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Sat, 07.28.1500

Afro Peruvians, an article

*Afro Peruvians are affirmed on this date in 1500.  They are Black citizens of Peru, the overwhelming majority descended from enslaved Africans brought to Peru during the Middle Passage and the arrival of the conquistadors. 

The first Africans arrived with the conquerors around 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 was 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 forced to travel to Peru. Those born in Africa were commonly referred to as negros bozales ("untamed blacks"), 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 white-Spanish men and Black African women.  Non-whites performed skilled and unskilled functions that supported Hispanic colonization.  Afro Peruvians were cooks, laundresses, maids, handymen, and gardeners in urban areas. They sometimes worked in the Navy, hospitals, churches, and charitable institutions. In 1587, over 400 Africans worked in the shipyards. The industry included many Blacks working in quarries, kilns, and construction projects. There were few Spanish workers to build the colony, so Blacks kept the economy running.  Gradually, Afro-Peruvians were concentrated in specialized fields that drew upon their extensive knowledge as skilled artisans and in agriculture.   

In the social hierarchy of the slave echelon, Black artisans had the highest rank due to their skills. They worked as carpenters, tailors, blacksmiths, sword-smiths, and silversmiths. They 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 low-ranking employees. Skilled trades were a major avenue of social progress for the non-white population.  Due to their high skills, Afro-Peruvians gained prestige among Spanish noblemen.

They occupied a relatively low social echelon but had some status related to the natives. They 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 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 in 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 tinsmiths were common in parts of western Africa from at least the fourth century. But, after the early colonial period, few Afro-Peruvians became 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 a labor force on haciendas, the people of color gained the 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 an escape or flight) from haciendas and changing masters on their initiative or joining the Maroons (armed communities of runaway slaves that formed small communities in the wilderness and raided travel merchants). The indigenous population was used to working in the silver mines, where they had more expert knowledge than West Africans or Spanish, even in the pre-Columbian eras.  We used the end of July from 1500 for three reasons, 1. Peru’s Independence in 1821 and Peru’s abolition of Slavery in 1854, and the slave trade to the Americas began in the 15th century. 

The Afro-Peruvian population is found mainly in two sectors: the north coast (between Lambayeque and Piura); and on the south-central coast (especially in Lima, Callao, and in the provinces of Cañete, Chincha, Pisco, and Nazca).  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

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