Afro Peruvians are citizens of Peru mostly descended from African slaves who were brought to the Western hemisphere with the arrival of the conquistadors towards the end of the slave trade. It must be emphasized here for historical purposes that black Africans were in the New World (American continent) long before the Spanish Christopher Columbus arrived there. Although Afro Peruvians make up about 10% of the population or almost 3 million people, but today there are very few Afro Peruvians leading in politics, culture, religion, military, science or economy in Peru, mostly because they lack of equal access to a good education, well paid job opportunities and leading roles in society. It's important to mention that the first ever Black saint of the Catholic church is the Afro Peruvian wise man Martin de Porres.
Afro-Peruvian lady dancing

The first African Peruvians arrived with the conquistadors in 1521, to return permanently in 1525. One of the biggest import of African slaves occurred between 1529 and 1537 when Francisco Pizarro was granted permits to import 363 slaves to colonial Peru for public construction; building bridges and road systems. They fought alongside the conquistadors as soldiers and worked like personal servants and bodyguards. In 1533 Afro-Peruvian slaves accompanied Spaniards in the conquest of Cuzco. There were two types of black slaves that came to Peru: a common term used to designate blacks born in Africa was bozales("unskilled, untrained), which was also used in derogatory sense. These slaves could have been directly shipped from west or south-west Africa or transported from Spanish Indies and other Spanish colonies. Afro-Peruvians previously acculturated to Spanish culture and spoke Spanish were called "Ladinos". People of color performed a variety of skilled and unskilled functions that contributed to Hispanic colonization.
                                           Saint Martin de  Porres, an Afro-Peruvian

In urban areas Afro-Peruvians were cooks, laundresses, maids, handymen, gardeners. In some cases, they worked in the navy, hospitals, churches and charitable institutions. In 1587, 377 workers of African descent worked in the shipyards. The industry included significant number of blacks: quarries, kilns and various construction projects. The work that Spaniards performed would be insufficient to sustain the needs of the population, so blacks essentially kept the economy running. Gradually, Afro-Peruvians concentrated in specialized fields that drew upon their extensive knowledge and training in skilled artisan work and in agriculture. Within the social hierarchy of slave stratum, the black artisans took the highest position due to their skills. They worked in carpentry, tailoring, blacksmiths, swordsmiths and silversmiths. This group exerted more freedom than their fellow companions on large haciendas and in private households. Spanish small-business keeper would dispatch a whole team of servant-artisans to do a job independently and then return to their owner. Furthermore, as their prices rose, black artisans induced even better treatment and sometimes took a role of a low ranking employee. Skilled artistry constituted a major avenue of social progress for the colored population. Due to their royalty and high skills, Afro-Peruvians gained prestige among Spanish noblemen. They occupied relatively low social stratum, nevertheless still had some power of the natives and were in more favorable position that the emerging class of mestizos. 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. From this reality, a pigmentocracy became increasingly important to protect the privileges of Spanish overlords and their Spanish and mestizo children. In this system, Spaniards were at the top of the hierarchy, mestizos in the middle, and Africans and the indigenous populations at the bottom. Mestizos inherited the privilege of helping the Spanish administer the country.
                 Legendary Afro-Peruvian boxer Mauro Mina.
Furthermore, as additional immigrants arrived from Spain and aggressively settled Peru, the mestizos attempted 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. However, after the early colonial period, few Afro-Peruvians would become goldsmiths or silversmiths. In the end Afro-Peruvians were relegated to back-breaking 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 yanacona- hitherto only assigned to the status of indigenous servant with full right to own a piece of land and a day to work on it. Afro-Peruvians often displayed negative agency towards the system of slavery dominated by the Spanish by resigning to huido( translated as escape, flight) from haciendas and changing masters on their own initiative or joining cimarrones'(armed gangs of runaway slaves that formed small communities in the wilderness and assaulted travel merchants). The indigenous population tended to work in the silver mines, of which they had a more expert knowledge than western Africans or Spanish, even in the pre-Columbian eras.
                        Beautiful Afro-Peruvian kids

Over the course of the slave trade, approximately 95,000 slaves were brought into Peru, with the last group arriving in 1850. They were initially transferred to Cuba & Hispaniola but continued to Panamá where they were brought to the Viceroyalty of Peru. Slave owners also purchased their slaves in Cartagena, Colombia or Veracruz, Mexico at trade fairs, and they took back to Peru whatever the slave ships had brought over. Slaves were distributed between encomiendas as a result of the "New laws" of 1548 and due to the influence of the denunciation of the abuses against Native Americans by Friar Bartolomé de las Casas.
                         Afro-Peruvians dancing
Slave owners in Peru also preferred slaves who were from specific areas of Africa, and who could communicate with each other. Slave owners preferred slaves from Guinea, from the Senegal River down to the Slave Coast, because the Spanish considered them to be easy to manage, and also because they had marketable skills—they knew how to plant rice, train horses, and herd cattle on horseback. The slave owners also preferred slaves from the area stretching from Nigeria to Eastern Ghana. Finally, the slave owners' third choice was for slaves from Congo, Mantenga, Cambado, Misanga, Mozambique, Madagascar, Terranova, Mina and Angola. In the 17th century began the process of manumission of people of color. Possibility of buying one's own freedom boosted the emergence of free Afro-Peruvian social class. Nevertheless, slaves had to pay a high amount to buy their freedom; they were allowed to earn on the side, some raised loans and others received grants of freedom from their master. A class of independent blacks was not entirely equal to Spaniards.Freed people of color enjoyed equal privileges in certain aspects.There are several instances of free Africans buying and selling land as well. Freed blacks engaged in various entrepreneurial activities, of which trade was a significant factor.

