People in Peru
Almost 32 million people live in Peru. Together with
Guatemala and Bolivia, Peru is one of the countries with
the highest proportion of indigenous populations. The
proportion of Indians in the total population is
estimated at 31 to 45 percent. They are distributed
among more than 60 races. The majority of the Indians
speak a Quechua or an Aymara language. About 15 groups
of uncontacted Indians live in the rainforest on the
border with Ecuador.
More than 3 million of the Indians in Peru belong to
a Quechua people. Most of them live in the Andes, only
the Llacuash are at home in the rainforest. With around
400,000 people, the Aymara form the second largest group
of indigenous peoples. The Aymara live on the Altiplano
( plateau ) in southern Peru. The third largest group
are the Ashaninka (around 60,000 to 90,000). You speak
an Arawak language with nine other Peruvian ethnic
groups and live in the rainforest.
The proportion of common descendants of whites and
natives is similarly large. The figures vary between 37
and 44 percent. 15 percent are white, mostly descendants
of Spaniards, but also from other European countries.
About 4 percent have black ancestors, the
Afro-Peruvians. Their ancestors came here as slaves from
the 16th century. And around 3 percent are of Asian
origin, mostly from Japan or China.
There are some peoples in South America who live
without contact with the outside world. Fifteen such "uncontacted"
Indians live in Peru alone. They have been assured that
they can continue to live like this. If people came to
them, they could, for example, like many of their
ancestors in the 16th century, die of flu because they
had no defense against such diseases. However, there are
companies that want to drill for oil in their areas, for
example. This is not only a danger for the environment,
but also for the life of the Indians. The Indians
complain against it. Illegal logging in the indigenous
areas can also be fatal for them: in the 1990s, half of
the Murunahua tribe died after contact with the loggers.
Urban and countryside
78 percent of the population of Peru live in the
city. Many people move from the country to the city
(rural exodus). Around a quarter of the entire
population now lives in the capital Lima and its
surroundings. Most of the cities are on the coast, some
also in the Andes. Around half of the population lives
in the coastal region, 38 percent in the mountains and
only 9 percent in the rainforest of the east.
More than two million Peruvians have emigrated in the
last 20 years alone. They live mainly in the USA, but
also in Spain, Argentina, Italy, Chile and Japan. They
emigrated in the hope of better living conditions. Every
year more than 200,000 Peruvians are still drawn abroad.
Languages in Peru
Spanish is the official language of Peru. Around 84
percent speak Spanish as their mother tongue. 13 percent
learn Quechua as their first language (3.2 million
speakers). 1.8 percent have Aymara as their mother
tongue (435,000 speakers). All other indigenous
languages comprise around 60 in number, which can be
assigned to 16 language families. Together they only
have about 220,000 speakers.
Spanish in Peru
The Spanish spoken in Peru is different from the
Spanish spoken in Spain. For example, while in Spain the
c is usually pronounced like an English th, i.e. between
the teeth, (as in the English word through ), in Peru
(and in all of Latin America) the c is pronounced like a
sharp s (as in see ). This is called Seseo.
There are also many regional specialties and
dialects. The Spanish on the coast of Peru sounds
different from that in the Andes and that different from
the Spanish in the rainforest.
Words from Quechua have also found their way into
Peruvian Spanish. The oral use of the Voseo is typical
of the Andes region, which means that "you" say vos
instead of tu. On the other hand, there is the yeísmo
on the coast: unlike in Spanish, a double l ( ll ) is
not pronounced as lj (for example in the word llamar ),
but only as j.
Quechua is the most widely spoken indigenous language
in South America. There are around 7 million speakers,
most of them in Peru, slightly fewer in Bolivia and
Ecuador. In other countries they only speak minorities.
The researchers could not yet agree whether there are
many dialects in Quechua, or whether Quechua is divided
into different languages and even then only designates
one language family.
Religions in Peru
81.3 percent of the population are Catholics. 12.5
percent belong to a Protestant church. So the vast
majority of Peruvians are Christians. 3.3 percent belong
to another religion. The remaining 2.9 percent said they
were not religious. The high proportion of Christians is
a result of the missionary work of the Spaniards after