The culture of the archipelago of San Andrés is linked to its people, who have diverse ethnic origins. The Raizal, people of African and British origin, speak Creole (the language originates in English but it has its own phonetic, grammar and many expressions from Spanish and African dialects). They refer to themselves as 'native islanders' in clear distinction from residents who migrated from mainland Colombia, preserved the Colombian culture and speak Spanish as their first language.
There are two trends among the Raizals, a radical one (a group inspired with Rastafari movement), and a more moderate one. Many are devout Baptists, attending church in their Sunday best clothes each weekend.
The Colombian Constitution acknowledges English as the first language of the native islanders and it grants the archipelago's two official languages, English and Spanish. Creole tends to be spoken in the home and during social interactions in public places, while Spanish is often used for business and government matters.
The archipelago's indigenous population remains a minority. In 1995, the government of Colombia began to take steps to preserve, restore and protect the rights and way of life of the Rizal people.
Rondón is a rich, delicious traditional dish, very popular throughout the archipelago. The vast variety of seafood available to the people of San Andrés in combination with the foods they cultivate on their land, keep them well fed. In the past, preparing a meal rarely involved visit of the shop. It was simply a matter of 'running down' the ingredients in the bush, in the sea, or on the farm. They put everything together in one pot, simmered it in coconut milk, and called it 'rundown'. The name rondón is the creole pronunciation of 'run down'.
The recipe varies depending on what ingredients one can gather together that day. But it is usually prepared with fish, conch, yucca, breadfruit, yam, plantain and dumpling, cooked in coconut milk. Rondón can be made in the kitchen or on the beach and it is best served about 20 minutes after taking it off the heat. Oh, sooo delicious!!
In contrast to austere concrete buildings of hotel blocks, restaurants and duty-free shops in San Andrés town, a native area of the centre of the island is notable for its traditional wooden houses and picturesque Caribbean architecture. The brightly painted single-storey wooden houses of the local population sit amongst palms in San Luis and La Loma. The houses are simply framed and airy, with wooden shutters. Porches overlook leafy, bloom-filled gardens in these fine examples of English-Caribbean architecture.
more pics in La Loma and San Luis travelogues
We had a local English speaking taxi driver. He - like many of the locals or natives thinks of Colombia as an occupying power.
The black population of San Andres were brought there by English early in the seventeenth century. For the next two hundred years the people of San Andres led an existence described as close to idyllic. Then in 1953 when Colombia took over - things changed and not for the better. Our driver complained that the locals had to learn to speak Spanish - he felt that people coming to their island should have to learn English.
The official population of San Andres numbers about 60,000. Unofficially the population is well over 100,000. The natives are now about 40% of the people of the archipelago. The Colombians brought with them a number of social problems such as drugs, garbage, slums and violence. Gas prices were higher than they would be if Colombia allowed imports from Venezuela which is closer to San Andres.
There is a large Colombian military presence there. Right after our ship got there the Columbian Navy showed up.
The town square and shopping area had the Christmas decorations up. It wasn't the usual andy canes or snowmen. Instead there were big crabs with presents in their claws. I tried hard to get pictures, but it was hard to do in the rain while the cab was moving.
Rastas and reggae and quite familiar faces and sounds in san Andrès... the interesting part about them is that they are native to the island, rather than Jamaican. Their arrival to San Andrès dates back to the time when the island was an English colony - I'm speaking about the 17th century. Back then the English brought with them slaves from Jamaica, to have them work the sugarcane and cotton fields: When they left (or better, when the Spanish took over the island) those slaves remained on the island.
Most San Andrès rasta still speak English as their first language if you look at them closely you'll also notice some interesting and usual details, like the fact that many have blue eyes and some also light brown hair. A clear sign that the English interbred with ther slaves. In the photo below you can see our friend Sol. His hair is quite light and he's got amazing blue eyes. You can often find him around the Mojito Pasion restaurant, where he has a small window and sells his lovely handmade coconut jewellery. he's quite an interesting character, and having lived in any European countries (including Germany, where he worked for the Deutsche Bank - and yes, he can prove it), he has some interesting stories to tell.