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

Today’s La Vida En Black, History Month message is about Vicente Guerrero, Mexico’s first black president, and also Mexican version of Abraham Lincoln. In 1829 Presidente Guerrero issued Mexico’s own abolition of slavery decree (which was the cause 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

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!

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.

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, in Black History Month

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 were brought in chains to Brazil.  These Freedom Fighters represented an African resistance movement that was a force to be reckoned with.  The movement was diverse and strong taking on many forms, there were free settlements known as Quilombos, and countless attempts from groups of enslaved Africans to overthrow the government in their Brazilian town or state erased or forgotten in history. Fortunately evidence remains all over Brazil with artifacts and folk tales to fill in the gaps in documentation.

Ganga Zumba escaped his bondage on a sugar plantation and proceeded to live his destiny as heir to the kingdom of Palmares.  Although only some Portuguese documents give him the name Ganga Zumba, this name is still widely used today.

Ganga Zumba

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 this evidence confirmed 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, enslaved in chains, 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 a plantation of Santa Rita.

Image result for ganga zumba
From the 1964 film “Ganga Zumba”

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 they finally escaped to Palmares.

quilombo or mocambo was a refuge of Africans that escaped their bondage and fled to the interior of Brazil to the mountainous region of Pernambuco. As their numbers increased, they formed sovereign communities, 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, 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 over 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.

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 tragically 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!

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.

The Warrior Village turned Nation… Quilombo de Palmares

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, Thursday, February 8, 2018

African people’s fight for freedom throughout the Americas began the minute we were illegally captured, stolen and enslaved in the motherland.  Africans who had escaped slavery in Brazil and created their own township or a Quilombo. Quilombo is a portugese word derived  from an Angolan language “Kilombo” and it means a warrior village or settlement. The Quilombo dos Palmares was actually  a country in South America and today it is located in the coastal region known as Alagoas, Brazil.

Quilombo dos Palmares was a self-sustaining settlement that was approximately the size of modern day Portugal.  At it’s most productive, Palmares had over 30,000 residents.  Their great king Ganga Zuma would free every African seeking refuge.


In the beginning the settlement of free Africans became a thorn in the side of the Portuguese.  The residents of Palmares sometimes invaded mills to liberate enslaved people, they would confiscate food, weapons and also abducted women, who were a rare commodity in the quilombo.  Diogo Botelho,the Governor General of Brazil  sent an expedition of 40 to 60 soldiers according to historians. After they destroyed their dwellings and had taken prisoners, the Portuguese thought they had won the battle. However whenever the Portugese soldiers appeared, Palmares residents retreated into the woods, leaving destruction behind with plantations and cabins were destroyed and burned. And shortly thereafter new dwellings and plantations were raised.

This constant destruction and subsequent reconstruction was a very difficult way of life and severely stifled the growth of the Quilombo. And then a fortunate little war helped seal the fate of Quilombo dos Palmares. The Dutch landed at Pernambuco in 1630, and tried to rob the profits of sugar from the hands of the other opportunists, the Portuguese and the Spanish, who were at the time under the same king’s reign. This hostile invasion created an absolute uproar in the Northeast region of Brazil. With the Dutch initial victory in 1645, some of the second generation Brazilian Portuguese engaged them in guerrilla warfare. Subsequently these Plantation owners had to enlist their slaves to fight the Dutch, which in turn facilitated their escape. And amid the hostility and chaos, the Quilombo de Palmares grew, with thousands of new free African residents. When the Dutch were finally expelled in 1654, the township had become a powerful land formed by several populated settlements.


Rumor has it that the population of Palmares was polygamous and possibly even polyandrous – meaning that a woman could have multiple husbands. To feed the growing population, their economy was a mixture of enterprises, including, hunting, gathering and agriculture.   The Quilombo farmers planted crops such as cassava, sweet potatoes and beans.  There was trade with neighbors. “The idea that Palmares was an isolated refuge in the woods may be true for the first few years of settlement. However, after mid-century, the relationship between blacks and their neighbors certainly evolved into an intense exchange with Indians and whites,” says Flávio Gomes, researcher at the Department of History of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ).  A true community was created with belonging , residents and a thriving economy.  Supposedly whites did engage in the Quilombo dos Palmares and it is known that this happened later in quilombos of other regions. Despite their alleged hostility toward whites, there is evidence that livestock farmers brought their flocks to graze in the area of Palmares and maintained trade with the quilobolas to the point of being called, disdainfully “colonists of the blacks.”

