By Mario Baós |
Quinamayó (Colombia), (EFE).- The tears of Mónica Carabalí Lasso do not stop flowing: the “Niño Jesús Negro” is born in Quinamayó, a town in the southwest of Colombia, and with him the breaking of the chains that oppressed is celebrated for years to the Afro community, while with traditional dances they show their joy for enjoying freedom.
They were slaves, their ancestors came from Africa and served the owners of the haciendas cultivated with sugar cane in the department of Valle del Cauca in the 19th century: the same ones who prohibited them from enjoying Christmas on December 25. When after 40 days the masters let them out, the black communities gathered to celebrate the birth of the Messiah, who in this population is black.
Mónica is one of the six “cantaoras” at the event and cries because since 2020 they had not been able to celebrate this unique Christmas in the world.
“This is my life, when the music plays, a current runs through my whole body. It is remembering my ancestors, it is remembering my grandparents, our slaves. Celebrate that today we are free, that we are happy,” Mónica told EFE.
Quinamayó is a corregimiento located an hour and a half from the city of Cali. And although many of its inhabitants have left the village to seek better opportunities in the cities, they return every year to adore the “newborn”.
“February is the preferred month for our community. It’s our December, practically. Here all the families come together so that the route that goes through all the blocks of the town is a total success”, indicates Mónica.
The tour is a procession full of dances, costumes and live music sung by a group of 13 young people called “Los Jugueritos” who set the rhythm with drums, percussion, saxophones and clarinets.
It starts with a prayer in a neighborhood house, they entrust that the rumba, which lasts four days, be a success and that nothing bad happens to them. They end with a “may it be for the best, amen”.
The cobbled streets become a cloud of dust due to the number of people dancing, while the smiles of the attendees are mixed with shouts that say: “The Child God must be adored.”
The “Juga” and the “Black God Child”
Sergio Carabalí is 20 years old and since he can remember he has participated in the event. Today he plays the clarinet, an essential instrument in the orchestra and his face does not hide happiness: “This is life itself, I want to live here forever and die with my people.”
The “juga” is a rhythm that made the ancestors of Quinamayó forget that they were slaves. It has two pronunciations: “juga”, because when dancing a kind of game is set up between the communities, and “fuga”, because many of them managed to flee in Valle del Cauca to set up their palenques away from the blows of their masters.
In order to reach the “Black God Child” several steps must be fulfilled. First the tour picks up the “cantaoras”, then they go through “María” and “San José” guided by a girl dressed as the “eastern star” who guides the tour.
Subsequently, 12 angels, children too, must take spiritual care of the procession and come to pick up “the Indians”, a symbol of the two cultures that exist in the area. Then they meet 12 children dressed as soldiers with wooden rifles to guard the “Savior”.
The entourage grows larger and larger and they proceed to meet “the godparents”: two young women and a young man, who wear gala attire and are the only ones who can carry the newborn in a golden basket, until they arrive at the “Portal de Belén ” around midnight, where Jesus was already born.
The rhythm increases and hearts beat faster in the town when the “Black God Child”, along with two adults dressed as mules and ox, join the procession. The final route is marked by a lot of gunpowder and the light of 12 torches that illuminate the path to the main square.
The dance becomes more intense and the triumphant entrance of the “little one” is done with respect. All the discotheques in the town turn off their music and you only hear “juga”, applause and songs.
“The Child has already been born, the Child must be adore!” shout the thousands of inhabitants of Quinamayó as they arrive at the manger. The little soldiers make way and no one can interrupt the tradition.
Finally, the figure of the “Black Child God” is left by the godparents on an altar, the organizers take the microphone, several “jugas” are sung, they pray again and the rumba is made official: “The Child God was born, let it begin! the party in Quinamayó!”.
“Long live Quinamayó, long live our culture and the newly born Child!” concludes Mónica, who cries again with happiness.