big election.


Life Spans Shrink for Least-Educated Whites in the U.S.

By Sabrina Travernis,  New York Times.


English: Harvard Yard winter 2009.

English: Harvard Yard winter 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(EXCERPTS)  The latest estimate shows life expectancy for (American) white women without a high school diploma is 73.5 years, compared with 83.9 years for white women with a college degree or more. For white men, the gap was even bigger: 67.5 years for the least educated compared with 80.4 for those with a college degree or better.

Researchers said they were baffled by the magnitude of the drop.

“There’s this enormous issue of why,” said David Cutler, an economics professor at Harvard. “It’s very puzzling and we don’t have a great explanation.”

The slump is so vexing that it became the subject of an inquiry by the National Academy of Sciences, which published a report on it last year.

“Something is going on in the lives of disadvantaged white women that is leading to some really alarming trends in life expectancy,” said Ms. Montez of Harvard.

The songs our Daddy sang / Zoominto

Poor whites across the nation are breaking out extra cartons of Bud  to celebrate the news that America’s top researchers and academics are already working on issues first identified in the 1970s.  Meanwhile, all black woman finally surpassed poor white women in 2006 have already identified  “evidence of a troubling pattern that has emerged for those at the bottom of the education ladder.”

In fact, a Professor Berkman has recently received a grant from the National Institute on Aging to fund a new cutting-edge study.

Berkman’s theory?

Low wage jobs could take a toll on health.


1) Poor people work harder than you do so that your life can be much easier and much longer than theirs. Their knowledge of this is perfect, keen, and burning.

2) Poor people do not give up their lives freely. They don’t donate them. They grieve them. That combined quarter-of-a-century lost by, say, a poor white married couple? (see stats above).

They want that 24 years back.  They also want – and much more than you can possibly imagine – their teeth. Poor people want their teeth back.

3) You’ll never know what poor people are thinking. But they’ll know what you’re thinking.

As for Electrica, we just want to be there when the American Dental Society pleads its case before the Almighty.

We’re praying for a press pass.

Funny, how neither Richard Prince nor the Maynard Institute has anything else to say.

Richard Prince’s Journal-isms™

Reporter Who Exposed Racism Finds Herself Jobless

“It’s been a little over a month since Sam Bonilla, a Mexican immigrant opted not to go to trial in Dodge City, Kansas for killing a local man during a situation he claims was self-defense,” Marisa Trevino wrote Friday on her Latina Lista blog.

“Bonilla’s reason for not facing a jury was [reportedly] that he didn’t feel he could get a fair trial in Dodge City because he was Latino.

“Time will tell if Dodge City officials were as clueless to the racial tensions that exist in their town, as they claim, or they just didn’t like anyone pulling off the blanket and exposing how they always did things.

“No matter which way it’s looked at, the situation in Dodge City needed to be exposed. If it had not been for Claire O’Brien, the reporter for the Dodge City Daily Globe at the time, no one would have found out about Bonilla or Dodge City.

“. . . But not everybody was happy that O’Brien exposed Dodge’s racial undercurrents. In a bizarre show of unprofessionalism, the presiding judge in Sam Bonilla’s sentencing hearing, Judge Daniel Love, took over 10 minutes to publicly berate O’Brien, who was present in the courtroom, for stirring things up in town. He blamed her choice of words in her reporting to describe Bonilla’s situation. By the time the judge was done, it was clear he viewed O’Brien as a troublemaker ‚Äî yet, everyone else should have seen her as doing her job, and doing it well.

“However, in the hours after Bonilla’s sentencing, O’Brien found herself in a situation that no reporter should be in for doing their job. Within a span of hours, O’Brien lost her job at the Daily Globe, was uninvited to speak at a journalism conference, was ignored by the Kansas Press Association in her role for finally getting the Shield Law passed in Kansas and began a quest to redeem her journalistic reputation. . . . ”