Map of Quilombo dos Palmares

The residents of the Quilombo dos Palmeres apparently did have a good relationship with the  Indians. Archaeological excavations have found Indian pottery, probably contemporary to the quilombo. “It is tempting to make this association and say that Indians were within the quilombo, but we could be dealing with some type of trade,” says American archaeologist Scott Allen, of the Federal University of Alagoas. According to Pedro Paulo Funari, historian and Unicamp archaeologist who joined the first team to take soundings at the site 15 years ago, pottery indicates that there were Indians in Palmares:  “The ceramic production was linked to the attributions of women. The presence of this material in Palmares may mean that the ex-slaves had Indian wives.” Something perfectly consistent with the lack of black women there. Anyway, mestiçagem (racial mixture) was on the tip of the tongue of Palmares inhabitants. Their language seemed to have an African base mixed with words and structures taken from the Portuguese and Tupi – the settlers needed interpreters to speak with them.  Illustrative of its complexity, Quilombo dos Palmares in 1640 was described as comprising several separate settlements which pledged their loyalty to one leader (chief).  Two of the settlements were mostly of Amerindian origin (Subupira e Tabocas); one of Portuguese colonists who joined the quilombo (Amaro), and seven Bantos, that is, settlements of fugitive slaves (Andalaquituche, Macaco, Aqualtene, Ambrabanga, Tabocas, Zumbi, Arotiene). With its capital in Macaco, Palmares possessed a complex social structure, replicating, in many instances, African political systems. – See more at: http://www.blackpast.org/gah/palmares-ca-1605-1694#sthash.WNeQThDC.dpufpark-2

Jaime Hurtado González; Ill Fated Afro-Ecuadorian

Jaime Hurtado GonzálezJaime Hurtado González (1937-1999) Politician, Activist, Social Justice champion,  Jaime Hurtado González was the first black man to run for president of the Republic of Ecuador.

Known as the the voice of the people González was a strong advocate of the disenfranchised groups of color within Ecuador. As an elected congressman in 1999 he was running for President with a strong chance of winning.  Sadly, Jaime Hurtado González was assassinated  near the country’s Supreme Court Building.

A member of  the organization of Popular Unity, Jaime Hurtado, was brutally gunned down with other activists, Pablo Tapia and Wellington Borja, in an act of state sanctioned terrorism by the reactionary forces led by the government presided over by Jamil Mahuad.

It was February 17th 1999, in broad daylight, a few meters away from the the Supreme Court building of  Ecuador and just a block away from the House of the Parliament;  an armed militia fired at the activists using 9mm weapons issued only to state security.

Despite the fact that the place where these men were assassinated was under constant surveillance by the police, and a few steps away stands the security service for the Supreme Court, nothing was done to capture the murderers who managed to get away through traffic.

Jaime Hurtado Gonzalez was a national Deputy and the chairman of the Parliamentary block of the DPM.  As a young man, he quickly rose up to become the leader of the struggle of the people, a relentless fighter for a new motherland ruled by working class people. He was assassinated along with his friend, Pablo Tapia, associate Deputy for the DPM and a cousin, Wellington Borja, also member of the DPM.  The crime was part of a plot on the part of the government to frighten anti-government protesters. In what seemed to be a series of crimes against the people of Ecuador, when that government took office; four peasants who claimed land in the town of Salite were assassinated; the government carried out mass arrests of student protesters; security forces broke into the headquarters of the DPM in the El Triunfo and arrested several leaders and members of that organization; plus protesting teachers are threatened to be fired.

Several community leaders of  progressive organizations and workers unions were threatened and then subsequently attacked by Government officials. The assassination was carried out at the same time when 120,000  teachers were on strike.  And not even the millions the Government spent in publicity plus their threats of massive lay-offs, were able to stop the teachers from striking.

