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Monday, May 31, 2010

Racism - Latin-American Style

Why do so many Latin Americans insist that there is no racism in their respective countries?

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Javier, an intelligent, sharp-witted black Peruvian who cannot get a good job due to racial discrimination, works odd jobs from sun up to sun down to make ends meet.

I remember Gwen, a Puerto Rican woman of mixed racial ancestry, whom I met at my church. There was a strong mutual attraction attraction between us. The first time I asked her out, she cheerfully gave me her phone number, and it was on; so I thought! Before long, she became distant refusing to go out with me again. Yet, other church members and I would often catch her watching me intently. She even showed her displeasure at another woman with whom I began to date. Word eventually got around that her mother did not want her getting involved with black men. I've heard of other cases where Latino parents threatened to disown their daughters if they were to marry a black man. As disgusting as this sounds, it is only a minor example of Latin American racism.












In Quito, Ecuador, droves of empty cabs passed me by showing preference for white passengers.










One Sunday, out of curiosity, I bought a Colombian newspaper already knowing that at least 10% of Colombia's population is black. I was disappointed to see that the only blacks featured were criminals and athletes. Whoopi Goldberg was the only black I saw in the entertainment section. This, to me, also suggested racism and discrimination. Juan, an Afro-Venezuelan graduated from college in Venezuela majoring in journalism. All of his white classmates got jobs. Juan never got as much as an interview. In Venezuela, as in other countries, you have to put a photo on your curriculum vitae.
























I'm hardly a fan of Fidel Castro, but I have to give him credit for being the only Latin American leader to speak out and take action against racism in his country.
When I visited Perú, I found the racial divide to be quite blatant with only a few Peruvians speaking up, or even seeming to notice. With employment want-ads asking for “good appearance,” a code-word for white, black Peruvans are limited to certain types of jobs such as security officers, cooks, chauffeurs, pallbearers, nannies, entertainers, or professional athletes. When I passed through Lima’s Jorge Chávez Airport, I saw only four black employees and no Asians or people of indigenous ancestry. Yet I personally know Peruvian immigrants in this country who insist that there is no racism in Perú.





Jesús, a black Cuban immigrant, told me that he does not watch Spanish TV because they discriminate against black Latinos.




It was in Quito, Ecuador where I often had extreme difficulty getting a cab, particularly at night. One Friday evening, as I was trying to get to Gloria's house on the other side of town, I saw a cab driver drop off a white couple. When I approached the cab, he wagged his finger in staunch refusal. When I waved five-dollar bills, he changed his mind (Lord, have mercy, LOL!). Once in the cab, I found it v-e-r-y interesting that he felt so relaxed to learn that I was a harmless African-American tourist and not the feared African-Ecuadorian native--Hmmmm.

Related Posts

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Ecuadorians in the Hood








Soccer stars such as Agustin Delgado put his small black community of Valle de Chota on the map.













My visit to Valle de Chota, Ecuador
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I had a nice little cultural exchange with local youth who gave me the rundown on their community and asked about my community in the U.S.

A funny thing happened while riding the bus from Quito to Valle de Chota, a black community in the Andes. As I went towards the back to use the restroom, I struck up a conversation with one of the many black passengers. They all noticed my non-Ecuadorian accent and began to pay close attention. When I "busted" some English, they all fell out laughing in astonishment as though they never heard a black person speak English before.
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Future world class soccer stars involved in a pick-up game.

My reception by the people of Valle de Chota was mixed. The fact that I was a total stranger entering the area cold and speaking Spanish with a funny accent made some people nervous. One lady went to get the police at the station right next door to her shop. I wished I could have taken her picture the way she wagged her finger and shook her head as if to say, “don’t bring your touristy ass up in here!” Instead, I ended up taking pictures of the police officers at the station as I explained why I was in their town. The officers thoroughly understood. I gave them each a Barack Obama post card and an Oakland, CA post card. I found this gesture to be very much appreciated throughout my travels in Latin America.

