Racism and rural development in Afro-Peruvian communities

Racism and rural development in Afro-Peruvian communities

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By Vanesa Verástegui Ollé

One of the proofs of existing racism towards Afro-descendants in Peru is the impoverishment of these communities and the precariousness of medical health services, to which they often do not have access, the unsound infrastructure of homes, schools, the deficient education provided to them; health problems, lack of electricity, drinking water and environmental control.

Along the Peruvian coast there are about 85 Afro-Peruvian communities whose formation dates from the time of colonial slavery; Colonial documents prove their historicity (1). However, this population tends to remain on the margins of cooperation and rural development programs and is not included in regional and local plans. Unlike Colombia, where the 1993 Constitution recognizes the legal status of “black communities” through Law 70 or Law of Negritudes for the rural area of ​​Choco, Cauca (2), in Peru many doubts are raised about the territoriality, autonomy and possession of agricultural lands by Afro-Peruvians because they are not native or occupy these lands before the Spanish, as is the case of the indigenous.

Since the abolition of slavery in 1854, the black population in Peru could not integrate socially after their liberation and expulsion from the large estates by their owners, for whom they were already unproductive. Many ex-slaves went to the city and worked in low-paid, low-status trades or ended up residing in slum and poor areas. (3)

The Afro-Peruvian communities originated in the old palenques located in the areas of El Ingenio, Morropón, la Banda, El Guayabo, they were also settled inside or outside the colonial haciendas (4). On these estates, slaves of African origin were forced to work as laborers on sugar and cotton plantations. Currently, these communities are located in Chincha, Ica, Nazca, Piura (5) and Lambayeque, and are not considered as cultural heritage of knowledge, nor are their oral traditions (6) studied by the Academy.

In Colombia, in the Choco area, characterized by its biodiversity, the black population is organized around peasant economies, while in Peru the bulk of the population of African origin living in peripheral rural districts is supported by agricultural work eventual. For their part, the black communities of Ecuador in the Esmeraldas area are organized on the basis of discourses of land management and conservation. (7)

Although we cannot force Afro-Peruvian communities to register within the indigenous peasant model, they are cultural communities with local and regional specificities.

The main economic activity in those communities or villages is agriculture; However, according to the study by APEIDO- Pluri-ethnic Association for Community and Social Development “The Afro-Peruvian presence in the development of agriculture in Cañete”, (8) during the Agrarian Reform, Afro-Peruvian communities were excluded from the parcelling of lands, resulting a discriminatory practice towards this community. They were also not taken into account in the Special Program for Land Titling (PETT) promoted by the State in the 1990s.

In rural areas, the black farmer has not changed his peasant status since he stopped being a slave, while in Colombia, for example, there is a significant sector of the middle class made up of Afro-descendants who became landowners, since the former Slaves seized agricultural lands - the El Pílamo haciendas - when their owners abandoned them after the crisis in colonial agriculture. This is the difference with our country, because while the Afro-Peruvian peasant was not considered in the distribution of land, in Colombia, the black population became prosperous peasants, whom later in the 20th century during the Agrarian Reform of the Seventy even expropriated their farms.

One of the proofs of existing racism towards Afro-descendants in Peru is the impoverishment of these communities and the precariousness of medical health services, to which they often do not have access, the unsound infrastructure of homes, schools, the deficient education provided; health problems, lack of electricity, drinking water and environmental control.

