Peru: Racism at the Beach

racism at beach

They say that to work is no offence, that there is no job that one should be ashamed of. It sounds logical, but not everyone seems to think that way. Many Peruvians, some think too many, leave their motherland to look for a better job opportunity abroad, where they often end up working jobs that not even in their worse nightmares had they done here. Perhaps the fact that no one they know is witness to their suffering lessens the embarrassment and loss of self-esteem that comes from working a job below someone's abilities. But it is not necessary to leave the country to work in discriminatory and marginalized conditions.

In Lima and the nearby beach resorts it is summer. Many years ago, up until the Sixties, the fashionable beaches were those of Miraflores, Barranco and Chorrillos as well as the more distant beaches of Ancón. Today, for what has already been a good number of summers, the hotspot beaches are to the south. Among the great many beaches along the coast to the south of the capital, the favorite of wealthy Limeans is called “Asia,” and is often pronounced in English by those who spend their summers there. This resort has been made famous for offering the very best to its exclusive clientele. In fact, the beach has transformed into a small city with all the offerings of modernity and globalization, out of sight from the town that also used to spend the summer there.

But recently, Asia has also become well-known for its discriminatory and marginalizing treatment towards the “domestic employees” or “household employees” as they are generally called among the families who employ them. These workers, for example, are effectively prohibited from entering the beach during the day. Only after 6 p.m. are they allowed to enter these areas. Obviously many consider this unjust and that it boils down to an undeniable issue of racism.

Therefore, The Office Against Racism of the National Coordinator of Human rights, composed of diverse institutions and individuals, have formed a weblog to publicize an operation called “Audacious Employee” in which a group of people dressed like maids peacefully enter one of the off-limit beaches during the day and bathe in them. More information is available in this post: Questions and answers about Operation Audacious Employee. The mentioned operation successfully took place last Sunday, complete with videos and photos. There was also repercussion from the operation in the press.

As it could not be any other way, several bloggers echoed the subject and posted about the operation both before and after it happened:

La Perra de mi Vecina… ladra muchoOperativo “Empleada Audaz”
Diseño PerúCartel a propósito del operativo “Empleada Audaz”
ZonadenoticiasUn operativo audaz
Luna antagonica: Entre cables, sueños, cemento y pielOperativo empleada audaz contra gamonalismo reload Versión 2007 3.14
PeruanistaVideo: Trabajadora del Hogar
Pospost“Empleada audaz” cambió rostro a playas de Asia y Una observación fraterna sobre el tema de Asia
El blog del morsaempleada audaz. historia tras bambalinas
El Sitio de Kinua – Kinua's SiteVideo: Operativo Empleada audaz
Des-ubicadasEmpleada Audaz fue un exito!!!
Mi otro blogEmpleada Audaz
Desde el Tercer PisoEmpleada audaz
El Útero de MaritaVídeo del Operativo Empleada Audaz
Pueblo VrutoOperativo PATRÓN AUDAZ
Gran Combo ClubDerecha vruta

But this is not the only protest that has occurred recently in Lima. Another took place in Lima's Plaza de Armas against the president's plan to restore capital punishment for certain crimes. Posts about the protest include: “Only Death can enter the [Presidential] Palace? [ES]“, “Only Death could enter the Palace [ES]” and “Protest against Death: Latest Reflections [ES].” Regarding bloggers and other details, Gran Combo Club posted “Successful Protest in the Plaza de Armas” and “Successful Protest in the Plaza de Armas (2).”

Well, as you can see, the year seems to have begun with a lot of citizens here in Lima organizing protests using online resources here in Lima. Gabriel Rodriguez of Peru Design, is the photographer of the image that accompanies this post.

Translated from Spanish by David Sasaki


  • Juan,

    Que bien que comentaste este evento, me impactó ver la colaboración de tantos bloggueros peruanos en el asunto, fenoménal realmente. También, en cuanto a la oposición a la pena de muerte.

    I’m glad to see event mentioned, and was impressed by the role that Peruvian bloggers played in promoting this event, as well as the opposition to the proposed death penalty law.

  • how is this issue connected to racism?

    how many houseworkers have time to go to the beach during the day? aren’t they supposed to be working?

    i think it could be seen as positive for both employer and employee..imagine going to the beach and finding your boss there with their family? would you really want to be at the same beach as your boss?, who might, by the way, have some additional ideas to share about how to do your job better…and you might feel compelled to put on a professional face and really not be yourself…i just think it’s a way to make sure employees aren’t playing during working hours (like their bosses might be!)…maybe the boss doesn’t want the housekeeper to see them with their latest mistress on the beach?