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People were suspicious of me until we began to chat

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As I walked around, I can see the looks I was getting from people as though they were wondering if I were Five-0 (an undercover cop checking them out). Then, of course, there were others who felt better about my presence once we began to chat. When I left Chota later in the afternoon, I felt so exhilarated to have to met and chatted with friendly men, women, and children as they gave me information about their community, and especially about their star soccer players. I was told about some venues where I could party that evening in Valle de Chota, and get a better feel for their culture; unfortunately, I already made a commitment to be back Quito with my friend Gloria who was giving a going-away party for her son headed for school in the Netherlands.

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Cops wanted to know what I was doing in their town.

I got the impression that blacks in Valle de Chota were more in touch with their heritage than those in Quito. I remember asking blacks in Quito about the location of the Afro-Ecuadorian Museum, and they would immediately turn to a non-black Ecuadorian and ask about its location as though they themselves were oblivious to their own heritage.

Team Ecuador--Whipping Poland in 2006 World Cup




Saturday, May 29, 2010

Travel & Dress Down

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I'm outside the home where I was staying in Perú chatting with friends. The only thing wrong in this picture is my passport holder being visible around my neck.
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While in El Carmen, Perú, and Afro-Peruvian dancer and instructor asked about my motive for hanging out in a poor, non-touristy area when most visitors stay in nice hotels and go to tourist attractions like Macchu Pichu, Nazca Lines, and Lake Titicaca. My response was número uno (#1), to improve my level of Spanish fluency by living amongst ordinary, every day people. Número dos (#2), to learn more about the black experience, history and culture in Perú as my hobby is exploring black heritage in Latin American countries.

Dressing down is important because you don't want to be marked as a tourist; it invites robbers, pickpockets, and cheats, especially when traveling alone.

I avoid major hotels and tourist attractions with a couple of exceptions. In one instance, I veered into the Lima Hilton Hotel to eat breakfast because I could not find a restaurant open at 7:00 in the morning in the part of town where I happened to be spending the night while on my way to Ecuador. In Ecuador, I had to visit La Mitad del Mundo (the middle of the world) on the equator. I wanted to get my picture taken with one foot in the northern hemisphere and the other in the southern. It was there where I bought a Panama hat for $22.00 ($160 in the US). I also bought some nice warm, stylish looking sweaters. The equator in Ecuador is chilly being that it is up in the Andes Mountains.




To get around in Perúvian cities, I catch a combi as much as possible.





In Cuba, I didn't have much of a choice. I was traveling with a special group and was given a guided bicycle tour of Havana's famous sites such as Revolutionary Square (La Plaza de la Revolución. The good part was I got to stay with a family in a non-touristy area of Havana, where I made it my business to immerse myself in the community and spend as little time with other tourists as possible. I choose to live like a local, staying with families whenever possible, riding public transportation, or renting a hotel in the barrio (the ‘hood). Most of my time was spent among the so-called lower class. Therefore, I dressed down (no bling bling) to try to fit in.









Havana's Revolutionary Square








Dressing down is important because you don't want to be marked as a tourist; it invites robbers, pickpockets, and cheats, especially when traveling alone. On two occasions I ventured into one of Lima's roughest neighborhoods La Victoria where Perú's famous soccer team Alianza Lima have their stadium. What did I do? I went into the area wearing an Alianza Lima team jersey. Thus instead of being harassed, I was cheered. People shook my hand because they were fans. People drove by honking their horns and giving me the thumbs up shouting "ALIANZA LIMA-A-A-A-A-A-A-A! I wonder if they thought I was one of the players. After all, I fit the profile--black and athletic :-)












The La Victoria section of Lima, Perú is the rough part of town.














As a traveler in Latin America, I endure a standard of living that would “annoy” the average tourist. As a result, I had more spending money to enjoy myself and at the same time, to help others who were much less fortunate than the average American family living below the poverty line. It was a total joy, a heartfelt pleasure, and worth every penny to see how they were enjoying my company and my treats. I achieved my goal of making lifetime friends, learning the cultures, but most importantly, improving my Spanish.

Quito, Ecuador

After a couple of weeks in Perú, I decided to take a peek north into Ecuador and took a luxury bus from Lima. I was so surprised that it took 16 hours or so just to get out of Perú. When my bus stopped in Guayaquil, in Southern Ecuador, I decided to catch a cab to the airport, then fly to Quito, the nations capital.

