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Peru: New Racism Incident Ignites Debate on Social Networks

[All links lead to Spanish language pages except when otherwise noted]

A movie theater in Lima [en] was once again the scene of a case that public opinion rapidly categorized as another example of the ongoing problem of racism in Peru: a 13-year-old boy uttered racist insults at a couple who had asked him and his friends, who were kicking up a fuss, to be quiet.

A popular daily newspaper in Lima reported the facts. According to the victim and other witnesses, once he was reprimanded by the aforementioned couple, the young boy insulted the man, calling him a “serrano de mierda” [note: “serrano de mierda” is an insult used against Peruvians with dark skin or indigenous features] then did the same to his wife. Outraged, the woman slapped the boy, who responded with a punch; when her husband saw this, he also became angry and hit the boy.

The incident was made public by the mother of the slapped boy, Celine Aguirre, an actress and the ex-wife of popular musician Miki González, through an interview broadcast on a Peruvian television channel, and the issue was quickly picked up by local media.

With racism a wound that refuses to heal in Peru, public outcry has not been as focused on the physical beating that the boy endured as much as it has been on the fact that the boy dared to throw around racist remarks as well as insult and openly defy a pair of adults.

Rolando explained, in his blog El áureo clarín del verbo, why the greater percentage of public opinion has not sided with the boy who was hit with punches, but instead with those who were hit with foul words:

Si a un peruano se le “cholea” tengamos por seguro que muchos otros peruanos -salvando sus diferencias de credo, ideología política o preferencia futbolística- se unirán para respaldarlo y dar la defensiva (u ofensiva para tal caso)… Se toca una herida que hasta el día de hoy parece no cicatrizar, comprobándose con ello que en las manifestaciones de racismo o de discriminación por el mismo tenemos nuestro más expuesto talón de Aquiles.

If we have one Peruvian that is disrespected, it is certain that many other Peruvians -no matter their differences of creed, political ideology, or soccer preference- will unite to support him and come to his defense (or offense depending on the case)… This has touched a wound that until today hasn't seemed to heal, proving that in these manifestations of racism or discrimination we have exposed our own Achilles heel.

Effectively, the majority of the commentary among social networks has deemed the reaction of the insulted adults to be justified, just as Twitter users Gilda Leya (@diaz_gilda) and Lorena Flores Agüero (@lorenaflag) said.

Aguirre was quickly singled out on social networks not only for not questioning her son's behavior nor the racist insults he flung around, but also for defending him with arguments such as that her son was “misbehaving like any other boy of his age,” and because rather than apologizing for the bad behavior of her son, she instead affirmed that she would not respond to the assault because “I am not going to stoop to his level.”

To this, @The_Gunman commented on Twitter:

“Mi hijo hace palomilladas [“travesuras”] y se porta mal como cualquier chico de su edad” A quien deberían dar una tunda x mala madre es a Celine Aguirre

“My son was mischievous and misbehaved like any other boy of his age” To whom should they give a spanking, for being a bad mother it's Celine Aguirre

From this point others questioned Aguirre as a mother, just as Twitter users Paul Senepo (@paulsenepo) and Madferit Limeño (@MrKubrick29) have done.

Facebook pages coming out against Celine Aguirre have also popped up, for example “You are more racist than Celine Aguirre's son” and “Celine Aguirrego raise your spoiled brat“, in which some posts openly encourage the harassment and bullying of the boy. In other posts some call for the harassment of friends and relatives.

The boy's family has fed the anger and resentment on social networks without realizing it by refusing to offer an apology for his conduct as well as by reaffirming their willingness to pursue legal action against those that hit him.

On this particular topic Twitter users such as Diego Saavedra (@Dieg0_s26) opined:

TA LOCO ESE! ¿QUIÉN AGREDIÓ A QUIÉN? EL QUE SE MERECE UNA DEMANDA ES EL CHIBOLO [niño, jovencito]… SOLO QUE COMO ES MENOR DE…fb.me/YOeZFSy7
That is crazy! Who attacked who? The one that deserves punishment is the boy…  But since he's a minor…

One of the few posts among the social networks that centered on the fact that it was a child who was hit was by Verónica Cervantes, on Facebook:

AQUI NO SE TRATA DE QUIEN ES HIJO, POR DIOS QUE LES PASA! PUDO SER HIJO DE CUALQUIER PERUANO, INCLUSO DE ALGUNOS DE UDS. QUE EL NIñO ES UN MALCRIADO, LO ES. PERO NADIE TIENE DERECHO A GOLPEAR, YO NO PUEDO CREER COMO MUCHOS PERIODISTAS APOYAN A ESTE PAR DE ABUSIVOS , CLARO AMBOS PERIODISTAS NO TIENEN NI IDEA DE LO QUE ES TENER UN HIJO, SINO SU PUNTO DE VISTA SERIA OTRO. LA UNICA DIFERENCIA DE SER HIJO DE ARTISTAS ES QUE TIENEN EL DINERO PARA PAGAR A UN BUEN ABOGADO Y SOLICITAR QUE EL JUEZ CASTIGUE ESTE ACTO DE VIOLENCIA Y LA DISCULPA DEL RACISMO, PARA MI NO CUENTA, NO SABIA QUE AHORA POR DECIR SERRANO TE MERECES UNOS BUENOS GOLPES, ESOS SON COMPLEJOS TONTOS. NADIE ABSOLUTAMENTE NADIE PUEDE GOLPEAR A UN NIñO AJENO Y ESO TIENEN QUE APRENDER ESE PAR DE BESTIAS HUMANAS.

