Peru: For Blacks in Peru, There’s No Room at the Top

Although published in 1996, this New York Times articles provides some insights into the everyday life of the black population within Peru. In Peruvian society, menial jobs are reserved almost exclusively for blacks, and their skin color is considered to bring an aura of prestige to the work.  The article recounts that black doormen in elegant colonial uniforms stand guard at most luxury hotels in Lima, and stern-faced black pallbearers in tuxedos carry the coffins at most upscale funerals in the city.

Throughout the city, help-wanted advertisements seeking chauffeurs, cooks, doormen, butlers and maids often state a preference for ”negros” or ”morenos,” as blacks are known in Peru, an Andean nation of 23 million people who are mainly of Spanish and Indian descent. It is reported that blacks make up less than 1 percent of Peru’s population but recent calculations dispute this figure

Many black Peruvians who hold these posts say they are proud of their work.  They consider it a tribute to their race that blacks are preferred for these tasks.  However, not all black Peruvians take pride in working these menial jobs.  Some view as a throwback to Peru’s long history of slavery, which was abolished in 1854.

The Movement for Human Rights of Blacks in Peru is one of three black political groups that have emerged in recent years to represent the interest of black Peruvians.  In 2009, the Peruvian government apologized to Afro-Peruvians for centuries of abuse and exclusion, according to media reports.  The government hopes to promote the “true integration” of Peru’s multicultural population.  Click here to read New York Times article.

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