While many of us celebrate Christmas in December, in Quinamayo, Columbia, they celebrate Christmas on February 16th. This large Afro-Columbian city celebrates the Christmas holiday on this day due to their ancestors being banned from celebrating on December 24th. Instead of skipping the holiday, they resorted to celebrating it in February. In this city, it is also their belief that a woman should fast for 45 days after giving birth, thus them deciding on February 16th so that they can “dance with Mary and rejoice the birth of her son.”
During the holiday festivities, the townspeople also search for a black baby Jesus figurine. Once the town has discovered the statue, the people dress in beautiful costumes as soldiers and angels and guide the statuette back to safety, where the town’s children perform the ritual dance called Fuga. This dance represents their past ancestors, with the dragging of one’s feet to symbolize their ancestors’ chained feet that bound them, not allowing them to take another step. With fireworks, music, and dancing, these festivities go on until the early hours of the morning.
During the rest of the year, Marina Rodrigez is the caretaker of the baby Jesus figurine, who swaddles him in several protective cloth layers for safekeeping. Rodriguez takes great pride in making sure the figure is well protected.
Children often take part in these celebrations when they are very young, learning more about the tradition every year. The townspeople think that the customs will never be forgotten by younger generations and continue to pass their knowledge and traditions down to the younger generations.
The Quinamayo community makes up 20 percent of the population, with those who suffered from both poverty and exclusion throughout history. Like other black communities in Valle del Cauca, Quinamaya became an established town that rested on old haciendas’ edges after abolishing slavery in 1852.
The people feel that it is crucial to stay connected to their past and their histories. The young people of this city ensure that the festivities take place. They try to preserve as much of their traditions, so they are not lost. As this community continues to be surrounded by other cultures, their biggest fear is losing the culture they have long built.