Arts & Entertainment

Peruvians strive for greater inclusion on eve of bicentennial

By Carla Samon Ros

Lima, Jul 9 (EFE).- All 339 people who signed Peru’s declaration of independence on July 15, 1821, were white males, but the mayor of Lima has launched an initiative to incorporate the nation’s diversity into the upcoming bicentennial observance.

In a corner of Neptune Park in the historic core of the capital, artist Olinda Silvano, a member of the indigenous Shipibo-Konibo people in Peru’s Amazon region, adds her signature to the Commemorative Book of the Bicentennial of Independence.

“For us it a great honor to be part of this history and sign a document that we couldn’t sign 200 years ago,” she tells Efe with a smile.

Argentine liberator Jose de San Martin entered Lima with his army during the second week of July 1821 and asked the municipal administration to convene an assembly of leading citizens with an eye toward persuading them to express a desire for independence.

The assembly issued the declaration on July 15 and another 3,500 men – mostly officials and members of the clergy – added their signatures in the following days.

“That document is what gave San Martin legitimacy to proclaim afterward the independence” of Peru, Lima’s culture secretary, Fabiola Figueroa, told Efe.

Reflecting the times, only “notable men, of certain strata” were able to sign, she said.

A desire to redress the exclusion of women, Afro-Peruvians and indigenous people from the events surrounding the birth of independent Peru lay behind Mayor Jorge Muñoz’s idea of all citizens the opportunity to participate in the bicentennial.

“It is evident that 200 years later, the citizenry is different,” Figueroa said, adding that more than 24,000 people have inscribed their names in the Commemorative Book.

Luis Quispe, an attorney who came to Lima four decades ago from the southern city of Cuzco, said after signing the book that he wanted to renew his “commitment to the independence of Peru” in the full awareness that the colonial capital of 1821 allowed no role in public life to indigenous people or migrants from the interior, many of them brought to the capital in the “condition of slaves.”

Waiting in line to sign were two indigenous women from the south dressed in traditional clothing.

“It is a patriotic gesture on the mayor’s part to include all Peruvians,” one of them, Amelia Del Castillo, told Efe before noting that despite much progress since 1821, “racial discrimination still persists.” EFE csr/dr

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