The Gangá-Longobá is a unique group of Afro-Cubans who live in Perico, a small town tucked away from Cuba’s tourist route. The group’s very distinctive ethnic heritage has been traced to an ancestor stolen from the Banta people in what is today Sierra Leone, who was then smuggled into Cuba and sold as a slave. In Cuba, she was given the name Josefa and toiled for decades on Santa Elena sugar plantation, just outside of Perico.
Josefa taught the songs, dances, beliefs and herbal remedies of her homeland to her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, the last of whom lived into the 1980s. They proudly preserved her heritage, and today her descendants carry on these traditions each December 17th, a celebration that the whole town attends. They songs they sing were traditionally women’s songs in Africa, and the strong female leadership continues today, being passed onto daughters, granddaughters and nieces as well as to male descendants.
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