The Samaná Americans (Americanos de Samaná) are a cultural sub-group of descendants of African American freed people who, beginning in 1824, immigrated to the Samaná Peninsula in Hispaniola—then under Haitian administration—benefiting from the favorable pro-African immigration policy of president Jean Pierre Boyer. They constitute the most sizable group of native English speakers in the Dominican Republic. Aware of its distinctive heritage, the community, whose singular culture distinguishes them from the rest of Dominicans, refers to itself as Samaná Americans, and is referred to by fellow Dominicans as "los americanos de Samaná."
Crucially, they maintain many elements of 19th century African American culture—such as their variety of African American English, cuisine, games, and community services associations— that have since disappeared in the United States. This is due to the relative isolation of the community, which until the 20th century was accessible only by boat due to the lack of roads connecting them to the rest of the island. Most follow the African Methodist Episcopal and Wesleyan denominations that their ancestors brought with them to the island.
While it is difficult to estimate the number of Samaná Americans today due to exogamy and emigration from the peninsula, the number of Samaná English speakers is estimated to be around 8,000. No monolingual English speakers remain; all Samaná Americans are bilingual in English and Spanish. As a result of the influence of mainstream Dominican culture (including compulsory Spanish-language education), many markers of their culture appear to be in decline.
- Ethnologue report for English; Samaná English is described under the heading "Dominican Republic"
- Soraya Aracena, Los inmigrantes norteamericanos de Samaná. (Santo Domingo: Helvetas Asociación Suiza para la Cooperación Internacional, 2000)
- The website of photographers Andrea Robbins and Max Becher contains a wonderful collection of portraits of present-day Samaná Americans. Scroll down to "Samaná" on the left-hand menu.
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