A Love Letter to My Trini-Vene Tribe… #BlackHistoryIsGlobal

Today’s La Vida En Black History Month moment comes in the form of a love letter.  A love letter written through history, by our ancestors, by our Grandmothers and Grandfathers…today’s Post is dedicated to mi famila.

IMG_1813Born in the “in between” time my Mummy, Josefa Machado was a bright daughter in the Luces family.  She was an enterprising young woman, working at the US Naval Base in Chaguaramas during the war as a nurses’ assistant.  The Trinidadian peninsula was leased to the United States in 1940 for the construction of a naval base under the Destroyers for Bases Agreement bringing over 30,000 soldiers to the Island nation from the US, Canada, and Great Britain.  It boosted the economy and brought a new generation of children into the Trinidadian culture. And Josefa had 5 beautiful boys in Trinidad before the war was done.
IMG_1810My Dad, Pedro Machado was an intelligent, handsome young man with an adventurous spirit and a gypsy’s soul because he loved to travel.  He joined the merchant marines and came to the United States in 1947 on a ship he boarded in Venezuela.  After WWII they both headed to The Shell Oil Compound in Venezuela and met, fell in love and had seven more children.   I am a proud product of this profoundly beautiful Trini- Vene Tribe.

I am because of them.  We all are because of them. They moved from Venezuela to Miami for an “opportunity” for their children. “Get an education” Daddy used to say, “and dont talk about people, talk about ideas.”  In his lifetime he worked on futuristic projects at MS DOS in the Silicon Valley of the late 60’s and at Eastern Airlines in Miami, Florida.  Unfortunately this force of nature that was my father died “with his boots on” almost 40 years ago. But he lives in us all and is vibrantly alive in all the work we do.

From Josefa we received our entrepreneurial spirit.   Her gift was the way she hustled on an international scale. In Venezuela she ran a salon in our house and when we moved to Miami she continued her styling.    Buying the latest fashions in Miami and taking trunk shows to her clients in Venezuela and Trinidad, my mother was a stylist extraordinaire! “Do good and good will always follow you” was her catch phrase to us all as chastisement,  as advise, that woman was the closest person to God we have ever known.

My siblings are all extraordinary people, we are an enterprising loving tribe, born of incredibly resilient, resourceful people.  We are chefs, musicians, entrepreneurs, educators, filmmakers and in the end really “good people.”  Our children may not have the riches of Rothschilds or the Rockefellers  but they do inherit a history and a legacy of a familial community rich with good music, great food and wonderful stories.

For these and other great stories of The African diaspora in the Americas check for La Vida En Black a documentary series from MimiTVA… This is Episode 1 Trini-Vene Tribe…
Happy Valentines Day Machados and Luces I love you.


La Vida En Black; El Negro Primero #BlackHistoryIsGlobal

FeaturedLa Vida En Black; El Negro Primero  #BlackHistoryIsGlobal

Afro-Venezuelans were a vital part of the struggle for independence.  One of Simon Bolívar’s most famous lieutenants, Pedro imgresCamejo, is legendary in Venezuela’s history as “El Negro Primero,” who was always the first to ride into battle.

In the final battle of Carabobo, Camejo was mortally wounded but survived long enough to utter one infamous phrase: “General, vengo decirle, adiós, porque estoy muerto” (General, I have come to say goodbye, because I am dead).


A statue of El Negro Primero proudly stands in the Plaza Carabobo in Caracas—the only such statue commemorating a Black man in all of Venezuela. Curiously, he is always depicted wearing a turban, the same iconography used for the mythical Negro Felipe.

For More Information about La Vida En Black, the documentary FIlm Series go to

www. TVAMediaPro.com

Look for the next post from #BlackHistoryIsGlobal and MimiTVA…

El Rey Miguel y Su Reina Guiomar

El Rey Miguel y Su Reina Guiomar

MimiTVA posting from the DMV

More on La Vida En Black Venezuela

As soon as enslaved Africans arrived in Venezuela, a movement of resistance and rebellion to enslavement was born. Communities of Africans who had freed themselves were immediately formed and WERE also well organized.

The first documented insurrection was the rebellion in 1532 in Coro against the abominable conditions in the mines.

A heroic family emerged from these rebellions, creating a powerful historic legacy that still resonates today. The history of Rey Miguel has been told from generation-to-generation in keeping with oral traditions of the elders telling the stories of our history from the motherland in Africa.  As the story is told, Miguel was an African plucked from his home and brought in chains to Venezuela because of his skills to mine in Buria Mines of Venezuela or “Real de Minas de San Felipe de Buría” (close to  Nirgua, in the actual state of Yaracuy) where it was believed to be “El Dorado”.  They were forced to take gold from the native population for the greedy Spanish Conquistadors.

