The title of your latest album is Afrodiaspora. What does the word ‘diaspora’ mean to you, and what are the responsibilities of a person who is part of the diaspora?
Diaspora is a very strong word with very strong connotations. It is a shift, a shift that is sometimes forced, as it was in our [Afro-Peruvian] case, as was the shift of our men and women who were brought [to Latin America] as enslaved Africans. A ‘diaspora’ can be Jewish, African… It is people who are fleeing from their countries because life where they were was unlivable.
Afrodiaspora celebrates the African influence. We have done ‘Afrodiaspora 1’ [now], but there are still many more celebrations to be had. Many more.
You were recently honoured with an Illustrious Citizen award from the Office of Human Rights in Argentina, a country which is perceived by many as having no black legacy. What do you think is the significance of being pronounced an honorary daughter of this ‘white’ nation?
Argentina is a country that is very expressive in its music. Though there is a lot of investigating left to do, we can affirm that there is an African influence and presence. There is an African legacy in the way that Argentineans make music: the African polyrhythm is present.
The tango has an essence that clearly expresses the African presence. That rhythm, that African polyrhythm. Some people do not accept it as African. It does not matter; we will continue. Now it is the young musicians’ turn to uncover, investigate and find their roots, to continue working and give the world the beautiful music that characterizes them.
There is a very particular joy in this music. I feel part of this country [Peru] just as I feel part of Latin America. I say that I am Afro-Peruvian, and Afro-Latin American. I belong to this part of America.
I feel honoured to accept this renowned award and the recognition – it makes me incredibly happy. It is important to recognize the roots that make up our nationality. This is what we do in Peru. It has taken a lot of work, and we are going against the grain: there are many people who are against us. Now it is time for the young people to continue to create the foundation to tell the world the truth. And to tell that truth, I recommend having a passion for knowing the truth. That is the perfect path to walk.
For the young people, it is not going to be an easy road. We are going to find rocks in the road. This is our heritage, and our legacy. It is the foundation that we need to lay for the generations to come.
What advice can you give other Afro-descendants in Latin America as they work towards gaining recognition and reasserting their identity?
In my experience, it was really difficult to accept what happened to us in the past: how we were enslaved and marginalized inside our own cities where we grew up because of our skin colour or because of our hair. It was necessary to get to the bottom of the history, even though this history leaves us with wounds – deep wounds.
There is a phrase that [Baca’s husband, Bolivian sociologist] Ricardo Perreira said when we were collaborating on our first book, Del Fuego y del Agua [‘Fire and Water’ – which accompanied the album of the same name]: ‘This is an exorcism of our memory – we have to do it.’ It took a lot to write that book. We had to go through history and recognize and feel a lot of hatred. And I recognized and I felt a lot of hate.
I hated the people that enslaved us; I deeply hated the history that my people told me. But hatred creates sickness. I learned from my aunts and from my mother that it is much better to forgive. Do not forget, but forgive. That is what liberates us.
We have to do it, this exorcism of our memory. It has to hurt all the way down to the pit of your gut. We have to feel that pain and we have to cast it out of our lives. Cast it out and let it go.