Message addressed to the Peruvian Government with relation to its participation in the 85th period of sessions of the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, CERD.
Why is it that, for that vast majority of Peruvians, the character La Paisana Jacinta does not portray a racist stereotype of women and the indigenous peoples? Why is it that the communications media do not consider characters like this to be expressions of racism? Why is it that, in such cases, there is no indignant reaction from society, and that self-regulation does not work within the communications media?
It is our belief that the Government should identify and classify racism as an urgent national problem which must be prioritized and solved; this should be seen in the shape of public actions and policies that lead to identifying the nature of the problem, its impact on our identities, its economic implications, and the way it should be addressed by the ministries and governmental structures.
We consider that the communications media simply reproduce the well-established and ever present racism on which our society was built, thus perpetuating the perception of us, the indigenous peoples, as a dead weight that impedes the much desired development of Peru.
Although La Paisana Jacinta is not the only programme that makes use of racial stereotypes to make the audience laugh, it is the most representative as it includes all the characteristics and stereotypes associated with indigenous folk in Peru: ugliness, poverty, ignorance, and backwardness. If the self-regulation of the communications media fails, and if racism has already been assimilated subconsciously by the minds of the audience in general, how can we expect Frecuencia Latina to take the programme off the air?
This Monday, Peru will be evaluated by the UN, through its Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, CERD. In the past, this body has expressed its concern regarding racial discrimination against the indigenous peoples in our country’s communications media, and requested the Peruvian Government to combat stereotypes and prejudices based on racism.
CHIRAPAQ, Centre for Indigenous Cultures of Peru, has presented a report to CERD explaining that our country has not properly complied with this request and that the transmission and popularity of programmes like La Paisana Jacinta clearly show this.
The existence of ethical codes in the communications media, information platforms, complaint-reception bodies and programmes that have been implemented are still insufficient to contain and eradicate the ethno-racial discrimination in our country, in both the communications media and in general.
It is the responsibility of our Government to disseminate clear information regarding the problem of racism and to encourage a full understanding of its implications and manifestations. This is why we demand the following:
- That the Government should treat racism as a priority problem of national interest which must be addressed urgently.
- That the Ministry of Education should work out a strategy in which racism and discrimination are recognized as a national malady and that these issues be addressed in school classrooms and incorporated in the design of syllabuses.
- That prior consultation should be recognized as an obligation of the state, not something which is subject to the self-recognition as indigenous of the communities and populations that ask for it – in a country that gives us neither freedom nor conditions to identify ourselves as such.
This 9 August is the International Indigenous Peoples’ Day, a date when the world’s countries should reflect on whether they are doing enough to reduce the differences and fulfil our rights as indigenous peoples.
We firmly believe that the Peruvian Government can indeed do more. If our institutions change attitudes we shall have citizens who are aware, who react immediately and with indignation to the use of these stereotypes. Only then will programmes like La Paisana Jacinta leave our television screens and we shall be able to build a genuinely intercultural country where differences are respected.
We do not want more Jacintas as representations of women and indigenous peoples. We are neither backwardness nor a something out of the past. We are
the present and the future. We are a diversity of peoples and cultures, heirs to traditions, knowledge and wisdom which we contribute, beyond any differences, to the development of our country.
A decent image for our peoples and cultures!
CHIRAPAQ, Centre for Indigenous Cultures of Peru
Download the report at the UN website.