When they arrived in Venezuela, they were sent into the bowels of earth to mine for gold under conditions that any human would rebel against.  The abhorrent conditions in the mines in Venezuela for the enslaved led to them fighting for and succeeding in securing their freedom from the ills of slavery in 1532.  Then 20 years later, the most successful insurrection occurred in 1552, led by an enslaved African, known as El Rey Miguel or en Ingles, King Miguel.movimientos-preindependentistas-4-638

Rey Miguel along with his wife Guiomar (Reina Guiomar)  and son then founded a cumbe,or cimarrón (escaped slave) settlement.  Miguel and Guiomar reigned together and were known throughout the region as a community of rebels.  From that initial rebellion in 1553 they killed their evil enslavers and were successful in escaping.  They built a moat around their newly formed township. They began to slowly build their cumbe.  They organized their own government, built homes, and chose a spiritual leader who taught the cimarrones to practice their own ancient religion from Africa.  Rey Miguel eventually amassed an insurgent army of hundreds of enslaved people, Mulattos, Zambos, and indigenous people to attack colonial establishments to maintain their freedom.

They claim in Venezuela that Rey Miguel’s origin and beliefs were rooted in the ancient religions and practices from Africa.  Miguel may have been born in Angola, Mozambique or the Congo. He as well as his wife, Guiomar and the Bishop of the cumbe, brought their African beliefs to the Americas, which had mixed with the system of indigenous beliefs of Venezuelan’s aborigines that they shared and combined during their stay on the banks of the Buría River.


Miguel and his men would sneak onto the plantations in the middle of the night and began to plot with the enslaved people to unite with the Cimaronnes.  As time passed, they became a community of more than 1500 people in the Cumbe and over 10,000 in the surrounding freed community.  El Negro Miguel was crowned the King, his wife Guiormar the Queen and their son the Prince of their Cumbe.

The Cumbe resisted several attempts by the Spaniards to destroy their  community and re-enslave their residents.  b5be167d1b1ce93f5b0687716f12b085But Rey Miguel had fortified his army with several of the indigenous people and continued to sneak into the plantations at night to help escape enslaved people to their Cumbe in Colinas.

The Cimarrones were eventually when a surprise attack led by an Indian named Tocuyo, and broke the doors of the new kingdom .. They murdered Miguel and some of the former slaves were captured and enslaved again, but most escaped by forming other black communities / cumbes in the country.  Cumbes and Cimarrone  communities continued to grow throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and in 1720 there were about 30,000 freed Africans living in Cumbes through Venezuela and  60,000 enslaved Africans still held captive on the plantations.

Queen Guiomar, probably the first and only black queen in the Americas, was captured with her son and re-enslaved.  But numerous accounts tell of Miguel’s escape via spiritual means in the ways of the Africans.  Legend says Rey Miguel took a big booty of gold and found refuge in Curduvaré (that translates “Free as the hare” (today Cerro María Lionza Natural Monument), and there he “met María Lionza”. And many say that Miguel survived the attack and helped to free Queen Guiomar and their son again.

Queen Guiomar, the Goddess of Sorte is considered the first spiritualist to combine and develop the religion of the Goddess that the Indians worshiped in the Sacred Mountain, which later became known as the Queen’s Mountain ( an allusion to the wife of Rey Miguel).

Guiomar was renown as a kind woman who dedicated herself to attend to the group that, together with Miguel, would lead this independent cumbe community. Guiomar is considered the be the first priestess of the Goddess of the Jirahara Indians, fusing the indigenous beliefs with those of the Africans into a single group. Today, there are several versions about the origin of Queen María Lionza, but this story with it’s roots in African spirituality supports the belief that the Goddess was Guiomar herself, a “Black Queen”.

And since Miguel did not die, it was there in Curduvaré that he became part of the Queen’s court.  Miguel spent the rest of his days in the caves, undercover, continually assisting in resistance attacks and helping to free the other 30,000 freed Africans in the 16 and 17 hundred’s on Venezuelan soil.

Today you can visit the Royal Fort of Minas de Buría, currently “Ruinas de San Vicente”, which is said to have served to defend and safeguard the attack of the Nivar Indians, the last tribe of the Jirahara branch. 7e0ef88355c37661428402ab6166a700 Throughout history it was called a number of official names: Fort Real of Santa Maria de Arquicia, Fort of Santa Maria de Nirgua, Fort of Santa Maria de Nívar, (when the act of foundation of Nirgua in 1628 was signed) Ruins of San Vicente, The Ruins of San Vicente are declared “National Historic Monument” in 1960, besides being a State Heritage Yaracuy.


