Palo (religion) - History

History

Palo has its roots in the Congo basin of central Africa, from where large numbers of African slaves were brought to Cuba, Puerto Rico, as well as to the colony of Santo Domingo, the present capital of the Dominican Republic. Accordingly, a great part of Palo Monte's liturgical chants and invocations are in a mixture of the Spanish and Kikongo languages, other influences being introduced through their presence in African Spanish-speaking Latin America.

During the mid 19th century Palo began to spread among the Venezuelan and Afro-Latino communities in the United States as well as many other places outside the Spanish-speaking Caribbean. Eventually, members of non-African Latino groups, as well as African Americans, gained access to these traditions. The religion remains largely Afro-Latino in character. Although it is largely unknown whether the religion started in Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic or Cuba, the most traditional form can be found in these three islands. In Puerto Rico, the city of Guayama became nicknamed "the city of witches", because the religion was widely practiced in this town.

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