Peruvians to self-identify by ethnicity in new census

World Today

A first of its kind census gets under way in Peru on Sunday. The goal is gather information about population development, socio-economic and employment status within the country. For the first time, citizens will be asked how they ethnically identify themselves. Peru is a nation where many people have mixed ethnic backgrounds.

CGTN’s Dan Collyns reports on how some Peruvians feel left out.

Peruvians of African ancestry know exactly how they will identify themselves in the census. But that is not as obvious as it might sound. In this former colonial country, African-Peruvians – the descendants of slaves – were socially at the bottom of the list. Those prejudices still exist in modern day Peru.

“This census will show if for certain ethnic groups, the gaps are deeper than for others,” said Susana Matute Charun, with Peru’s Culture Ministry. “It can confirm that there are discriminatory and unfair practices which prevent all of us from enjoying what the state has to offer us.”

Reaching all of the more than 30 million Peruvians is the aim of this census.

In this multi-ethnic country, respondents are being asked what group, if any, they feel they belong to. 

Alfredo Luna, vice minister of cultural affairs, said “this census will allow us to geo-reference where there are concentrations of poverty and cross-reference that with respondents’ self-identification as African-Peruvian or Indigenous, so we can apply the right public policies.”

But not everyone in Peru feels included in this nationwide poll.

Sumi-Koi Rimari, is a Peruvian of Chinese descent. “I’m third generation ‘Tusan’ on my mother’s side, “she said. “My grandfather was Chinese Cantonese and I feel excluded that the term ‘Tusan’ is not in this census, in spite of all the years Chinese people have been in Peru and the influence their descendants have had on the culture.” 

Peruvians of Chinese heritage, known as ‘Tusan,’ or ‘Nikkei’ Peruvians, those of Japanese ancestry, complain there is no self-identification category for them in the census. “Peru has the biggest Chinese-descended population in Latin America,” said Karla Castilho, a Peruvian of Chinese descent. “Which is why we should be considered. The census includes indigenous roots and the Afro-descended but the Chinese are in the ‘other’ box.”  

Census officials said Peruvians with Asian heritage should check the ‘other’ category and write their identity in the blank box. Officials insist their ancestry will be taken into account.