Afro-Peruvians (also Afro Peruvians) are citizens of Peru descended from Africans who were enslaved and brought to the Western hemisphere with the arrival of the conquistadors towards the end of the slave trade. Peru is considered to have the seventh largest Black African population in the Western Hemisphere, following Brazil, Haiti, the United States, Canada, Colombia and Ecuador.
|Regions with significant populations|
Predominantly Roman Catholicism|
a minority of Protestantism, Animism, Other
|Related ethnic groups|
|African people, Afro-Brazilian People and Peruvian people|
The first Africans arrived with the conquistadors in 1521, mostly as slaves, and some returned with colonists to settle in 1525. Between 1529 and 1537, when Francisco Pizarro was granted permits to import 363 slaves to colonial Peru, a large group of Africans were imported to do labor for public construction, building bridges and road systems. They also fought alongside the conquistadors as soldiers and worked as personal servants and bodyguards. In 1533 Afro-Peruvian slaves accompanied Spaniards in the conquest of Cuzco.
Two types of black slaves were imported to Peru. Those born in Africa were commonly referred to as negros bozales ("untamed blacks"), which was also used in a derogatory sense. These slaves could have been directly shipped from west or southwest Africa or transported from the Spanish Indies or other Spanish colonies. Afro-Peruvians previously acculturated to Spanish culture and who spoke Spanish were called negros ladinos ("hispanicized blacks"). Some were mulattos, descendants of Spanish men and African women. People of color performed skilled and unskilled functions that contributed to Hispanic colonization.
In urban areas Afro-Peruvians were cooks, laundresses, maids, handymen, and gardeners. In some cases, they worked in the navy, hospitals, churches and charitable institutions. In 1587, 377 people of African descent worked in the shipyards. The industry included a significant number of blacks working in quarries, kilns and construction projects. There were not enough Spanish workers to build the colony, so blacks essentially kept the economy running. Gradually, Afro-Peruvians were concentrated in specialized fields that drew upon their extensive knowledge and training in skilled artisan work and in agriculture.
In the social hierarchy of the slave stratum, the black artisans had the highest rank due to their skills. They worked as carpenters, tailors, blacksmiths, swordsmiths and silversmiths. This group enjoyed more freedom than their fellows who worked at large haciendas or in private households. Spanish small-business keepers would dispatch a whole team of servant-artisans to do a job independently and then return to their owner. As the prices for artisans rose, black artisans gained better treatment and sometimes took a role of a low-ranking employee. Skilled trades were a major avenue of social progress for the colored population. Due to their high skills, Afro-Peruvians gained prestige among Spanish noblemen. They occupied a relatively low social stratum but had some status related to the natives, and were considered above the emerging class of mestizos (descendants of indigenous people and Spanish colonists).
As the mestizo population grew, the role of Afro-Peruvians as intermediaries between the indigenous residents and the Spaniards lessened. The mestizo population increased through liaisons between Spanish and indigenous Peruvians. The elite Spanish developed a caste system based on racial descent and color, to protect their privileges and their Spanish and mestizo children. In this system, Spaniards were at the top, mestizos in the middle, and Africans and the indigenous populations at the bottom. Mestizos inherited the privilege of helping the Spanish administer the country.
As additional immigrants arrived from Spain and settled Peru, the mestizos tried to keep the most lucrative jobs for themselves. In the early colonial period, Afro-Spaniards and Afro-Peruvians frequently worked in the gold mines because of their familiarity with the techniques. Gold mining and smithing were common in parts of western Africa from at least the fourth century. But, after the early colonial period, few Afro-Peruvians would become goldsmiths or silversmiths.
In the end Afro-Peruvians were relegated to heavy labor on sugarcane and rice plantations of the northern coast, or the vineyards and cotton fields of the southern coast. In the countryside they were represented in wet-nursing, housekeeping, domestics, cowboys, animal herding, etc. After Indians became scarce as labor force on haciendas, the people of color gained a title of yanakuna, hitherto assigned only to indigenous servants with full right to own a piece of land and a day to work on it. Afro-Peruvians often exercised agency by using huido (translated as escape, flight) from haciendas and changing masters on their own initiative or joining the cimarrones (armed gangs of runaway slaves that formed small communities in the wilderness and raided travel merchants). The indigenous population were used to work in the silver mines, where they had more expert knowledge than West Africans or Spanish, even in the pre-Columbian eras.
