Indigenous peoples of Peru

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Indigenous Peruvians
Dancers at Quyllurit'i, an Indigenous festival in Peru
Total population
5,500,000 [1]
25% of Peru's population[1][2]
Regions with significant populations
Mainly southern regions and Amazon basin (Apurímac, Ayacucho, Huancavelica, Cusco, Arequipa, Puno, Loreto, Junín, Pasco, Huánuco, Ucayali, and Madre de Dios).
Quechua, Aymara, Peruvian Spanish, and other Indigenous languages
Roman Catholicism, Native religions
Related ethnic groups
Mestizo, other Quechua, Aymara
Wari culture sculpture, c. 6001000 CE, wood with shell-and-stone inlay and silver, Kimbell Art Museum

The Indigenous peoples of Peru, or Native Peruvians, comprise a large number of ethnic groups who inhabit territory in present-day Peru. Indigenous cultures developed here for thousands of years before the arrival of the Spanish in 1532.

In 2017, 5,500,000 Peruvians identified themselves as indigenous peoples and formed about 24% of the total population of Peru.[1] At the time of the Spanish arrival, the indigenous peoples of the rain forest of the Amazon basin to the east of the Andes were mostly semi-nomadic tribes; they subsisted on hunting, fishing, gathering and slash and burn agriculture. Those peoples living in the Andes and to the west were dominated by the Inca Empire, who had a complex, hierarchical civilization. It developed many cities, building major temples and monuments with techniques of highly skilled stonemasonry.

Many of the estimated 2000 nations and tribes present in 1500 died out as a consequence of the expansion and consolidation of the Inca Empire and its successor after 1533, the Spanish empire. In the 21st century, the mixed-race mestizos are the largest component of the Peruvian population.

With the arrival of the Spanish, many Natives perished due to Eurasian infectious diseases among the foreigners, to which they had acquired no immunity.

All of the Peruvian Indigenous groups, such as the Urarina,[3] and even those who live isolated in the most remote areas of the Amazon rainforest, such as the Matsés, Matis, and Korubo, have changed their ways of life to some extent under the influence of European-Peruvian culture. They have adopted the use of firearms and other manufactured items, and trade goods, although they remain separated from mainstream Peruvian society. Many Indigenous groups work to uphold traditional cultural practices and identities.


Quechua people in Conchucos District, Peru

Anthropological and genetic evidence indicates that most of the original population of the Americas descended from migrants from North Asia (Siberia) who entered North America across the Bering Strait in at least three separate waves. DNA analysis has shown that most of those resident in Peru in 1500 were descended from the first wave of Asian migrants, who are theorized, but not proven conclusively, to have crossed Beringia at the end of the last glacial period during the Upper Paleolithic, around 24,000 BCE. Migrants from that first wave are thought to have reached Peru in the 10th millennium BCE, probably entering the Amazon basin from the northwest.

The Norte Chico civilization of Peru is the oldest known civilization in the Americas and one of the six sites where civilization, including the development of agriculture and government, separately originated in the ancient world. The sites, located 100 miles (160 km) north of Lima, developed a trade between coastal fisherman and cotton growers and built monumental pyramids around the 30th century BCE.[4]

During the pre-Columbian era, the peoples who dominated the territory now known as Peru spoke languages, such as: Quechua, Aymara, Jivaroan, Tsimané, Tallán, Culli, Quingnam, Muchik, and Puquina. The peoples had different social and organizational structures, and distinct languages and cultures.


According to the National Institute of Statistics and Informatics, out of a 31,237,385 population, the Indigenous people in Peru represent about 25.7%. Of those, 95.8% are Andean and 3.3% from the Amazon.[1] Other sources indicate that the Indigenous people comprise 31% of the total population.[5][6]

Population by region, 2017[1]
Region Percent
Apurímac 84.1%
Ayacucho 81.2%
Huancavelica 80.8%
Cusco 74.7%
Puno 57.0%
Huánuco 42.9%
Pasco 37.7%
Junín 34.9%
Madre de Dios 34.5%
Ancash 34.0%
Arequipa Arequipa 31.1%
Lima 17.5%
Lima Lima Province 16.3%
Moquegua 14.6%
Ica 14.3%
Callao 10.2%
Tacna 7.3%
Cajamarca 6.2%
San Martín 5.1%
Ucayali 5.0%
Lambayeque 4.2%
La Libertad 2.9%
Amazonas 2.9%
Piura 2.2%
Tumbes 1.9%
Loreto 1.4%

