The town of Zaña, in the department of Lambayeque, is a grand testament to the important historic legacy of African culture in Peru.
Founded in the mid 16th century, the city of Zaña is the oldest Spanish-founded town in the department of Lambayeque in northern Peru, and currently has a population of 1,800 Peruvians of African descent. It has an ideal location between the dry sierras and Pacific Ocean. In the 18th century, Zaña was one of three valleys in the region that made the area quite prosperous, as it had a thriving agriculture-based economy. Slaves were brought to northern Peru by way of the town’s Chérrepe international port.
Twisted into the dark history are the vibrant cultural elements born from the fusion of African and Peruvian culture. Today, the small population keeps tradition alive, whether it’s with dances like festejo and sweets such as dulce de membrillo or naranja rellena.
In June 2017, Peru’s Ministry of Culture and UNESCO declared Zaña as a “Memorial site of African cultural heritage.” Since 2015, June has been recognized as the National Afro-Peruvian Month in Peru.
In Zaña you will find the remains of churches and colonial buildings, many of which have been declared historic monuments. These buildings are also testament to Peru’s colonial history of enslavement. With this act, the Afro-Peruvian community of Zaña is recognized for their contribution to Peru’s cultural and historic heritage, becoming cultural inheritors of the town.
Afro-Peruvian culture can be seen in all aspects of Peru’s patrimony: music, dance, dress, composition, gastronomy and and more. A visit to Zaña is not complete without a tour of the townś Afro Peruvian Museum.
Just 46 kilometers south of Chiclayo, take a look at what Zaña has to offer:
Cover photo: Pato1968/Wikimedia Commons
This is an updated version of the article originally published in June 2017.
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