Peru: All Black Pallbearers?

Peru Black Pallbearers, AP

It’s common for the family members of a deceased loved one to serve as pallbearers in a funeral, but in Lima, Peru funeral directors only hand black men the job.

The tradition of all black pallbearers began years ago during the slave trade. And while slavery was abolished in 1854, Lima has maintained the custom throughout the years.

No other Peruvian provincial cities or Latin American countries with significant black populations practice the tradition, according to AP.

Black pallbearers usually carry the caskets of ex-presidents, mining magnates and bankers. It’s known to be a symbol of honor and prestige when a casket is carried by a black man.

The pallbearers, who are only paid $5 an hour, take the job because of a lack of opportunities. Most have been laid off from previous jobs and took on the pallbearer position as a last resort.

Black Peruvians only make up about 2 percent of students that attend college, and census-takers don’t even register black Peruvians by race. They make up an estimated 10 percent of the country’s entire 29 million people population.

Former President Alan Garcia sensed the problem and issued a public apology to Afro-Peruvians in 2009 for a racist tradition of colonial slavery. However, they never received reparations. Then his government tried again and suggested Lima funeral homes stop employing blacks exclusively as pallbearers. Still nothing happened.

It’s the norm in Lima, but this tradition has others elsewhere raising eyebrows.
What do you think of the practice?