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Celebrating St. Balthazar's day with Afro-Descendant vibes and cultural Pride

A member of the Paraguay-African cultural group Kamba Cua dances to honour Saint Balthazar, one of the Three Kings, in Fernando de la Mora, Paraguay, on Epiphany, Jan. 6 2024.   -  
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Jorge Saenz/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved


The weekend in Paraguay was a vibrant blend of dance, drumming, and rocking traditional outfits.

The Afro-descendants in the country kicked off their celebration of St. Balthazar's Day, an annual bash that offers a special chance for Paraguayan-Africans to stay connected with their African roots.

Juan Medina, percussionist of the Kamba Cua ballet group, said he grew up listening to the rhythms of the drums as a child, fuelling in him a passion "about the art that my ancestors brought me."

"It's truly something extraordinary for us. We're honouring our ancestors who hailed from there, paying homage to them every January 6th, and gathering with a bunch of friends who join in the celebration with us," said Benito Medina, the director of the ballet Kamba Cua by Lazaro Medina.

He said the Kamba party, which means Black in Guaraní, is a meeting of Afro-descendants where Afro-descendant friends from other communities gather to spend a magical night together.

For some Afro-descendants in Paraguay, their roots in the country date back to 1820 when the Kamba ethnic group's Africans arrived in the region with Artigas' army.

The Kamba Cua crew seizes this opportunity to honour their patron saint, all while putting their African heritage in the spotlight with flair and jubilation.

"With Kamba Cua, we express our culture through dance, hoping that the Paraguayan state might roll out some public policies and let everyone know about the awesome things we're up to," added Juan Medina, percussionist.

Kamba Cua isn't just a name; it's a slice of history. The district was handed over to Jose Gervasio Artigas during his exile from Uruguay, finding shelter in Paraguay under the wing of José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia.

This annual festival is more than just a party; it's a mission to shine a spotlight on Afro-Paraguayan culture, making sure it gets the recognition and visibility it truly deserves.

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