African communities in Colombia celebrated Christmas last Saturday, a tradition dating back to the days of slavery.
In the past, slaves were banned from marking Christmas at the same time as the country’s white landed gentry.
“The history of this festival is that our ancestors — since they could not celebrate in December because they were attending the masters — were given freedom in February, so they celebrated their Christmas in February”, said festival director Mirna Rodriguez.
The festivities combine Catholic elements and African rituals and centre around the adoration of a statue representing Baby Jesus, a tradition dating back around 143 years.
“According to our ancestors, they said that they also celebrated it on that date because it was already the quarantine of Maria’s delivery, and Maria could go out to calm down, because according to them when one gave birth one could not go out for 45 days, she had to take care of herself for 45 days”, explained the festival director.
For many, this tradition is deeply entrenched in family life.
“I have always taken part in this tradition, it is something that comes from my ancestors, for example, my father is a singer here, my uncle is here, my aunts are here, it is almost a family thing”, added musician Luis Miguel Balanta.
The African community makes up 20 percent of the population of Colombia and has suffered exclusion and poverty throughout its history.