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Peru: Film Festival Poster Brings Cries of Racism

At first glance, it may seem unlogical to speak of racism in Peru, a multiracial country in which the majority of citizens have, in varying degrees, an indigenous background. Asking someone to to prove their ‘racial purity’ in Peru would be unbelievable. During the Inca Empire, a number of different ethnic groups existed (among them, the Aymara, the Wankas, the Chimu, and many others) but what we don't know is if there were racist practices among them.

Juan Arellano of Globalizado [ES] provides his own opinion on the state of racism in Peru:

El racismo en el Perú existe pues definitivamente y suele ser asolapado, nadie acepta ser racista, pero en la confianza de estar entre similares mucha gente lo expresa y lo practica. Obviamente el objeto del racismo somos los cholos y los negros. Antes era común también el racismo hacia los orientales pero al haberse transformado en un grupo económicamente poderoso se ha dado el fenómeno conocido como “blanqueo”, o como popularmente se diría “el dinero te cambia el color de la piel”.

Cada cierto tiempo el racismo es tema de conversación preferente entre la gente llamada “intelectual” o llega a los medios masivos debido a alguna denuncia o campaña en su contra, tal como hace tiempo posteamos acá también (ver: En la Playa contra el Racismo, en Palacio contra la Muerte). Pero muchos peruanos continúan sufriendo el racismo día a día, en formas sutiles o groseras y es difícil creer que algo vaya a cambiar debido a la forma clasista, elitista y segregacionista en la que está estructurada nuestra sociedad (y nuestra ciudad de Lima), sin embargo es cierto que la situación general ha cambiado con respecto a la que se vivía hace 50 o 60 años, así que ¿Quién sabe en qué país vivirán nuestros nietos?

Racism exists in present day Peru, but it tends to be subtle. In general, no one admits to being racist, but when people are among their ethnic peers, they feel free to express the fact they are racist, or practice racism. Obviously, those who are the targets of racism are the cholos (as those who have indigenous background are called in Peru) or Afro Peruvians. In the past, there was also racism against people of Asian origin but since that ethic group has become economically powerful, they have experienced the phenomenon known as ‘whitening’, or as it is known popularly, ‘money changes the color of your skin’.
Every once in a while, racism becomes the topic of conversation among those who consider themselves ‘intellectuals’, or the subject reaches the Peruvian mass media due to complaints or campaigns against it, as we posted here before (see: To the beach against racism, to the Presidential Palace against the death penalty).
Yet, many Peruvians continue to suffer racism in their day to day lives, whether it be in subtle or egregious ways, and it is difficult to believe that something will change due to the classist, elitist, and segregacionist manner in which Peruvian society is structured, including the city of Lima. However, it is true that the general situation has changed in the past 50 or 60 years, so who knows what kind of society our Peruvian grandchildren will live in.

Of course, the latest episodes of racism in Peru have been discussed in the Peruvian blogosphere. For example, Polysocial [ES] tells us in a recent post that the Poster for the 2007 Lima Film Festival is elitist, racist, and exclusionary. This is why:

La publicidad de este Festival “objetivamente” hablando no es mala, porque creo que se enfoca directamente al publico objetivo que quiere llegar, el publico habitual del Centro Cultural de la PUCP (ubicado en San Isidro) y el que va a poder pagar su entrada para ver las peliculas y asistir a los seminarios (precios de 50 a 100 soles). El resto de los asistentes al festival que van a asistir a las funciones gratis en -por ejemplo- la Biblioteca Nacional (en el Centro de Lima) no son el público objetivo de los organizadores de este evento.

El afiche no hubiera causado polémica si la agencia de publicidad no hubiese intentando quedar bien con su cliente (el CCPUCP) y al mismo tiempo tratar de ubicarse ante la población -como lo viene haciendo- como una agencia enfocada en promover la inclusión social. Es más fácil dar la idea de promover ésta con publicidad orientada a productos de consumo masivo como son los celulares.

Si en el afiche el señor de espaldas no hubiera aparecido creo que el afiche no habría sido criticado, algunas personas podrían haber continuado sí criticando al festival porque aunque éste festival tenga el nombre de Festival de Lima es más asociado con el festival del CCPUCP y es conocida por lo menos en Lima la fama que tiene el CCPUCP de ser elitista, frecuentada por snobs, gente llamada caviar, etc.

The promotion of the Film Festival “objectively” speaking isn't bad, because I think it is focused directly to the public it wants to reach, the traditional public who attend events at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru's (PUCP) Cultural Center (located in San Isidro, Lima's wealthiest old-guard district) and who can afford the entrance fees (which range from 50 to 100 soles, 15 and 30 USD) to see the films and attend the seminars. The people who are going to attend the Festival's free events (for example, one at the National Library in the center of Lima) are not the Festival organizer's target audience.

