James McKinley, Jr. of the New York Times recently published an interview with Susana Baca, the folk musician, champion of Afro-Peruvian culture abroad, and newly appointed minister of culture under Peruvian President Ollanta Humala. She is the first black cabinet member in Peruvian history, as well as the first musician.
Q. Tell us how you ended up being named minister of culture. Did you know before the election that it was a possibility?
A. It was a big shock. The ministers of culture have always been archaeologists and anthropologists, sociologists, but never an artist. I thought about my mother, and how I would have liked that she were alive to know that her daughter, from a humble background, who has struggled a lot in life, came to have such an important post in this country.
Q. You have never moved in the circles of governmental power in your country. When you were a girl, was it even possible for a black woman to dream of becoming a minister?
A. Not just when I was a girl. It was only a short time ago that we managed to become respected, to have status. Among common people there is this mentality, and this we have seen in the social networks during the second round of the election of President Humala. There were terrible, racist things said on the networks. Racism against Indians. Strong racism. It was regrettable and sad that in this country there still are people who despise blacks and Indians and natives of the Amazon.
Check out the enlightening interview with this heroic woman, and check out one of her upcoming shows:
8/27 – Chicago, IL – Mayne Stage
9/29 – San Francisco, CA – Herbst Theater