 Moreover, peoples of African descent with larger economic power were owners of private shops. Nevertheless, the new 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 militia to defend the state and was under supervision of the Holy Office. The Crown raised revenues on freed black population. A decree that compelled former slaves to hire themselves out to and reside with 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 exclusion of blacks and mulattoes from education. Universities and schools largely run by the Church forbade the non-white population to enroll under justification that they are "unworthy of being educated". Wealthy, skilled, capable mulattoes however made their way through the political ladder and achieved occupation of minor official posts.
     "Alma en Boca" The Afro-Peruvian Story:
In the year 1856, President Ramon Castilla y Marquezado declared the freedom of the Afro-Peruvian ethnic groups and abolished slavery, beginning a new stage in history. 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.
                           Portrait of Afro-Peruvian girl circa 1868

The Rhythms of Black Peru

"Afro-Peruvian music is one of the most elusive genres in the world. It’s practically unheard outside the borders of Peru, and the people there are even unsure of many aspects of its history. The roots of this music date back to the mid 1500s, but over time Afro-Peruvian culture and its music faded. From the mid 1950s through the 1970s, Peruvian labels such as El Virrey, IEMPSA, and Odeon supported an Afro-Peruvian revival with the release of hundreds of albums.

Afro-Peruvians dance to showcase their age-long rich culture

The Rhythms of Black Peru is a collection of some of the most important Afro-Peruvian recordings of all time that is over a year and half in the making. Many of the tracks were discovered after digging for records in a run-down garage located in central Lima last April. This compilation includes prolific figures in Afro-Peruvian culture such as Nicomedes Santa Cruz, Chabuca Granda, and Zambo Cavero. This hand numbered vinyl-only compilation is the perfect introduction to this percussion driven fusion of African rhythms and Latin melodies. As always, each LP is hand assembled in our facilities for quality control. "

                            Legendary Afro-Peruvian Jazz singer Susana Baca
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 and Spanish, as well as 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 Peru 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, Peru Negro, and solo albums by Susana Baca.

NICOMEDES SANTA CRUZ, Afroperuvian Legend. “Marinera, Festejo Y Lando” (Videos)

Afro=Peruvian girl

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.
                                      Afro-Peruvian woman
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.
                               El Carmen - Afro Peruvian village
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 in to 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 by its black communities in cities like especially in the cities of Chulucanas, Yapatera, Chapica del Carmelo, La Matanza[disambiguation needed], 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. Also Tuman, Capote, Cayaltí, and Batán Grande within the region of Lambayeque are known to have large amounts of Afro-Peruvian populations in the sugarcane region.
                          Afro-Peruvian dancers
Also 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, Afroperuvians also exist, but in lesser measure, since the great majority of that population is concentrated in the regions of Piura and Lambayeque.
     Afro-Peruvians in Peru lack public policies to aid in their advancement, according to national surveys. Photo: anissat/
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.
Freed slaves also arrived in small valleys in the rain forests of the Amazon such as Cerro de Pasco and Huánuco and there are still small populations with African ancestry in these areas.
                     Chincha Party. Chincha, Peru - © Daniel Moore:see:

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. The apology, announced by Women's and Social Development Minister Nidia Vilchez, was 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 says the government hopes its apology will help promote the "true integration of all Peru's multicultural population."
                         President Garcia makes an apology to an Afro-Peruvian
The government acknowledged that some discrimination persists against Afro-Peruvians, who make up 5-10% of the population of the country. 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 percent of Afro-Peruvians finish high school and just 2 percent 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 acknowledgement, 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, along with the former mayor of El Carmen, Hermes Palma-Quiroz, and the founder of the Black Movement Francisco Congo, Paul Colino-Monroy.
                         Afro Peruvian leader Monica Carrillo
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.
   Afro Peruvians Sixto Barrera, J. Emmanuel Crescimbeni and Louis Tristan arerepresenting Peru in the Olympics: even when their country doesn't do much for them.

Afro Peruvians in Beijing. Foto EFE via RPP

                               Afro-Peruvian kids in El Carmen


Camalenque (a vocational identity) are Afro-Peruvian men who are highly sought to carry coffins at the most upscale funerals in Peru. Clad in tuxedos and white gloves they are hired under the belief that their skin-color lends an aura of elegance to the job. In Peru, where racism against blacks and indigenous natives is strong, dark skin is not only used to exclude but to symbolize servitude. In May 2010 Peru's Ministry of Culture denounced the practice of the Camalenque as racist and requested - to no avail - that the mortuary business end the service.(


                       Adriana Zubiate an international model and Miss Universe Peru 2002
                             Afro-Peruvian in El Carmen

             afro-peruvian kid: see:


  1. They are very beautiful and proud (in the good sense) people.


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