- Notes Toward an Introduction
This issue of Callaloo contributes in major ways to what we may refer to as "the Callaloo project"—as, marked another way, the goals of the journal. First of all, this special bilingual issue documents and demonstrates our efforts to continue developing Callaloo as the premiere forum for the myriad literary and cultural voices scattered over the different sites of the African Diaspora in the Americas, Europe, and elsewhere. As a special African Peruvian number, in other words, this issue of the journal continues our efforts to represent the literatures of the Diaspora in their original tongues and, where necessary, in English translations, so as to acquaint our English-language readers with those literatures, especially those located beyond the English-speaking borders of North America and Europe. Next to the selections of short fiction, poetry, and literary criticism, we have juxtaposed interviews we conducted with a number of African Peruvians, some of whom are national and international cultural and political figures, while others are ordinary citizens from different age groups and strata of society. In whatever form we elected to represent them, the black Peruvian voices speak here openly and honestly from where they stand.
This special black Peruvian issue of Callaloo is a very important project—and for a number of reasons, one of which is that it is "a first." As far as I have been able to discern, this number of Callaloo is the first published gathering of Afro-Peruvian literary and cultural voices. Although a periodical publication, this special Callaloo project, thought of in another way, can also be described as the first anthology of African Peruvian literature and culture. If it is not to be described as the first anthology of its kind published in the Spanish language, it is, in fact, the first published bilingual gathering of black Peruvian voices—of spoken and written texts by descendents of those enslaved Africans who were brought in chains to Peru between 1525 and 1850, the year, supposedly, the Transatlantic trading in African people to Peru officially ended. For us in the English-speaking world, this gathering of contemporary black Peruvian voices allows us a glimpse, however partial, of what one might be inclined to view collectively as Black Peru. Except for Susana Baca and members of the Santa Cruz family, very few of us in the English-speaking world are acquainted with Black Peru, with, for example, its life, literature, culture, and history. This issue of the journal is installment number one toward correcting that problem. [End Page 235]
In our different forms of field research during the last ten years, we have called, however indirectly or directly, for a reexamination or revaluation of what we have long been referring to as the African Diaspora. This special Afro-Peruvian issue of Callaloo—and our other special projects of this kind to come—will aid scholars, we hope, in that process. We especially hope that our fieldwork and literary selections, along with our visual artwork, will help extend, expand, and further problematize the rapidly developing discourse on the African Diaspora, especially its variegated component in the Americas. As the first of its kind, this special issue of Callaloo, without doubt, will introduce English-language readers to literary and cultural voices they have never heard before—an effort that will be transforming, though not immediately witnessed.
My second encounter with a black voice from Peru was my introduction to the vocalist Susana Baca in a music store in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2002, when I returned there from College Station, Texas, to settle some personal business. (My first encounter was during a Pan-Black Americas meeting in Montevideo, Uruguay, in the 1990s, where I met a young black politician from Peru. Unfortunately, I cannot recall his name.) Fortunately Kendra Hamilton, Virginia poet and scholar, was accompanying me to downtown Charlottesville that day, guided me to Sidetracks, a record shop whose owners were very proud of its international selections and sales. Kendra knew I wanted to add to my CD recordings by Cape Verde's Cesária Évora, but by chance Kendra asked me whether I had also heard the...