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.