In the Amazonian region, there more than 65 ethnic groups classified into 16 language families.[7] After Brazil in South America and New Guinea in the Pacific Ocean, Peru is believed to have the highest number of uncontacted tribes in the world.[8]

After the Spanish conquest[edit]

After the arrival of Spanish soldiers in Peru,[9] local people began dying in great number from Eurasian infectious diseases that were chronic among the foreigners. These spread by contact across the New World by Indigenous peoples along trading routes, often years ahead of direct contact with the invaders. As the natives have no natural immunity, they suffered high fatalities in epidemics of the new diseases.


Women typically got married around 16 years old while men typically married when they were 20 years old. Before the Spanish Inquisition, Incas often engaged in trial marriages. Trial marriages typically lasted a few years and at the end of the trial, both the man and the woman in the relationship could decide to either pursue the relationship or return home.[10] According to Powers, “Andean peoples had clearly understood, long and before the ride of the Inca state, that women’s work and men’s work were complementary and interdependent, that the group’s economic subsistence could not be attained in the absence of one or the other.” [11] Once married, women often stayed home to watch over children and livestock, collect food, cook, weave, etc. On the other hand, men often took on more physically taxing responsibilities.[12][13]


From the earliest years, Spanish soldiers and colonists intermarried with the Indigenous women. The Spanish officers and elite married into the Inca elite, and other matches were made among other classes. A sizeable portion of the Peruvian population is mestizo, of Indigenous and European ancestry, speaking Spanish, generally Roman Catholic, and assimilated as the majority culture.

In the late 19th century, major planters in Peru, particularly in the northern plantations, and in Cuba, recruited thousands of mostly male Chinese immigrants as laborers, referred to as "coolies". Because of the demographics, in Peru these men married mostly non-Chinese women, many of them Indigenous Peruvians, during that period of a Chinese migration to Peru.[14] In the late 20th and 21st centuries, many scholars have studied these unions and the cultures their descendants created.[15][16][17][18][19][20][21]

The Chinese also had contact with Peruvian women in cities, where they formed relationships and sired mixed-race children. Typically the Indigenous women had come from Andean and coastal areas to work in the cities. Chinese men favored marriage with them over unions with African Peruvian women. Matchmakers sometimes arranged for mass communal marriages among a group of young Peruvian women and a new group of Chinese coolies. They were paid a deposit to recruit women from the Andean villages for such marriages.[15]

In 1873 the New York Times reported on the Chinese coolies in Peru, describing their indentured labor as akin to slavery. It also reported that Peruvian women sought Chinese men as husbands, considering them to be a "catch" and a "model husband, hard-working, affectionate, faithful and obedient" and "handy to have in the house".[22]

As is typical in times of demographic change, some Peruvians objected to such marriages on racial grounds.[23] When native Peruvian women (cholas et natives, Indias, indígenas) and Chinese men had mixed children, the children were called injerto. As adults, injerto women were preferred by Chinese men as spouses, as they had shared ancestry.[23]

According to Alfredo Sachettí, low-class Peruvians, including some black and Amerindian women, were the ones who established sexual unions or marriages with the Chinese men. He claimed this mixing was causing the Chinese to suffer from "progressive degeneration". In Casa Grande highland Amerindian women and Chinese men participated in communal "mass marriages", arranged when highland women were brought by a Chinese matchmaker after receiving a down payment for the marriage.[24][25]

Education and language[edit]

Significant test score gaps exist between Indigenous students and non-Indigenous students in elementary schools.[26] In addition, Peru has over 60 distinct Amerindian linguistic groups, speaking languages beyond Spanish and the Incan Quechua, not all of which are recognized.[27] Indigenous groups, and therefore language barriers to education, remain a problem primarily in the sierra (Andean highlands) and the selva (Amazon jungle) regions of Peru, less in the cities of the costa (coast).[28] Throughout the second half of the 20th century, steps have been made to target and strengthen Indigenous communities' education, starting with the introduction of bilingual education throughout the country, promoting teaching in both Spanish and Quechua or other Indigenous languages.[29] Quechua was made an official language of Peru in 1975, and while it was later qualified to specific regions of the country and for specific purposes, it is still recognized as equal to Spanish in some regions.[29][27]

