3 April, 2017

Racist character returns by double feature

Television station plays deaf to UN’s disapproval of comic portrait of indigenous women.

Foto: Alejandro Wong /CHIRAPAQ

Even though the international condemnation of the comic character known as la “Paisana Jacinta” (“Jacinta, the peasant”) by the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination of the United Nations (CERD), and its withdrawal from peruvian tv station Latina programming, the “Paisana Jacinta” has remained throughout these years.

By imitation or sporadic appearances, different television programs, radio shows, TV personalities and the main public have been keeping it alive. But mostly, by her catchphrases and slang that are known part of our own culture and behavior. This was only a time off by his creator, comedian Jorge Benavides, but the character will return with the same stereotyped portrait of the indigenous woman as object of mockery and derision.

Although other TV stations, have been airing the show’s previous seasons, this has not been getting more attention or any statement by indigenous organizations or any king of other groups. And this is not because of lack of interest, rather than this is not a persecution, nor does the life of organizations revolve around this problem.

The problem is racism and its roots in our society. It is also not a question of pointing out sides, because this problem is affecting our society an all of us alike.

However, it is necessary to point out in relation to this problem, an evil common in our society: let time pass so that everything returns to normal. It happens with politicians, whose mistakes we forget and with natural disasters, when after a few days humanitarian help ceases. Everything returns to the way it was before and the same scenario of disappointment, hopelessness and resignation repeats itself.

We reiterate what we have been supporting all along these years. The problem is not the “Paisana Jacinta” character, but the social conditions that make it possible, that reproduce it, that keep her alive. And this character is this context most elaborate product so far.

If we draw a parallel between “Paisana Jacinta” and “Negro Mama” (the other character of Jorge Benavides), what sets them apart? Why was the “Negro Mama” sanctioned and withdrawn by the Ministry of Transport and Communications? In both cases CERD and social organizations intervened. However in the case of “Negro Mama” the recurring use of catchphrases that evidenced the mental shortage of black Peruvians play a key role. The character always said “I might be black but I have some brains”. Also that he was constantly involved in criminal scenarios. This two aspects were extremely evident in their racist nature.

In the case of “Paisana Jacinta” the character appeals to an extended stereotype of how indigenous women are supposed to be. For the social imaginary indigenous women are dirty, disrespectful, without control of their primal and rude instincts. Indigenous peoples alike are perceived as backwards and unable to understand development. Hence its root in our society.

If the “Paisana Jacinta” show’s withdrawn would solve the problem of racism and discrimination, all our daily efforts will have that in mind. But this is not the case, because every time this has been address it creates the perception of indigenous peoples going against freedom of expression, and for the media an easy way to play victim.

During its appearance in different entertainment programs “La Paisana Jacinta” keeps using the same stereotyped behavior that condemned her in the first place. It’s more of the same. And know by double feature. His creator Jorge Benavides will showcase the character in his new show “The WhatsApp of JB“, thar will air in Latina as well, on Saturday’s prime time. Likewise, it was announced that “Paisana Jacinta” appear on her own film due to be release by November.

In this scenario “Paisana Jacinta” will continue to exist in popular culture, feeding of recent comedy films that have been getting some popularity in Peru. It is not strange that for a country that is yet become an equal society, comedy will be that successful. Comedy relays on our daily lives and common expediencies, to show us more of the same.

We have raised the need for dialogue and debate, the exchange of ideas and respect for discrepancies, that is, the exercise of citizenship. But who are the citizens? We understand citizens as people with rights, recognized in that exercise and with it, fully empowered to express themselves and generate changes. Within the logic of racism and discrimination, we would leave the indigenous peoples out of this description. Hence we are accused of resentment, of having little sense of “humor” or that we are executing a plan orchestrated by knows who or with what dark intentions.

It is in the exercise of that citizenship that we will always manifest against these types of programs and the social and economic conditions that motivate it, because for us, time is not forgotten, nor does it pass as an excuse to return to the same.