Thousands of Ecuadorans demonstrate in front of Carondelet Palace
Thousands of Ecuadorans demonstrate in front of Carondelet Palace

The Prime Minister, Vladimiro Alvarez gave up the post of Minister of Education  unable to face the demands of the protesting teachers.  And for everybody, workers, peasants, teachers and students, housewives, rank and file christians, leftist democrats, Jaime Hurtado was an example of tireless struggle for the rights of the people.

Quoted from the organizations newspaper as part of Hurtado’s eulogy, “Our organizations are rooted in the people and our people do not get scared. They will not be able to scare us. On the contrary we raise today the banners of revolutionary change with more enthusiasm, and we are ready more than ever to face and defeat the enemies of the people. No matter how many crimes the Government commits, the ideals of Jaime, Pablo and Wellington will find support throughout the country, in the hearts of the peoples of Ecuador and flourish in the Popular Power, for which we will always struggle hand in hand with the oppressed.”

Zumbi dos Palmares

By telling our 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, February 2018

Zumbi was the last leader of the Palmares quilombo, in Brazil. Palmares was a free state founded by the slaves who escaped to freedom. Palmares is a land mass equivalent to the size of Portugal and fought maintained it’s sovereignty for almost a hundred years. Palmarés flourished in Northeastern Brazil throughout most of the seventeenth century.  Albert_Eckhout_paintingZumbi embodies for Afro-Brazilians, the personification of the epitome of resistance to the abhorrent slave-trade and it’s immoral practice of slavery.  Zumbi was the crux of a movement for African descendants to get and keep economic and political justice.

The last leader of Palmares is much more than a historical hero – Zumbi is a sacred ancestor. His spirit is revered known as inherently divine and immortal.  Since the establishment in Brazil of November 20 as National Day of Black Consciousness  – originally called Zumbi Day – in 1978, popular discourse has increasingly treated Zumbi not only as the most important Afro-Brazilian hero but also as having constituted on Brazilian soil an alternative state, another sovereign country free of racism and colonialism.

A lot of the information about Palmares comes from the detailed accounts of the Dutch and Portuguese campaigns against the quilombo between 1640 and 1695.  These official documents  are eye-witness accounts by the would-be invaders but must be noted that they are mal-informed by the racism and intellectual biases of their time. Not surprisingly, most sources have tended to see Palmares as a threat to Portuguese colonial (and, by extension, Brazilian) sovereignty and the quilombo’s defeat as basically a patriotic victory.

Yet, even white commentators have lionized the Afro-Brazilian state. The nineteenth century Portuguese republican Joaquim Pedro de Oliveira Martins called Palmares “a black Troy, and its story is an Iliad.” Recent generations of Brazilian leftists have seen in Palmares an alternative social order, as in this statement from Freitas: “These rustic black republics reveal the dream of a social order founded on fraternal equality and for this reason are incorporated into the revolutionary tradition of the Brazilian people.”


From the moment Africans were forced into bondage in the new world; they resisted enslavement by flight, or marronage. Archeological evidence reveals the enslaved Africans of Alagoas and Pernambuco escaped & went to live in the interior.  By 1606 a steady stream of enslaved people freed themselves and escaped to a mountainous, palm-covered region of Pernambuco and there established a mocambo, or a maroon nation of much repute and power.

The area came to be known as Palmares due to the preponderance of wild palms there. The Palmares region, grew in it’s African population in the 1630s because of the Dutch invasion of  Brazil.  There where several expeditions into Palmares in attempts to re-enslave the community of free Africans.  At the time of one expedition, there were two large mocambos and any number of smaller ones. By the time of the Blaer-Reijmbach expedition there was at least one large mocambo; another large mocambo had been abandoned three years earlier.

The account of the expedition describes the large “Palmares”: It was surrounded by a double palisade with a spike-lined trough inside. This settlement was half a mile long, its street six feet wide. There was a swamp on the north side and large felled trees on the south. We might guess that the clearing was for cultivation or for defensive reasons. There were 220 buildings in the middle of which stood a church, four smithies, and a council house. The population was around 1,500. The ruler of that place, according to the diary, was severely just, punishing sorcerers, as well as those who would flee the mocambo. The king had a house and farms outside the settlement. The narrative also includes description of cultivation and foodstuffs, uses made of the palm, and crafts such as work in straw, gourds, and ceramic.

