My experience as an Afro-Latino actor stretches back over fifteen years when I joined the Teatro Escola Macunama in São Paulo, Brazil. At that time, my goal was to become a professional theatre actor. This experience exposed me to different acting systems such as Stanislavsky’s method of physical actions; Brecht’s Epic Theatre and its distancing effect; Grotowski’s experimental Poor Theatre; and Lee Strasberg’s technique of improvisation and affective memory. In the end, the rigor of my training taught me that discipline must exceed the refining of a particular technique, because the maturation of an actor stems from a relentless reflection over the practice. In my case, such premise made me join the legendary Teatro Experimental de Cali
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With this growing awareness, my Afro-Latino identity and my growing appreciation for language, cultural traditions, and religious practices, I migrated to the United States in 2003 in pursuit of an education. I felt the urge to return to academia as a means to acquire the skills necessary to contribute and foment the study of these invaluable, yet frequently neglected cultural traditions.
In 2007, I attended the Festival de Tambores, a drum celebration annually hosted in San Basilio de Palenque, Colombia. In a country where a quarter of its total population is of African descent, this village became the first maroon settlement in the Americas where runaway slaves protected their freedom and culture in the seventieth century. Today, San Basilio de Palenque is home to the only Spanish-based Creole language in Latin America, the Spanish Palenquero (Palenquero). Palenquero presents linguistic characteristics of Bantu origin and no more than 2,500 speakers. During the festival, I first became enthralled with the language, traditions, and religious rituals of the region. Scholars and linguists have primarily focused on the study of Palenquero because of its condition of being an endangered language. At the time, I felt the need to acquire relevant skills and alternative epistemologies so that I may eventually join the effort to revitalize this language.