Added to this are natural disasters that only confirm the invisibility of these communities before the Peruvian State. Thus, the earthquake of August 15, 2007 was yet another proof of racism and disinterest on the part of the State towards the Afro-descendant population, one of the most affected during the earthquake, since government aid was conspicuous by its absence in the communities from El Carmen, Chincha Alta, San José, San Regis and Pueblo Negro. (9)

According to reports from INDECI - National Civil Defense Institute, Chincha was the area with the most affected families, even more than Pisco and Ica, places where aid was mostly concentrated. The August earthquake destroyed the old and fragile adobe houses, exposing the impoverishment of these families. (10)

For this reason, various decentralized public hearings have been held in communities in the North, Center and South (11) where the Afro-Peruvian population is concentrated as a follow-up to the agreements of the Santiago and Durban Plans of Action, resulting in the preparation of the document “ Platform of Afro-Peruvian Communities ”with 15 specific actions that demand the Peruvian State (2000) (12). Among the demands are to incorporate the ethnic variable in national censuses as a quantitative and vindictive measure of Afro-descendants in Peru, guarantee basic services in Afro-Peruvian communities through investments in health systems, education, electricity, drinking water; establish a Technical Secretariat for Afro-descendant Population Affairs in the regions and macro-regions to monitor policies and plans in favor of the communities.

Likewise, the need to incorporate Afro-Peruvian communities into the extreme poverty map and apply financing policies to agricultural campaigns of small Afro-descendant farmers came to light; save the property of the lands placed as collateral for agrarian credits. (13)

In fact, the recognition of the ownership of ancestral lands is part of the ethnic discourse of Afro-descendants in Latin America that emerged as New Social Movements (14) since 2000 from the III Regional Conference of the Americas in Santiago (15) of Chile- (PRECOM) of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and other related Intolerance, which took place in Durban (Africa 2001). In both conferences, the use of the category “Afro-descendant” was proposed to combat stereotypes and thus construct the racial categories of “black” or “black”.

Since then, the demands of Afro-Peruvian organizations, such as those in Latin America, have become identity politics as a strategy to reverse the conditions of discrimination and racism in which they are mired. (16) His actions revolve around what scholars call the political-cultural perspective, which, for the Colombian anthropologist Arturo Escobar, is about the cultural practices and meanings of dissidents and marginals in opposition to a dominant cultural order. (17) Or as Peter Wade points out, a representation of history is thus created according to which all those with black roots have inherited something in common: slavery, racial discrimination and the fight against one and the other ... ”(1996 : 287). (18)

Starting in Santiago and Durban, the Afro-descendant population demands that the States legally solve the problems of ownership of ancestral lands inhabited by Afro-descendants and adopt measures that promote their development within the territories they occupy. (19) In the Peruvian case, the notions of territoriality and of people are pending points within the Afro-Peruvian movement's agenda and will be one of the mechanisms to achieve equal opportunities in favor of development and poverty reduction in Afro-Peruvian rural communities. .

The weakness of the Afro-Peruvian movement is a disadvantage in being able to resolve conflicts between territory and ethnicity; while the peasant movement of the Paitía river area of ​​Colombia has organizational political experiences whose discourse knew how to interweave ethnic categories (territorial identity) with class categories (peasant organization).

Around the ACAPA - Peasant Association of Paitia Grande- collective land titling was achieved at the time of the Agrarian Reform through INCORA - Colombian Institute of Agrarian Reform. If we compare with the Peruvian case, the black farmer does not develop his vision of the world around an ethnic discourse of the indigenous model - that of ancestry, autonomy and territoriality - being their identities more linked to local traditions.

However, it has been possible to incorporate into the National Human Rights Plan 2006-2010 (20) the need to create a legal framework for the protection and promotion of the Afro-Peruvian population in equal conditions of rights of indigenous peoples, peasant communities and native: "The possibility of recognizing the same rights for Afro-descendant communities will be studied." (twenty-one)

In addition to promoting the visibility of the Afro-descendant population as a constitutive part of the Peruvian nation. (22)

Rural communities do not have the breadth of the geographic space of the original populations and represent only 10% of the Peruvian population, approximately 2,500,000 people; however, they are cultural communities with history, identity and traditions with rights to an ethnic citizenship because they are part of the Peruvian nation. In other words, a “differentiated citizenship” as proposed by Iris Marion Young (1989), since they must be incorporated into the official political community not only as individuals but also as a collectivity or as “poly-ethnic rights” according to Will Kymlicka (1994). , which are legal measures for the particularities of disadvantaged groups. Because more than the literal concepts of ancestrality and territoriality, the importance is in the agency and in the epistemology of the subaltern. Thus, for the Venezuelan Jesús Chucho García, it is about rescuing the Afro-descendant historical subject (23) from "inside" to reconstruct knowledge about themselves (24) who, as identities and culture of resistance, reinvent pasts and build memories collective historical.

