Young Afro-Peruvians

Empowering young black people in El Carmen

Young Afro-Peruvians learn a dance
In Peru, there is no black movement like there is in Colombia or Brazil. The Afro-Peruvian population lives in social exclusion on the country's Pacific coast and for the young people the lack of hope for the future is hard to bear. The youth organisation Somos Ébano (We are Ebony) supports economic initiatives by Afro-Peruvian young people and promotes their culture.
In Peru the population is made up of about 50% indigenous people, 33% mestizos and 15% white people, and a small minority of 4% Afro-Peruvians. Their ancestors were brought to Peru as slaves from Africa during Spanish colonial times, to work on the sugar plantations.
The district of El Carmen, in the province of Chincha on the Pacific coast, has about 15,000 inhabitants, 45% of whom have Afro-Peruvian roots. The Afro-Peruvian culture attracts many tourists, but the black community hardly benefits from this at all. Many of them work in poor conditions and for low pay as seasonal labourers on cotton plantations. For the young blacks on the fringes of society in particular, the prospects are virtually non-existent.

Supporting and valuing cultural identity
Our partner organisation La Casa de la Mujer Carmelitana, which set up Somos Ébano, organises numerous workshops in El Carmen. The idea is to give young Afro-Peruvians the chance to reflect on their situation together and discuss it.
Cultural activities like music, dance and theatre are another important pillar of the project. Through the media of dance, theatre and music, the young people keep their cultural, Afro-Peruvian values and traditions alive and also discover their own abilities and talents. These subjects are especially popular with young boys and girls, because they are not taught in school. With the support of our partner organisation, the young people have also set up a small museum about Afro-Peruvian culture in El Carmen. The local authority provided them with the premises, and many of the fathers helped with converting the rooms.

Encouraging entrepreneurial skills
Our partner organisation offers regular practical workshops to improve the young people's chances of earning money. They learn basic facts about the development of the local economy, how to develop their business ideas and write a business plan. They have also worked out a scheme to promote tourism, with exhibitions, performances, dance and theatre. In this way, young people can earn a small income.

Separate youth organisation
To strengthen the youth group as an organisation, the young people have set up a meeting place where they gather regularly. They share news, make plans and practise dances and musical performances. The young people remain enormously interested in the group. They are in the process of becoming registered as a separate youth organisation Asociación Cultural Somos Ébano. They have already set up their own website (link

Our partner organisation Casa de la Mujer Carmelitana
The Asociación Casa de la Mujer Carmelitana was set up in 1996 by a group of committed women to enrich the social life in El Carmen and improve the prospects of the Afro-Peruvian population. About 50 women work voluntarily for the organisation. The Asociación Cultural Somos Ébano came into being in 2010. The association consists of about 30 young people who meet three times a week.

Plenty of ideas for the future
The Afro-Peruvian young people are working for a Revaloración de la Cultura, that is, to raise the value of their own culture. For our partner organisation, the main focus is on personal development for boys and girls, but the dance performances by some of the young people have been of a professional standard. This builds their self-confidence and guarantees them an income.
Now the young people are planning alliances with other organisations to raise the profile of Afro-Peruvian culture among the general public.
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In all its work in every single country it is involved in, terre des hommes schweiz relies on the strengths of young people. That is why the training programme Youth2Youth has been developed and is growing constantly.