For more about Rey Miguel go to




First Black President of Mexico, Vicente Guerrero #BlackHistoryIsGlobal

First Black President of Mexico, Vicente Guerrero #BlackHistoryIsGlobal

Today’s La Vida En Black, History Month message is about Vicente Guerrero, Mexico’s first black president, and also that nation’s version of Abraham Lincoln. In 1829 Presidente Guerrero issued Mexico’s own slavery abolition decree (which led a few years later to Texas slave holders seceding from Mexico).

vguerrero-estampitaVicente Guerrero was born in the small village of Tixla in the Mexican state of Guerrero. His parents were Pedro Guerrero, an Afro-Mexican and Guadalupe Saldana, an Indian. Vicente came from humble beginnings. As a young man he took the work he could find as a mule driver on his own father’s mule run. This work set him on a journey that shaped his life and ideologies. Guerrero worked all over Mexico and began to hear the voices of the people and their collective ideas of independence.

On one of the journeys, he met the famed rebel General Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon. In November of 1810, Guerrero embraced the General’s ideas of revolution and joined Morelos. Morelos, unfortunately, was assassinated by the Spaniards and Guerrero became Commander-in-Chief. Guerrero then negotiated a deal with the Spaniard General Agustin de Iturbide.

Iturbide agreed to a partnership with the independence movement and supported Guerrero on a series of nationwide measures known as “El Plan de Iguala.” This plan, however, gave civil rights to Indians but not to Afro-Mexicans. Guerrero refused to sign the plan unless equal rights were also given to Afro-Mexicans and mulattos. Clause 12 was then incorporated into the plan. It read: “All inhabitants . . . without distinction of their European, African or Indian origins are citizens . . . with full freedom to pursue their livelihoods according to their merits and virtues.”

Subsequently, Guerrero served as a part of a three-person “Junta” that governed the then-independent Mexico from 1823-24. Guerrero, head of the “People’s Party,” called for public schools, land title reforms, and many other liberal programs. Guerrero was elected the second president of Mexico in 1829. As president, Guerrero went on to champion the cause not only of the racially oppressed but also of the economically oppressed.

IMG_2934Presidente Guerrero formally abolished slavery on September 16, 1829. Shortly thereafter, betrayed by a group of reactionaries who drove him out of his house, Presidente Guerrero was lured to have dinner with a traitor on his boat, instead Vicente was captured and ultimately executed by firing squad.

Historian Jan Bazant speculates as to why Guerrero was executed rather than sent into exile, as Iturbide had been, as well as Antonio López de Santa Anna, and long-time dictator of late-nineteenth century Mexico, Porfirio Díaz. “The clue is provided by Zavala who, writing several years later, noted that Guerrero was of mixed blood and that the opposition to his presidency came from the great landowners, generals, clerics and Spaniards resident in Mexico…Guerrero’s execution was perhaps a warning to men considered as socially and ethnically inferior not to dare to dream of becoming president.”[31]


Guerrero’s political platform was based on the belief of civil rights are for all,including Afro-Mexicans. Mexicans with hearts full of pride call him the “greatest man of color.” On this President’s Day, La Vida En Black History Celebrates Presidente Vincente Guerrero!


Me Gitaron Negra! #BlackHistoryIsGlobal #MimiTVA

Me Gitaron Negra!  #BlackHistoryIsGlobal #MimiTVA

La Vida En Black History Month message today goes deep into the heart of Peruvian culture with the Heroine of Black Peru, Victoria Santa Cruz.  Victoria Eugenia Santa Cruz Gamarra was a poet, composer, choreographer, designer, and an exponent of Afro-Peruvian art.

imgresThe daughter of writer / playwright, Nicomedes Santa Cruz Aparicio and Victoria Gamarra, their family was famous for their excellence in creative pursuits including the development of Zamacueca an ancient colonial dance and music with a mixture of roots from Africa to the Andes.

Victoria was one of 10 children born into the family.  Her brothers are renown – Cesar is a musician and composer; Rafael the Bull Fighter isdeamed “untorero de gran clase” or the Wonderous Black Matador; and Nicomedes; the preeminent scholar of Afro-Peruvian culture & folklore. artworks-000077125313-5mm1bu-t500x500

Victoria received a scholarship to attend the Université du Theatre des Nations in Paris where she was educated in costuming and choreography.  She created unforgettable costumes for the play “The Altarpiece of Don Cristobal”. And made a triumphant return to Peru. In 1968 she founded the Teatro y Danzas Negras del Perú, / Black Dance Theatre of Peru, inspiring a new and diverse period in Peru for the study of black culture.

Her choreography became a part of the fabric of Peruvian culture so much so  that her talented group represented the nation at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.  Victoria won numerous prestigious awards including Best Folklorist at the Primer Festival y Seminario Latinoamericano de Televisión en 1970.

She was a special guest of the Colombian government at the Festival de Cali  in 1971. There she notably recognized that the black roots of Cali did not come from just one country of origin but from several African nations, so much like the various slaves brought to the Americas.

