Peru: “El que no tiene de Inga tiene de Mandinga”

There is a saying in Peru – “el que no tiene de Inga tiene de Mandinga” – which means every Peruvian has either some indigenous or African blood.  It is an often-quoted proverb used to explain the country’s blend of races.  Racial mixing began mixing with the Spanish conquistadors who overran the Inca Empire in the 16th Century, and continued with successive waves of African slaves, indentured Chinese laborers and migrants from Japan and Europe.  The phrase speaks of a melting-pot nation but does not hint at Peru’s deep-set prejudices.


The country has socio-economic gaps along race lines and its inherent, if subtle, discrimination can mean an indigenous woman may only ever work as a maid; a black man may only ever aspire to be a hotel doorman.  This is the kind of everyday racism that dictates the lives of many Peruvians.  Last November, Peru became the first country in the region to apologize to its African-descended population for centuries of abuse, exclusion and discrimination.


Yet the country is considered one of the most backward nations in the Americas when it comes to legislation against racism, and promoting equal opportunities.  ”In the fight against racial discrimination we’ve come up against certain limits,” said Mayta Capac Alatrista, director of the Institute for the Development of Andean, Amazonian and Afro-Peruvian Peoples.  While Lundu and other Afro-Peruvians movements welcome the state apology they agree they cannot wait for the state to take concrete action.


“We can’t wait for another generation. We need a change right now”, said Ms Monica Carrillo, an African-Peruvian civil rights campaigner.  Black Peruvians make up around 10% of Peru’s 29.5 million population.  The majority are trapped in poverty and lack opportunities: Indigenous and African-descendants in Peru earn 40% less than mixed-race people.   Click here to read full article in the BBC.


    I go to Perú every year, primarily to practice my Spanish, but also to see my goddaughter who live in the heavily populated black area of Chincha. It really amazes me when meet Peruvians here in the U.S. and in Perú who tell me there is no racism in their country. I walk into a back in Chincha and I don’t see one black or brown face working behind the desk or behind the counter. I hardly see a black or brown face working in the offices, shops, or at the airport. When I ask why, I can’t get an intelligent answer.

    In my blog, “Racism, Latin-American Style,”, I talk about Javier, an Afro-Peruvian who works odd jobs from sun up to sun down because he cannot find a decent job due to racial discrimination.

  • Bill – Thanks for the post. Have you had any experience or interaction with those organizations that represent the interests of Afro-Peruvians, such as Lundu?

  • Kendal–Actually I have. In fact, I’m working on a blog post as we speak about Black Peruvian Civil Rights organizations. I’ve met people from Makungu Para El Dessarrollo and Ashanti. I just wrote Monica Carrillo on Facebook, who happens to be the executive director of Lundu, telling that I want to visit Lundu on my next trip to Perú and get my goddaughter, who happens to be Afro-Peruvian, involved.

    Bill Smith
    African American-Latino World