In Peru, black is an invisible color

October 14, 2013

  • Afro-Peruvians are largely invisible to the government and much of Peruvian society.
  • In Piura, 26% of Afro-Peruvian children are not enrolled in school.
  • Up to 70% of Afro-Peruians do not seek medical attention for fear of discrimination.

Half of Afro-Peruvians have been insulted at least once on the street whereas four of every 10 have felt discriminated against in their workplace or in shops or other public spaces.

These figures are from the Center for Afro-Peruvian Studies and Promotion, which reports that despite some progress, Afro-Peruvians continue to be invisible to the government as well as much of society.

View the “Proudly Afro-Peruvian” video

The country’s international image is tied mainly to its Inca heritage, to Machu Picchu and to the indigenous population. It is an image that ignores the diversity and complexity of the human geography of Peru, especially Afro-Peruvians.

If this population is mentioned at all, it is only in reference to music or sports figures. This is something which many Afro-Peruvians believe only reinforces stereotypes.

 “When I say I don’t dance, don’t cook and don’t play an instrument, people say ‘how could you be black? You are a fake!’” said a young Afro-Peruvian from Lambayeque Department recently.

Racism and exclusion

“Although they live mainly in urban areas, 70% of Afro-Peruvians surveyed who became ill in the past year did not seek medical attention due to the lack of access and perceived discrimination. Of that group, 27.7 % suffered from chronic health problems,” said Germán Freire, a World Bank social development expert.

The last time a racial variable was included in the census to identify the number of Afro-Peruvians was in 1940. Currently, efforts are being made to include this group in national statistics.

This discrimination is not only a question of racism, but also of real consequences in the lives of many people who are excluded from society and who cannot exercise their most basic rights.

The Ombudsman’s Office reported that – compared with the rest of the population – Afro-Peruvians lagged behind in areas such as health, education and employment opportunities.

A clear example of this reality occurs in the City of Piura (1,000 kilometers north of Lima), where 26% of Afro-Peruvian children are not enrolled in school.

But Peru is making efforts to remedy this situation. In November, the Ministry of Culture and the Ombudsman’s Office will conduct the first national survey specifically targeting Afro-Peruvian households.  

It is hoped that this survey will provide detailed information that can serve as a baseline for the 2017 National Census, which will include questions to validate ethnic and racial information throughout the country.

Recently, the Ministry of Culture of Peru and the World Bank inaugurated the Afro-Peru photography and video exhibit, which features 25 portraits by photographer Kike Arnal.