As was so often the case in the long history of wars against Palmares, the soldiers found the settlement virtually abandoned when they arrived; the Palmarinos would receive advance word of expeditions from their spies in the colonial towns and sugar plantations or engenhos.


The external history of Palmares from the expulsion of the Dutch in 1654 to the destruction of Palmares in 1694 is one of frequent Portuguese incursions – sometimes more than one a year – and Palmarino reprisals and raids. In the period 1654 to 1678 there were at least 20 expeditions against Palmares. In the internecine peace, Palmarinos traded with their Portuguese neighbors, exchanging foodstuffs and crafts for arms, munitions, and salt. The trade with Palmares was such that many colonials opposed war with the Palmarinos, and in the 1670s there was widespread opinion that establishing peace with Palmares was the best way to achieve stability in the colony.

Nevertheless, many local planters feared the predatory raids by Palmarinos, real or potential. They also wished to eliminate the lure of escape that Palmares constantly represented to the enslaved people on their plantations. In spite of much vacillation, colonial leaders opted again for the destruction of the quilombo, and sent militia captain Fernão Carrilho against them. Carrilho’s campaign of 1676-77 was not only one of the more devastating, but it was also the source of the most substantial descriptions of Palmares.

park-2This chronicle reports that at this time the king of Palmares was called Ganga-Zumba, which allegedly meant “Great Lord.” He had a palace, guards, ministers, and other officials. His subjects greeted him by kneeling and “clapping” their hands (probably a hand-snapping gesture also used in West Africa). His royal town was Macaco (Portuguese for ‘Monkey’), so named because a monkey was killed at the site. Macaco was fortified by a palisade with embrasures, and around the outside was sewn with iron caltrops and pitfalls.

This mocambo contained more than 1,500 houses. The other towns were ruled by chiefs who lived in them. The mocambo of Subupira, for example, was governed by the king’s brother. It too was fortified and circled with spiked pitfalls, and it comprised more than 800 houses. Subupira was where the Palmarinos trained for war.. The architecture of Macaco and Subupira suggests that Palmares was on a constant war-footing.



The descriptions of Palmares suggest that it had the political structure of a paramount chiefdom or kingdom along Central African lines. Sources sometimes describe Palmares as a “republic” with an “elected” king.  Information is scant on how the state was governed. Perhaps the “election” of the king comes from descriptions of chiefly and bureaucratic checks on the power of the king and the lack of hereditary succession, as in some West African states. It’s also possible that the principal chief was elected by the chiefs of the other villages or even by popular acclaim, like the Imbangala of seventeenth-century Angola.

Ganga-Zumba was probably the title rather than the proper name of the king or chief of Palmares in the 1670s. Despite the title and apparent official function of Bantu origin, the Ganga-Zumba known to history was possibly a native Palmarino of the Ardra Nation, identifiable with the Ewe-speaking Allada state on the Slave Coast.



Zumbi was the war commander of Palmares under Ganga-Zumba. Working from documents not fully cited, Freitas writes that Zumbi was born in 1655. That same year Brãs da Rocha Cardoso led the first Portuguese attack on Palmares after the expulsion of the Dutch. During that otherwise ineffective and unremarkable attack, a baby boy, native to Palmares, was captured and later given to a priest, Antãnio Melo, in the coastal town of Porto Calvo. The boy, baptized Francisco by the priest, was raised as the priest’s protãçgãç and instructed in Portuguese, Latin, and other subjects. At the age of 15, in 1670, the youth ran away to Palmares, although he later continued to visit the priest secretly.

Ganga-Zumba was wounded in an attack on the mocambo of Amaro in November 1677, and a number of his sons, nephews, and grandchildren were captured. The destruction wrought by Carrilho must have had an effect. In 1678, Ganga-Zumba, tired of war, accepted terms of peace from the governor of Pernambuco which affirmed his sovereignty over his people on the condition that he return any fugitive slaves and move his people from Palmares to the Cucaão Valley. Sometime thereafter, Ganga-Zumba and his followers relocated to the Cucaão Valley, closer to the watchful eye of the colonial government.


