The 2015-17 Ali Scholars, 12 academically gifted social justice scholar-activists, traveled to Peru in May as part of the Ali Scholar Program, which ensures that students understand global peacebuilding and social justice efforts. The visit to Peru enhanced the peace and justice studies that the students began in August 2015.

The Ali Scholars began their learning journey in the city of Trujillo with visits to the ruins of several pre-Incan civilizations including the Moche and Chimu people at Chan Chan, as well as the lesser-known Cuspinique and Salinare cultures. During the trip there was also time for fun and relaxation at Huanchaco Beach, near Trujillo. Most of the visit occurred in Lima, where the students learned about Peruvian history at the National University Museum of Archeology, Anthropology and History, which features Peruvian history from 12,000 BC to the present day. 

The Ali Scholars also visited the newly opened LUM Museum (LUM – Lugar de la Memoria, la Tolerancia y la Inclusión Social – Space for Memory, Tolerance & Social Inclusion). The LUM museum is a civic, educational and cultural project, addressing the armed conflict in Peru between 1980 and 2000 between government forces and organizations fighting for greater representation of Andean communities. The conflict ended with a 2009 human rights trial of former President Alberto Fujimori. The museum is dedicated to recognizing and dignifying the victims of that period through reflection, exchange and commemoration with a special focus on young people who did not witness the violence.

The Ali Scholars learned about Peruvian social justice issues directly from a number of NGOs and the Peruvian Human Rights Ombuds Office, an independent government agency. The students met Sra. Ysabel Candia, founding director, of Family & Children NGO, which is a private non-profit organization created in Falls Church, Virginia in 2005. The students learned about human trafficking and child abuse in Lima and the Amazon region. 

The Ali Scholars’ visits to these organizations provided unique insights into the international dimensions of power, inequality and injustice in Peru. Other organizations, people and places they visited included:

  • Institute of Health Studies, Sexuality and Human Development, led by Dr. Manolo Forno who founded the first LGBT organization in Peru in 1982. The Institute is an LGBT and HIV Rights Advocacy group engaged in research and reporting about LGBT issues with a current focus on the issues facing the transgender community. The presentation involved recent reports about different LGBT communities and discussions with transgender community organizers.
  • La Casa de Panchita, (Children, Youth, and Women’s Shelter). This 26-year-old shelter is run by volunteers and provides support for children, teenagers and adult women who work as domestic employees. Here, the Ali Scholars attended two workshops: One workshop for children, primarily girls, at-risk of leaving school and becoming domestic workers due to poverty and other factors; and the second workshop, directed toward domestic workers who shared their stories and learned about their rights including the right to a contract. One of the women shared that she became domestic worker at age 7. The group also saw a play about “Panchita,” a teenager whose father lost his job, left for new work and never returned, which forced Panchita to move in with a neighbor to care for the neighbor’s child and, ultimately, drop out of school to become a domestic worker.
  • The Scholars learned about the issues facing indigenous communities in the Amazon jungle and the Andean highlands, as well as the concerns of the Afro-descendant communities in Peru during their visit with the Peruvian Human Rights Ombudsperson, Dra. Alicia Abanto, and her staff of human rights lawyers and advocates.
  • At the Afro-Peruvian Museum, a space where the group learned more about the development and history of slavery in Peru, the Scholars deepened their understanding about the role of African descendants in Peruvian culture. The museum celebrates the contributions the African culture and traditions have made to the Peruvian identity spanning from music, dance and folklore to religion, literature and gastronomy.
  • The Ali Scholars visited the Flora Tristan Peruvian Women’s Center and participated in a roundtable discussion about women’s issues in Peru and the U.S. Flora Tristan is a feminist NGO with the goal of combating the structural causes that restrict women’s citizenship, equity and justice. It works on: strengthening of the political participation of women; the formulation public policies and legal reform initiatives; programs dedicated to strategic achievements for women; producing reports and other data for proposals; and outreach and education aimed at the general public.
  • LUNDU: Center for the Study & Promotion of Afro Peruvians, & Lima. The Scholars visited LUNDU and learned about the Afro-Peruvian community in Lima and throughout Peru through presentations from its directors, Brenda Garay Rengifo and Ysabel Correa Salazar, as well from representatives of the Peruvian Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Women. LUNDU, a non-profit organization was founded in 2001, promotes the human rights of Afro descendant people in Peru through programs, advocacy and education through arts, education and research to address racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination from an intercultural and intergenerational perspective. LUNDU’s founder, Monica Carillo, was featured in the Black in Latin America film series by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
  • Finally, Puckllay (which in the Quechua language means play) is an organization that works with theater, dance, music, visual arts, and communication. The organization develops and promotes art and artistic creations as a means of building community and enhancing the opportunities available to young people in the program. It is located in a shantytown (pueblos jovenes) on the outskirts of Lima. The Ali Scholars visited the Puckllay stage where they learned about indigenous music and instruments made by the children in the program, and shared dance moves learning a bit of tap dance and teaching some team-based dance moves.

This recap was written and submitted by Erika R. DeSha, senior program coordinator at the Muhammad Ali Institute, and Enid Trucios-Haynes, Professor of Law and interim director of the Muhammad Ali Institute.