Afroperuano: History and Influence on Peruvian Culture


Kwame Selikem Okatakyie

Afro- Peruvians are African descendants in Peru, South America captured by the Europeans, especially the Spanish, from different parts of the African continent, primarily West Africa including: Ivory Coast , Togo , Niger, Benin, Guinea, Nigeria, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia and other regions of West Africa; Central Africa, including: Angola, Congo both Republic and Democratic, Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and other areas as well as parts of East Africa, including Kenya.

They ethnic groups represented in the Fon, Tikar, Bamileke, Hausa, Fulani, Mandinka, Wolof, Bubi, Luba, Mossi, Dagomba, Temne, Kikuyu and some Luos, Edo, Igbo, Yoruba, Adja, Isoko, Ga Dangme (Krobo, Ada) and part of the Ga Dangmes, Ewe, Akan Including Asante/Ashanti, Wassa, Ahanta , Akwamu, Jwira Pepesa, Brong/Bono, Kwahu , Fante, Nzema, and Akuapem.

Prior to the arrival of enslaved Africans, Peru's indigenous population were forced to work its the silver mines. As their population dwindled from overwork and exhaustion Africans were imported to replace them.

The first Africans arrived in Peru with the Conquistadors in 1521, Of those  sold into slavery by the Spanish, some returned with the colonists and settled between 1529 and 1537.

The conquistador and explorer Francisco Pizarro obtained permission to capture 363 Africans for shipment to Peru from Africa. Enslaved Africans were forced to work on sugar cane and rice plantations. Others came via the Caribbean or Brazil and had lost touch with their African roots. By the 19th century, the majority of Afro- Peruvians lived in Lima.

It is said two types of the Africans who were enslaved. Africans by birth were known as Negros bozales meaning “ the untamed blacks”. These Africans could traced their Ancestry back to the West and South coasts of Africa.

Described as people of color who performed skilled and unskilled roles that contributed to colonial Peru's development, Negros Ladinos were hispanicized blacks, mulattos or halfcast, descendants of African women tortured and raped by Spanish slavers and colonists. Negros Ladinos worked in urban areas as carpenters, tailors, blacksmiths, in churches and other occupations.

Afro- Peruvian artists later gained respect and sometimes took roles as of low ranking employees 

In class stratified Peru, Afro- Peruvians could gained the title of Yanakuna, previously assigned only to so called indigenous servants, with the right to own a piece of land and a day to work on it.

While treated as unequals and viewed as inferior 'devils', during the 17th century some Afro-Peruvians engaged in entrepreneurial activities opening shops and serving in the military.


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Afro- Peruvian Festival and Afro- Peruvian Food

In the South of Lima, In El Carmen , part of the Chincha Province , a yearly festival takes place known as Verano Negro “ Black Summer” where the best of Afro- Peruvian Music , dance and food is highlighted. The two dishes has its roots in Africa such as Sopa Seca and Carapulcra , Sopa Seca it is believed to have both Spanish and African roots .

Carapulcra is a hearty stew made up of dried potatoes , pork, wine, a bash of chocolate , Aji Sauce is believed to be of Andean roots and some African roots it can also be found in Bolivia, Colombia , Ecuador and Chile .

Alongside Aji have flavorings such as cloves , cinnamon , onions and garlic also Sopa eca a dried soup . Music Negra which is black music is a genre which has combined elements of African and Spanish music the Cajon drum originated from West and Central Africa which was brought to Peru during Slave trade. 


The Origin of Cajon postulates that since the Spanish Colonists had banned Africans from performing their music , The Congolese and Angolan Cajon players kept it up till this modern day Other instruments Include Quijanda de burro which is used during Vodu and Candomble Ceremony , It is used in Dominican Republic , Mexico and Puerto Rico .

The two dances known as Festejo and Zapateo , which are also widely performed has its roots in Bantu regions of Africa . The Festejo is danced in colorful costume , and is highly energetic , vibrant and sensual . Movements of the torso and pelvis are emphasized, Zapateo dancing stress complex patterns of footwork , which have some elements similar to the tap dances .

The Afro- Peruvian beats is considered as Music Voyage that brings the people together , they also celebrate a black carnival known as Carnaval Negro in Chincha , with the largest black cultural events in Peru . Afro- Peruvians traditions and visiting artists, immersing listeners in the rhythms , melodies , dance and Instruments of Peru’s African Cultural heritage to reinterpret and share their rich legacy with the world .

According to Richie Zellon’ account on Afro- Peruvians of Peru , The Afro- Peruvian styles evolved from Music of Enslaved Africans brought by the Spaniards to Peru during the early 17th Century . Today or this Modern day their population is still concentrated in the coastal region where their Ancestors first labored in the Sugarcane plantations .