Over the course of the slave trade, approximately 95,000 slaves were brought into Peru, with the last group arriving in 1850. Often slaves were initially transported to Cuba and Hispaniola, from where traders brought them to Panama and the Viceroyalty of Peru. Planters and others also purchased slaves in Cartagena, Colombia or Veracruz, Mexico, at trade fairs, and they returned to Peru with the new slaves imported by the slave ships. As a result of the "New laws" of 1548 and the influence of the denunciation of the abuses against Native Americans by Friar Bartolomé de las Casas, slaves gradually replaced natives at the encomiendas.
Slave owners in Peru developed preferences to have slaves from specific areas of Africa (believed to have certain characteristics); they wanted to have slaves of one area who could communicate with each other. They believed slaves from Guinea, from the Senegal River down to the Slave Coast, were easier to manage and had marketable skills. They already knew how to plant and cultivate rice, train horses, and herd cattle on horseback. The slave owners also preferred slaves from the area stretching from Nigeria to eastern Ghana. The slave owners' third choice was for slaves from Congo, Mantenga, Cambado, Misanga, Mozambique, Madagascar, Terranova (who were probably bought in Porto-Novo, Benin), Mina and Angola.
In the 17th century some owners began the process of manumission of people of color. In some cases, slaves were allowed to buy their freedom, and a free Afro-Peruvian social class emerged. Slaves had to pay a high amount to buy their freedom; some were allowed to earn money on the side or, if leased out, keep a portion of their earnings. Others raised loans, and some were granted freedom by their master. Even when free, independent blacks were not considered equal to Spaniards. Free people of color enjoyed equal privileges in certain aspects, for instance, there are records of free Africans buying and selling land as well. Freed blacks engaged in various entrepreneurial activities, of which trade was a significant factor. Some people of African descent became owners of shops. But, the status of a free citizen brought new challenges and conditions that a man of color had to face. A freed person of color needed to have a job, was required to pay the tribute, was called to serve in the militia to defend the state. All were under supervision of the Holy Office.
The Crown raised revenues on the freed black population. A decree that compelled former slaves to hire themselves out to and reside with a Spaniard master was another way to limit freedom of emancipated blacks. While some did stay with Spanish in order to save money, the large majority successfully defied the rule and began building "joint communities" to support each other. A discrimination policy with big and long-term impact was the exclusion of blacks and mulattoes from education. Universities and schools largely run by the Church forbade the non-white population to enroll, under the justification that they were "unworthy of being educated". Wealthy, skilled, capable mulattoes however made their way through the political ladder and achieved occupation of minor official posts.
In 1856, President Ramón Castilla y Marquezado declared slavery abolished.
Today, Afro-Peruvian communities celebrate the landmark decision of Castilla with a popular refrain:
|Que viva mi papá,
Que viva mi mamá,
Que viva Ramón Castilla
Que nos dio la liberta'
|Hooray for my Dad,|
Hooray for my Mom,
Hooray for Ramón Castilla
Who gave us liberty
The newly freed citizens typically took the last name of their former owners. For instance, slaves in the service of the Florez family named themselves "Florez" or "Flores".
Despite the gradual emancipation of most black slaves in Peru, slavery continued along the Pacific coast of South America throughout the 19th century, as Peruvian slave traders kidnapped Polynesians, primarily from the Marquesas Islands and Easter Island and forced them to perform physical labour in mines and in the guano industry of Peru and Chile.
Afro-Peruvian music has its roots in the communities of black slaves brought to work in the mines along the Peruvian coast. As such, it's a fair way from the Andes, culturally and geographically. However, as it developed, particularly in the 20th century, it drew on Andean, Spanish, and African traditions, while its modern exponents also have affinities with Andean nueva canción. The music was little known even in Peru until the 1950s, when it was popularized by the seminal performer Nicomedes Santa Cruz, whose body of work was taken a step further in the 1970s by the group Perú Negro and then in 2002 by Peru Expresion. Internationally, this form of music has had recent international publicity through David Byrne's Luaka Bop label, issuing the compilation Perú Negro and solo albums by Susana Baca.
Today, Afro-Peruvians (also known as Afrodescent Peruvians) reside mainly on the central and south coast, with the majority of the population in the provinces of Lima, Callao, Nazca, Chincha, Ica and Cañete. Many Afro-Peruvians live on the northern coast in Lambayeque and Piura. The greatest concentration of Afro-Peruvians and mestizos of Afrodescent is in the Callao, an area that has historically received many of the Afro-Peruvians from the north and southern coast.
