Daniela Rivera Antara

2020 - Ongoing


“What happens to a woman when you tell her she has a choice for what her life can be and suddenly her whole identity of having to serve and take care of others, is taken away?” said Ph.D. candidate and Afro Peruvian activist Angie Campos. “It is a very delicate process.”

Since the 16th of March, the sense of Peruvian pride collapsed as the gastronomic and tourism sectors closed, leaving out in the open the increasingly exacerbated infrastructure crises affecting the indegenous and peripheral populations. “The only governmental entity that mentions Afro Peruvians, is the Ministry of Culture. As if we only exist to contribute to Peru’s gastronomic and musical image without addressing that Afro Peruvians have been living through systemic crises. Everyone talks about the doctors working in the frontlines but there is no talk about the Afro Peruvian women living in the frontlines”, said Melody Palma, a 25 year old law graduate and activist.

Most Peruvians still hold onto a narrative of multiculturality as a national identity without realizing the extent that it fogs all efforts of engaging in thoughtful and proactive change. A narrative that leads to recurring comments such as “we are all the same”, “they are just socially resentful” or “racism doesn’t exist”. Within a society of normalized machismo and sexist violence, non-white women are often perceived as servants, maids, objects of entertainment or of pleasure. A story that repeats itself for afro-descendents, indegenous women and even Venezuelan migrants, with haunting testimonies of being followed, harassed, abused or confused for prostitutes purely for their physical appearance. A study done by CEDET with UNICEF and Plan International showed that an estimated 20% of Afro Peruvian girls and young women drop out of school because they didn’t like it. As of the recent 2017 census, only 11.5% of Afro Peruvian women pursued higher education.

“Indegenous populations are seen as their own people for being far away from the capital, but because we live in the coast, and within the city, we are not taken into account as a population with pressing needs. There aren’t neighbourhoods of Afro-Peruvians as we are scattered amongst the most segregated districts,” said Campos. “Many women have not gone to the hospital or clinic out of fear that they would be treated worse than they were before COVID-19 and many are suffering an economic and psychological blow”. Within the 72,5% of the national population that works informally, many afro descendent women have lost financial security and have been forced to reinvent their sources of income by selling food or merchandise in the streets or having to take risky work offers on top of the added household pressures.

The images include parts of the conversations had during our interviews, highlighting the need for clarity and justice within the difficulty of being a Latin American Afro-descendent woman during the current global pandemic which has added an additional layer of segregation to their already existing crisis.

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  • Law graduate, 25 years old, in the southern district of Villa Maria del Triunfo

    ”Even though I live in a pueblo joven I am currently doing well in comparison to other women because I have a home, running water, a stable job and so do my parents. Other women I know have had to find different ways of earning an income. I am the one that leaves the house the most, because both my parents are over 60. I go out to buy the groceries and to get anything they need. My parents step outside occasionally but even so I will wear a mask inside the house if I am around them. My father doesn’t cook so my mum and I share that between us two.”

  • Sunday morning, preparing breakfast for 13 people inside one of the homes of Chorrillos. She is the mother of the young girl inside the bath. She works from 6.30am to 3pm in the local Military Hospital as maintenance staff and then returns home where she is in charge of her two children, their meals and keeping the household clean.

  • One of the sisters of a different household (left) with her niece (right) taking orders from customers that come to buy homemade food and beers on a Sunday afternoon in June.

  • “When my mother was incarcerated along with three of my siblings, my world changed. My father had lost his pension and passed away due to an illness and as a last resort my mother started selling drugs. My daughters now tell me that they could never feel ashamed of me for having worked at a brothel even though my sisters became very distant afterwards. I didn’t think I had another choice and for several years it turned into my main source of income until I had my third child. I remember waking up on the hospital bed with all of the cables on my chest and ripping them out in confusion. There had already been rumours that I had died. When I was brought back home I couldn’t remember anyone, not even my daughters faces. I had collapsed and gone into a diabetic coma and shortly after had to go through an invasive surgery for uterine cancer. The only thing that saved me was my reconnection with the church and slowly regained my memory.”

  • For Sunday breakfast, the sheets and the large table came out as the whole family would sit together, as 14 family members. The grandmother, 74, changed the sheets after her granddaughter spilled tea on the clean sheets.

    “I am a native mazamorrera. I was born in Lima and have always lived in Chorrillos. My mother passed away when I was 19 out of a sudden heart attack and I was left alone with my aunt in this house. I wanted to make my own business as a tailor but when I was 23 I had my first child and after her I had all of the other 8. My mother used to work selling the best white fish from the port and I got used to that. After she died I became a housewife and with so many children, it was challenging.”