As a result , the hotbed for Afro- Peruvians music are the small coastal of towns of Chincha and El Carmen ,not too far South of Peru’s Capital , Lima . This is home to the styles known as Festejo , Lando and Panalivio . Many Traditional Instruments employed in the Afro- Peruvian styles , the Cajon is the main percussive Instrument and one could stay It is the heart and soul of its Orchestration .

Other Genres Include Zamacueca, Marinera and Vas limeno . Festejo is one of the Upbeat of Afro- peruvian styles , In Festejo there are different golpes , a particular Cajon pattern which in turn is named after the song that gave birth of it . Some of the globes are Alcatraz , Son de Diablos , Cumanana and Ollita .

Lando also known as Zamba- Lando, this direct descendant of African rhythm is said to have been landed down from the enslaved Bantu Africans from Present day Angola . In the Contrast to the lively festejo style which traditionally is written in a major key , lando is often in a minor key and performed at a slower tempo .

It is notated although It is personally believed the latter more accurately represents the slow nature of Its pulse . Panalivio was Originally composed by Enslaved Africans while working in the fields and later prohibited by Catholic Church in the 18th Century .

It has a very strong resemblance to the habanera , which was brought over by this Spanish Colonizers to Cuba , Uruguay , Argentina , some parts of where it also give birth to Tango and Milonga as well as various other parts of Latin America .

Such songs have been passed on from generation to generation and have become part of the given African Culture’s folkloric realm . It is believed Panalivios were songs of pain , suffering during Slave Trade , It is also a rhythm often serves as an accompaniment to the Pregones navidenos heard in the town of El Carmen during the Christmas season .


Afro-Peruvian culture combines African, Aldean (indigenous) and Spanish cultures. They mainly reside on the south and central coasts in the provinces of Lima, Callao, Nazca, Chincha, Ica and Canete. Many reside on the northern coast in Lambayeque and Piura. 

Early on, freed Africans and their descendants migrated to small valleys in the rainforests of the Amazon such as cerro de Pasco and Huanuco where small populations of Afro-Peruvians still reside. Located in the Ica Region of southern Peru with its brutal slave past, Chincha is a stronghold of Afro-Peruvian culture.

Many Afro-Peruvians migrated towards Lima for better opportunities. South of Lima exist towns and other communities with sizeable Afro-Peruvian populations. Due to the excessive mixing between Afro-Peruvians and Andean migrants, the Afro-Peruvian population has become more multiracial in some areas.  

Crops grown by Afro-Peruvians include mango, rice, sugar cane and others on the southern coast whose communities lay away from the coastal shores in the region of Yungas, where the plain meets the Andes.

Known for Its Black populations, in the areas of Chincha Province, Nazca, Ica City, district of San Lui, Canete Province near Lima, Nazca, La Victoria, Puente Piedra, Chorrillos and Rimac there are many cotton fields and vineyards. 

Omar H. Ali, Aguirre, Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., Richie Zellon,

Dr. Carlos Aguirre, Carnegie Hall and other accounts on Afro - Peruvian People


According to Omar H. Ali’s account on Afro- Peruvians, for over three centuries. Streams of People . The smoke of Incense and the sound of horns , bells and hymns have fill the streets of Lima in October. Each year Peruvians pay homage to a painted Angolan believed to be the Christ of the Black race in the 17th Century. Local traditions tell how the crucified image of enslaved Angolan Messiah survived several powerful earthquakes, including one in 1687 that left all but the fresco and the altar beneath it standing.

Every year the faithful, many wearing purple-colored robes, or habits, like those of the Nazarene nuns charged with taking care of the painting, follow a replica of El Senor de los Milagros meaning “The Lord of the Miracles“ through the streets of Lima in what is the largest religious procession in Latin America. Among the masses was Omar’s abuelita , a skilled doll-marker and a devout Catholic.Donning her purple dress, white veil and carrying a small figurine of El Senor de Milagros .

Omar’s grandmother, an African descendant of the first freed Africans, would join the flow of all ethnicities and backgrounds trailing the “Angolan Messiah" or "Black Christ” as the painting is also known. And while the name of the 17th Century Painter of El Senor de los Milagros has long been forgotten, his creation stands as a testament to his life and to those of his countrymen and women who survived the centuries long devastation of the transatlantic slave trade .

The human and economic cost of the African slave by the Spanish is considered to be not quantified and no reasonable compensation is ever possible any attempt would pale in comparison to the depth of its horro. Yet It is said the wealth of Spanish Empire was produced by Enslaved black labor . In addition to building much of Lima’s Infrasture .

