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  • Print publication year: 2005
  • Online publication date: February 2010

3 - Early Afro-Hispanic texts


The first Afro-Hispanic texts, sixteenth century: Rodrigo de Reinosa

In Spain, the literary representation of “Africanized” Spanish began early in the sixteenth century, although it is conceivable that some non-surviving texts might have been produced in the late fifteenth century. The earliest examples show the definite traces of the already established Afro-Portuguese language produced by such writers as Gil Vicente. This fact is unremarkable in light of the slave trade from Portugal to southern Spain, in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, although some investigators (e.g. Granda 1969) claim that most Afro-Hispanic literary language, including the earliest texts, stems from direct contact between Spanish and native Africans, without the mediation of pidginized Portuguese. Among the earliest Afro-Hispanic texts are some coplas by Rodrigo de Reinosa (Chapter Three Appendix #1). The poems in question are contained in pamphlets or literatura de cordel, and do not carry a date. Russell (1973) uses indirect evidence to suggest that these coplas may have been written in the last decades of the fifteenth century; in any case, they were written no later than about 1510, which makes them the oldest Afro-Hispanic texts discovered to date. Nothing is known about the life of Rodrigo de Reinosa. Weber de Kurlat (1968) surmises that the “Africanized” coplas were written after the publication of the Cancioneiro geral in 1516. Menéndez y Pelayo surmised that Reinosa was a montañés, from the highlands of modern Santander (Cantabria) province, an idea echoed by Cossío (1950).