Activists promoting intercultural bilingual education view it as being the solution for a more "equitable, diverse, and respectful society", garnering social economic, political, and cultural rights for Indigenous groups while simultaneously encouraging "Indigenous autonomy and cultural pride".[29] Criticisms of bilingual education have been raised, in some cases most strongly by Quechua-speaking highlanders themselves, strongly opposing intercultural efforts. These Indigenous highlanders view intercultural efforts as an imposition of "disadvantageous educational changes" blocking their economic and social advancement, historically seen as only possible through learning to read and write Spanish.[30] While the legislation has been one of the most forward in Latin America concerning Indigenous education,[28] the implementation of these educational programs has been technically challenging, with teachers agreeing in theory but finding it impossible in practice to bring an intercultural mindset and facilitate bilingualism, particularly with often very limited resources.[27][30] However, in contrast, studies by Nancy Hornberger and others have shown that the use of children's native language in schools did allow for far greater "oral and written pupil participation - in absolute, linguistic, and sociolinguistic terms".[31]

With a lack of political will and economic force to push a nationally unified bilingual education program, many disconnected efforts have been put forth.[28] The National Division of Intercultural Bilingual Education (DINEBI) was started, among other efforts, and worked to further incorporate bilingual and intercultural education. The Program for the Training of Native Bilingual Teachers (FORMABIAP) is another example of intercultural education efforts, focusing particularly on the Amazon regions of Peru.[29]


Indigenous people hold title to substantial portions of Peru, primarily in the form of communal reserves (Spanish: reservas comunales). The largest Indigenous communal reserve in Peru belongs to the Matsés people and is located on the Peruvian border with Brazil on the Javary River.

Laws and institutions[edit]

In 1994, Peru signed and ratified the current international law concerning Indigenous people, the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989.[32] The convention rules the following: governments are responsible for ensuring that Indigenous peoples possess equal rights and opportunities under national law, for upholding the integrity of cultural and social identity under these rights, and for working toward elimination of existing socio-economic gaps between Indigenous peoples and the rest of the respective national community.[33] To ensure these aims, the convention additionally mandates that governments are to consult communities through their representative institutions regarding any legislature that openly affects their communities, provide modes through which Indigenous peoples can participate in policy decision-making to the same extent as other divisions of the national community, and allocate support, resources, and any other necessary means to these communities for the complete development of their own institutions.[33] The extent to which Peru upholds this legislation is debated, especially in regards to use of Indigenous territories for capital gain.[34] Additionally, implementation of legislature has been protracted, with Indigenous peoples only gaining the legal right to consultation as late as 2011.[35]

Political organizations[edit]

Among the more informal organizations in Indigenous communities is the tradition of Rondas Campesinas. Under General Juan Velasco Alvarado’s dictatorial military regime, lasting from 1968 to 1975, the government took on a pro-Andean and pro-Indigenous, nationalist-oriented agenda.[36] This regime broke up Peru's traditional Hacienda system and installed a system of land management based largely around state-run farm cooperatives; however, due to weak state presence beyond coastal regions, the Indigenous peasantry organized local civil defense patrols known as Rondas Campesinas to guard against land invasions.[37] Although their relationship to the government was traditionally ambiguous, they gained more official authority from the government when they rose as an opposing force to the Shining Path guerrilla movement.[38] Rondas Campesinas still function as a form of political organization among communities northern Peru, however their role has largely decreased, as has their legal formality.[38]

The late 2010s have seen a push for autonomous regional governments for Indigenous communities.[39] The Autonomous Territorial Government of the Wampis Nation (GTANW) of the Peruvian Amazon was the first to be established.[40] Other communities followed, including the Kandozi, Shawi, and Shapra peoples, and additional communities are expressing interest in pursuing autonomous governments.[40] The primary function of these governments is to both protect autonomous territories from resource extraction by foreign entities as well as enhance dialogue between the Peruvian state and Indigenous communities through fortified institutions. The Autonomous Territorial Government of the Wampis Nation, established officially in November 2015, has since started operating an autonomous radio broadcaster to service the communities of the Santiago River basin, where the new government is also taking on issues of illegal mining in the area.[40]

