Memin Pingin is not the only racist character that can be found in Latin America. Others abound, such as Peru’s “El Negro Mama” and “La Paisana Jacinta”.
El Negro Mama is a television character who is shown as a black-glove/wild-haired wig-wearing dirty, stupid Black thief unaware of how his actions can compound life for him and those around him. He speaks with an exaggerated accent, has a protruding prosthetic nose and often bulges his eyes in comic buffoonery when he looks at the camera.
The character El Negro Mama has been accused of portraying the worst stereotypes against Afro-Peruvians, and protesters have advocated that the show be removed from broadcast television.
The character La Paisana Jacinta portrays the worst stereotypes against indigenous people of Peru.
La Paisana Jacinta is often depicted as a Native woman who is lazy, toothless, and ignorant. Having moved from the countryside to the city of Lima, she is shown as fighting and cursing people, urinating in the streets, and having a messy, unkempt slovenly appearance.
Both characters were created and are played by Peruvian comedian Jorge Benavides.
Afro-Peruvian rights organizations have launched protests against these racist caricatures, most notably the organization known as LUNDU.
Headed by Monica Carrillo, last year in June, 2010, LUNDU was able to get El Negro Mama pulled from the airwaves; not so with the character La Paisana Jacinta. As a result of her actions, Ms. Carrillo became the target of abuse and attacks. But, even this victory was short-lived; in a few months, El Negro Mama was back on the air:
But in April, something changed.
One of Peru’s main channels, Frecuencia Latina, suspended a popular comedic character called El Negro Mama – a grotesque caricature of a black man, played by an actor wearing a prosthetic nose and lips with a blackened face.
The channel pulled the character after the threat of legal action from Lundu, an African-Peruvian civil rights organisation led by campaigner Monica Carrillo.
In a statement, the channel accepted the character may have been offensive to some viewers.
But it refused to suspend a stereotypical depiction of an indigenous Andean woman – La Paisana Jacinta – despite complaints of racism, saying the character had “evolved”.
Racial stereotypes, however, die hard.
Ms Carrillo became the target of an abusive counter-campaign using social networking sites to call for El Negro Mama to be reinstated. And after little more than a month’s absence, the character was back on the air by popular demand.
Frecuencia Latina declined the BBC’s request for an interview.”
The following video interview features Wilfredo Ardito Vega, on the return of the racist characters Paisana Jacinta and El Negro Mama to channel Frecuencia Latina (2) of Lima.
Fans of the character El Negro Mama and La Paisana Jacinta cannot see what all the fuss is about, stating that both are harmless characters and that Afro-Peruvians should just suck it up and not be offended. But, the same has been said about Memin Pingin as well.
Life for Afro-Pervuvians is harsh and unforgiving in Peru, and many still face the uphill battle of acquiring the most basic of human rights.
In November of 2009, the government of Peru apologized to the descendants of African slaves brought to Peru for the centuries of “abuse, exclusion, and discrimination” they suffered but, apologies are worthless without any economic, educational, legal and social changes to back up that apology.
The mass acceptance of El Negro Mama and La Paisana Jacinta are evidence that the complacency towards racist stereotypes are deeply ingrained in Peruvian society, and there is no evidence that such strongly held beliefs against The Other will not be eradicated anytime soon.
Sadly, some things simply never die, especially where racist caricatures are concerned.