Bozal Spanish

Bozal Spanish is a possible extinct Spanish-based creole language or pidgin that may have been a mixture of Spanish and Kikongo, with Portuguese influences.[2] Attestation is insufficient to indicate whether Bozal Spanish was ever a single, coherent or stable language, or if the term merely referred to any idiolect of Spanish that included African elements.

Bozal Spanish
español bozal
Native toLatin America
ExtinctDate unknown (gradual assimilation) [1]
Last documentation: 1850 (in Cuba)[citation needed]
Language codes
ISO 639-3None (mis)


Bozal is the Spanish word for "muzzle", and shares it etymology with the word bosal. In their New World colonies, the Spaniards distinguished between negros ladinos[3] ("Latinate Negros", those who had spent more than a year in a Spanish-speaking territory) and negros bozales (wild, untamed[4] Negroes; those born in or freshly arrived from Africa).[5]

Similarly, the Portuguese distinguished between índios mansos (tamed, domesticated Indians) and índios bravos (untamed, wild Indians), and between negros crioulos or ladinos (Black creoles born in the territory of a European empire) and negros africanos or boçais (blacks born in Africa) (crioulo has now become the main anti-black slur in Brazilian Portuguese, whereas the Spanish cognate, criollo came to refer to Hispanoamerican whites and castizos).

Historic useEdit

Bozal Spanish was spoken by African slaves in Cuba,[2] Uruguay[6] and other areas of South and Central America from the 17th century up until its possible extinction at around 1850.[7] Although Bozal Spanish is extinct as a language, its influence still exists.[7] In some Cuban folk religious rituals today, people speak what they call "Bozal".[8] Similarly, many songs of the afro genre, which flourished in Cuba in the 1930s and '40s, contain lyrics reminiscent of the language.

In Puerto Rico esclavos bozales were slaves ("esclavos") brought from Africa, as opposed to those born in Puerto Rico from slaves. Such slaves spoke different languages, other than Spanish, which they eventually learned while enslaved. These slaves were primarily used in the fields and agriculture as opposed to those born under bondage who were generally used in domestic chores.[9]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^[bare URL PDF]
  2. ^ a b Clements, J. Clancy. "Bozal Spanish of Cuba", The Linguistic Legacy of Spanish and Portuguese, Cambridge University Press, 2009. 9780511576171
  3. ^ esclavo ladino in the Diccionario de la Real Academia Española.
  4. ^ Mario Andrew Pei; Salvatore Ramondino, eds. (1968), "bozal", The New World Spanish/English English/Spanish Dictionary, New American Library, p. 92
  5. ^ Estéban Pichardo y Tapia (1836), "BOZAL", Diccionario provincial de voces cubanas, p. 39
  6. ^ "El Tango Tambien Es Oriental".
  7. ^ a b Lipski, John M. "Where and how does bozal Spanish survive?", Spanish in Contact: Policy, Social and Linguistic Inquiries, John Benjamins Publishing Co., 2007.
  8. ^ Wirtz, Kristina. 2014. Performing Afro-Cuba: Image, Voice, Spectacle in the Making of Race and History. [See Chapter 4.] Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-11905-2
  9. ^ Fernando Picó. Ponce y los rostros rayados: sociedad y esclavitud, 1800-1830. San Juan, Puerto Rico: Ediciones Huracán. 2012. p. 151. ISBN 1932913149