However, Ganga-Zumba’s treaty did not gain peace. An opposition faction preferred resistance to removal. A ban from Sergeant-Major Manuel Lopes dated 1680 called on “Captain Zumbi” and other rebels to cease their uprising, to adhere to the terms of the treaty, and to join his uncle, Gana-Zona. The document also affirms that in 1680 Zumbi or his partisans had poisoned their king “Ganazumba.” Kent viewed this last act as a “palace revolt.”

Clearly Ganga-Zumba’s concessions caused a rift in Palmares, but the death may also be viewed as the widespread African practice of sanctioned regicide, the ultimate check on royal weakness or abuse. Zumbi, until then a chief and military commander, occupied the capital and was proclaimed the supreme chief. He immediately set about prosecuting the defensive war against the Portuguese, ruling Palmares with dictatorial authority. Zumbi thus ruled Palmares from the time of Ganga-Zumba’s move to Cucaão to the destruction of Palmares in 1694.mapa-1

The broken peace eventually precipitated the enlistment of the aid of the “Bush Captain” Domingos Jorge Velho, a field commander charged with fighting Indians and capturing runaway slaves. This bandeirante, or wilderness tamer, from São Paulo and his irregulars joined forces raised in the Northeast for an assault on Palmares in 1692. In late 1693, after the defeat the year before, a new combined expeditionary force gathered in Porto Calvo. When they reached the heavy fortification of the royal compound of Macaco, they lay siege for 22 days.

depiction-of-the-palmares-quilomboThe attackers were building a counter-fortification when the Palmarinos began abandoning their positions in order to attack from the rear or in order to flee through a break in the opposing fortification. In the ensuing battle on February 5-6, 1694, Jorge Velho took some 400 prisoners. Another 300 died in battle, while some 200 hurled themselves or were forced from the precipice at the rear of the compound. In all, some 500 Palmarinos were killed and over 500 total were taken prisoner in the campaign.

Zumbi had escaped this fatal battle. He continued to skirmish with the Portuguese for over a year, until one of his aids revealed his location. There Zumbi and a small band of followers were ambushed and killed. His mutilated body was identified in Porto Calvo. Then his head was taken to Recife, the capital of Pernambuco, and displayed as proof against claims of his immortality. Jorge Velho fixed the date of Zumbi’s death at November 20, 1695.


These events recorded and republished in the historical record over the last four centuries provide the epic material of Zumbi of Palmares. Since the seventeenth century additions and variants have become part of the textual tradition. A case in point is the alternate version of Zumbi’s death, that he hurled himself from the precipice during the final assault on Macaco to avoid capture, committed to history by Sebastião da Rocha Pitta.

This romantic episode has been repeated by numerous historians and creative writers. The version has its basis in the allegations by eyewitnesses that a number of Zumbi’s compatriots met a similar fate. While the secondary sources coincide in great measure of their detail, they also contain contradictions and ambiguities among them. Together the primary and secondary sources have woven the text that is the history of Palmares and have contributed to the creation of the epic myth of Zumbi’s resistance.

The historiography of Palmares, though, is necessarily elite historiography. We do not know of any surviving accounts of Palmares by Palmarinos. The record of popular oral history is scant although it certainly exists.  Doubtless we all stand to learn much still from the efforts of those in disciplines such as folklore, oral history, and archeology. One can only imagine that archives in Brazil, Portugal, and Angola have a wealth of information yet to yield. By now, however, the epic of Palmares has taken a life of its own. As Brazil prepares to celebrate three hundred years of Zumbi’s immortality, it is good for all of us to reflect on what this epic has to teach us. On November 20, when Brazil turns its gaze to the Serra da Barriga in commemoration of Zumbi, it will also be looking forward to ways to create a just society, one that can be a true example to multiethnic societies elsewhere.

Edited by MimiTVA but information and full report from * ** Professor Robert Anderson teaches Portuguese and Latin American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is associated with the Duke-UNC Program in Latin American studies, which has supported his research on Palmares and the Zumbi Tercentenary.