Beyond organizations based in regional autonomy, other notable organizations exist for the purpose of establishing Indigenous representation of interests in Peruvian politics. This includes organizations such AIDESEP, the Asociacion Inter-etnica para el Desarollo de la Selva Peruana (Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Jungle), which defends the collective rights of Indigenous peoples in the Peruvian Amazon.[41] AIDESEP represents 64 Indigenous groups in total.[41] Also based out of the Amazon River Basin is the organization MATSES (Movement in the Amazon for Tribal Subsistence and Economic Sustainability). Unlike the coalition-style organization of AIDESEP, MATSES is a nonprofit organization run specifically by members of the Matsés community; the central aim of this organization is to build the proper institutions to preserve both Matsés culture and lands without influence from external sources of funding or leadership.[42]

Ethnic groups[edit]

Native American in Cusco - Peru

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d e "Perú: Perfil Sociodemográfico" Instituto Nacional de Estadística e Informática. Retrieved 22 Sep 2018.
  2. ^ "¿Cómo se autoidentifican los peruanos? Los resultados del censo del INEI". (in Spanish). 11 September 2018. Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  3. ^ Dean, Bartholomew. (2009) Urarina Society, Cosmology, and History in Peruvian Amazonia, Gainesville, Florida: University Press of Florida ISBN 978-0-8130-3378-5 [1]
  4. ^ Grossman, Ron (23 December 2004). "Americas' cradle of civilization". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 9 October 2013.
  5. ^ (in Spanish) / Conclusiones del presidente de la Comisión de la Verdad y Reconciliación (p.4) Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ (in Spanish) / Comisión de la Verdad y Reconciliación
  7. ^ a b c Wessendorf 158
  8. ^ " 'Uncontacted' Tribes Fled Peru Logging, Arrows Suggest", National Geographic News, 6 Oct 2008.
  9. ^ Dobyns, Henry F., Their Number Become Thinned: Native American Population Dynamics in Eastern North America (Native American Historic Demography Series), University of Tennessee Press, 1983
  10. ^ D'Altroy, Terence N. (2002). The Incas. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-17677-2. OCLC 46449340.
  11. ^ Powers, Karen Vieira (2000). "Andeans and Spaniards in the Contact Zone: A Gendered Collision". The American Indian Quarterly. 24 (4): 511–536. doi:10.1353/aiq.2000.0025. ISSN 1534-1828. S2CID 161418762.
  12. ^ Guengerich, Sara Vicuña (2015-04-03). "CapacWomen and the Politics of Marriage in Early Colonial Peru". Colonial Latin American Review. 24 (2): 147–167. doi:10.1080/10609164.2015.1040275. ISSN 1060-9164. S2CID 153334263.
  13. ^ Silverblatt, Irene (1978). "Andean Women in the Inca Empire". Feminist Studies. 4 (3): 37–61. doi:10.2307/3177537. ISSN 0046-3663. JSTOR 3177537.
  14. ^ Teresa A. Meade (2011). A History of Modern Latin America: 1800 to the Present. Vol. 4 of Wiley Blackwell Concise History of the Modern World (illustrated ed.). John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-1444358117. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
  15. ^ a b Isabelle Lausent-Herrera (2010). Walton Look Lai; Chee Beng Tan (eds.). The Chinese in Latin America and the Caribbean. Brill ebook titles. BRILL. pp. 143–144. ISBN 978-9004182134. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
  16. ^ Adam McKeown (2001). Chinese Migrant Networks and Cultural Change: Peru, Chicago, and Hawaii 1900-1936 (illustrated ed.). University of Chicago Press. p. 47. ISBN 978-0226560250. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
  17. ^ Robert G. Lee (1999). Orientals: Asian Americans in Popular Culture. Temple University Press. p. 75. ISBN 978-1439905715. Retrieved May 17, 2014. chinese peruvian women.
  18. ^ Chee-Beng Tan (2004). Chinese Overseas: Comparative Cultural Issues (illustrated ed.). Hong Kong University Press. p. 47. ISBN 978-9622096615. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
  19. ^ Josephine D. Lee; Imogene L. Lim; Yuko Matsukawa (2002). Re/collecting Early Asian America: Essays in Cultural History. Temple University Press. p. 181. ISBN 978-1439901205. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
