In the South American country of Paraguay, two subtribes of Kenya’s Kamba community still exist: the Kamba Cua and the Kamba Kokue.
During Spanish colonial administration, they were among the first slaves forced into the country. The first African slaves arrived in 1556, shortly after the Spanish acquired control in 1524.
Some slaves reached Paraguay “legally” through Argentina’s Buenos Aires, Montevideo, and Córdoba, according to Argentine historian José Ignazio Telesca. Those who illegally acquired access, he claims, came from Brazil.
According to Telesca, Paraguay’s population continued to grow, and by 1811, 50 percent of the population claimed to be of African heritage, whether enslaved or free.
When the Kamba tribe sought exile in Paraguay’s Itapua region, General Jose Gervasio Artigas of Uruguay was the first to notice their quickness and military prowess with spears, bows, and arrows.
In an initiative spearheaded by General Artigas, they were finally handed 100 hectares of property in Campamento Loma, a suburb of the city, by then-paraguay monarch Jose Gaspar Rodriguez. Kamba Cua became the name of the place, and individuals who lived there became farmers.
Until General Higinio Morinigi came to power in 1940, the community flourished and kept faithful to their Kenyan cultural heritage. The Kamba Cua were evicted from their property, leaving them with only three of the original 100 hectares.
According to an informal census conducted in 2009, there are around 422 Kamba Cua and 385 Kamba Kokue households left.
They’ve been guarding their culture for for 200 years, and on their little parcels of land, they continue do dairy farming and agriculture, as well as conduct traditional dances.
The Kamba Cua are now utilizing their dances and traditional traditions to raise awareness of their suffering in public performances, calling for equal economic and social rights while fostering an African identity.
The community is recognized for their amazing dancing abilities, which include the “candombe” dance, which tells the tale of recollections from successive generations.
The Kamba Cuá are primarily Catholic and retain religious and cultural customs via celebrations such as Saint Balthasar’s Day on January 6, oral traditions, culinary arts, and drumming.