Santa Cruz’s name became synonymous  with the cultural identity of Peru and in 1973 Victoria became the director of the National Folklore for the National Institute of Culture (INC) /Conjunto Nacional de Folclore del Instituto Nacional de Cultura (INC).  She continued to spread her love of Afro-Peruvian culture throughout the world, teaching at Carnegie Mellon University, and in Europe at the Teatro del Sole, in Italy.

She passed away surrounded by her beautiful family, the legendary Ambassador of Peruvian culture was lain to rest at the Peruvian National Musuem.  Her poem “Me Gritaron Negra” They Screamed “Black” At Me, became a beautiful badge of honor for Afro-Latinos every where.  Performed here click the link.


Español                                             English

Tenía siete años apenas,               Maybe I was 7 years old
apenas siete años,                          Maybe 7 years
¡Qué siete años!                              What 7 years old???
¡No llegaba a cinco siquiera!        I wasn’t even five yet…
De pronto unas voces en la calle   when voices from the street
me gritaron ¡Negra!                          screamed ¡Negra! (Black Girl!)
¡Negra! ¡Negra! ¡Negra! ¡Negra!     Black! Black! Black! Black!

¡Negra! ¡Negra!¡Negra!                     Back! Black! Black!

¿Soy acaso negra?, me dije              I thought, Am I? Am I really Black?

¡SI!                                                        Yes!

¿Qué cosa es ser negra?                  What does it mean to be black?
¡Negra!                                                Black!
Y yo no sabía la triste verdad        And I didn’t no the sad truth

que aquello escondía.                     That black was hiding
¡Negra!                                               Black!
Y me sentí negra,                             And I felt the black
¡Negra!                                               Black!
Como ellos decían                           Just like their screams
¡Negra!                                               Black!
Y retrocedí                                        And I regressed
¡Negra!                                               Black!
Como ellos querían                         Just as they wanted
¡Negra!                                               Black!
Y odié mis cabellos                          And I hated my hair

y mis labios gruesos                        And my thick lips
y miré apenada mi carne tostada I was ashamed of my toasted skin
Y retrocedí                                         And I regressed
¡Negra!                                                Black!
Y retrocedí…                                       And I regressed
¡Negra! ¡Negra! ¡Negra! ¡Negra!     Black! Black! Black! Black!
¡Negra! ¡Negra! ¡Neeegra!               Black! Black! Black!
¡Negra! ¡Negra! ¡Negra! ¡Negra!     Black! Black! Black! Black!
¡Negra! ¡Negra! ¡Negra! ¡Negra!         Black! Black! Black! Black!
Y pasaba el tiempo,                           And time passed by
y siempre amargada                           And always bitter
Seguía llevando a mi espalda         I carried this heavy load
mi pesada carga                                    on my back
¡Y cómo pesaba!                                    And how heavy it was..
Me alacié el cabello,                           I straightened my hair
me polveé la cara,                           I powdered my face
y entre mis entrañas siempre          And deep down inside of me

resonaba la misma palabra                  I heard the same resounding word
¡Negra! ¡Negra! ¡Negra! ¡Negra!          Black! Black! Black! Black
¡Negra! ¡Negra! ¡Neeegra!                  Black! Black! Blaaaack!
Hasta que un día que retrocedía,         Until one day I regressed

retrocedía y qué iba a caer                  regressed until I was going to fall
¡Negra! ¡Negra! ¡Negra! ¡Negra!
¡Negra! ¡Negra! ¡Negra! ¡Negra!
¡Negra! ¡Negra! ¡Negra! ¡Negra!
¡Negra! ¡Negra! ¡Negra!
¿Y qué?                                             So What?
¿Y qué?                                             So What?
¡Negra!                                             Black!
Sí                                                      YES!
¡Negra!                                             Black!
Soy                                                      Black I AM!
¡Negra!                                             Black!
Negra                                             Black!
¡Negra!                                             Black!
Negra soy                                             I AM Black!
¡Negra!                                             Black!
Sí                                                      Yes
¡Negra!                                             Black!
Soy                                                      I AM
¡Negra!                                             Black!
Negra                                             Black
¡Negra!                                             Black!
Negra soy                                             I am Black
De hoy en adelante no quiero                   from this day forward I do not
laciar mi cabello                                        want to straighten my hair

No quiero                                                     I do not want to!