  20. ^ Walton Look Lai (1998). The Chinese in the West Indies, 1806-1995: A Documentary History. Walton Look Lai (illustrated ed.). Press, University of the West Indies. p. 8. ISBN 978-9766400217. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
  21. ^ Michael J. Gonzales (2014). Plantation Agriculture and Social Control in Northern Peru, 1875–1933. University of Texas Press. ISBN 978-1477306024. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
  22. ^ From an Occasional Correspondent (28 June 1873). "The Coolie Trade.; The Slavery of the Present. The Traffic of Peru Hiring of the Coo-lie Horrors of the Middle Passage the Coolie's Fate" (PDF). The New York Times. Callao, Peru. Retrieved 28 Jul 2015.
  23. ^ a b Isabelle Lausent-Herrera (2010). Walton Look Lai; Chee Beng Tan (eds.). The Chinese in Latin America and the Caribbean. Brill ebook titles. Brill. pp. 145–146. ISBN 978-9004182134. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
  24. ^ Michael J. Gonzales (2014). Plantation Agriculture and Social Control in Northern Peru, 1875–1933. University of Texas Press. ISBN 978-1477306024. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
  25. ^ Michael J. Gonzales (1985). Plantation Agriculture and Social Control in Northern Peru, 1875-1933. Brill ebook titles. Vol. 62 of Texas Pan American Series. University of Texas Press. p. 100. ISBN 978-0292764910. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
  26. ^ Hernandez-Zavala, Martha; Patrinos, Harry Anthony; Sakellariou, Chris; Shapiro, Joseph (2006). Quality of Schooling and Quality of Schools for Indigenous Students in Guatemala, Mexico and Peru (PDF). Policy Research Working Papers. The World Bank. doi:10.1596/1813-9450-3982. hdl:10986/8357. S2CID 153570632.
  27. ^ a b c Cenoz, Jasone; Genesee, Fred (1998-01-01). Beyond Bilingualism: Multilingualism and Multilingual Education. Multilingual Matters. ISBN 9781853594205.
  28. ^ a b c Freeland, Jane (1996). "The Global, the National and the Local: forces in the development of education for indigenous peoples -- the case of Peru". Compare. 26:2 (2): 167–195. doi:10.1080/0305792960260204.
  29. ^ a b c d Banks, James A. (2009-09-10). The Routledge International Companion to Multicultural Education. Routledge. ISBN 9781135897284.
  30. ^ a b García, María Elena (2003). "The Politics of Community: Education, Indigenous Rights, and Ethnic Mobilization in Peru". Latin American Perspectives. 30 (1): 70–95. doi:10.1177/0094582X02239145. JSTOR 3184966. S2CID 143662962.
  31. ^ Hornberger, Nancy (2006). "Voice and Biliteracy in Indigenous Language Revitalization: Contentious Educational Practices in Quechua, Guarani, and Māori Contexts". Journal of Language, Identity & Education. 5 (4): 277–292. doi:10.1207/s15327701jlie0504_2. S2CID 144568468.
  32. ^ "ILOLEX: submits English query". Archived from the original on 2009-12-25. Retrieved 2018-11-19.
  33. ^ a b "Convention C169 - Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (No. 169)". Retrieved 2018-11-19.
  34. ^ Wessendorf 159
  35. ^ "Peru: New Law Granting Right of Consultation to Indigenous Peoples | Global Legal Monitor". Rodriguez-Ferrand, Graciela. 2011-09-27. Retrieved 2018-11-19.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  36. ^ Kline, Harvey F.; Wade, Christine J.; Wiarda, Howard J. (2017). Latin American Politics and Development. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. p. 197. ISBN 978-0-8133-5050-9.
  37. ^ Refugees, United Nations High Commissioner for. "Refworld | World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Peru". Refworld. Retrieved 2018-11-19.
  38. ^ a b Fumerton, Mario (2001). "Rondas Campesinas in the Peruvian Civil War: Peasant Self-Defence Organisations in Ayacucho". Bulletin of Latin American Research. 20 (4): 470–497. doi:10.1111/1470-9856.00026. JSTOR 3339025.
  39. ^ Jacquelin-Andersen, Pamela (2018). The Indigenous World 2018. INTERNATIONAL WORK GROUP FOR INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS. p. 171. ISBN 978-87-92786-85-2.
  40. ^ a b c Heckmann, Bue. "The Wampis Nation - the first indigenous autonomous government in Peru". Retrieved 2018-11-19.
  41. ^ a b "AIDESEP". (in Spanish). Retrieved 2018-11-19.
  42. ^ "The Matses Movement". Retrieved 2018-11-19.


External links[edit]