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College of Arts and Sciences

Armin Schewgler Talk #1 : Black Magic

Thursday, February 21, 2013 - 4:00pm


WMBB (Nursing Building) 125

USC Campus - Columbia


This talk concentrates on one of Cuba’s most widespread ritual languages: the lengua of  Palo Monte (an Afro-Cuban religion with Kongo roots). Just a decade ago, the secret code of Palo Monte was mostly unintelligible to scholars, and its true origins unknown. Rapid advances in comparative Afro-Hispanic research over the past ten years have dramatically changed the former state of affairs:  today we know that this code consists of three very distinct speech varieties, i.e., [1] Pidgin Bozal Spanish, [2] Kikongo, and [3] Cuban Spanish. These three codes have  coexisted in a state of intense code-switching for at least 150 years, and they continue to undergo intense intermixing to this day.
My talk will consist of two parts.  Part 1 is aimed especially at newcomers to the Palo Monte religion, and introduces them to its key linguistic and ritual components. A series of photographs and sound bites will animate the discussion, and prepare the audience for the more technical Part 2. There I will provide an overview of a decade of research on Palo Monte, much of which is the result of fieldwork by the author and his colleague Constanza Rojas-Primus.