Lima Pallbearer Jobs: Only Blacks Preferred

Franklin Briceno, MSN, July 22, 2013

Elegant in tuxedos and white gloves, the six black pallbearers silently and gracefully remove the mahogany coffin bearing a Lima tire magnate from his mansion. They slide it into the Cadillac hearse that will parade Jorge Reyna’s body through the Chorrillos district where he was once mayor.

The pallbearers are in the job precisely because of the color of their skin, a phenomenon unique to this South American capital that was the regional seat of Spain’s colonial empire for more than three centuries.

In fact, prominent citizens such as Reyna, a widely respected, charitable man of indigenous origin who died at age 82, request black pallbearers for their funerals.

“He planned his funeral and wanted it to be elegant,” said Reyna’s widow, Clarisa Velarde.

It is not a profession chosen by Lima’s blacks but is rather thrust upon them by a lack of opportunity, say Afro-Peruvian scholars. And racism remains so deeply ingrained in Peru that many don’t consider the practice discriminatory.

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Black pallbearers were even used for the recent funeral of the wife of former U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar.

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Blacks are all but absent from Peru’s business and political elite and although slavery was abolished in 1854, only 2 percent of Peru’s blacks go to college. Afro-Peruvians are consigned largely to manual labor including as field hands in sugar cane plantations along the nation’s Pacific coast.

Census-takers don’t even register black Peruvians by race. They are estimated to account for no more than 10 percent of the country’s 29 million people and only in 2011 did the country get its first Afro-Peruvian Cabinet minister, the internationally renowned singer Susana Baca. {snip}

Black pallbearers are a legacy, historians say, of the bulk of Spain’s colonial nobility in South America living in Lima and routinely keeping a sizable retinue of house slaves.

A historian of Peru’s slave trade, Maribel Arrelucea, said that “to have one’s body carried by a black is understood by many to be a symbol of prestige, just as it was in the colonial era when the aristocrats of Lima went to church accompanied by a slave.”

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Peru’s most prominent funeral director, Agustin Merino, denies the tradition is in any way racist. His funeral home offers black pallbearers by default, unless clients ask for another option.

“It is a custom introduced by the Spanish,” said Merino, 81. “The pallbearers were always used in the burials of the wealthy.”

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In 2009 the government of then-President Alan Garcia issued a public apology to Afro-Peruvians for a racist tradition of colonial slavery but still they never received reparations. A year later, his government suggested Lima funeral homes stop employing blacks exclusively as pallbearers. Nothing came of the suggestion.

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At a service this month in Lima’s upscale Miraflores district for his grandfather, who died at age 97, Karim Olaechea said he was taken aback by the tradition after traveling from his home state of Pennsylvania to attend his first Lima wake.

Other members of his family didn’t think twice about it.

“It was shocking for me,” said Olaechea. “Peru has a racist society.”

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  • At least they’re working. I can think of worse jobs.
    If these whiners and complainers don’t like it, why don’t they apply for the job?

    • Oil Can Harry

      Blacks deserve these pallbearer jobs!

      After all, they’ve enriched the funeral industry by creating so much business for them.

      • Triarius

        It’s probably a racket since blacks control the amount of death in most countries. Pallbearers don’t have work next week, but need money? Go do a few drive-bys and bam, overtime pay!

    • Triarius

      It is racist to expect blacks to do a job and get paid for it when so many blacks get paid and do not have to work.

  • Spartacus

    “It was shocking for me,” said Olaechea. “Peru has a racist society.”

    ———————————————————————————————————————

  • …. only 2 percent of Peru’s blacks go to college.

    So Lima only has a “talented 2%”?

    • APaige

      And just like our talented 10%…not that talented.

    • Triarius

      That’s what it would be in the US if we didn’t have affirmative action and online degrees. Coincidence?

  • David Ashton

    There’ll always be work for funeral directors.

  • bigone4u

    Black pallbearers? No thanks. Not for me. The thought of this crazy custom makes creamation seem downright cool (pun intended).

  • Rhialto

    I am curious, are the black pallbearers complaining? Or is this just one more example of liberals promoting racial hatred?

    • bigone4u

      My guess is that the liberals surmise that if the blacks were not dragging around dead folks, they would be rocket scientists putting Peru’s first man on the moon.

  • IstvanIN

    I am surprised at how large Peru’s black population is. I always think of Peru as largely Amerindian with a large mestizo minority population and a small white population.

  • pcmustgo

    Probably because Black is a symbol of death… and Blacks are symbolized as being servants carrying someone into the after world.

  • Nick A Siggers

    The fact that [White-Hispanic] George Zimmerman’s mother is Peruvian and MSM has found (conjured up?) a story on racism in Peru is purely coincidental.

    • John

      Seriously great handle you have. I’m thinking about “Sews Juck” for myself. Now to the article. What is this “afro-Peruvian” crap I keep seeing mentioned. All Africans have to be hyphenated now? Does this make them “feel” more intelligent, less criminal, more white or whatever? If they live in Africa, does that mean they’re Afro-Africans? This PC junk is seriously over the top. We need some sanity in charge folks.

  • IanJMacDonald

    You could cast water-walking on the blacks, and the same old crazy barking moonbats with media access will accuse you of keeping them from swimming.

  • JackKrak

    Exclude people from jobs due to the color of their skin – racist.
    Recruit the same people for jobs because of the color of their skin – racist.

    Make up your minds.

  • DiversityIsDeath

    Negroes and anti-racists are so confused they don’t know how to channel their outrage, because in this case the racism BENEFITS blacks. They know SOMETHING has to be done about this terrible historical racism, but they don’t know what, exactly. If pall bearer jobs are reserved exclusively for blacks under this terrible historical racism, why would blacks want those positions filled by people of other races?

  • I would want my friends to do that for me.

  • I wouldn’t want them near my corpse at my funeral, just to keep safe the piece of two of personal jewelry I do wear. Lord knows I don’t want them (from any nation) near my family at any time, and especially while my family is vulnerable from grieving (or celebrating).