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I was so surprised that it took my bus so long to get out of Perú and into Ecuador. Neither country is that large.

Quito was important to me because it is closer to two large black communities, and I had to make a choice. There was Esmeraldas on the west coast, 70% black, consisting mostly of descendants of escaped slaves who built fortresses for protection. I chose not to go there because I didn’t want to deal with the heat, the mosquitoes, nor the rumored crime and drugs. Instead, I chose to visit a quiet black community up in the Andes called Valle de Chota (Chota Valley) where descendants of emancipated slaves live. I was also attracted to Valle de Chota because it produced so many of Ecuador’s soccer stars who shined in the 2006 World Cup Games.

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Plaza Presidential (Presidential Plaza) in Quito, Ecuador

It was in Quito where I met Gloria who was introduced through an Ecuadorian Facebook friend living in Germany. Gloria was a wonderful guide who treated me like family. She escorted me to La Mitad del Mundo (the middle of the world), right along the equator. This is the only touristy thing I did other than visit the Afro Ecuadorian Cultural Center, which was closed.

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Gloria, whom I met through a Facebook friend, showed me around Quito

Although Ecuador has a much larger black population than Perú, racism is alive and well. You will not find blacks, indigenous, or Asians working in banks or major office buildings, and very few working in shops. I didn't see any black police officers, bus drivers, or cab drivers. It’s hard for a black person to catch a taxi cab during certain hours, especially on Friday nights. In fact, one Friday evening while trying to get to Gloria's house, I had to wave five-dollar bills to get a taxi to accept me. It was so interesting how pleased and relaxed the driver became when he learned that I was a harmless African-American tourist and not the feared African-Ecuadorian native.

Afro-Peruvian Heritage Month



In October 2005, I visited Lima, Perú for the first time where my goal was to immerse myself in the Spanish language as I had done in Cuba and Mexico several years prior. At the same time, I wanted to explore the black community and its experience.

In Lima, I met only a handful of blacks, but during my weekend trips to the Southern Perúvian district of El Carmen, I was introduced to the black life of Perú, along with that of indigenous ancestries, such as the Inca and Amayra people.


I stayed with a prominent musical family known as the Ballumbrosio family where the father, the late, great Amador Ballumbrosio, played a major role in reviving and promoting Afro-Perúvian music and dance which, today, are national treasures.

I was greeted warmly and taken in by the Ballumbrosio family who made me feel like an extended family member. I was also developing friendships with their neighbors and other members of the community. Every Friday and Saturday night I was invited to a party or a social event that provided greater opportunity for cultural exchange. I didn’t have to go anywhere for entertainment. It was all right there in the community. People were as curious about me as I was about them. The Province of Chincha is located on the southern pacific coast of Perú where every February they celebrate Black Heritage with a festival called Verano Negro (Black Summer).



















St. Martin de Porres, an Afro-Perúvian priest noted for his tireless work on behalf of the poor.
A district in Lima is named in his honor.

Sources can’t seem to agree on the black population of Perú. Some sources say 3-5%, other sources say 9-10%. However, there is one thing on which most sources do agree… that the first blacks to arrive in Peru in 1521 were members of Spanish military forces, known in our history book as the conquistadors. There were black conquistadores sprinkled all over the western hemisphere during that period of time. In fact, Fernando Cortez sent a black conquistador into what is now Arizona and New Mexico.



Ronaldo Campos, founder of the world's famous dance troupe Perú Negro (Black Peru)





Slavery in Perú didn’t occur until much later in history and that ended in 1856. To this day, just as African Americans celebrate Juneteenth (or June 19th) in commemoration of Abraham Lincoln’ emancipation proclamation, Afro-Peruvian communities celebrate their emancipation proclamation with the popular refrain: Que viva mi papá, que viva mi mamá, que viva Ramón Castilla que nos dio la liberta' Hooray for my Dad, Hooray for my Mom, Hooray for President Castilla who gave us freedom.


