African Presence in the New World
the presence of African elements in the Americas in order for them to be taken
into consideration, to explain patterns of behavior and to put into light the
tastes and the morals of Africans in the New World is a topic upon which a great
many romantic and semi-mystical words have been shed. Culturally, such a
presence is clearly evident - any observer may perceive it - provided, of
course, that they show some genuine interest in the subject.
I use here the term "culture"
in its most comprehensive sense, that is, to encompass the entire life of a
group of people, their religious beliefs, their social structures, their forms
of music and dance, their sense of ethic and esthetic, their morals... and all
other products of their creative mind. From this point of view, it is obvious
that such a presence is manifest and that its bearing goes beyond the mere
observation of the external and physical appearance of certain individuals.
So, this observation not being restricted to
a simple differentiation of skin pigmentation, external indications may be
noticed, for instance, in the fact that Black people have kept their original
culinary habits, tastes and food preferences, very different from those
developed by Europeans and by their descendants. For most African families in
the New World, rich or poor, yam, fish, rice and beans as well as cooked greens
remain the main components of their ordinary diet.
artistic expressions, particularly in the fields of music, song, dance,
painting, sculpture, the choice of color for houses, ...etc., are other such
examples, and so are women hair-dos, the knowledge of plants and leaves used to
be eaten or to be utilized as herbs for medicinal purpose, manners of walking,
talking, looking at one’s interlocutor (or not looking at a person on certain
occasions), manners of smiling and laughing, of stuttering or behaving in
embarrassing situations, all of these show nothing more than a few cultural
characteristics which are living testimonies of the typical means of expression
of an African personality.
One may simply wish, then, to brush all of
these aside or to burn them all away on the altar of an hypothetical notion of
world culture, just as one may prefer to disclaim them and to believe that they
are unimportant, but the persistence of the African authenticity is there, and
it links, consciously or unconsciously, the Black people of the New World to
those of the African continent.
The persistence of Traditional and ancestral
precepts have taught these African-American people a certain way of existing and
living, a demeanor considered proper simply because it has been weighed and
found not only acceptable, but extremely valuable by countless previous