Y voy a reírme de aquellos,                         & I’m gonna laugh at those
que por evitar                                              who by avoiding

–según ellos–                                             according to them
que por evitarnos algún sin sabor              “bad taste”
Llaman a los negros                                    call black people,

gente de color                                               people of color
¡Y de qué color!                                             And what color is that?
NEGRO                                                      NEGRO!
¡Y qué lindo suena!                                      And how beautiful it sounds!
NEGRO                                                      NEGRO
¡Y qué ritmo tiene!                                        And what rhythm it has!
Al fin                                                               Finally
Al fin comprendí                                             Finally I understood
AL FIN                                                       FINALLY
Ya no retrocedo                                             I do not regress

AL FIN                                                       FINALLY
Y avanzo segura                                             move forward with pride
AL FIN                                                       FINALLY
Avanzo y espero                                             move forward and wait
AL FIN                                                       FINALLY
Y bendigo al cielo                                     I thank the heavens above

porque quiso Dios                                     because is God’s will
que negro azabache                                 like a black precious stone

fuese mi color                                           it was meant to be my color
Y ya comprendí                                        and now I understand
AL FIN                                                      FINALLY
¡Ya tengo la llave!                                     I have the key!
¡Negra soy!                                                      I am Black!

Maestro Cheo Feliciano!

Maestro Cheo Feliciano!

It’s important to know who we are, from whom and from where we were formed… by telling the stories ourselves, we see an example of how to live, how to inspire and how to honor our ancestors, Aguanile, Mai, Mai…

MimiTVA Posting from the DMV…

Cheo Feliciano’s smooth distinctive voice was loved and revered by salsa fans throughout the world.  Unfortunately in 2014, Feliciano passed away in a car accident losing control of his car and hitting a light pole.  But Feliciano’s brushes with death were not uncommon and his is a story to be remembered and admired.

Feliciano (birth name: José Luis Feliciano Vega) was born in Ponce Puerto Rico.  His childhood nickname, “Cheo” came from his family, a colloquial version of José. And the name stuck plus he was not to be confused with the other Jose Feliciano who was of no relation.  At a young age Cheo was influenced by the boleros of the Trio Los Panchos. When Cheo was just eight years old he started his own group named “El Combo Las Latas”.  Their musical instruments were made out of cans because that’s all they could afford at the time. And as a young teenager in Ponce, he went on to study percussion.

Feliciano and his family moved to Nueva York to the heart of Spanish Harlem.  Once in New York, he auditioned and got the gig as a percussionist in the “Ciro Rimac’s Review” band.  After that famed Puerto Rican crooner, Tito Rodriguez offered Feliciano a spot in his big band that played at the Palladium Ballroom.   In 1955, Rodríguez found out that Joe Cuba was in need of a singer for his sextet and he knew what a talented singer Cheo was; so he recommended Cuba that he try out for the position. Feliciano became a vocalist for the Joe Cuba Sextet one of the most popular bands at the time. Feliciano was the rare baritone of salsa singers, and his deep voice and quick humor in improvisation made him el favorito dentro del publico Latino.


On October 5, 1957, was Feliciano’s professional debut as a vocalist with the Joe Cuba Sextet, singing “Perfidia”. He sang with Joe Cuba for 10 years. In 1967, he joined the Eddie Palmieri Orchestra singing for them for two years. Sadly at the same time he developed a drug habit at just 21 years old. Cheo quickly fell into a heroin addiction which threatened his life and professional career. Feliciano went back to Puerto Rico and decided to quit “cold turkey.   He eventually joined Puerto Rico’s rehabilitation center, Hoagies CREA.  Feliciano credits Tite Curet Alonso, the author of most of his hits and best friend, with pushing him through rehabilitation. As a result, Feliciano was a vehement anti-drug spokesperson, who volunteered to assist in the rehabilitation of fellow salsa artists who fell prey to drug addiction.

In 1972, Feliciano came back to music with the album Cheo, his first solo recording. The album, which featured compositions by Tite Curet, broke all sales records in the Latino music market. The album was loaded with hits like “Anacaona” and “Mi Triste Problema”

During the 1970s, Feliciano recorded fifteen albums for Fania Records and had hits with “Amada Mia” and “Juan Albañil”. He also recorded one of his first albums of Boleros – La Voz Sensual de Cheo. Recorded in Argentina and directed by a famed composer Jorge Calandrelli Cheo’s star rose to new levels. And Feliciano became a part of the first salsa opera by Fania pianist “El Judio Maravilloso”, Larry Harlow, entitled Hommy.


In 1982, Feliciano began his own record label – “Coche Records”. In 1984, he was honored by artists like Ruben Blades and Joe Cuba in a concert entitled A Tribute to Cheo Feliciano. The next year, he became the first tropical singer to perform at the Amira de la Rosa Theater in Barranquilla, Colombia. In 1987, he played Roberto Clemente’s father in the musical Clemente. Feliciano also became a hit in Spain, and was a regular in the Tenerife Carnival. 

In 1990, Feliciano recorded another album of Boleros, titled Los Feelings de Cheo. He also traveled all over Europe, Japan, Africa, and South America. In Venezuela, he had a reunion with Eddie Palmieri. In 1995, Feliciano won a Platinum Record Award for La Combinación Perfecta.