Peruvian "Soul Food" at Mamaine Restaurant in El Carmen, Perú

However, it was in the late 1950s to 1970s, a cultural revival brought back old, forgotten African music that inadvertently merged with Spanish and indigenous music during slavery resulting in a whole new genre of music known as Afro Peruvian music. In 1969, a man by the name of Ronaldo Campos dedicated to preserving Afro Peruvian music founded the music and dance troupe Perú Negro (Black Perú). That same year, they won first prize at the International Festival of Dance and Song in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Today, Perú Negro is marketed and billed as the cultural ambassadors of black Perú traveling and performing worldwide. It was they, along with other artists that I’ve seen and heard that inspired me to visit Perú.


Related Posts on Black Perú

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Mejorar la Raza / Improving the Race

 

My father, an African-American, was happy in his second marriage to an Italian-American woman till death did them part. I strongly feel that when you are in love, you are in love. Having common interests and basic similarities in character are also a big help in keeping a marriage together. Such was the case with my father and his wife. However, what I tend to question in so many other interracial marriages is the motive. Is it love or is there something else going on?


In many Latin American countries blanquemiento (whitening) and mejorar la raza (improving the race) are accomplished by having children through interracial marriage. People believe this is the best way to combat racism. It shocked me to learn that many Afro-Latino parents encourage their children to avoid black mates when they come of age. "Think about the children," they would say.

When I was in Ecuador, I hung out with Gloria, an Afro-Ecuadorian woman whom I met through a Facebook friend. She herself was married to a white man and two of her children are married to Europeans. Thus, the skin color of Gloria's grandchildren blend right in with the rest of the Ecuadorian population who hold the better jobs and/or are accepted into universities.

I feel that it's one thing to marry because you love someone, but I cannot understand spending the rest of one's life with someone solely based on skin color. Personally, I prefer a darker woman, and I make that plain when I'm around Afro-Latinos just to make a statement. But, if were to meet a woman of a different color with whom I have a lot in common and to whom I'm truly attracted, I will certainly be open to matrimony.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Luisa of Havana



















The "El Vedado" section of Havana, Cuba where I stayed

One Saturday morning, on a quiet street in the El Vedado section of Havana, Cuba, my classmates and I, who were attending the University of Havana, were mounting our bicycles getting ready for a guided tour of the city. I noticed an attractive Afro-Cuban woman observing us from across the street. When I went over to introduce myself, and her eyes lit up like a neon sign. I could hear virtual cash registers ringing in her head. Just because I'm an American she seemed to have felt that I must be a black relative of Bill Gates or Donald Trump. And she sought to get what she could.

I saw Luisa as opportunity to practice my Spanish and get immersed in Afro-Cuban culture.

In turn, I saw Luisa as opportunity to practice my Spanish and get immersed in Afro-Cuban culture. I met her two children Miguel (7) and Ingrid (5); her mother Isabel, and her brother Ronaldo, as well as another one of her sisters. They lived in a rough-looking housing project across the street from where I was staying. However, after visiting Luisa numerous times, I realized that, although the people were poor, there was hardly any crime.


The first time Luisa and I were alone, her first and most earnest request was that I take her back to the United States. The last thing I wanted in Cuba was a wife; especially a wife who can't see past my wallet. What about my looks, charm, and content of my character? As we spent more and more time together, she started telling her mother, brother and sister, that I was going to take her home with me. My response to her, in private, was that I would prefer to stay here in Cuba, and together we can support the revolution. That shut her up! But later, as she and I went shopping, she lured me over to the appliance section trying to get me to buy her a refrigerator. That was way over my vacation budget.

The last thing I wanted in Cuba find a wife; especially a wife who can't see past my wallet.

As I got to know Luisa better, I realized that she was not being devious. She was desperately trying to make ends meet for her and her two children. When the Russian economy fell, the Russians could no longer support Cuba economically as they had been doing since the 1960s. And with this ongoing, unrelenting trade embargo against Cuba, it was evident that this embargo is not hurting Castro and his henchman nearly as much as it is hurting innocent people like Luisa and her children.

