BBC Mundo: “How would you explain ‘cholo’ to a foreigner?”

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Agnes Rivera

BBC’s Spanish news section interviews Peruvian author Marco Avilés about discrimination within Peruvian culture and what that five-letter word means.

Marco Avilés is a young Peruvian author who had one of the best-selling books at the most recent edition of the Feria del Libro (Book Fair) in Lima. Leading off the success of his book, “De dí³nde venimos los cholos” (Where cholos come from), Avilés enjoyed an interview with BBC Mundo about discrimination in Peru and how it’s evolved since the 80s.

One of the highlights of the published conversation is when the interviewer asks, “How would you explain ‘cholo’ to a foreigner?” An oft overheard word in Peru laced with a sense of taboo, Avilés defines the term ‘cholo’ as someone from the Peruvian Andes who is unable to adapt to a discriminatory city.

“The closest thing to cholos are Latinos in the United States, they are not fully accepted,” points out Avilés. “The discrimination we have in Peru is the same or equivalent to discrimination in the United States…people look at you with contempt, they refuse to attend you, or they ask if you are legal.”

The interviewee, born in 1978, self-identifies as cholo, noting that his father came to Lima from the highlands of Peru.

“I can now say ‘I’m cholo’ without shame,” admits Avilés. “It’s more common now for people to identify as chola without any problems. In the eighties it wasn’t like that. I wouldn’t have dared.”

According to an article published in 2016 by Peru21, Avilés came to such a revelation of his origins in 2007 when he was denied entrance to a local club because he “wasn’t white.”

To read the full interview with BBC Mundo (in Spanish) click here.

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Agnes Rivera

A U.S. native plucked from the green surroundings of her home state of Oregon, Agnes Rivera has been living in Lima, Peru, fulfilling various occupations such as teaching, translating, and journalism. While indoors she uses her time creatively to build "recycled art" and read fiction, she is quick to use any excuse to be outdoors, balancing her inner home-body lifestyle with an adventurous spirit to explore all that Peru has to offer.

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