In 2000, Feliciano recorded Una Voz, Mil Recuerdos as a tribute to various Puerto Rican singers. The album was listed among the 20 outstanding recordings of the year by the National Foundation of the Popular Culture of Puerto Rico. In 2002, he recorded Cheo en la Intimidad. In 2012, Feliciano and Ruben Blades released a collaboration album titled Eba Say Aja where both artists performed each other’s previously recorded songs. In June 2013, Feliciano confirmed that he was suffering from liver cancer and was already undergoing chemotherapy treatment. Doctors discovered the illness when they were treating him for a dislocated shoulder.  In 2014, Feliciano celebrated being “cancer-free”.


A memorial service in honor of Feliciano was held at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan on April 20, 2014. The service was attended by thousands and several artists paid their respects to Feliciano with songs plus kept guard by Feliciano’s coffin. Artists and groups like Danny Rivera, José Nogueras, Fania All-Stars, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Rubén Blades, Víctor Manuelle, Andy Montañez, Tito Nieves, and others were present.  The next day, his body was taken to the city of Ponce, where he was born. A public service was held at the Ponce Convention Center, led by Governor Alejandro García Padilla and Mayor María “Mayita” Meléndez. After that, a private ceremony was held for the family and close friends inside La Piedad Cemetery. Although the public was not allowed entrance at first, the gates were opened once the family finished their memorial.  Feliciano became part of Sergio George’s group called Salsa Giants whom he was touring with when he died.  Feliciano traveled and sang across the globe until his last day.

La Vida En Black Rey Benkos Bioho

La Vida En Black Rey Benkos Bioho

It’s important to know who we are, from whom and from where we were formed… by telling the stories ourselves, we honor our ancestors, Aguanile, Mai, Mai…

MimiTVA Posting from the DMV

Aspectos del corregimiento de San Basilio de Palenque, zona rural del municipio de Mahates. Imágenes para especial de turismo cultural

Benkos Biohó (late 16th century — 1621) was a young African King when siezed from his homeland, the Bissagos Islands off the Guinea Bissau coast by a Portuguese enslaver.  When the Spanish began to enslave people from Africa to Colombia, there were those who escaped and formed free communities of Cimarrones and their enclaves were known as Palenques.

Benkos Biohó is the most famous of all Cimarrones. He arrived in Cartagena de Indias in 1599, where he was sold as a slave. Biohó made his first escape when the boat that was transporting him down the Magdalena River sank. He was recaptured, but escaped again in 1599 into the marshy lands southeast of Cartagena. He organized an army that came to dominate all of the Montes de Maria region.

The brutal mistreatment of slaves served as an impetus for rebellions.  Biohó, raised as a King in Africa used his leadership skills in Colombia with other slaves and bandeded together to rebel and flee their captors.  Bioho took his wife, three other men and three other women, plus an additional 22 slaves rebeled and fled with them. The group of 30 headed out into the swamps and camped near the village of Tolú over 50 miles away.

Bioho proceeded to organize the Palenque into a well guarded fortress, fit for a King. For years the group launched attacks on Spanish interests and were almost unstoppable. King Benkos formed an intelligence network and used the information to organize more escapes and guided the runaway slaves into their liberated territory, known as settlement. He used the title “King of Arcabuco“.

The Governor of Cartagena furiously tried to stop the Cimaronnes, but failed.  So on the 18th of July 1605, the Governor of Cartagena, offered a peace treaty to Biohó.  In this agreement the Spaniards would recognize the autonomy of the Matuna Bioho Palenque and accept his entrance into the city armed and dressed in the Spanish fashion.  The Cimarrones in turn promised to stop receiving more runaway slaves, cease their aid in escape attempts and stop addressing Biohó as “King”.  A Peace Accord was finally established in 1612.

Benkos Bioho.jpeg

Statue of Benkos Biohos


In 1713 it became the first free village in the Americas by decree from the King of Spain, when he gave up sending his troops on futile missions to attack their fortified mountain hideaway. Biohó established the maroon community of San Basilio de Palenque some time in the 16th century. Unfortunately Biohó was betrayed and hanged by the governor of Cartagena in 1619.

The treaty was violated in 1619 when they captured Biohó as he was walking unguarded and unarmed into the city. He was hanged and quartered on 16 March 1621. Governor Garcia Giron ordered the execution and argued bitterly that “it was dangerous the respect Biohó generated in the population” claiming that “his lies and enchantment would drive the nations of Guinea away from the city.”  But the Palenque survived and by the end of the seventeenth century, the area of Montes de Maria had over 600 Cimarrones living freely.  While under the command of Domingo Padilla and his wife Jane, the team successfully challenged further attempts at relinquishing sovereignty from the colonial authorities.

