The oldest private club in Lima, the Club de Regatas boasts three beaches for its associates and their children. Some Limeño private clubs have been accused of perpetuating the indignities against domestic employees by demanding that they utilize separate bathrooms. "They say we have germs," asserts Enrestina Ochoa Lujan, vice president of Sintrahogarp (the National Trade Union of Domestic Workers of Peru.)
A maid walks to work in historic Miraflores, Lima, Peru. n Peru, it is estimated that there are at least half a million women who work as domestic workers, with approximately 67% of that. number working in Lima. Yet the Law of Household Workers (Law Nº 27986) protecting their rights and establishing employment guidelines has only been on the books since 2003. While this law guarantees them rights of renumeration, social security and pensions, and maximum working hours (48 hours/week) it does not guarantee a minimum wage and many employees are unaware of their rights to this day. The Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations (MIMP) reported that for 2017 50% have social security and 46% health insurance, indicating a disparity between rights and compliance to Law No. 27986.
With synchronicity, maids prepare lunch in individual apartments in Miraflores, Lima, Peru. In Peru, it is estimated that there are at least half a million women who work as domestic workers, with approximately 67% of that. number working in Lima. Yet the Law of Household Workers (Law Nº 27986) protecting their rights and establishing employment guidelines has only been on the books since 2003. While this law guarantees them rights of renumeration, social security and pensions, and maximum working hours (48 hours/week) it does not guarantee a minimum wage and many employees are unaware of their rights to this day. The Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations (MIMP) reported that for 2017 50% have social security and 46% health insurance, indicating a disparity between rights and compliance to Law No. 27986.
A nanny feeds a young girl in a beach house located in the private seaside resort of Asia, two hours south of Lima. "Trabajadores del Hogar" (domestic workers) occupy one of the lowest stratums of Peru's very hierarchal social system. A significant portion of these employees come from indigenous communities in Peru's interior provinces, seeking opportunity, education, and support for their families in the provinces, they are reliant on the benevolence of their employers to not exploit them. Their continued existence is emblematic of the institutionalization of oppression of racial minorities in Peru.
A empleada del hogar (household employee) hired for a weekend home in Playa Asia, takes a rest from her duties. Peru's domestic workers are overwhelmingly female, often from indigenous communities, working to support their families in one of Peru's least regulated industries.
A maid strolls with her young charge on the boardwalk of Lima's most southern suburb, Punta Hermosa. In Peru, being a domestic worker is seen as an "inferior" job, which is why this group of women is more vulnerable to being discriminated against, mistreated and even exploited. Likewise, discrimination and mistreatment are not only carried out by the families that hire them, but also by society and the State which does not guarantee a minimum wage or the same sorts of social security that other jobs are mandated by law be eligible to recieve.
A maid prepares to bring lunch to her employers on a small private island located near the quaint fishing village of Pucusana, Peru, south of Lima. "We are two Peru's," a friend often tells me, talking about the complex and paradoxical socio-economic relationships that divide Peru.
A maid feeds dinner to one of her young charges on a private island in coastal Peru.
Maids enjoy a fast-food lunch at the Club de Regatas in Lima. One of Lima's oldest country-clubs, its private beaches abut the working-class beach of Chorillos, separated by Regata's long pier. Maids usually do not eat with their employers, feeding the children during separate meal times or sitting silently when the family goes out to eat.
All over Lima, "Nanas" or nannies and other empleadas gather to watch over their young charges and chat in the public parks of the upscale neighborhoods of Miraflores and San Isidro. A 2015 op-ed in Lima's paper of record, El Commercio, discussed a prevailing attitude among some Limeñas regarding these public gatherings of Peru's domestic servants: "My mom always complains about the park because there are too many nannies." The statement is exemplary of the inchoate attitudes towards these working class peoples right to exist in the public sphere. The displeasure at the sight of lower-class workers congregating in the performance of their duties is the manifestation of a silent but tangible prejudice.
One maid for each child is an affordable luxury for many Limeños, where even the maids have maids to watch their own children, pictured here in a park in Miraflores in the early morning.
A maid plays with her young charges on the beach of Playa Asia in Peru.
A maid naps along with the child she cares for after a morning spent at the Club de Regattas, Lima's oldest country club.
Nannies play with the children in a playground in the Club de Regattas, Lima's oldest country club.
Just out of the picture, a maid/nanny waits for her employer to take a photograph of the children she is caring for on a beach in Lima.
A maid strolls past one of three private beaches at the Club de Regatas, the oldest country club in Peru.
Maids gather to socialize on a park bench near the lighthouse in Miraflores.
Maids wait on the outskirts of a group on the beach in Punta Hermosa, Lima's most southernmost beach.
A maid looks out towards the sunset from the beach of Playa Asia. Ninety kilometers south of Lima, this exclusive beachside community was the site of a January 28, 2007 protest "Operativo Empleada Audaz" (Operation Bold Employee) that protested discriminatory restrictions for "empleadas del hogar" (household servants) from swimming on the beach till after 7 pm. Members of human rights organizations, artists, and household employee social service organizations dressed as household servants entered the private beachside community to fight "ethnic, social, and cultural discrimination prevailing in Peru" according to the Mesa Contra Racismo, a human rights organization. With chants of "The beach belongs to everyone and not the racists," and uniformed girls affirming, "We are employed and we are citizens!" the crowd formed a human chain along Playa Asia demanding equal access to Peru's beaches.
Empleada, niñera, nana, chacha, muchacha – these are the names identifying the domestic workers of South America, signifying employee, nanny, cleaning person, cook, servant. It is a shock for some foreigners to realize the ubiquity of the empleada in Latin American life. “We cannot live without our empleadas,” many a Limeña has told me. And in developing economies, where the stratification of rich and poor is vast, these occupations do allow some women to come from the countryside and study in the city, and improve their prospects and potential. “Música de Plancha” a Latin American ballad form is so called because of it’s popularity among servants performing household tasks (ironing music). Yet indignities exist - in the tony private beachside resort Playa Asia, empleadas are prohibited from swimming in the beach or wearing anything other than their uniforms to the beach. It is difficult to watch them, hovering on the periphery of family life, integral and seemingly invisible. Do they accept this fate as inevitable? Or consider themselves lucky to be part of a well-known family? Are they resigned to a situation where all they have ever known is lack of access to education and wealth-building? I cannot help but see similarities to the Jim Crow South in the United States, and wonder what it will take to provide greater opportunities to the lower classes that are so often disdained by those they serve. These photographs were taken during many visits to Lima over the past ten years.