  • Somehow it comes to my mind that the employees should be able to decide themeselves if they want to go to the beaches or not… They might know that they risk their jobs when they are seen hanging out there during working times – but that should be up to them.
    To me, it looks like they’re treated like dogs…

  • Alejandro – Sí, pareciera que la blogósfera peruana es capaz no sólo de banalidades, por momentos, je.

    J&M: What you say sounds good, but it is not the kind of working relation that bosses and housekeepers have here in Lima. In some aspects, colonial uses are still alive here. Since employees are in its majority people who descend from europeans inmigrants and housekeepers are people who descend from the original peruvians (incas), there’s a strong racist element present. (sorry for my bad english). Thanks for reading this.

    Lo que dicen suena razonable, pero en otra realidad, no en la forma como se relacionan patrón y empleada del hogar en Lima. En algunos aspectos vivimos en una sociedad de usos coloniales aún. Com odijo alguien por alguno de los posts recolectados. Si los patrones tienen casi todos rasgos europeos o anglosajones (bueno, es casi lo mismo para nosotros) y las empleadas son todas de descendencia inca o aymara, este hecho de por sí, acrecienta el factor de discriminación racial ya presente en casi todos los niveles de la sociedad peruana. De hecho, creo que podría ser un poco difícil de entender para quien no la conoce siquiera algo.

    Gracias por las lecturas.

  • Peruanista

    Thanks Juan for this post.

    In response to Jordan & Maria:
    This issue is not only connected to racism, but also to labor rights, because the minority of whealthy Peruvians (mostly whites) have a long history of discriminatory practices against the rest of Peruvians, since colonial times. Most housekeepers and security employees in Peru are Indigenous and blacks, and most of them have to face exploitation and abuse while working. In the case of this beach (Asia) most employees live in the neighboring small towns and some come from Lima, which is 60 miles north. Locals have used those beaches long before Lima’s wealthy built gated developments blocking public access. This is illegal according to Peru’s laws. Most housekeepers in Peru don’t have any labor rights, are victims of sexual assault, violence, scams and treated as live-in servants. This action was intended to send a message to the whole country: it’s time for Peru to end its apartheid-like practices for once.

  • Isn’t that happenning in all Latin America?

  • Peruanista

    One more thing: housekeepers are forbiden to use the beaches between 6AM to 7PM, not 5PM as the poster says. That is a 13 hours gap, and considering that a full-time shift shouldn’t be longer than 8 hours accorging to international labor rights, there you have: 5 hours of freedom for employees to do what they please as individuals with full human rights as opposed to be second-class citizens.

  • Peruanista:

    thanks for “a brief history of peru” — i am not well-informed about your history, but now that you have described it, i think racism could explain alot here…i think that the best way, in a very general sense, would be to avoid racial polarization…it’s probably very wise to stay within the labor rights discourse, you may get more support from liberals on ‘the other side.’

    i wonder if the people who clean the beach are allowed to use the beach? maybe they should strike and see how long the aren’t noticed!

  • Lo de los horarios de trabajo es todo un tema aparte. Es práctica común y conocida, que las empleadas del hogar trabajan desde que se levantan hasta que se acuestan (Y algunas hasta son obligadas a trabajar ya acostadas, pero no quiero entrar al tema del abuso/acoso sexual). Por supuesto esto no sólo se da en las que están empleadas en lo que se conoce como familias de nivel socio-económico A, sino también entre las de nivel B y C (No creo que los nivles D y E tengan empleada doméstica).

    Y digo que es todo un tema porque lo de las 8 horas no lo respeta ni el mismo gobierno. Sin ir muy lejos, yo trabajo en un organismo del estado y mi horario de trabajo son de 12 horas diarias, así como quien no quiere la cosa.

    Si alguien se acomide a traducir este comentario, se lo agradeceré.

    Comment translated by Global Voices editor Georgia Popplewell:

    Working hours are another story altogether. It’s common and widely known that domestics work from the time they get up in the morning till they go to bed at night. (And some are made to work even while in bed, but let’s not get into the issue of sexual harassment/abuse). And naturally this situation occurs not only in the case of those who are employed by families of what is known as socio-economic level A, but also among those of level B and C (I don’t think level D and E employ domestics).

    And I say it’s a whole other story because even the government doesn’t respect the 8-hour law. As a personal example: I work in for a state organisation and my work day is 12 hours, just like everyone else does without complaint.

    If somebody could translate this comment I’d be grateful.

  • Thanks Georgia.

    And to J&M Seidel: Undoubtly racism polarizes everything, a hard task keep it away from political discourses. Ollanta Humala’s campaign in last presidential election was a good example for that, indeed it was an active component of his discourse, as a way to grab the attention of a long time resentful and abused people.

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