Peru is a country where racism and discrimination are at every corner, but a wedding of an elite Peruvian-Spanish couple has gone beyond what is known and predictable. The videos of the setting of the party with characters from the colonial era that simulated forced labor have generated a massive rejection in social media towards the marriage of Belén Barnechea, daughter of a former right-wing Peruvian presidential candidate, and the Spanish aristocrat Martín Cabello de los Cobos in the city of Trujillo, about 550 kilometers north of the capital.
The news generated the first criticism on Wednesday morning, when Trome, the most widely read popular tabloid in the Andean country, titled on the web: “Wedding of the nobility! Daughter of Alfredo Barnechea marries the grandson of the Count of Spain in Trujillo”. But as the hours went by, fragments of videos went viral. In the first, the couple and the guests walked along a pedestrian street in the center of Trujillo as part of a parade with music and fireworks: while the bride moved with the help of children who held the train of the dress, young people with long braids and simple clothes - as if they were indigenous cooks from the time of the viceroyalty - pretended to manipulate clay utensils and baskets. “How cute!” said one of the partygoers.
In that same street, another group of parades were men with bare chests and a kind of skirt and loincloth, who walked tied to each other, lowered by a kind of authority from ancient Peru. In another of the moments of the wedding, in a mansion of colonial architecture -of the several that exist in Trujillo-, while the newly married couple and the guests enjoy, on the balconies of the central patio, some young people dressed as slaves tied to the railings simulate other forced labor.
The inheritance of large estates and unpaid forced labor, which began in Peru during colonial times, continued in the so-called haciendas until the end of the 1960s, when the military government of Juan Velasco established an agrarian reform with the slogan “The land belongs to those who work it”. The elements that set the wedding last Saturday had an echo in a time of people without rights.
The bride’s father, Alfredo Barnechea, was a presidential candidate in 2016 as a guest of the center-right Acción Popular party and came fourth in the race: during the campaign one of his nicknames was the viceroy, due to arrogance and little empathy in his performance, especially when he addressed poor people or people of medium-low socioeconomic status. On one occasion, during a campaign activity, he visited an area where pork rinds are sold on the street, where it is common for cooks to invite a test to convince customers. In front of the cameras, Barnechea returned the piece of pork that was brought to him. Since then, he fell further in the polls.
In the 1980s, he went from hosting a television program to being a candidate for mayor of Lima for the Aprista Party and was a friend of Alan García, who was Peruvian president between 1985 and 2000. According to Spanish magazine Hola, the newlywed studied communication and advertising but in 2020 she opened an online business of homemade cakes and pastries in Madrid, and is known as the jet confectioner.
A group of gender equality and anti-discrimination activists, Paro Colectiva, issued a statement rejecting the setting used by the jet set party. “Genocide, slavery and the annulment of our cultures cannot be used in such an indolent and, above all, racist way, pretending to cover them up under cultural expressions. The colonial yoke has ended a long time ago, but fascism, racism, classism and all forms of oppression are still latent even in the simplest and most everyday acts.
Despite the fact that the Ministry of Culture and the Ombudsman usually publicly position themselves against discriminatory acts and racism, on this occasion they have not issued any explicit opinion. On Wednesday, the office of the Ministry of Culture called ‘Racism Alert’ tweeted: “For a country where there are more reasons to unite than to separate, for an intercultural Peru, without ethnic-racial discrimination.”