Culture & Sport

Cumbia, traditional dance and music genre, now national heritage of Colombia

Cumbia, a dance and music genre resulting in the miscegenation of Indigenous peoples, Africans and Europeans, is now an intangible cultural heritage of Colombia.

cumbia artists in Colombia
Cumbia artists during the festival in El Banco, Colombia | © Ministry of Culture of Colombia

Minister of Culture of Colombia Patricia Ariza on October 16 declared the traditional Caribbean dance cumbia national heritage of the country.

Cumbia, resulting from a mix of Indigenous, African and European cultures is now listed as an intangible cultural heritage of Colombia.

Cumbia is the heritage of all Colombians, it deserves a place in the history of Colombia and an important consideration in culture. Cumbia is a true heritage of El Banco, of Colombia, of Latin America and, hopefully, it will become a heritage of humanity one day,” said the minister of Culture, Patricia Ariza.

Cumbia is the result of the encounter and miscegenation between Indigenous peoples, Africans and Europeans. Its history consolidated the identity of the Colombian Caribbean people and the nation in general,” the ministry’s press release detailed.

Cumbia is more than a folkloric dance. It is also a music genre, whose popularity spread out across Latin American countries with more modern and commercial adaptations, and a set of customs found in clothing, rituals, traditional manufacture of handmade instruments and festivals.

The announcement was made during a major festival of cumbia gathering more than 1,200 artists, the José Barros Palomino cumbia national festival, in El Banco, a city in the department of Magdalena in the north of the country.

Exact origins of cumbia are not entirely clear but it would be born in the north of Colombia, at the border of Magdalena and Bolivar departments, in the hundreds of years during which Colombia was a Spanish colony until its independence in 1819. There are some arguments that cumbia could be originated from elsewhere in Colombia or even Africa.

El Banco is referred to as the “Empire City” of cumbia. The festival of cumbia is named after José Barros Palomino, one of the most prominent Colombian musicians and composers of cumbia who was born in the city.

Now within the realm of national heritage, the country will work to preserve and safeguard the heritage of cumbia through cultural activities, documentation and research work, promotion and communication, training, education and transmission of knowledge.

Read more about Colombia

La Cumbia tradicional del Caribe colombiano fue declarada patrimonio nacional, Ministry of Culture of Colombia, October 2022, Unsecure access

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