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  • An Interview with Bertha Ponce Vda. De Campos, Marina Lavalle, Rony Campos, and Mónica Dueñas of Peru Negro
  • Rocío Ferreira

The most representative cultural dance association of Peru's African heritage is, no doubt, Peru Negro. This group is known worldwide under the title Cultural Ambassadors of Peru Negro. It began in 1969 under the direction of Ronaldo Campos de la Colina (San Luis, Province of Cañete, 1927- Lima, 2001) to protect and disseminate the Afro-Peruvian heritage. The mission of Peru Negro, from its inception to date, is to use the language of music and dance to expand the understanding, knowledge, and African influence in the culture of Peru through workshops and performing arts. After the death of Don Ronaldo, his son Rony Campos took the lead in the third generation of the group.

The selection that follows is part of the conversation with Peru Negro that took place at the Lenox Hotel during their stay in Chicago and ended with an interview of the entire cast after the festival DanceAfrica Chicago AYA! The group was preparing to continue their professional tour in the United States. Despite the fatigue that reflected in their faces, when we started our conversation in the small space of the room where we were with the lights and the camcorder, the tone was very personal and enjoyable.

In the conversation I had with Mrs. Bertha Ponce Vda. de Campos, the matriarch of the group, and with the great Afro-Peruvian singer Marina Lavalle, ex-vocalist of the second generation of Peru Negro, we recall how the group was founded.


Doña Bertha, you have always participated actively in the development of the group since its founding forty-two years ago. Tell us how the first generation of Peru Negro got started.

Ponce Vda. De Campos:

Yes, indeed, it has been a long career with many surprises since my husband Ronaldo Campos de la Colina started the group in 1969, until the day of his untimely death in 2001, and now under the direction of my son Rony. Back then Ronaldo played the cajón in El Chalán, the first peña restaurant1 in Lima, and integrated the group of Victoria Santa Cruz; he was already well-known. One day Chabuca Granda called him to El Chalán to invite him to participate in the Latin American Festival of Dance and Song in Argentina. Thus, Ronaldo formed the first generation of Peru Negro with the sisters Sara and Pilar de la Cruz, my daughter Esperanza Campos, Lalo Izquierdo, Rodolfo Arteaga, and Víctor Padilla. As musicians he took Caitro Soto, Linder Góngora, Isidoro Izquierdo, Ronaldo, and as singer, Lucila Campos. For the contest they prepared [End Page 351] "And the Earth Became Ours" by our great poet César Calvo, and they won. That was how the group started.


Sure, they won with a beautiful song written by Cesar Calvo, one of our finest poets, right?


Marina tell us about your experience in Peru Negro with Don Ronaldo Campos de la Colina.


I met my uncle Ronaldo on a trip I made to Piura with Delia Benitez, Blackie Coronado, and his orchestra, the Soto Brothers, the great master Abelardo Vásquez, several remarkable musicians, and Polo Bances, a great saxophonist. Later I met him again at the restaurant El Chalán, property of the engineer Guillermo Bonilla. It was in 1968, when I also left my artistic life for personal reasons. During this period, just over a year, my uncle Ronaldo founded Peru Negro when they were invited to the Latin American Festival of Dance and Song in Buenos Aires. My uncle told me that they rehearsed at his home in La Victoria, (Renovación Street, behind the famous Callejón del Buque) and they won in Luna Park.2 I remember that his closest competitor was Brazil and his contagious samba. In 1974, I had my decisive encounter. It happened on the premises of the Cañete Brotherhood where they rehearsed at that time. It was a July afternoon when Lucila Campos left the group and Ronaldo ask me to join them and...


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