The poster wouldn't be so controversial if the advertising agency hadn't tried to please its client, the PUCP Cultural Center, and at the same time try to promote themselves in the public's eye, as they have been doing, as an ad agency concerned about social inclusion. This concept is easier to promote with advertising dealing with products of mass consumption, like cellular phones.

If the man who has his back to the viewer had not been included in the poster, I don't think the poster would have been criticized. Some people would have continued to complain because while the event is billed as the Lima Film Festival, it is more regarded as the PUCP's Cultural Center's Festival, which in Lima has the fame of being an elitist institution, frequented by snobs, and people we call ‘caviar’.

The blog Pueblo Vruto [ES] also touches disenchantedly upon the subject of the Film Festival's poster and racism. RACIST ME, RACIST YOU…? [ES] says that by talking about racism, one is being racist, and that no matter how much one can discuss the issue, things won't change:

Ahora, podremos rasgarnos las vestiduras todo lo que queramos por CIERTO racismo en nuestra sociedad (nadie protestaría si se tratara de un colorado el discriminado), pero si no atinamos a una sola propuesta creativa (constructiva) en lugar de los fichajes nacionalsozialistas (Toleranz macht frei?), seguiremos en lo de siempre: la cháchara de salón, los kilómetros de ensayos y monografías, el mero motivo para hablar (bloggear ).

We can rend our garments as much as we want due to CERTAIN types of racism in our society (no one would protest if a “whitey” was the object of discrimination), but if we're unable to come up with even one creative (constructive) proposal in lieu of the the national socialist ones [read: Nazi (Toleranz macht frei?)], then we're going to continue in the same vein: the bla-bla-bla at tea parties, the kilometers of essays and monographs, and the same old reason to speak (blog) ).

The blog, Cinencuentro [ES], has dedicated a couple of posts to the issue since it has to do with its main subject (film): Lima Film Festival 2007: The poster of discord [ES] (with links to other blogs that discuss the issue, which is why I won't mention them, but recommend you visit them). In Lima Film Festival 2007: Toronja responds about the poster [ES], they publish the response given by Sandro Venturo, a member of Toronja, the advertising agency that produced the controversial poster. Here is an excerpt:

No buscamos hacer comunicación racista, ni mucho menos. Sin embargo, entendemos que el afiche del Festival sea considerado polémico. De hecho, lo es. La realidad a la que refiere es difícil. Los peruanos nos damos demasiado seguido la espalda y nos cuesta admitirlo.

Si alguien se ha sentido ofendido, sepa que esa no ha sido nuestra intención. A través de un símbolo hemos puesto en imagen las contradicciones de una sociedad que queremos cambiar. Basta revisar nuestra trayectoria para constatar que nuestro compromiso está alineado con los derechos ciudadanos.

We don't seek to make racist statements, nor anything else; however, we understand the Film Festival's poster is considered controversial. In fact, it is. The reality which it refers to is difficult. We Peruvians often turn our backs on each other and it is hard for us to admit that.

If anyone has felt offended, know that that was not our intention. By using a symbol, we have placed an image of the contradictions of a society we wish to change. All one needs to do is see our history [as a company] to prove that our commitment is for the rights of citizens.

Contrary to what was meant to happen, this response by Toronja's Director has caused even more controversy (and it really could not have been otherwise) such as El Utero de Marita [ES] post Toronja's latest poster [ES], where in addition to reaching certain conclusions about the subject, they reproduce a funny caricature about the controversial poster.

1. Como dice el Morsa, el problema no es lo que quiso o no decir Toronja. No creo que el buen Sandro Venturo o el siempre correcto Gustavo Rodríguez hayan tenido una intención racista. Creo que el escándalo se ha debido a su incoherencia con a) el rollo profesional de Toronja, que siempre ha sido de “inclusión” y b) el rollo académico de la organizadora del evento, mi PUCP, que se encuentra en las mismas coordenadas, especialmente por la vinculación de lo mejorcito de su plana docente con la CVR. Peores cosas se ven en la publicidad de cervezas…

3. … no me van a decir que se creyeron ese floro de “hemos puesto en imagen las contradicciones de una sociedad que queremos cambiar”. Por favor. Esa carta de Venturo lo enredó todo. Prefiero obviarla del debate. (Además, si les creyéramos, deberíamos asumir que Toronja inserta caleta nomás mensajes trasgresores en sus trabajos comerciales; y por más que las veo y las reveo, no encuentro nada que me ilustre sobre las “contradicciones” en sus campañas para Yanacocha y Camisea).