West and West Central Africans and their descendants infused their traditions and practices into Peruvian Society in the making . Omar quoted, “ My Own journey into the history of Afro- Peru started some 20 years ago when his mother gave him a pendant to help him recover after being hit by a car . On one side of the Pendant is an Image of El Senor de los Milagros on the other hand an image of the black son known as Martin de Porres .

One of Peru’s most celebrated Saints especially venerated for his healing powers, San Martin was the son of an Unknown African captured or forced Into Slavery by the Spanish in what is now Present day Congo some claimed West Africa . San Martin was described as a Mulatto of African Ancestry either Congolese or West African Ancestry and some Spanish mixtures , Stories of the Afro- Peruvian miracle worker had long circulated in their family but little was ever discussed about Peru’s African past or its living legacy .

The Pancho Fierro Gallery, located in the historic section of Lima. Francisco Fierro Palas, called "Pancho" Fierro was an Afro-Peruvian painter, known primarily for his costumbrista watercolors, which depict the life and customs of 19th century Peru.

The African Diaspora in Peru according to Omari goes back to 1527 with the arrival of Black Soldiers such as the Ladinos hispanicized Africans under Francisco Pizarro’s command. As part of Imperial Spanish forays into Imperial Inca lands . Landinos were used to conquer Peru’s Indigenous People.

Soon Bozales another term for Africans who were enslaved were being Imported . In the time of many blacks captives took flight , forming the Maroon settlements which is Palenques the run away Afro- Peruvian Communities who resisted from Spanish rule.

Some on the Outskirts of the haciendas on which they had worked but now raided for food and supplies . Engaged in protracted War in Peru ,and without immunities to smallpox and Other Infectious disease the foreigners mostly deadly and Invisible army .

Entire Indigenous Communities were wiped out . African Captives of War were brought in from across the Atlantic to work Peru’s mines and plantations that is , to supplement the labor of Quechua and Aymara Indians .

Over the next 3 Centuries tens of thousands of enslaved Africans were taken across the Atlantic , marked over the Isthmus of Panama , and shipped down the pacific coast of Peru . From the Lima’s port of entry , Callao , Africans were taken to Malambo where they were prepared for auction and distribution.

Approximately one quarter of the African brought to Peru via the Pacific remained in Lima. The rest were sold by Spanish to plantations some of the Africans Include Hacienda San Jose who had dreadlocks with up to 800 men ,women and children working the land at anyone time.

But may also escaped . In the time , Maroons from the Hacienda formed their own Palenque near the town of El Carmen in the Province of Chincha .

It is said while most enslaved Africans were sold to Peru through the Caribbean port of Cartagena in New Grenada . Others came by way of Buenos Aires on the Atlantic , where they were marched across the searing pampas and up freezing Andes to work in the mines .

Angolans which Included a wide range of People and Cultures were the most prominent Captives in Peru followed by those from Congo , Ghana , Nigeria , Mozambique , Cameroon , Togo , Benin , Senegambia and Ivory Coast . Several Chroniclers explain the visible presence of blacks in Lima during the early colonial era.

 According to Peruvian Historian Dr. Carlos Aguirre and Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr’s account on Afro- Peruvians in Peru , Lima was once considered as “ Black city “.

The Imperial seat received 10,000 of enslaved African men and women , whose traditions, skills , cultures and Spiritual practices varied widely .

According to Historian Dr. Frederick Bowser’s account , Dr. Bowser described The African Slave in Colonial Peru from 1524-1650, African Captives in Peru cleared land, laid the streets , carried supplies and built churches after their conversion to Christianity , homes and palaces were built by them , they served as Cookers , Cleaners , Nannies and Domestic workers or Domestic servants .

Meanwhile , Urban black labor ran much of Lima’s daily business , Africans and their descendants worked as artisans, street vendors , bakers, water , carriers , gardeners and fruit and vegetable sellers .

And yet resistance to Slavery , which began in Africa at every point of Slave trading process, at first point of contact , while on the forced marches to the coasts , while boarding the dreaded slave ships , on the high areas , and continuing in the Americas in a form of flight , feigning illness , destroying tools , setting fire to crops, and less frequently , armed revolt . 

St. Martin de Porres (1579-1639), "The Saint of the Broom," patron saint of indigenous people, Blacks, and mixed-race people, and noted for work on behalf of the poor, establishing an orphanage and a children's hospital. De Porres was a lay brother of the Dominican Order who was beatified in 1837 by Pope Gregory XVI and canonized in 1962 by Pope John XXIII.

It is believed the most common runaway slaves in 1595 started in Present day Nigeria there was an Unknown black woman who was Igbo and Edo Ancestry by the name Francisca Criolla was sold by Europeans to Peru without guarantee because of her reputation for escaping.

