Maids Still Banned from Swimming at Beaches? Sadly, Yes [Featured]

February 14th, 2009

US Expat Barbara Drake sums up the discriminatory by-laws enforced by wealthy homeowners at the up-scale beach resort of Asia.

It’s something I wanted to write about two years ago when there was a lot about it in the newspapers and on various Peruvian blogs, but didn’t have the energy. Here Barbara explains that since that time, little has changed…

It sounds like a scene straight out of the Jim Crow era in the American South, but it’s happening today in coastal Peru: discriminatory laws in some exclusive seaside resorts prohibit maids (nearly all of whom are poor Andean and black women) from swimming on the beach during daylight hours.

As Juan Arellano described in Global Voices Online in 2007, the beaches where this discrimination is practiced are located south of Lima, among them the fashionable resort town of Asia.  Wealthy Limeños flock to beach houses in Asia during the brief summer months, bringing with them their trusted family maids and nannies to look after the children. But while the vactioners have full access to the sand and surf, their servants do not.

Apartheid-like laws passed by homeowners’ associations in Asia forbid maids and nannies, or “domestic employees,” as they are called, from swimming at the beach between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m.  Rules of conduct for homeowners also stipulate that maids must wear a uniform and cannot wear a bathing suit – a cruel twist, given the intensity of Peru’s summer sun, notes Hypathia’s Daughter.

The unjust laws at Asia have roused both anger and protest in Peru. On a fundamental level, the town’s discriminatory policies violate Peruvian laws “that state that Peruvian beaches cannot be privatized and must be open and accessible for all,” as Alejandro of LAX-LIM points out. However, the political pull of the homeowners’ association at Asia obscured that legal contradiction — at least for a while…

Read the rest here »

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