1. As el Morsa [ES] says, the problem is not what Toronja wanted to say or not. I don't believe that the good Sandro Venturo or the always proper Gustavo Rodríguez had the intent of being racist. I think the scandal has to do with the incoherence of a) the professional line of Toronja, which has always been about “inclusion” and b) the academic role of the event's organizer, my PUCP, which finds itself in the same coordinates, especially with its ties with the the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission. You see worse things in ads for beer…

3. … don't try to make me believe that double-talk like, “we put that image [on the poster] because we wanted to show the contradictions of a society we want to change.” Oh, please. Ventura's response has really messed it all up. I prefer to keep it out of the debate. (Besides, if we believed him, then we have to believe that Toronja subtly inserts transgressive images in its commercial work; and, no matter how much I look at them and then look at them again, I don't see anything that gives me insight into said “contradictions” in their campaigns for [mining companies] Yanacocha and Camisea).

Leaving behind the subject of the poster (but not much) here is an extract of the post Racism and Segregation in Lima: A Film Festival and a Water Park which Peruanista [ES/EN] recently published:

Lima es una ciudad que esta dividida no solamente por la enorme diferencia entre el rico y el pobre sino también por una crisis de identidad que es común entre los limeños… la gente en Lima tiene la percepción de que su ciudad y su cultura son mayoritariamente de influencia española… Los blancos peruanos o pitucos, son apoyados en su admiración por todo lo europeo, por gente que quieren aparentar ser blancos y estos ven con desprecio a todo lo que sea peruano, excepto cuando es algo que produzca ganancias o cuando van al extranjero y contentos muestran chullos y fotos de Machu Picchu.

Lo que es mas desafortunado es que esa gente está en control de los medios escritos, la TV, política, economía y las instituciones culturales… (Y) enviando un mensaje de exclusión, segregación y división. Considerando que la mayoría de los limeños son hijos de inmigrantes indígenas y afro descendientes y la mayoría vive en la pobreza, es obvio porqué algunos limeños no sienten que pertenecen a esa ciudad y su identidad urbana. Mostrar un afiche racista así, es un golpe en el rostro de esta gente y es totalmente inexcusable.

Los ricos no deberían segregar la cultura y convertir el arte en otra de sus exclusividades, como ocurre en todo el mundo. La cultura y educación son derechos de todos. El programa del Festival de Lima comenzó con una ceremonia de homenaje a 3 directores de cine quienes eran todos blancos: dos españoles y un cubano. Y el evento se realizo en un centro cultural ubicado en un barrio exclusivo de Lima. Tu saca la cuenta.

Lima is a city that is divided not only by the huge gap between the rich and the poor but also by an identity crisis that is common among Limeños… people in Lima have the perception that their city and their culture is mostly of Spanish influence… Peru's white people or pitucos, are joined by white-wannabe people in their admiration for anything that comes from Europe, and they look down to whatever is originally from Peru, except when its for profits or they are overseas they will be glad to show you a chullo [a typical Andean knit cap] and a photo of Machu Picchu.

What is more unfortunate is that those people control most of the written media, TV, politics, economy and cultural institutions.… (and) send a message of exclusion, segregation, and division. Considering the fact that the mayority of Lima's population are children of Andean immigrants or Afro Peruvians, and that the majority of them live in poverty, it is obvious why some of Lima's citizens don't feel they belong to that city and its urban identity. To show a racist poster like that, is a slap on the face of those people and totally inexcusable.

The rich shouldn't segregate culture and convert art into something exclusive, as occurs worldwide. Culture and education is everyone's right. The Lima Film Festival's program began with a ceremony in which three directors were honored, all of whom were white: two from Spain, and a Cuban. And the event was held in a cultural center located in an exclusive Lima neighborhood. You reach your own conclusions.

In Peru, racism doesn't only occur in artistic events. The blog, Lo justo, varón [ES] tells the story of what happened to a Peruvian journalist who tried to enter the La Sede nightclub in Lima's Miraflores district. The journalist wrote about it for his newspaper. The blog published two posts with regards to this. The first one titled, Disgusting: Journalist discriminated at the door to La Sede echoes the note published by journalist Marco Avilés, and the second post, La Sede, part II reproduces various opinions about what happened. Here are some excerpts from both posts:

(…) así que estacioné el auto enfrente, me acomodé el saco, revisé mi solvencia económica, compré los cigarrillos de rigor, caminé los once pasos hacia la portería, solo y lindo, y, entonces, al tocar con mis manos la puerta tras de la cual fluía la música linda, el lindo bodoque que custodiaba el digno local me soltó el mismo cuento del cual, como periodista hogareño que soy, he tenido noticias lejanas y del que me he enterado a través de los diarios y a veces por los testimonios de feos amigos noctámbulos que osan frecuentar los lindos locales de moda:

Perdón, la fiesta es privada.