Los Cimarrones

Of their numerous significant contributions, palenques played an important role in the conservation of African traditions and culture in Colombia. The San Basilio Palenque, on the Atlantic coast, has survived centuries maintaining African social and cultural traditions in the Americas. Palenques and other Escaped slave communities are an important source for research of various historic, anthropologic and linguistic studies documenting the African significance and dominance in Colombian culture.

San Basilio de Palenque was declared Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2005.[1] At about 50 miles east of Cartagena, on hills of strategic value were used as lookout posts, still hear the names of the runaway Neighborhood: Sincerin, Mahates, Gambote.

Ganga Zumba, Mighty Chief!

Ganga Zumba, Mighty Chief!

It’s important to know who we are, from whom and from where we were formed… by telling the stories ourselves, we see an example of how to live, how to inspire and how to honor our ancestors, Aguanile, Mai, Mai…

MimiTVA Posting from the DMV, Friday, February 11, 2018

Ganga Zumba was the leader of an entire country  of escaped Africans in Alagoas, Brazil known as Quilombo de Palamares.   The fight for freedom in Brazil and all throughout the Americas began as soon as Africans began arriving in Brazil.  These Freedom Fighters represented an African resistance movement.  The movement was diverse and strong  taking on many forms, free settlements known as Quilombos, attempts from groups of enslaved Africans to overthrow the government in their Brazilian town or state.


Zumba escaped bondage on a sugar plantation and proceeded to live his destiny as heir to the kingdom of Palmares and received the title Ganga Zumba. Although some Portuguese documents give him the name Ganga Zumba, and this name is still widely used today.  The most important of the documents translates the name as “Great Lord.” However, a letter written to him by the governor of Pernambuco in 1678 and now found in the Archives of the University of Coimbra, calls him “Ganazumba,” which is a better translation of “Great Lord” (in Kimbundu) and through this evidence we find this was his name.

Ganga was the son of princess Aqualtune; daughter of a King of Kongo. She led a battalion at the Battle of Mbwila. The Portuguese won the battle eventually killing 5,000 men and captured the King, his two sons, his two nephews, four governors, various court officials, 95 title holders and 400 other nobles. The entire nobility were then stolen from their kingdom, put on ships and sold in bondage in the Americas. It is highly likely that Ganga was among the nobles.  Ganga Zumba, his brother Zona and his sister Sabina (mother of Zumbi dos Palmares his nephew and successor) were enslaved at the plantation of Santa Rita.   They lived in bondage in the Portuguese Captaincy of Pernambuco in what is now northeast Brazil; a Portuguese province at that time  controlled by the Dutch, where finally from there they escaped to Palmares.

quilombo or mocambo was a refuge of runaway Africans that escaped their bondage and fled to the interior of Brazil to the mountainous region of Pernambuco. As their numbers increased, they formed maroon settlements, called mocambos.


Gradually as many as ten separate mocambos had formed and ultimately coalesced into a confederation called the Quilombo of Palmares, or Angola Janga, under the king, Ganga Zumba or Ganazumba, who may have been elected by the leaders of the constituent mocambos. Ganga Zumba, ruled the biggest villages, Cerro dos Macacos, presided the mocambo’s chief council and was the King of Palmares. The nine other settlements were headed by brothers, sons, or nephews of Gunga Zumba. Zumbi was chief of one community and his brother, Andalaquituche, headed another.

By the 1670s, Ganga Zumba had a palace, three wives, guards, ministers, and devoted subjects at his royal compound called MacacoMacaco comes from the name of an animal (monkey) that was killed on the site. The compound consisted of 1,500 houses which housed his family, guards, and officials, all of which were considered royalty. He was given the respect of a Monarch and the honor of a Lord.(Kent)

In 1678 Zumba accepted a peace treaty offered by the Portuguese Governor of Pernambuco, which required that the Palmarinos relocate to Cucaú Valley. The treaty was challenged by Zumbi, one of Ganga Zumba’s nephews, who led a revolt against him. In the confusion that followed, Ganga Zumba was poisoned, mostly likely by one of his own relatives for entering into a treaty with the Portuguese. And many of his followers who had moved to the Cucaú Valley were re-enslaved by the Portuguese. Resistance to the Portuguese then continued under Zumbi.


The Brazilian film Ganga Zumba was made in 1963 but was not released until 1972 because there was a military coup in Brazil in 1964, and films about revolutions, even those taking place in the 17th century, were considered politically dangerous. The film is based on João Felício dos Santo’s novel, and focuses on a black slave who ends up in Palmares. The film is about black liberation and keeps a black racial perspective. (Stam)

Ganga-Zumba, the Palmares chief during the latter part of this period, attempted to negotiate an agreement with the Portuguese where the quilombo would no longer accept fugitive slaves or fight the Portuguese in exchange for permanent recognition of their land and freedom for those born in Palmares.  However, Zumbi, the settlement’s military leader, chose resistance to the Portuguese. The Portuguese never accepted Ganga-Zumbi’s proposal and continued to attack the quilombo. Finally, in 1694, Palmares was conquered and destroyed by a military force under the command of Domingos Jorge Velho. Zumbi was killed one year later in 1695.

