Yo Soy Negro: Defining Blackness in Peru Tanya Golash-Boza University of Kansas
Many people in Ingenio insisted to me that blackness is no more than a skin color, with no cultural or historical connotations. “Yo Soy Negro”: I am black
Ingenio, Peru Small town in northern Peru. Rice production for national market. 85% African-descended
Methodology 116 interviews 50 semi-structured interviews in Ingenio 8follow-up collaborative interviews 30 semi-structured interviews in Lima Cultural texts, historical documents, oral histories, newspapers, and the Internet Ethnographic fieldwork from 2002 to 2007 9 months in Ingenio and 9 months in Lima
Latin American Studies and African Diaspora Studies
My argument that the discourse of blackness in Ingenio is primarily a discourse of colorconstitutes a challenge to scholarship on the black diaspora that points to the centrality of slaveryfor defining blackness in the diaspora and to scholarship on race in Latin America that places cultural and class differences at the core of racial discourses.
Paul Gilroy (1993: 39): Diasporic blacks share a “memory of slavery, actively preserved as an intellectual resource in their expressive political culture.” When asked how Africans got to Peru, only 12 of the 51 interviewees knew that Africans had been brought as slaves.
Slavery in Piura was not prevalent About 100,000 Africans were brought to Peru as slaves, mostly to the South. Largest hacienda in Piura had 60 slaves in 1790, at its height. Hacienda Morropon, where Ingenio is, had 30 slaves at its peak.
When slavery ended in 1854, there were no more than 600 slaves in all of Piura. Pre- and post-abolition, most Afro-Peruvians in Piura worked as tenant farmers.
The way people in Ingenio remember slavery reveals the importance of local understandingsof race, exploitation, ancestry and history for the creation of collective memory.
they also say that there was slavery before. … They made them work for free. … Rosa [the stockade] was a piece of wood, … with holes. They made some holes here where your arms fit; it had another hole here where your legs fit, and you would put your leg in. … They were there as prisoners. - Rosa
Africa is not part of collective memory 49 African-descended interviewees 24: no African ancestry 13: I don’t know 12: African ancestry 130 African-descended survey respondents Do you have African ancestry? 22 responded “yes”
Do you have black or African ancestry? Diana: “Blacks, yes, but that they had been of African ancestry, I don’t know.” Liliana: “My father was very dark-skinned, quite black, but he never told us that we were Africans.”
In Ingenio, Africa and the slave trade do not figure into many people’s conceptions of their ancestry and of the history of the town.
Scholars of the African Diaspora argue there is a common experience among descendants of African slaves in the Americas, and relate that shared experience to blackness
Negro es una color, nada más Black is a color, nothing more. Doña Perla, Ingenio, Peru Nosotrossomosnegros We are blacks. Soy orgulloso de ser negro I am proudto be black. Don Fabio, Ingenio, Peru The local discourse on blackness
Local Blackness Skin Color DiasporicBlackness Skin Color Africa Slavery Racism Cultural Production
Diaspora is not simply the “logical manifestation of dispersion” Diaspora is both a process and a condition. As a process it is constantly being remade through movement, migration, and travel, as well as imagined through thought, cultural production, and political struggle. Yet, as a condition, it is directly tied to the process by which it is being made and remade. (Patterson and Kelley 2000)
Thinking of the diaspora as both a process and a condition helps us to understand better the multiplicity of black identities that exist and the extent to which global and local discourses interact to produce new conditions and processes.
Latin American Studies African Diaspora Studies