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Lima, Peru: Where the pallbearers are black

Black pallbearers leave the cemetery after carrying the coffin for a burial in Lima, Peru, on June 21, 2013. In 2009 the government of then-President Alan Garcia issued a public apology to Afro-Peruvians for a racist tradition of colonial slavery - largely in cane fields - for which they never received reparations. A year later, his government suggested Lima funeral homes stop employing blacks exclusively as pallbearers. Rodrigo Abd / AP
Pallbearer Ivan Rivas carries a coffin at a funeral in Lima on May 13, 2013. Rivas, 60, said he ended up in the job after being laid off from a soft drinks factory where he was a cook and then losing a job as a security guard at a school when it went bankrupt and closed. "There was nothing left for me than to be a casket carrier." Rodrigo Abd / AP

Black pallbearers routinely bear the caskets of ex-presidents, mining magnates and bankers to their tombs in Lima. The peculiar tradition exists neither in provincial Peruvian cities nor in other Latin American countries with significant black populations such as Brazil, Panama and Colombia.

A historian of Peru's slave trade, Maribel Arrelucea, said that "to have one's body carried by a black is understood by many to be a symbol of prestige, just as it was in the colonial era when the aristocrats of Lima went to church accompanied by a slave." Read the full story.

Freshly-washed white shirts and gloves dry in the garden of the leader of a group of pallbearers in Lima on June 6, 2013. Blacks are all but absent from Peru's business and political elite and although slavery was abolished in 1854 only about 2 percent of Peru's blacks go to college and census-takers don't even count them. Rodrigo Abd / AP
Armando Arguedas dresses before working a funeral in Lima on June 7, 2013. Lima has about 50 pallbearers, organized into teams, and each man earns $5 per burial. They are contractors, not funeral home employees. Hired on a per-job basis, they receive no benefits. Rodrigo Abd / AP
Pallbearers Hertor Fano, center, Victor Rivas, right, and Victor's nephew Alex Rivas, are reflected in the window of a hearse as they work at a funeral in Lima on May 11, 2013. Rodrigo Abd / AP
A group of pallbearers eat lunch before working at a burial in Lima on July 2, 2013. Black pallbearers are a legacy, historians say, of the concentration in Lima of the bulk of Spain's colonial nobility in the Americas, a segment of the population that routinely had a sizable retinue of house slaves. Rodrigo Abd / AP

See more of Rodrigo Abd's work on PhotoBlog:

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Afro-Peruvians honor heritage with religious fete