Palmares was a multifaceted quasi-state which lasted for most of the 17th Century, resisting attack by two European powers. Challenging both Dutch and Portuguese sovereignty in Brazil, it was a symbol of resistance to colonialism and of the possibility of multicultural coexistence.

– See more at: http://www.blackpast.org/gah/palmares-ca-1605-1694#sthash.WNeQThDC.dpuf and finally the most violent, armed insurrection.

La Lupe!

La Lupe!

It’s important to know who we are, from whom and from where we were formed… by telling the stories ourselves, we see an example of how to live, how to inspire and how to honor our ancestors, Aguanile, Mai, Mai…

MimiTVA Posting from the DMV, Friday February 9, 2018


La Lupe

La Lupe was born in Santiago de Cuba in on December 23, 1939.  An electric, frenetic amazing entertainer and singer, she made a name for herself throughout the world coming from a poor town in Cuba to the stages of New York.  This excerpt from her appearance on the Dick Cavett show is unforgettable.

La Lupe was born in the barrio of San Pedrito in Santiago. Her father worked at the local Bacardi distillery and a he of course had a profound influence on Lupe’s early life. In 1954 she participated on a radio program which invited fans to sing imitations of their favorite stars. Lupe skipped school to go sing a bolero of Olga Guillot’s, called Miénteme (Lie to me), and won the competition. The family moved to Havana in 1955, where she was enrolled at the University of Havanna to become a teacher. She admired Celia Cruz and like her, she was planning to be a teacher before starting to sing.

Lupe married Eulogio “Yoyo” Reyes, in 1958 and formed a musical trio Los Tropiccuba with her husband  and another female singer.  Los Tropiccuba broke up in 1960, along with the marriage. She began to perform her own act at a small club in La Habana, La Red (The Net), which had a clientele of distinguished foreigners. She got devoted fans at La Red, the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Marlon Brando. She then released her first album, Con el Diablo en el cuerpo (With the Devil in my body) in 1960, for RCA Victor. Her first television appearance on Puerto Rican television caused an uproar because of her “wild” energy and seemingly sexualized performance, that shocked some viewers.


Lupe was exiled to México where she asked Celia Cruz to help her get work.   Celia recommended her to Mongo Santamaría in New York. Once she arrived in New York City, Lupe had a standing gig at a cabaret called La Barraca.   She started recording again, making more than 10 records in five years. She also was married and divorced for a second time, to salsa musician Willie García, with whom she had a daughter.

Lupe’s had an amazing vocal range, mastering a full plate of latin music styles – son montuno, bolero, boogaloo, Dominican merengue, plus Puerto Rican bomba and plena. It was her recordings which brought Tite Curet Alonso into prominence as a composer of tough-minded boleros in the salsa style. For a good part of the 1960s she was the most acclaimed Latin singer in New York City due to her partnership with Tito Puente. She did a wide variety of cover versions in either Spanish or accented English, including “Yesterday”, “Dominique” by The Singing Nun, “Twist & Shout”, “Unchained Melody”, “Fever” and “America” from West Side Story. FRED WEINBERG, who was her favorite audio engineer, also produced several of her albums. Weinberg nick named Lupe “A Hurricane” in the studio because of her intensity and enthusiasm.


Her performances became increasingly decadent. There were rumours of drug addiction and that her force of nature personality made her real life “a real earthquake” according to close friends. She ended some of her performances having  be treated with an oxygen mask. Although she may have been poorly managed by her label Fania Records in particular, she managed and produced herself in mid-career, after parting ways with Tito Puente.  Unfortunately her ephemeral career went downhill, the explosion of the salsa and the arrival of Celia Cruz to New York, were the determining factors of the rapid decline of her career.

A devout follower of Santería, she continued to practice her religion putting at risk the fortune and fame she had acquired through her short career. Her record label, Fania Records, ended her contract in the late 1970s, perhaps simply because of her falling record sales. She retired in 1980, and found herself destitute by the early 1980s. In 1984 she injured her spine while trying to hang a curtain in her humble home; she initially used a wheelchair, then later a cane. An electrical fire made her homeless. After being healed at an evangelical Christian Crusade, La Lupe abandoned her Santería roots and became a born-again Christian. In 1991, she gave a concert at La Sinagoga in New York, singing Christian songs.

She died of a heart attack at just 52 years of age.  She was survived by her second husband William García, son René Camaño (from her first marriage) and her daughter Rainbow García (from her second marriage). She is buried in Saint Raymond’s Cemetery in the Bronx.