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  HOME | Peru

Ethnic Discrimination Widespread in Peru

LIMA – Peruvian singer Dina Paucar is one of the biggest stars of huayno, a genre of Andean music, but this has not stopped her being subjected to ethnic, cultural and economic discrimination.

During her 30-year-long career, she has become used to ignoring discriminatory messages, which she has received since she left her native village in the mountains of Huanuco at the age of 11 to earn a living in Lima.

She tells EFE from her home in the Peruvian capital that she has suffered from racist remarks since arriving for having Andean features.

More than 70 percent of Peruvians have indigenous ancestry, but people from these communities are still treated as second-class citizens and subjected to discriminatory stereotypes.

People with paler skin are often treated better and given a higher social status.

“In Peru, there is a lot of discrimination and a lot of racism,” Paucar says.

“And that we are a multiracial country. We have people of color, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans … many different races, but it is a pity that to this day we receive racist insults.”

She adds that when she was younger and worked as a domestic servant or selling food on the streets of Lima, she became accustomed to receiving racist insults.

But she says that as a successful and popular artist, it has been the rise of the internet that has caused the most damage.

“With the internet, I was depressed about receiving insults for no reason,” the singer adds. “I couldn’t repeat what they have said to me out there.

“I’ve experienced severe periods of depression, I’ve cried many times hiding from my children.”

Paucar says it was her daughters who taught her to block trolls on social media and says she now leaves the management of her profiles in the hands of other people.

She adds that the perception of indigenous people has been improving in recent times in Peru, to the point where the term “cholo,” a derogatory term for someone from this background, has been reclaimed by some.

Sometimes the word is used with “affection,” but on other occasions it “hurts,” she explains.

“But I tell you that our pride is greater. We say that we are mountain rangers and we are proud of our race, our height, our ways of speaking, clothing, culture and food,” she states.

Part of this pride has come from the growing professional and economic success of Andean people, who have broken the stigma of systematic poverty.

She says many of these successful entrepreneurs “live in districts where they were not seen before.”

“My husband was once asked in the neighborhood if he was the doorman of the building,” she adds.

“Many do not understand that with effort you can succeed.”

Around 53 percent of Peruvians believe the country is racist or very racist, while 25 percent of indigenous people stop their children from following their traditional customs to avoid discrimination, according to a 2018 study.

About 30 percent of people with Quechua or Aymara ethnicity reported being discriminated against because of their ethnicity, clothing or their way of speaking.

This discrimination has led to fewer and fewer parents speaking indigenous languages and passing them on to their children.

Racism against indigenous people was personified in “La Paisana Jacinta,” a derogatory parody of an Andean woman living in Lima which aired on television in Peru for 20 years.

The character was played by a man in drag wearing a wig with plaits, a prosthetic nose and blacked-out teeth who spoke bad Spanish and was the object of ridicule.

Paucar’s advice for her fellow citizens is to ignore offensive remarks and use discrimination “as an impetus to get ahead in your own country.”


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