In celebration of Black History Month I want to share a bit about the African influence in Dominican culture.
Much of what is now known as Dominican culture is influenced by our African roots. Enslaved Africans were brought to the island from 1502 until approximately late 1700. It is thought they were from Angola, Senegal, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Benin, Sierra Leone, Togo, Congo and Cameroon (approximately).
Every household in Dominican Republic prepares white rice for lunch on a daily basis. I feel very confident saying this because in my whole life I have never seen anything different. You may have different things around it, but the rice is always there. This is a known custom in Guinea, West Africa.
The way we cook with sauce and “escabeche” is almost the same as it is done in Nigeria. So is the “concón”, which is the sticky rice at the bottom of the pot when you cook rice, in Nigeria it is known as "konkón".
Also of African origin is our very famous "moro de guandules", and its name comes from the kikongo word "wandu".
Merengue, which is one of our signature dances and music uses the African tambora drum and the guira metal scraper as the base of the genre. In Dominican Republic you learn how to dance merengue before you learn how to speak... Ok, maybe I'm exaggerating but I just want to illustrate how ingrained in the popular culture merengue is.
Palos is a sacred Afro - Dominican music which is normally played at religious ceremonies. I have heard palos, it's very intense and I would describe it as a spiritual journey. If you are curious about it, I recommend listening to Enerolisa on Spotify.
And then there is bachata, which also stems from African rhythms with the use of bongo drums. A lot can be said about bachata, I will say this: bachata used to be seen as "poor class music" but it has grown into mainstream appreciation and world wide awareness while maintaining its signature sound.
There is so much more I didn't even mention, and isn't it amazing? Our culture is so rich in big part thanks to our African ancestors. And although Blackness in Dominican Republic is a contested subject by many, it is undeniable that without our Blackness, our country would not be the beautiful, colorful, joyful place that it is.