Vanesa Verástegui Ollé -Master's student in anthropology at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú. - Activist of the Impulsor Group Against Racism and Other Forms of Discrimination - GIM PERU - Member of the Rural Development program of the Flora Tristán Center for Peruvian Women


1- Newton Mori, researcher at the Center for Ethnic Development - CEDET has identified approximately 85 rural communities, many of them small or in the process of depopulation. In: “The State and the Afro-Peruvian people. Balance and proposals of the Afro-Peruvian process before the agreements of the Regional Conference of the Americas ”. Pp.6

2- Fernando Urrea and Teodora Hurtado. "The construction of ethnicities in contemporary Colombian society: an exemplary case for a discussion on ethnicity of racial groups". IEP- Institute of Peruvian Studies and Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú. 2002. Pp. 165-199

3- Carlos Aguirre. In: Brief history of slavery in Peru. A wound that won't stop bleeding. Editorial Fund of the Congress of Peru. 2005.

4- The best-known hacienda is San José, founded by the Jesuits in 1692; in 1767 it was owned by the Conde Montemar y Monteblanco family.

5- Only in the community of Yapatera-Cruz Pampa, province of Morrropón, district of Chulucanas, in Piura, 6,000 Afro-Peruvians reside.

6- The sociologist Luis Rocca has works on collective memory in the town of Zaña where he has collected testimonies of artistic songs published in 1985 as “La Otra Historia”.

7- Catherine Wash. “Deconstruct interculturality. Critical considerations from politics, coloniality and indigenous and black movements in Ecuador ”. 116-139.

8- 2003 Report commissioned by the World Bank. Opt, Pp. 60.

9- “For a reconstruction of the Life Plan. February. Year V. Nº 6. February 2008. Publication of LUNDU- Center for Afro-Peruvian Studies and Promotion.

10- Ibidem.

11- The decentralized public hearings have been developed by the organization CEDET- Center for Ethnic Development.

12- This document was signed by 16 organizations such as a Surveillance Committee for the Peruvian State.

13- Ibidem. 35

14- Theoretical proposal of the studies of Social Movements whose representatives are Alberto Melucci, Alan Touraine, Ernesto Laclau, Chantal Mouffe, Joe Foweraker that focuses on culture and collective identities.

15- Preparatory meeting in Chile for the World Conference against Racism in Durban.

16- Segato, Rita, “Racism, discrimination and affirmative actions: conceptual tools”. In: Educating in intercultural citizenship, 2007, pp. 67.

17- Arturo Escobar. The end of the wild. CEREC. YO PUEDO. Santa Fe de Bogota. 1999: 205-206.

18- Ibidem.

19- Opt. Pp 59-60.

20- Through the work of CEDET- Centro de Desarrollo Etnico, an urban NGO in Lima. He works in Afro-Peruvian communities, both urban and rural.

21- National Human Rights Plan 2006-2010. 28-28.

22- Ibidem.

23- Chucho García, Jesús, “Encounters and misunderstandings of knowledge about Latin American Africa”, Daniel Matos (coord.). In: Studies and other Latin American intellectual practices in Culture and Power. Caracas. Latin American Council of Social Sciences- CLACSO and CEAPS, FACES. Central University of Venezuela, pp. 145-151.

24- Ibidem, p. 149.

Video: Ori-Gen Livestream Series: The Warrior Women of Afro Peruvian Music (June 2022).


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