Peruvian Organization Threatened with Violence After Protesting Racist TV Show

image of negro mama holding a bucket of paint
screenshot of negro mama on television in blackface
La Paisana Jacinta with disheveled hair and a dirtied face, making a mad face
In Peru, a debate is raging over whether the two disturbingly racist television characters pictured above should be banned from television. I think it’s time that those who defend the racism and sexism of these characters be forced to do so on the international stage.
As pictured above, the characters “El Negro Mama” and “La Paisana Jacinta” have long been broadcast on the popular television station Frecuencia Latina. As described by my colleague Lucina Di Meco, who works closely with the organization spearheading efforts to ban these characters, the characters represent the worst and most racist stereotypes of Afro-Peruvian and indigenous people:

“As you can see, Negro Mama is a Black man presented as a thief, a liar, also a dirty man who speaks and acts like an idiot, and he can’t realize the mistakes he makes because he is too stupid to notice. The “Black Faced” Negro Mama has big sized lips and a huge nose, he speaks with an exaggerated accent and he opens his eyes widely when looking at the camera.”
“Paisana Jacinta is a Native woman presented as ignorant, dirty, and tooth-less and she just moved from the country side of Peru to the big city of Lima. Jacinta is naïve and stubborn and she gets into trouble every time, she urinates in the streets, she steals, lies, curses, fights with people, as she tries to assimilate into the urban life, while wearing her traditional clothes and a messy hairdo that reveals her “bad habits”.”

A dirty Black thief! An ignorant Indigenous woman! HahhHahHHahaaahahaHHAHA… What? Not funny? What if I told you that in Peru (and in many parts of Latin America, as I can attest to having lived in Chile), folks of African descent are a highly discriminated against minority, and are often so marginalized that the UN officially recognized the fact that social advancement in Peru is at least partially based upon the “whiteness” of one’s skin. Now it’s even MORE hilarious, right?!
To add insult to injury, both characters were created and are performed by Peruvian comedian Jorge Benavides, who is a mestizo, or a person of mixed race, usually with indigenous heritage.
An awesome organization called Lundu has recently been criticizing these figures and demanding they be pulled off the air, as part of their Public Awareness Campaign Against Racism and Sexism. They collaborated with other human rights organizations and wrote a letter of complaint to the TV channel distributing the show and to the Peruvian equivalent of the FCC. The characters were pulled off the air for awhile, but in response to a huge backlash of popular opinion in favor of the racist characters, they were put back on. This facebook group (in Spanish) gives just a small example of the kind of support the characters are facing: the title of the group, roughly translated, is “Don’t Cancel Negro Mama! LUNDU are just Traumatized Black People”. In the midst of their campaign, members of LUNDU have been experiencing threats of violence and menace, including being threatened and even spit on as they walk through the street.
Don’t like what you’re seeing? Drop an email to Jorge Marroquín, President of the Complaints Committee of the Peruvian National Society of Radio and TV, and to Nidia Yucra, Minister of Social Development and Women’s Affairs and Social Development, to demand that they put an end to this racist and sexist nonsense. Their contact information is below.
Presidente del Comité de Solución de Quejas de la Sociedad
Nacional de Radio y Televisión
Dr. Jorge Baca-Alvarez Marroquín
Ministra de la Mujer y Desarrollo Social
Dra. Nidia Vilchez Yucra
Click here to learn more about the work that LUNDU is doing to combat discrimination in Peru.

Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman is Executive Director of Partnerships at Feministing, where she enjoys creating and curating content on gender, race, class, technology, and the media. Lori is also an advocacy and communications professional specializing in sexual and reproductive rights and health, and currently works in the Global Division of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. A graduate of Harvard University, she lives in Brooklyn.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

Read more about Lori

Join the Conversation

  • cattrack2

    This will probably be the most offensive thing I’ll see all week. And being black I can’t help but take it personally…That being said I have a bigger problem with government censorship. Rather than seeing the gov’t ban this offensive shyt, I’d prefer to see some sort of boycott or protest action aimed directly at the station.

  • puckalish

    First off, I think it’s dope whenever one of y’all has an actionable item in the post. Kudos.
    Next, reading that UNHCR piece is really interesting as, just changing some language, it could be talking about some other places we know…
    On censorship, it’s important to realize that neither of the organizations Lori listed at the bottom of the article are really capable of the kind of “censorship” of which you’re thinking, cattrack2.
    The SNRT is an extra-governmental body that negotiates between the government and producers of mass media. They do have a code of ethics, too, which, while voluntary, holds some sway. I think the point of contacting them is to put pressure on the broadcaster itself to make the right decision. Also, part of their mission is to mediate between the public and broadcasters – as such, this seems like exactly the entity to contact with complaints/issues regarding negative decisions by broadcasters.
    I am also curious… considering that the station removed the program due to actions by LUNDU and then reinstated it due to a backlash… what avenues do exist for effective and ethical confrontation of such harmful media?
    Do we have to wait for a significant enough consciousness shift that the voices against the program are stronger than those for it? Or does that put the cart before the horse, as programs like this reproduce the very same racist attitudes that are exhibited by, say, the Facebook group in the original post? I mean, I see a pretty fair parallel to what happened with Don Imus – where there was an outcry against the Rutgers comments, but he was back on the air within a year in position to make more racist comments about Adam Jones.
    I mean, sure, perhaps the dialogue surrounding Imus’s comments and these minstrel-y characters on the Especial del Humor is useful in educating people about racism and sexism, but don’t the original (problematic) media events have more reach? How do we effectively work against that without going over the heads of the “artists” such as Benavides or Imus to their broadcasters or the government?
    Do we have to be content with such limited repercussions for the reproduction of racist and sexist attitudes or is there another option?
    By the way, am I right that LUNDU has a significant youth contingent? Either way, kudos to them for their courageous work to reframe how indigenous and African-descended folks are portrayed and treated in Peru.

  • Toongrrl

    I do have a problem with censorship, vile this show is. And I’d like to add that Paisana Jacinta is a gross and racist rip off of the mexican character “La India Maria”, who is funny, has her full set of adult teeth, is very close to her indigenous roots without insult, and in one film she runs for public office! What a dame!

  • puckalish

    I’m curious, here, as to the concern with – or, rather, the definition of – censorship, according to y’all, cattrack2 and Toongrrl.
    cattrack2, you suggest a boycott or protest. what would be the goal of that, but to get the program removed, yes? essentially, this action is the same. it’s *not* an appeal to a governing body with the power to censor media content. rather, it’s an appeal to a non-governmental organization and a minister to request that the broadcaster stop airing the program. as i understand it, neither the office of Ms Yucra nor the SNRT have the power to “censor” mass media.
    so i’m curious as to why concerns around censorship are being brought up – is there something i’m missing? would these hypothetical protests or boycotts be simply to raise awareness, without any end goal of transforming or canceling the especial del humor?

  • cattrack2

    puckalish–Mechanics matter. I really believe in the 1st Amendment. On one hand it prevents the gov’t from censoring speech. On the other hand it gives free rein to people & organizations to say what they want. On the other hand it gives free rein to people & organizations to criticize that speech as well. This creates a free marketplace of ideas.
    A public backlash against speech will go much further at changing norms than a government backlash against free speech will. This is all right and good. And its effective too. Recall the outrage against Don Imus’ comments on MSNBC. A public backlash also kept Rush Limbaugh from being a NFL owner. So we can reach social goods without a heavy handed government censor. In this way the marketplace of ideas decides appropriate speech, not some government elites (who may be liberal now but could just as easily be conservative tomorrow).