    Mazamorrera is a nickname alluding to a traditional peruvian desert that is associated with afro-descendants. On the 22nd of June, the company Allicorp announced they would be removing the image of Negrita from their branding of traditional Peruvian desserts with Afro Peruvian origins.

  • Fixing each others hair before the birthday party. Both cousins, 5 years old and 13, are inseparable and usually do everything together. The oldest of the two is the daughter of the youngest brother of the family. As a very religious man he would not allow his two daughters (only one is in the picture) to dress in anything that was not a long skirt or a dress.

  • Singing “Yo Perdi el Corazon” by Eva Ayllon for her mother's 74th birthday celebration.
    One of her dreams had been to become a singer as she had been told she had the type of voice that is very celebrated in criolle and Afro Peruvian music. However, she never made the decision due to a lack of support in her immediate family.

    “Growing up we never had birthday parties and we never celebrated each other. My mum was a frustrated woman and she was the hardest with me. When I became pregnant at 23 she wouldn’t talk to me until she and my father realized I was depressed. I think she wanted me to live a better life but economically it was always difficult. One day when I was 17, we went out to buy groceries from the corner shop. I forgot to get the change and when I went back someone had already taken it. My mother was looking at me and when we came back she grabbed one of our roosters and threw it at me in the living room of the house. She felt very frustrated at not being able to do what she had wanted for herself.”

  • One of the youngest members of one of the families in Chorrillos, waiting for her mother to come back with the boiled water for her bath. Most of the houses in the neighbourhood don’t have water heaters and she spent more time playing than bathing, cooling down the tempered bath.

  • “The woman I work for always tells me that it's impossible anyone would ever dislike me. She says that I am very kind and that she really cares for me. Sometimes she yells and gets frustrated but then in a soft voice she will apologize and I tell her it is alright. I tell her that I also care for her and that I hope when I am older there will be someone to care for me too. She is a very old woman of 95 years and her sons live abroad so they sometimes call me to tell me that I should not leave her side.

    I was at work for 3 days without sleeping. The lady I care for needs my help for almost everything, like showering or going to the bathroom. I have to hold her up and clean her. Working overnight is tiring specially because I have knee problems but after my old boss died I no longer made enough money to help my granddaughter study english. Now with Covid-19 my husband and I are taking every job we can take and hope this goes away. The work pays less than minimum wage but I care for her and I like being responsible. One day when I went to wake her for her morning shower, she said she had not slept because ants had climbed through her bed up to her head and attacked her. I would not have believed her story but she had collected a handful of dead ants to show me it was true.”

  • 70 years old. Inside the second floor where she lives with her husband and son.

    I was sent to a convent when I was 14 because I had been spending time out with my friends and my mother didn't want me to get harassed in the streets. A few years later my sister was walking alone and she fell for a man that called her towards his car. He ripped her pants and then she became pregnant. It was terrible. I liked living in the convent and wanted to study to become a nun but when I turned 18 my mother begged me to return home because she needed help with my 9 younger siblings and my father's job was not enough. I left the convent and have been working ever since. It is difficult not to miss my old boss, he really cared about me. I would live with him and when I worked it was impossible for me to sleep. I was very careful to not touch anything to not give a wrong impression and would stay up in case he needed me during the night.”

  • “My main problems have been with my hair. There would always be girls harassing me and touching my hair, as if it wasn’t uncomfortable. Perhaps we have that in common, Peruvians with the US. Although my curls could have some privilege, because they have never been compared to pubic hair... I asked myself why the movement managed to consolidate itself in Brazil, but not so much in Peru. If we really are as few as the national census tells us or if we are here but many decide not to identify as afro-descendents. As a mixed afro-andean woman, I have always been questioned for not being black enough. Identifying as mestiza is more comfortable, but to me that never fit how I was perceived.”

    19 year old sociology student, inside her grandmother's bedroom which is adjacent to her family house in the northern district of Lima, San Juan de Lurigancho. She, along with some friends, created a university group of Afro Peruvian studies, along with the youth activism she participates in.

  • Inside her grandmother's bedroom, who now lives in Queens, New York.

    “When I was very young, like in Victoria Santa Cruz’s poem, I went to a friend's house and when I knocked on the door her brother came out and threw a stone at me yelling leave maldita negra. It fell on my lip and for many years I believed my lips looked like this because of the stone. ”

  • Portrait of Melody Palma, in the park closest to her house in the district of Villa Maria del Triunfo.