This ongoing, unrelenting trade embargo against Cuba is not hurting Castro and his henchman nearly as much is it is hurting innocent Cuban citizens.

For this reason, I felt good about helping Luisa and her family in ways I could afford. The day before my departure, I gave the children Miguel and Ingrid gifts that they thoroughly appreciated; gifts that average American children take for granted. You can just see the exhilaration in their eyes.

After returning home to Oakland, Luisa and I stayed in touch by phone and by mail. I still have her letters. I just feel bad that it is so difficult to send money or gifts without the Cuban government's greedy interference. I tried to send gifts through Global Exchange, the organization that sponsored my trip, but the gifts never arrived. Luisa, her children,and her mother and are friends separated by politics.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Passing Through El Salvador

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The portion of El Salvador known as Costa del Sol/Sun Coast

The interesting thing about learning to speak a foreign language is that when you are in a country where that language is spoken, and English is not; your level of fluency in that language goes up a few notches by default. I had a seven-hour layover in El Salvador for my next flight to Lima, Perú. I took advantage of those hours by getting a tourist card ($10.00) and leaving the airport to explore the surrounding areas. I hired a taxi at $60.00 for three hours. Our first stop was Café Yessenia in Costa del Sol (Sun Coast) to have lunch.

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My cab driver is having a field day.
He gets cab fare plus lunch on me.

The beauty of this popular tourist attraction was the fact that it was early and we, the cab driver and I, were the only ones there. I try to avoid crowds when I can, which is one of the reasons I no longer live in New York City. Also, I always pick a slow season of the year to travel. We had a great meal as he was filling me in on the people and culture of the area. We then proceeded to drive around and stop at beaches and towns. When I travel, I prefer to see the "real" country and its people versus highly populated tourists areas. This is how you learn the true culture of the country, and in my case, develop fluency in the language.

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We stopped in a grocery store to get some inexpensive goodies. Perhaps, something I could take on my flight to Lima, Perú. I was amused by the looks I was getting from the store clerks; it's like they never seen a black person before. Speaking of black people, I was wondering if the people in the coastal areas of El Salvador had an African presence at one time like so many other areas of Latin America because so many people were so dark. Then I realized that it was not that they had African blood in their veins; they spent too much time working in the sun.

While hanging out with this cab driver, I felt so relaxed speaking Spanish without struggling to translate in my head. I was actually "thinking" in Spanish and not English. Of course, this is not my first time being in a Spanish-speaking country so I understood how this phenomenon works. When I was in Cuba, I even had a couple of dreams in Spanish. Now, that's what I call progress! :-)

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To make sure that I did not miss my plane, I instructed the taxi driver to get me back to the Comalapa Airport two hours before my flight to give me time to get through security and get settled. The taxi driver gave me his business card and encouraged me to call when I pass through El Salvador again .

Monday, May 17, 2010

English & Spanish & Stereotypes

One fine afternoon, I was on an elevator in my office building in Oakland, CA, I tried to strike up a Spanish-speaking conversation with a gentleman wearing an outfit typically worn by farmers or ranchers in Mexico. He looked me up and down with contempt and asked me in perfect English, "what, you're learning Spanish?" By this time, the elevator reached his floor and he stepped off visibly agitated. I'm thinking, man, what is "his" problem?

Ever since I was a child, I've always thought it was so cool to speak a second language. Because I lived around so many Puerto Ricans in New York City, Spanish was the most logical and practical choice. However, as I began teaching myself Spanish out of a children's library book, I became flustered when my Puerto Rican neighbors and schoolmates consistently answered me in English, and hell, with New York accents.

Because I lived around so many Puerto Ricans in New York City, Spanish was the most logical and practical choice of a second language.

This frustration followed me all the way into my adulthood. I began thinking; perhaps, Latinos were ashamed of being Latino and simply wanted to assimilate into American society forgetting their language and culture. Finally, I began asking Latinos friends for the real story. Their answers varied. Many do not want to be stereotyped as Spanish-only or illegal immigrants. Others might get a sense that their English is better than my Spanish, thus would be easier to communicate in English. And there was one response that made the greatest sense of all; if they are learning English, they needed the practice. However, the biggest shocker, speaking of stereotypes, is the fact that there are Latinos growing up in the U.S. whose Spanish is limited, thus, do not feel comfortable speaking Spanish unless they are talking with a monolingual Spanish speaker, preferably a relative. And there those of Latin-American ancestry who don't speak Spanish at all.

