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

9 - The Spanish-Creole debate



Having reviewed a wide spectrum of Afro-Iberian linguistic manifestations, spanning four centuries and four continents, we are in a position to reassess the question of whether Spanish ever creolized, and if so, where, under what circumstances, with what antecedents, and with what long-term effects on the surrounding Spanish dialects. First it is necessary to revisit the question of why so few (if any) Spanish-derived creoles are found throughout the world, in comparison with the large and diverse collection of Portuguese-, French-, and English-based creoles scattered across five continents. Attempts – sometimes only implicitly stated – at answering this question for Spanish have taken at least the following forms: (1) the demographic proportions of Europeans to Africans in the Caribbean were not favorable to the formation of creoles; (2) Spanish colonization was somehow “different” from that undertaken by Portugal, France, and England, thus accounting for greater Hispanization of the Spanish colonies; (3) all Afro-European creoles formed in West Africa, where Spain held no slave depots; (4) Spanish did once creolize in the Americas, and certain vernacular varieties of Caribbean Spanish are the post-creole remnants of what was once a more extensive creole language; as yet undiscovered enclaves of vestigial Spanish creole language may still be uncovered, as the creole nature of Afro-Colombian Palenquero was revealed only a few decades ago. The bulk of this chapter will consider the last viewpoint, which is of direct relevance to the evaluation of the Afro-Hispanic materials discussed in the preceding chapters.