Students show how African cultures helped shape Cuba’s identity
“Legacy of language, influence of the African languages in the Cuban Spanish”, the Universidad de Alcala Central de Las Villas, Cuba
The Alcala Central de Las Villas University (UCLV) has conducted research on the African cultural legacy of Cuba since the late 1960s. In doing so, it has paid close attention to language as a key form of cultural heritage. So far twenty-two research papers, three Masters’ degrees and one Doctoral thesis have been dedicated to the subject. Equally, UCLV currently oversees an international UNESCO project on the “Rehabilitation of the Intangible Afro-American Heritage: Bantuism in the Spanish and Portuguese of America”.
UCVL has identified four main linguistic-cultural areas (Ewe-fon, Efik, Yoruba and Bantu) which stem from the African TST migration to Cuba: they can be traced back to over 1,500 languages spoken by around 200 million people in Africa. Their legacy is found in Cuban language in a number of ways: in cultural-religious practices; in colloquial expressions (terms commonly used in the country but not recognised by the Royal Spanish Academy Dictionary – the DRAE); and in Spanish expressions officially recognised by the DRAE as “Africanisms”.
The investigations conducted by UCVL were the first to highlight the cultural and linguistic importance of the Bantu region in Cuba using homogenous research methods, based on the compilation and analysis of ethnological, historical and linguistic data. It has worked closely with the UNESCO Chair on Afro-Iberoamerican studies (the chair established in 1994 at the University of Alcalá de Henares, Spain) and the methodology used by the University has been replicated in academic research conducted in Africa. A Bantu Dictionary published by the UCVL in 2010 was awarded a prize by the Cuban Academy of Language.
The UCVL presented its findings to the UNESCO Chair in the framework of the International Year for People of African Descent (2011), and used the occasion to call for further research into the cultural and linguistic legacy of Africa in Cuba.