Combining population genetics (DNA) with historical linguistics

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The purpose of this chapter is to explore the African provenience of some of Latin America’s Black inhabitants and to demonstrate how recent advances in research have made it possible to determine their ancestors’ origin with a high degree of specificity. To that end, the ancestry of two specific (and admittedly unusual) communities will be examined from a linguistic perspective: (1) the maroon village of Palenque (Colombia), and (2) ritual “families” of Palo Monte (Cuba). Part 2 of this chapter then sets these findings in dialogue with the latest investigations regarding the population genetics (DNA) of Palenque and over 40 sub-Saharan ethnolinguistic communities. The combined results of this interdisciplinary DNA and linguistic research point to a monogenetic hypothesis that places Bakongo slaves from a small region (Mayombe, also known as Yombe) in Western Central Africa at the center of Palenque’s and Palo Monte’s foundational story.


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