Although Ollanta Humala became Peru’s president just last week, he has already achieved a landmark accomplishment by appointing the first black minister in the history of the republic. Renowned Afro-Peruvian singer, Susana Baca, 67, will lead Peru’s culture ministry.
Baca, whose name and work is synonymous with Afro-Peruvian tradition, mixes Andean and African beats in her music. Her work won her a Latin Grammy award in 2002 for “Best Folk Album,” referring to Lamento Negro which had been recorded in Cuba two decades prior. Over the years, Ms. Baca has become an ambassador of sorts for Peru’s black community; she is building a cultural center for Afro-Peruvians in the Peruvian town of Santa Barbara and has toured frequently around the world.
Ms. Baca’s nomination came as a welcome surprise to many who had become accustomed to the absence of black representatives in Peruvian politics. In 2009, Peru under Alan García became the first Latin American country to formally apologize to its citizens of African descent. The government apologized for the “abuse, exclusion and discrimination perpetrated against [Afro-Peruvians], from the colonial era until the present.” So while discrimination of Afro-Peruvians is not state-sanctioned, many believe that there remains a high degree of “underground” racism.
President Humala's new culture ministry is a welcome step in reversing such racism.