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During the 1970s, a decade of Black radicalism around the world, the Colombian intellectual Manuel Zapata Olivella, supported by a group of anthropologists and folklorists, visited different Afro-Colombian communities to recover and record their embodied memories of Africa and the colonial period. Documented on cassettes and other audiovisual technologies, direct descendants of maroons and freed and enslaved blacks recounted their experiences of celebration, disease, and death, the meanings of which they had learned from previous generations.
By excavating and contrasting the interviews made in Bocachica –a fortified town located ten kilometers from Cartagena de Indias—during the 1970s with colonial sources, I identify how Bocachica’s inhabitants participated in defending Spain from sanctioned and unsanctioned English imperial attacks, and at the same time recreated African traditions that constituted serious concerns for Spanish authorities. African and African descendants met to perform music and dances as well as healing and funerary rituals in the specific context of the Cabildo, and simultaneously, they articulated knowledge and experience on the Americas. This paper opens new avenues to understand how the memories of the colonial period and its registers of bodily expression and repression (for three hundred years) implicitly connect African, Spanish and American worlds.