In Lima, Peru, there is a tradition among the rich and prominent to hire black pallbearers for family funerals. The presence of black pallbearers signifies wealth in the country. Wearing tuxedos and white gloves, the pallbearers make about $5 per funeral and around $70 a week.
The practice started in Spain during colonial times when slaves would carry the coffin and some would also follow the caskets. Slaves also accompanied their masters to church. While the job of pallberarer is not forced upon the black communities today, the racist practices of the city forces the dark-skinned Peruvians to take the more undesirable jobs. Those out of work, with criminal histories or simply lacking opportunity look toward the contractor pallbearer position as a means to stay employed. Most recently, black pallbearers were request for the wife of former U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar.
The other, more affluent Latin societies of Brazil, Columbia and Panama have a significant black population and more opportunities are available. In Lima, Peru, however, only 2 percent of Afro-Peruvians go to college. Many take jobs on the sugar cane plantations.
The race of people isn’t accounted for in the Peru Census; Afro-Peruvians account for 10 percent of the population of 29 million people in Lima. The separatism among races in Lima was so strong that President Alan Garcia issued a public apology to the Afro-Peruvian people of his country in 2009.