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Afro Peruvians are citizens of Perumarker descended from African and Malagasy slaves who were brought to the New World with the arrival of the conquistadors towards the end of the slave trade.

Early history

The first African Peruvians arrived with the conquistadors in 1521, to return permanently in 1525. They fought alongside the conquistadors as soldiers and worked wherever needed. Because of their previous acculturation in Spanish language and culture, they performed a variety of skilled and unskilled functions that contributed to Hispanic colonization.

Gradually, Afro-Peruvians concentrated in specialized fields that drew upon their extensive knowledge and training in skilled artisan work and in agriculture. 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.

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. 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.

Slave trade

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 Cubamarker but continued to Panamámarker where they were brought to the Viceroyalty of Peru. Slave owners also purchased their slaves in Cartagena, Colombiamarker 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.

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 Nigeriamarker to Eastern Ghanamarker. Finally, the slave owners' third choice was for slaves from Congo, Mantenga, Cambado, Misanga, Mozambiquemarker, Madagascarmarker, Terranova, Mina and Angolamarker.

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 freedom

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.

Afro-Peruvian music

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. 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.

Afro-Peruvians today

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. Afro-Peruvians can also be found in significant numbers on the northern coast in Lambayeque and Piura. The greatest concentration of Afro-Peruvians and Mestizos of Afrodescent is in the Callaomarker, an area that has historically received many of the Afro-Peruvians from the north and southern coast.

On the southern coast of the Ica Regionmarker, 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 Nazcamarker, Ica Citymarker and in the district of San Luis in the Cañete Province near Lima, and Nazca to the south of Lima. In Lima, the towns most well-known for having large concentrations of Afrodescent 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 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, Pabur(Hacienda Pabur), Morropón, Salitral, Buenos Airesmarker, 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 Libertadmarker 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.

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.

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" (Madagascarmarker) 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 Pascomarker and Huánucomarker and there are still small populations with African ancestry in these areas.

List of Renowned Afro-Peruvians

See also


  • Blanchard Slavery and Abolition in early Republican Peru
  • Browser, F.P. The African Slave in Colonial Peru
  • Lockhart, J. Spanish Peru: A Colonial Society
  • Millones, Luis Minorias étnicas en el Perú


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