When most people think of Peru, they probably think of Spanish, Machu Picchu, the rain forest, and maybe the Incas. But what most people probably don’t think about is Africans. Unfortunately, Perú and many South American countries were largely involved in the slave trade after the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadores. Consequently, many South American countries like Peru and Brazil have a very large groups of people from African descent. Here in Peru, people of African descent are generally known as Afro-Peruanos, and typically are the result of a blending of the African slaves and the indigenous peoples, often referred to as mestizo or criollo.
While slavery has long since ended in Perú, there has still been a lot of discrimination against Afro-Peruvians, to the extent that in 2009 the Peruvian government released an official apology for the years of racial injustice against Afro-Peruvians. Now, I am no expert on the history of Afro-Peruvians here in Perú, and I will likely be asking a friend to write a guest blog post to give a far better explanation than what I have included here.
While the history of Afro-Peruanos in Perú is not the brightest, the inevitable blending of cultures that occurred between the indigenous people of Perú, the Spanish, and the people from various parts of Africa led to some very interesting cultural developments, most notably in the realms of dance and music. Festejo is a genre of Afro-Peruvian music which has a very distinctive sound due to its heavy reliance on percussion instruments such as the cajón and the lower jawbone of a horse. I really enjoy the music because it has a great beat and just makes you want to dance.
Speaking of dancing, there are an abundance of interesting dances to accompany Afro-Peruvian songs, such as the one I am highlighting today called “El Alcatraz”. While I really enjoy this song and the beat, the best part would have to be the dance which involves a man and a woman dancing after each other, each trying to use a lit candle to burn a paper towel attached to the back of the other dancer’s clothes. I couldn’t find a great video of the dance, so if you are interested in checking it out, just do a quick YouTube search for “El Alcatraz”.
Without further ado, I give you, “El Alcatraz”.
I hope you enjoyed the music!