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Native toColombia
RegionSan Basilio de Palenque
Ethnicity6,637 (2018)[1]
Native speakers
2,788 (2005)[2]
Spanish Creole
  • Palenquero
Latin (Spanish alphabet)
Official status
Official language in
The Colombian Constitution recognizes minority languages as "official in their territories."[3]
Language codes
ISO 639-3pln
Colombia - Bolívar - Mahates.svg

Palenquero (sometimes spelled Palenkero) or Palenque (Palenquero: Lengua) is a Spanish-based creole language spoken in Colombia. It is a mixture of Kikongo (a language spoken in central Africa in the current countries of Congo, DRC and Angola, former member states of Kongo) and Spanish. Palenquero is the only Spanish-based creole in Latin America,[4] if Papiamento (which is often considered to be Portuguese-based) is excluded. The ethnic group which speaks this creole consisted of 6,637 people in 2018.[1] It is primarily spoken in the village of San Basilio de Palenque which is southeast of Cartagena, and in some neighbourhoods of Barranquilla.[5]


The village was formed by escaped slaves (Maroons) and Native Americans around 1604 under the leadership of Benkos Biohó. These slaves escaped from Cartagena, building their own communities to the south.[6]

Since many slaves had not been subjected to contact with people of European descent, the palenqueros spoke Creole languages constructed from the Spanish language and their own African ones.

Ten percent of the population under 25 years of age spoke Palenquero in 1998. It is more commonly spoken by the elderly. Its sole substrate is likely the Kikongo language, which is spoken in the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola. Palenquero words like "ngombe", which means cattle, are found in several Bantu languages.


Similar to several other creole languages, Palenquero grammar lacks inflectional morphology, meaning that nouns, adjectives, verbs and determiners are almost always invariant.[7]


Grammatical gender is non-existent, and adjectives derived from Spanish default to the masculine form: lengua africano ‘African language’.[7]


Plurality is marked with the particle ma. (for example: ma posá is "houses"). This particle is believed to derive from Kikongo, a Bantu language, and is the sole Kikongo-derived inflection present in Palenquero.[8] The younger speakers of Palenquero utilize ma for plurality more so than the speakers that came before them.

This particle is usually dropped with cardinal numbers greater than two: ma ndo baka "two cows" but tresi año "13 years".[7]

Palenquero pronouns[7]
Number Person Nominative Source
Singular 1st í uncertain
yo yo
2nd bo vos
3rd ele ele
Plural 1st suto nosotros
2nd utere ustedes
enu (formerly archaic) Bantu origin
3rd ané Bantu origin



There are four copulas in Palenquero: e, ta, jue, and senda. E roughly corresponds to ser in Spanish and is used for permanent states, and ta is similar to the Spanish estar in that it used for temporary states and locatives. Jue is used as a copula for nouns and senda is only found with predicative nouns and adjectives referring to permanent states.[9]


  • Bo é mamá mí nu (You are not my mother)
  • Mujé mí jue negra i yo jue negro (My wife is black and I am black)
  • I tan sendá dotó (I will be a doctor)
  • Ese mujé ta ngolo (That woman is fat)


Some 300 words of African origin have been identified in Palenquero,[11] with many believed to originate in the Kikongo language. A comprehensive list and proposed etymologies are provided in Moñino and Schwegler's "Palenque, Cartagena y Afro-Caribe: historia y lengua" (2002). Many of the words that come from African origin, include plant, animal, insect and landscape names.[5] Another handful of words are believed to originate from Portuguese (for example: mai 'mother'; ten 'has'; ele 'he/she'; bae 'go').

Sample words in Palenque
Palenque Spanish English
burú dinero money
ngombe ganado cattle
ngubá maní peanut, goober
posá casa. Compare posada house
tambore tambor drum
mai madre. Compare mãe. mother
bumbilo basura garbage
chepa ropa clothing
chitiá hablar to speak
ngaina gallina chicken
tabáko tabaco tobacco
hemano hermano brother
onde donde where
pueta puerta door
ngolo gordo fat
flo flor flower
moná niño child
ceddo cerdo pig
cateyano castellano Spanish
foratero forastero outsider
kusa cosa thing, stuff
cuagro barrio neighborhood


The Lord's Prayer in Palenquero
Palenquero Spanish
Tatá suto lo ke ta riba sielo,
santifikaro sendá nombre si,
miní a reino sí,

asé ño boluntá sí,
aí tiela kumo a sielo.
Nda suto agué pan ri to ma ría,
peddona ma fata suto,
asina kumo suto a se peddoná,
lo ke se fatá suto.
Nu rejá sujo kaí andí tentación nu,
librá suto ri má. Amén.

Padre nuestro que estás en el cielo,
santificado sea tu nombre.
Venga a nosotros tu Reino.

Hágase tu voluntad,
así en la tierra como en el cielo.
Danos hoy nuestro pan de cada día.
perdona nuestras ofensas,
como también nosotros perdonamos
a los que nos ofenden.
no nos dejes caer en la tentación,
y líbranos del mal. Amén.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "POBLACIÓN NEGRA, AFROCOLOMBIANA, RAIZAL Y PALENQUERA" (PDF). 6 November 2019. Retrieved 2020-05-11.
  2. ^ Ministerio de Cultura (2010). "Palenqueros, descendientes de la insurgencia anticolonial" (PDF). p. 2.
  3. ^ Title 1, Article 10. Archived 2011-09-27 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Romero, Simon (2007-10-18). "San Basilio de Palenque Journal - A Language, Not Quite Spanish, With African Echoes -". Retrieved 2010-02-13.
  5. ^ a b Bickerton, Derek; Escalante, Aquilas (January 1970). "Palenquero: A spanish-based creole of northern colombia". Lingua. 24: 254–267. doi:10.1016/0024-3841(70)90080-x. ISSN 0024-3841.
  6. ^ Lipski, John (January 2018). "Palenquero vs. Spanish negation: Separate but equal?". Lingua. 202: 44–57. doi:10.1016/j.lingua.2017.12.007. ISSN 0024-3841.
  7. ^ a b c d Mackenzie, Ian. "Palenquero".
  8. ^ McWhorter, John H. (2011-06-30). Linguistic Simplicity and Complexity: Why Do Languages Undress?. Walter de Gruyter. p. 92. ISBN 9781934078402.
  9. ^ Ledgeway, Adam; Maiden, Martin (2016-09-05). The Oxford Guide to the Romance Languages. Oxford University Press. p. 455. ISBN 9780191063251.
  10. ^ Moñino, Yves; Schwegler, Armin (2002-01-01). Palenque, Cartagena y Afro-Caribe: historia y lengua (in Spanish). Walter de Gruyter. p. 69. ISBN 9783110960228.
  11. ^ Moñino, Yves; Schwegler, Armin (2013-02-07). Palenque, Cartagena y Afro-Caribe: historia y lengua (in Spanish). Walter de Gruyter. p. 171. ISBN 9783110960228.

External links[edit]