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.
Related Posts on Black Perú


  1. I traveled a lot when I was in the navy & I found the racist mind set of the latin culture was just as bad or worse from puerto rico to brazil and all in between.

  2. This is a great post!!! I am an African American woman who recently traveled to Peru to volunteer and learn about Peruvian culture. I spent 2 weeks in Peru. My first week was spent volunteering in Lima and the second week traveling. During my time there I also recall to put mildly having a number of "interesting" experiences. Again as you previously stated until I was recognized as a tourist (well most of the time anyway). I only encountered one Afro-Peruvian who I served daily during my first week of volunteering. She was very happy to meet me that it brought her to tears. I inquired about why I saw NO other Afro-Peruvians anywhere and was told that they lived outside of Lima. I recognize that the Afro heritage was alive because I could make out the rhythms in the music that I listened to on the radio and some of the cd's that I found in the airport but other than that there was no other indications that Afro-Peruvian people existed. In addition, my Spanish is not very good. Traveling alone as a black woman I encountered a lot of men yelling things at me. At that time, I would attributed this to me being a women or a tourist and not me being a Black woman, or better yet a Black female tourist. It wasn't until I came across other International English speaking travelers (who tended to be white) did I realize that they were not having the same experiences that I have had. This goes for White women who traveled alone. That I recognized it had something to do with me being Black. Interestingly enough, I had interesting experiences on pretty much every tour. On one tour I asked my tour guide why some of these things kept occurring and he said something about black skin being seen as good luck. Another time this occurred while on a different tour and my guide would not relay the comments but was was obviously disturbed. Despite some of these things my experience was amazing,wonderful, and unforgettable and I plan to return....but when I do I will seek out Afro-Peruvians and travel to the towns you mentioned. Thank you, you have helped me to put some things into perspective.


  3. I don't agree with you ! I have a peruvian friend, he's zambo (black & native american), and he was born in Lima. These elements show that there is black people, indigenous people in the capital... He has never seen Indian peruvian as there are represented (with a lama, a peruvian cap & blablaa). Because Indigenous people are in the mountains. The native american who are in the cities as Callao, Lima, etc immigrated to have a better life.
    For the Asian people, the ex president, before humala & Garcia, was Fujimori... a japonese !
    The actual president is Indian !
    The minister of culture in Peru is Susana Baca,an afroperuvian woman (you know her).

    There is many elements who show that there are no racism as you describe it in you post. ;)

  4. Do you know "Villa El Salvador " ?
    It's a favelas in Lima. About Villa El Salvador, you go to know Maria Elena Moyano, an Afro peruvian woman.. a great afro peruvian woman :)

  5. SignaCaro, discriminacion en trabajos es muy evidente en Perú. En el aeropuerto yo ví no más de cuatro empleados. En los bancos, los empleados son solamente blancos. No negros, no indígenas, no mestizos. Si no es racista, ¿que es eso?


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