Here it's not about whose child it is, but by God that it happens to them!  It could have been the child of any Peruvian, including any of you whose child is a spoiled brat, it is. But no one has the right to hit, I can't believe how so many journalists support this couple of abusers, clearly both journalists don't have a clue what it means to have a child, or their point of view would be different. The only difference of being the child of artists is that they have the money to pay for a good lawyer and ask that a judge punish this act of violence and the excuse of racism, for me doesn't count, I didn't know that now for saying “serrano” you deserve a few good punches, that is complete stupidity. No one, absolutely no one can hit someone else's child and that is what that pair of brute humans have to learn.

Peruvian actor Christian Meier (@oliverdog), the boy's uncle, took the opportunity to comment about how his ex-family is dealing with the incident:

Hoy a todas esas “víctimas sobre actuadas” alrededor del mundo, dediquémosle el HashTag #HelloDejaElShow
Today to all these “victims of behavior” around the world, let's dedicate the hashtag  #HelloDejaElShow [“Hello, stop this show”] to you

The blog La promesa de una vida peruana touched on the thorny topic of the relationship between racism and social inequality on every level in Peru:

Para las hermanas Celine y Marisol Aguirre… la justicia no existe para los “serranos hijos de puta” a quienes sus hijos suelen insultar y golpear en los cines. Tal vez tengan razón. ¿Cuántos delincuentes de medio pelo hay en las cárceles y cuántos delincuentes de cuello y corbata están gozando de detención domiciliaria?

For sisters Celine and Marisol Aguirre…justice doesn't exist for the “serranos sons of b***s” to whom your children are used to insulting and hitting at the cinemas. Maybe they are right. How many fair-haired delinquents are there in prison and how many white-collar-and-tie delinquents are enjoying house arrest?

Laura Arroyo Gárate reflected on the news blog Spacio Libre about the polarization that this has created:

…me sorprende la incapacidad de ambos involucrados para admitir que hicieron algo mal. La madre del adolescente agredido no ha mencionado en ningún momento que el comentario de su hijo, o sus actitudes (incluidas las de su grupo de amigos) fueron erradas. Del mismo modo, me sorprende que ninguno de los dos personajes que iniciaron los golpes afirmaran que estuvo mal caer en eso y lo justifiquen diciendo que no sabían que eran adolescentes… el racismo es uno de los peores males vigentes en el país, pero también lo es la justificación de la violencia.”

The inability of those involved to admit that they did something bad surprises me. The mother of the assaulted adolescent has not ever mentioned the comments that her son made, or that his attitudes (including those of his group of friends) were wrong. At the same time, it surprises me that not one of the two people that initiated the beating have stated that it was in bad form, justifying it by saying that they didn't know that they were adolescents… racism is one of the worst evils permeating the country, but so is the justification of violence.

And Gustavo Faverón also reflected on his blog about how this incidence of racism has generated such commotion when thousands of similar cases happen in Peru everyday:

Si los peruanos pensaran que todo acto racista es igualmente repudiable, entonces entre los trending topics del Twitter no estaría el nombre #CelineAguirre; estaría la palabra #racismo, y no estaría por dos días: estaría todo el tiempo, todos los días, y el tema sería discutido y debatido en los muros de Facebook los trescientos sesenta y cinco días del año, no un par de días sí y sesenta días no, hasta el siguiente micro-escándalo, y los programas de televisión tendrían que hablar de ello todo el tiempo (…)

If Peruvians thought that all acts of racism are equally reprehensible, then #CelineAguirre would not be among the trending topics on Twitter; it would be the word #racism, and it wouldn't be for two days: it would be all the time, everyday, and the topic would be discussed and debated on the walls of Facebook all 365 days of the year, not a couple of days yes and sixty days no, until the next mini-scandal, and the television programs would have to talk about it all the time (…)

At the moment this post was published, the incident was just parodied on a television comedy program in Peru, to the delight of social network users, and the Facebook page “You are more racist than Celine Aguirre's son” published a photo allegedly of the boy.

The family's lawyer has announced that the family will seek legal action against the couple who responded to the racist remarks with punches, so it can be supposed that this issue will be around for a while.

3 comments

  • Good article, thanks. I see it was a lot of work translating!!

  • In Peru, the incidents often occur

  • […] Peru: New Racism Incident Ignites Debate on Social Networks, Isabel Guerra, English translation by Lauren Finch. (Español aquí) A movie theater in Lima became the scene of a case that public opinion quickly deemed another example of the ongoing problem of racism in Peru: a 13-year-old boy uttered racist insults at a couple who had asked him and his friends, who were kicking up a fuss, to be quiet. The attitude of the boy and what came to pass afterward have let loose numerous online reactions. – Un cine limeño volvió a ser el escenario de un caso rápidamente catalogado por la opinión pública como un ejemplo más del racismo vigente en el Perú: un menor profirió insultos racistas hacia una pareja que dentro de la sala de cine les pidió silencio a él y a sus amigos. La actitud del joven y lo que sucedió después ha desatado numerosas reacciones en internet. […]

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