Thursday, September 16, 2010

Perú's Racist Propaganda

Racism Against Afro-Peruvians

The Peruvian television show El Negro Mama

For years, I've met Latin American friends, classmates, and co-workers who tell me that their home countries are free of racism. I often think of Javier, a co-worker of mine who migrated to Oakland from Lima, Perú who told me after the Rodney King riots that people in his home country are not racist. As much as I loved Javier and respected him as a friend, I doubted his claim.

For a country that supposedly is free of racism, what is wrong with this picture?

I've been to Perú five times since the last time I've seen Javier, and my doubts about his country being free of racism were justified as I myself experienced several brushes of racism until people realized that I am a foreign tourist; presumably a foreign tourist with a pocket full of money. I saw a lack of Black, Asian, and Indigenous people working at the airport, in commerce, working in public transportation, or working as police officers. Even in heavily populated black areas like Chincha Alta and El Carmen, I would walk into a store or a bank and see no people of color, that is, with the exception of the security guard. For a country that is supposedly free of racism, something is wrong with this picture.

LUNDU, the Afro-Peruvian civil rights organization received numerous threats because of their protests.

Remember the Stepinfechit and Amos & Andy TV programs that re-enforced negative stereotypes of African-Americans? Just recently, I received a Facebook message from an Afro-Peruvian friend inviting me to view her notes on racist propaganda against Afro-Peruvians on television. Upon reading her notes, my mind went back to an article published in April 2010; an article that I've read and ignored because my focus was on the positive aspects of Afro-Peruvian culture.

Comedian Jorge Benavides plays the role of a mentally retarded Black man on the popular Peruvian TV show “El Negro Mamá.”

The article talks about Afro Peruvian activists receiving numerous verbal attacks and threats of violence because of their protests, which forced a racist, but popular TV show called “Negro Mama” off the air. The show is about a Black man depicted as mentally retarded, a thief, and a dingy person reinforcing stereotypes against Blacks. The offices of LUNDU, a Peruvian civil rights organization say that they were flooded with threatening messages.

African-American civil rights organizations fought to rid television of negative Black stereotypes like Amos N Andy (above) and Stepnfetchit (below)

So, what attracted me to Perú? As one who loves to explore the Black experience in Latin-American countries, while working to improve my Spanish; Perú was at the top of my list because of singers like Susana Baca and drummer/choreographer Rinaldo Campos who is the late founder of the internationally acclaimed dance troupe Perú Negro, Perú's answer to the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater of Harlem, not to mention the famous family of Amador Ballumbrosio, with whom I stayed on two of my trips.

It was Afro-Peruvian singers, poets, and writers like Nicomedes Santa Cruz) who inspired my first trip to Perú.

I'm in the back, second from the right in the home of Perú's famous Ballumbrosio family.
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