Racism in Peru Affects Democracy and People

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Racism in Peru Affects Democracy and People

Source: AUN News

In Peru, a multicultural, multiethnic, and multilingual society where numerous types of prejudice are intermingled, people encounter racism every day in the form of toilet bans, insults, and being called names.

Teresa Mestanza, 56, a domestic worker in Lima since she was a teenager, told IPS: “In the places where I have worked, they have always told me: ‘Teresa, this is the service bathroom, the one you have to use,’ as if they were appalled that I may use their toilets.

She was born in a coastal town in the northern Lambayeque department, where her parents had relocated from the underdeveloped adjacent province of Cajamarca, the birthplace of the current president Pedro Castillo, a rural teacher and trade unionist with indigenous features.

She has Quechua indigenous roots and considers herself to be “mestiza,” or mixed-race. She thinks that because of the colour of her skin, her employers treat her differently and make her feel inferior.

According to the 2017 National Census, the last one conducted in Peru, 60% of the 33 million people in this South American nation identify as “mestizo.”

To collect official data on the indigenous and Afro-Peruvian populations and create public policies targeting the inequality gap that impacts their rights, the census first included questions on ethnic self-identification.

Based on research conducted by the Economic Commission

After Bolivia and Guatemala, according to a study by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Peru has the third-largest indigenous population in the area.

The area that is now Peru, where the Tahuantinsuyo, the ancient Inca empire, formed, was home to several indigenous peoples before the Spaniards invaded. There are 55 distinct indigenous groups with their languages, identities, customs, and modes of social organisation, 51 from the Amazon rainforest region and four from the Andes highlands.

A quarter of the population, or 22% of Quechua, 2% of Aymara, and 1% of Amazonian indigenous people, self-identified as indigenous according to the census, while 4% self-identified as Afro-descendant or black.

Enslaved people from Africa were imported during the Spanish colonial era to perform manual labour or as household servants. The nation didn’t outlaw slavery until 1854, 30 years after it was proclaimed independent.

In a historically strongly class-segregated nation, indigenous and Afro-Peruvian people have experienced discrimination. Despite legal frameworks that aim to ensure equality, non-discrimination, and special rights for indigenous peoples, the State has not complied with their needs and requests.

According to a national study by the Ministry of Culture in 2018, this condition is represented daily in systematic racism, an issue that more than half of the people (52 per cent) recognise but only eight per cent believe to be one.

Racism is kept quiet since it doesn’t harm as much

Sofia Carrillo is an Afro-Peruvian proud of her ancestry who has encountered numerous challenges and “no’s” throughout her life. She is a writer, activist, and radio and television host and was named one of Forbes Peru magazine’s 50 most powerful women in the nation this year.

“For instance, because I am of African origin and black people are not perceived as being clever, it was not thought conceivable for me to be an educated girl. And because of how it was depicted on television, I became pretty rebellious. “She spoke with IPS in Lima.

She has just two choices when faced with these messages. “Either you accept it as truth, or you address the circumstance and attempt to disprove it. In a nation as racist and sexist as this one, I shouldn’t have to prove myself more than others, but that was the challenge I accepted and what kept me going through all the stages of my life, “She spoke.

In her household, talking about racism was not frowned upon. However, this was not the case in the extended family, which included cousins, aunts, and uncles, “because it’s better not to be aware of the situation, so it hurts less; it’s a method to shield yourself,” Carrillo added.

Because we have also been taught in our families that it will affect you if you identify it. Still, if you pretend it doesn’t exist, it is much easier to deal with. She said it is not uncommon for African heritage people even to state that they do not feel affected by racism or prejudice.

She described her experience as a black woman as being sexually harassed in public places, on public transit, and on the street, “to be looked at as a sexual object, to be dehumanised,” she said.

She has also had to cope with misconceptions regarding her professional ability. She has never ceased shouting her disapproval, but it has impacted her.

“I can now accept that it impacted my mental health and resulted in prolonged depressive episodes. I couldn’t figure out why or what the causes were because you likewise tried to bury it deep inside. But I realised that talking about my personal experiences was one way to recover,” stated Carrillo.

The racism that goes as far as to refer to people as animals

Using government funding from the Beca 18 scholarship programme, Enrique Anpay Laupa, 24, was able to study psychology at a university in Lima while living in poverty or with a meagre income.

He still finds it difficult to discuss the bigotry he experienced while in Lima, where he attended university until he graduated last year. Pomacocha is a rural village of roughly 90 native Quechua families in the central Andes highlands region of Apurimac.

He spoke to IPS from the Apurimac town of Andahuaylas, where he currently resides and conducts his psychology practice. More than in previous years, 200 scholarship recipients entered the institution in 2017. As a result, he noted, “we detected unease among the students from Lima.”

“They said since we arrived, the restrooms were dirtier, and laptops and other items were missing…

I was astonished to learn that it was a matter of skin tone, he remarked.

Even during a group project, a pupil from the capital reprimanded him by saying, “Shut up, llama.” (The domesticated llama is a South American camelid indigenous to the Andes of Peru.)

Any remarked, “I remained mute, and nobody else spoke either. The experience of what he went through prevented him from urging his younger brother to apply for Beca 18 and instead pushed him to study at the public university in Andahuaylas, albeit he opted not to provide additional specifics.

Racism has an impact across the nation

Racism is experienced personally but negatively impacts entire communities and the nation.

We can see this in the levels of poverty, according to Carrillo: “The most recent census, from 2017, shows that 16 per cent of people who self-identify as ‘white’ and mestizo live in poverty, compared to 30 per cent for Afro-Peruvians, 40 per cent for Amazonian indigenous people, and 30 per cent for Andean indigenous people.”

According to a study on the growth of poverty between 2010 and 2021 conducted by the National Institute of Statistics and Informatics, indigenous people were the group most severely impacted.

This group’s percentage of people living in poverty and extreme poverty was 32%, eight percentage points greater than the population whose mother tongue is Spanish, 24%.

According to Carrillo, it is crucial to acknowledge institutional racism’s existence and comprehend that it affects people who have historically faced discrimination and exclusion and have the right to fully realise their potential by the principles of equality and non-discrimination.

She criticised the authorities for viewing racism only in terms of punitive measures rather than taking into account a comprehensive policy based on prevention to stop it from being replicated and passed down from generation to generation, which would include an anti-racist education that values the contribution each of the various peoples made in the development of Peru.

Analysis by: Advocacy Unified Network

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