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Introduction One of the most interesting chapters in the history of the Spanish and Portuguese languages throughout the world is the African contribution. There exists a tantalizing corpus of literary, folkloric and anecdotal testimony on the earlier speech patterns of Africans and their descendents, in the Iberian Peninsula and Latin America. In the nearly 500 years of Afro-Hispanic literary imitations, there has been a cyclic pattern, oscillating between reasonably accurate linguistic imitations (although riddled with cultural stereotypes and vicious word-play) and totally fanciful formulaic representations, perhaps based on some earlier legitimate Afro-Hispanic speech, but out of touch with the reality of the time. The one common thread running through such second-hand accounts is a tone of reproach and ridicule, based on the tacitly or explicitly asserted notion that Africans and their descendents in the Americas spoke "broken" and "incorrect" Spanish. Afro-descendents were denied even the legitimacy of their own native language(s), which were always judged from the standpoint of those wielding power, and which became shibboleth-ridden badges of ignorance and marginality. In 21st century Latin America, as Afro-descendents intensify their continent-wide activism, demanding the rights and recognition witheld from them since the time of the slave ships, cultural symbols of Afro-descendents are undergoing major iconic reversals. Beginning with the legitimization of artistic expressions such as music and dance, and extending to traditional medicinal and religious practices, the reaffirmation of elements cultural elements once ignored or felt to be demeaning is now extending to language. The present study describes some small Afro-descendent communities that have not previously been the subject of linguistic analysis, with an eye toward the search for authentic emblems of cultural identity in the midst of multi-secular social invisibility.

December 1
Journal of Pan African Studies
The Gale Group, Inc., a Delaware corporation and an affiliate of Cengage Learning, Inc.

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