I learned that there are Latinos growing up in the U.S. whose Spanish is limited or don't speak any Spanish at all.

For these reasons, I chose to get out more. I mean, out of the country. My first experience of Spanish immersion out of the country was in Cancún, Mexico where I had a 24-hour layover for my next flight to Havana, Cuba. In Cancún, everyone was pleased that I was speaking Spanish; the people at the airport, the cab drivers, the hotel clerks, and the restaurant workers. By the time I arrived in Cuba, I was warmed up.
















The University of Havana, Cuba


In Cuba, I was taking a Spanish intensive course at the University of Havana through the Global Exchange organization based in San Francisco. Global Exchange sends Americans to Cuba for various programs such as language, music and dance, and bicycle tours. One day, a Cuban citizen struck up a conversation with me in English. My mind flashed back to the gentleman on the elevator thinking he may have felt stereotyped as Spanish-only and wanted to put me in my place. Well, I began to feel the same sense of indignation with this Cuban stranger assuming I’m an English-only gringo.

Now, I'm getting a taste of how many Latinos in the U.S, perhaps, were feeling when I would speak to them in Spanish.

I was gritting my teeth, and in my mind, saying to myself that I’m going to teach his narrow ass a lesson. For everything he says in English, I will respond in Spanish. Now, I’m getting a taste of how Latinos in the U.S., perhaps, were feeling when I would speak to them in Spanish. As I kept answering in Spanish, he finally declared his frustration and demanded that I let him practice his English. Again, my mind went back to all the Latinos in the U.S. with whom I tried to practice Spanish. I don’t know if I would have demanded that they'd let me practice my Spanish for that is not my personality, but asking their permission and explaining why would have been a much better approach.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

My Peruvian Goddaughter

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Daniela having fun learning basic computer skills in El Carmen, Perú





Since my return from South America in late December, I have been keeping in touch with my goddaughter Daniela (7) whom I met when she was three on my first trip to Perú. I stay in touch frequently by phone and send money to her big sister who is taking care of her.

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I introduced the game Scrabble in Spanish to Daniela and her friends and family.

Daniela, her friends and neighbors, and I had fun playing scrabble (in Spanish), reading children stories, going to amusement parks, and out for chicken dinners in the nearby town of Chincha Alta. I enjoyed teaching Daniela basic computer skills and to tell time.

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Dining at a chicken and fries joint in Chincha Alta, Perú

As I plan my next trip, I want to spend quality time with Daniela again. She told me that she wanted a bicycle and I intend to buy her one under the condition that she does better in school. In fact, I bought some materials to help her with her math and literacy skills. I will even teach her to speak some English. After our little lessons, I will take her and her friends out for ice cream, soda, and whatever else she wants. I want to plant seeds in her heart to be academically sharp as she grows up.












 

Daniela and I at the Plaza del Armas (main square) in Chincha Alta, Perú

Daniela is now big enough to go out and play and is not always available when I call to tell her that I love her. I miss Daniela and I look forward to seeing her on my next trip to Perú of which I allotted four weeks of my vacation time. My itinerary will include short trips into Ecuador, Chile, and Colombia to round out my vacation.

Perú: Traveling While Black




























With the recent immigration bill signed into law by the governor of Arizona and its resulting outrage, my mind went back to an experience that I had in Perú after crossing the border from neighboring Ecuador. It was in the border town of Tumbes where I got a taste of what many brown-skinned Latinos in the U.S. have to deal with.

As my taxi driver loaded my luggage into his trunk, a member of the Peruvian National Police (PNP) came out of no where asking to see my papers. This particular officer was cool. He even laughed at one of my jokes. It took him only a couple of minutes to see that I was legally in the country, and I was on my way.

I just happened to be wearing my Obama t-shirt, and with both index fingers, I pointed to my t-shirt saying that I work for Barack Obama (LOL).

