4 - Bozal Spanish of Cuba  pp. 68-101

Bozal Spanish of Cuba

By J. Clancy Clements

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The debate about whether there was ever a Spanish-lexified creole language spoken in Cuba or elsewhere in the Caribbean is complex and there are arguments for and against its putative existence. Given the overwhelming evidence in the Caribbean of creoles lexified by French, English, Portuguese, and Dutch, there is no a priori reason to exclude the possibility of a Spanishlexified creole having existed in the Spanish-speaking area of the Caribbean. Specifically in the case of Cuba, Otheguy (1973) argues that references regarding the presence of a black bozal Spanish in Cuba go back more than one hundred years, suggesting that there was once a Spanish creole spoken by the African (and African descendant) population in Cuba. Granda (1978) and Schwegler (1993, 1996a) maintain that a widespread Spanish-based creole was possibly spoken throughout the Spanish Caribbean and Latin America, but that it underwent significant de-creolization, such that today there are only vestiges of it found in the Spanish spoken in Cuba. Perl (1987) discusses texts found in Cabrera (1954) which contain re-structuring like that found in creoles, and more recently Ortiz López (1998) finds evidence of re-structuring reminiscent of creole structure in the speech of older Afro-Cubans currently living in more isolated regions of the island.

Not all scholars, however, share this view. McWhorter (2000), for instance, argues forcefully that no Spanish-based creole ever existed in Cuba or anywhere else in Latin America. He develops an Afro-genesis hypothesis for New World creoles in which he proposes that creole languages developed in West African trade settlements where many of the African slaves were sent before their coerced migration to the New World.