During Slave Trade in Peru the punishment changed to more lashes or beatings as a punishment for running away from their Slave Masters. While Lima may have had the Largest Concentration of Africans and their descendants in Peru . Black and Otherwise African descended people were believed to be equally significant in other cities.

For late as 1763 . Nearly one third of the Northern City of Trujillo and Its Immediate surroundings comprised people of African descent . In all more than 100,000 from West Africa , Congo , Angola and West Central Africa , Central Africa were forcibly taken to Peru .

It is said in the 19th Century an Afro- Peruvian Painter by the name Pancho Fierro provided an Invaluable glimpse into the lives of Afro- Limeneans . A Painter as much as an ethnographer , in his painting , he depicts daily scenes of blacks , mulatto and mestizo and Other racially mixed people that formed the city ‘s vibrant multi- ethnic fabric .

According to Kuoda and Tom Carroll’s account , Few travelers arrived knowing about the heavy African Influence on Peruvian Culture . Just as the rest of the world capitalized on African Slave labor in the 16th Century , The First Africans arrived in Peru soil around the same time the Inca Empire was crumbling due to hardship , diseases and unrelenting attacks by Spanish Conquistadors . Although their skills as artisans and farmers were valued at first , by the 19th Century , Afro- Peruvians were relegated to hard labor on cotton and sugarcane plantations and the coastal vineyards and Slavery was abolished in 1854.



Suggested Readings

The Afro- Peruvian Jazz Music has a blend of African , Spanish and Andean , Instruments used for Jazz Include Cajon , Cajita and Quijada de burro .

Afro- Peruvians celebrate Black History Month as well every year of the Month of February starting from 20th-24th in Lima , Ayacucho and other communities of Afro- Peruvians. Black History month is celebrated also in USA, UK. Jamaica , Cuba, Venezuela , Brazil , Belize , Netherlands and other parts of the Diaspora. T he main purpose of the celebration is to remember Important people and events of the African Diaspora.

Afro- Peruvians celebrate Black History month with music, dance performances, having lunch or dinner .

According to Carnegie Hall’s account, there is a performance that features powerful rhythms alongside joyful and melancholic melodies. Reflecting on the story of the African descendants of Peru and paying tribute Musicians and heroes featuring over 40 performers on the stage, the performance utilizes Instruments created almost 2 centuries ago by enslaved Africans in Peru .

Fiesta Negra was formed in the 1980s. Congas and cowbells are also used as musical styles and applies drum rhythms. Son de los Diablos and Its dance was believed to have originated from the Corpus Christie celebrations in colonial Peru.

Representing the good and bad, in this case the good was classified by Spanish Colonists especially Spanish white supremacists as the dominant class but labelled the devilish and evil as Africans and their traditions which is all misconception .

The Son de los Diablos dance form evolved in the four centuries to be part of the Carnival celebrations on the coast of Peru, mainly in Lima . This Son de Diablos folkloric form was no longer practiced by the 1950’s.  The Afro- Peruvian revival of Jose Duran’s Cumanana groups from the late 1950s and 60s brought this dance, the forgotten past to this stage . Elders gave a lot of advice to develop a recreation well . It was practiced as a comparsa style where they claimed to be the minor diablos obeyed the command of their leader the Diablo Mayor , their main Instruments Include Donkey’s Jaws and Cajitas .

Afro- Peruvian Maroon Leaders such as Francisco Congo also spelled as Sao Francisco Congo or Francisco Kongo .

The Son de los Diablos dance form envolved in the four centuries to be part of the Carnival celebrations in the coast of Peru, mainly in Lima . This Son de Diablos folkloric form was no longer practiced by the 1950’s The Afro- Peruvian revival Jose Duran’s the Cumanana groups from the late 1950s and 60s brought this dance , the forgotten past to this stage . Elders gave a lot of advice to develop a recreation well . It was practiced as a comparsa style where they claimed to be the minor diablos obeyed the command of their leader the Diablo Mayor , their main Instruments Include Donkey’s Jaws and Cajitas .

Afro- Peruvian Maroon Leaders such as Francisco Congo also spelled as Sao Francisco Congo or Francisco Kongo .

It is believed Francisco Congo also known as Francisco Kongo or Sao Francisco Congo he formed an Afro- Peruvian Community along the Peruvian coast and fought the Europeans (Spanish) for 19 years and fought for the rights for People of Color and restored their African Identity with another unknown African Military known as Negro Guadeloupe an Afro- Peruvian revolutionary leader during the War of Independence even through they played a big role during Afro- Peruvian freedom from Spanish there is no much recorded infos about Francisco Congo and other Unknown Warriors .


Kwame Selikem Okatakyie