Within five minutes, my cab was going through a rough-looking area of town, and I felt a little concern for my safety. When I saw another PNP officer standing watch as we approached an intersection, I breathed a sigh of relief. As soon as he saw my black face, he motioned for my driver to stop. This cop was determined to make a bust. He called for backup to further scrutinize my documents. I just happened to be wearing my Obama t-shirt, and with both index fingers, I pointed to my t-shirt saying that I work for Barack Obama, LOL. In a way I do considering that my company receives some federal money to carry out government business. The officers got a little concerned and let me go.


Another five minutes went by when I was stopped by a third officer. This time, I was getting irritated. Trying to hold my temper, I asked, what's the matter officer? He snapped, I want to see your passport, that's what's matter! This officer was more determined than the others to make a bust. Almost losing it, I snapped in Peruvian slang, ¡Despacio, mi español es monse! (slow down, my Spanish is Whack) My cab driver chuckled; I was not laughing. The officer took my passport back to his patrol car to run a check. Once he learned that my passport and tourist card were valid, he began questioning me to see if my responses would be consistent with the data contained in those documents.

Still not satisfied, he asked me what I was doing in Perú. I slid my sun glasses half-way down my nose and eye-balled him as I told him my three reasons. Mind you, had I not spoken Spanish, I may have gone to jail until they could find an interpreter.

Almost losing it, I snapped in Peruvian slang, ¡Despacio, mi español es monse! (Slow down, my Spanish is whack!)

With an "Uppity Negro" attitude, I explained to this cop that (1) I wanted to practice my Spanish. (2) As a hobby, I explore the black experience in Latin American countries. (3) I want to know why there is so much discrimination against black people in his country. I asked him how many black police officers he knows?

The officer realized that he was wasting his time trying to make a bust (or collect a bribe). As he proceeded dejectedly toward his patrol car, I shouted “¡GRACIAS POR LA PRÁCTICA EN ESPAÑOL(Thank you for helping me practice my Spanish)! The cop responded with, "¡YA (yeah, yeah!), My cab driver contained his laughter to avoid any more trouble.

Had I not spoken Spanish, I may have gone to jail until they can find an interpreter.

Here in the USA, when confronted by a cop, I interchangeably address the cop by both the name on his name tag and badge number so I can have it memorized should I need to report him or consult an attorney. I forgot to do this with the PNP because after having been in Perú three times already, I ASSumed that Peruvian cops were above this type of behavior. Next time, I'm reporting it to the Peruvian Board of Tourism.

El Carmen, Perú: Home Away from Home

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I'm in the back, second from the right in the home of the Ballumbrosio family celebrating the birthday of Mamá Adelina Ballumbrosio, second from the left.

El Carmen, Perú has become my home away from home. I have a darling goddaughter in this hub of Afro-Peruvian culture to whose family I cheerfully and joyfully send a money. Money that goes a long way in Perú. More and more people in the community are getting to know me, or at least, have become familiar with my presence. In fact, I'm even flattered that people who didn't have any communication with me on my last trip remembered me upon my return.

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I'm hanging out in front of the home of the Ballumbrosio family where I was staying

There is a drawback, I've found, to all of this familiarity; especially with my reputation as an American with a pocket full of money. Some are begin to think that I'm a walking ATM. One woman showed me her gas and electric bill and asked for help. A young man whom I hired to showed me the ropes around town frequently e-mails me asking for more money. He is now in my spam folder.

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I'm taking my goddaughter Daniela (girl to the far right in red t-shirt) and family and friends to a park and then to dinner in neighboring Chincha Alta.

I thank God that I'm in the position to help others. I feel uplifted when I do. However, since I'm not Bill Gates or Donald Trump (at least not yet--hehehe. There is only so much I can do. Therefore, on my next trip to Perú, my home away from home, i.e., El Carmen de Chincha, Perú I'm going to bring along wisdom and and prayer in regards to my interaction with others.

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Alexandra, granddaughter of the late-great maestro Amador Ballumbrosio who played a key role of reviving and promoting Afro-Peruvian music and dance.