On the southern coast of the Ica Region, there are many cotton fields and vineyards, and the area is commonly known for its black populations such as that in El Carmen of the populous Chincha Province. There are other such towns in the Nazca, Ica City and in the district of San Luis in the Cañete Province near Lima, and Nazca to the south of Lima. In Lima, the towns best known for having large concentrations of Afro-descended populations are Puente Piedra, Chorrillos, Rimac, and La Victoria.
Afro-Peruvians also reside in the northern regions of Peru such as La Libertad and Ancash, but the larger populations are concentrated in the northern valley plantations of the regions of Piura and Lambayeque.
Most Afro-Peruvian communities live in rural farming areas where mango, rice, and sugarcane production is present. Contrary to the southern coast, these communities are mainly found away from the coastal shores and into the region of the yungas, where the plain meets the Andes.
The greatest Afro-Peruvian populations of the north coast are found mainly in the outskirts of the Morropón Province and concentrate themselves in Piura and Tumbes. The central province of Morropón is well known for its black communities in cities such as Chulucanas, Yapatera, Chapica del Carmelo, La Matanza, Pabur (Hacienda Pabur), Morropón, Salitral, Buenos Aires, San Juan de Bigote and Canchaque, and to the north Tambogrande. All of these cities belong to the Piura Region, where there are large rice fields and mango plantations. South of the Lambayeque Region and north of La Libertad where sugarcane production was very productive in the past, there are several cities known for their black inhabitants. Examples are the colonial city of Saña in Lambayeque, famous for being the second most important Afro-Peruvian city of the Peruvian north. Tuman, Capote, Cayaltí, and Batán Grande within the region of Lambayeque also have large amounts of Afro-Peruvian populations in the sugarcane region.
The populations of Chancay and Aucallama are known in the province of Huaral, and the town of Acarí, in the province of Caravelí, to the north of Arequipa. In northern regions like Libertad and Ancash, Afro-Peruvians also exist, but in lesser measure, since the great majority of that population is concentrated in the regions of Piura and Lambayeque.
Recently it has been verified that the community with the greatest concentration of Afro-Peruvians is Yapatera in Morropón (Piura), made up of around 7,000 farmers who are largely descended from African slaves of "malagasy" (Madagascar) origin. They are referred to as "malgaches" or "mangaches".
Formerly, Chincha to the south of Lima and other communities in Ica were known as the towns of greatest Afro-Peruvian concentration, but due to the excessive mixing between the Afro inhabitants native to the area and the Andean migrants, the Afro-Peruvian root has been more hybridized. Also, many of the Afrodescent residents of these communities migrated towards Lima for better opportunities.
In November 2009, the Peruvian government issued an official apology to Peru's Afro-Peruvian people for centuries of racial injustice; it was the first such apology ever made by the government. It was announced by Women's and Social Development Minister Nidia Vilchez, and initially published in the official newspaper El Peruano. The apology said:
We extend a historical apology to Afro-Peruvian people for the abuse, exclusion and discrimination perpetrated against them since the colonial era until the present.
Vilchez said the government hoped its apology would help promote the "true integration of all Peru's multicultural population."
The government acknowledged that some discrimination persists against Afro-Peruvians, who make up 5%–10% of the population. The government's initial statement said, "The government recognizes and regrets that vestiges of racially-motivated harassment are still present, which represent a hindrance to social, economic, labor and educational development of the population at large." Monica Carrillo of the Center for Afro-Peruvian Studies and Promotion indicates that 27% of Afro-Peruvians finish high school and just 2% get higher or technical education. Although Peru is not the first Latin American government to apologize to its population, it is the first to acknowledge present-day discrimination. Although some human rights groups lauded the government's acknowledgment, other experts criticized the apology overall for failing to reference slavery or promise a change in the status quo.
The public ceremony for the apology held on 7 December 2009 in the Great Dining Room of the Government Palace, with the presence of President Garcia, Minister of Women and Social Development, Nidia Vilchez, the only Afro Peruvian Congress member Martha Moyano, with the former mayor of El Carmen, Hermes Palma-Quiroz, and the founder of the Black Movement Francisco Congo, Paul Colino-Monroy.
In the ceremony, President Garcia said:
We are here together for an unusual act without precedent, to apologize to the Afro Peruvian people but most deeply pardon to the Black race, that our voice can be heard in the countries inflicted with the slavery commerce, which tore so many men and women, millions of them, and took them away to the ends of the planet to work in plantations.