——

yo soy casero en La Sede y no tengo ningún problema en decirlo. Es cierto que, en algunas ocasiones, a algunas personas se les hace ‘el pare’ en la puerta, pero ello ocurre, básicamente, cuando es o aparenta ser bastante chiquillo o cuando esta persona está ya en estado etílico. (Paulo César Polo)

en una ocasion decidí ir a la Sede, pero no me dejaron entrar (eran como las 11.30 pm) argumentando que aun había poca gente y que el ingreso era con un pase. O sea, choteado. Luego por esas cosas de la vida me fui a una disco y conoci a un pata, extranjero él, rubio y que hablaba inglés, y ¡uy caramba! cuando decidi ir con él y una amigo más, fijate que sí me dejaron ingresar… y eso que estábamos un poquito picados (Carlos Omar Araya Fidel )

(…) so, I parked the car in front of the club, I fixed my coat, I checked my wallet to make sure I had enough money, I bought a couple of cigarettes, I walked the eleven steps to the door, alone and lovely, and when my hands touched the handles of the door, through which I could hear the lovely music coming from inside, the lovely doorman who was in charge of watching the place told me the same old phrase I had heard about as a journalist, and I had read about in the press, and had been told about by unlovely friends who dare to frequent lovely fashionable night spots:
Sorry, it's a private party.
——
I'm a regular at La Sede and I don't have a problem saying it. It's true, that on some occasions, some people are stopped at the door, but that generally happens when either the person is very young, or when the person is already inebriated. (Paulo César Polo)
Once, I decided to go to La Sede, but they didn't let me in (it was about 11:30 p.m.) saying that there were very few customers and you could only enter with a pass. In other words, I was rejected. Then, with those turns of life, I went to a disco and became friends with a foreigner, a blonde, who spoke English, and wow! when I decided to go with him and another friend to La Sede, they did let me in…and that, despite the fact we were already tipsy. (Carlos Omar Araya Fidel )

A third post emerged about what happened at La Sede: La Sede III: Descent from the bar (and a duplicate Avilés).

Some say that even the powerful are not free from racism, and not only directed towards to the common masses, the humble, or the poor (generally, these three go together so instead of “or” it should say “and”). A few days ago, I read in the blog Gran Combo Club [ES] about presidents and racism: The hypothesis of racism, an interesting post about the hidden yet always present racism among Lima's elites, and how the media also falls into that half-whispered game:

Lo he escuchado mucho. La prensa se metía con el ex-presidente Toledo en una forma inusual. No lo hizo así con presidentes anteriores, ni lo está haciendo con su sucesor. ¿Por qué? Una hipótesis es el racismo. Toledo, un mestizo, habría creado muchos anticuerpos por razón de su origen y su raza. Incluso cierto sector de la prensa informaba de los entretelones que ocurrían en palacio, en Punta Sal, en reuniones sociales. Sí, metió la pata en muchas cosas, él al igual que Karp, pero las críticas y la forma cómo se hicieron no se han visto antes ni después con otros presidentes peruanos. El caso de Federico Dantón, por ejemplo, fue abordado de manera muy diferente por la prensa limeña y peruana…

I've heard it a lot. The press would get on ex-President Toledo's back in an unusual way. It never did that with previous presidents, nor is it doing it with his successor. Why? One hypothesis is racism. Toledo, a mixed-race man, had created many antibodies due to his origins and race. In fact, certain sectors of the press informed us of the backstage goings-on that occurred in the Presidential Palace, in the beach town of Punta Sal, at social reunions. Yes, he stumbled many times, just like [his wife] Karp, but the criticisms of him and the way in which they were carried out hadn't been seen before and haven't been seen since with other Peruvian presidents. The Federico Dantón case, for example, was taken up in a very different way by the Lima and Peruvian press…

As the earlier post demonstrates, not even a President is free from racism. Even though it appears that racism is ingrained in Peruvian society and that maybe it cannot be eliminated.  However, through the attention given to it by individuals, such as bloggers, it may be moderated, and maybe even overcome.

Translation: Alejandro García

2 comments

  • […] ersten Blick möge es seltsam erscheinen, gerade in Peru von Rassismus zu sprechen, schreibt Juan Arellano auf Global Voices. Das Land sei ohnehin multinational und die Bevölkerung habe die […]

  • Pingback: | posterfilm.info

    […] Global Voices Online ? Peru: Film Festival Poster Brings Cries of …Check out the first official poster from the upcoming film ?Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem? by directors Colin Strause and Greg Strause. … […]

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