Most Peruvians are "mestizo", a term that usually refers to a mixture of Amerindians and Peruvians of European descent. Peruvians of European descent make up about 15% of the population. Pure Amerindians are a large segment of the population, 35%. And most of the Amerindian communities are found in the southern Andes, yet there is a large portion found in the southern and central coast due to the massive immigration of farmers from the southern Andean cities to Lima. There are also smaller numbers of persons of African, Japanese, and Chinese descent.
Peru has the second largest population of people of Japanese descent in Latin America after Brazil. Many of them traveled to Japan in the 80's as the economic situation in Peru got worse. Many came back after the Japanese Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori developed the economy. A large community of people of Chinese descent live in Lima, where Chinese restaurants (chifas) are commonplace. In contrast to the Japanese, the Chinese intermarried much more. Unmixed Asians make up 3% of the population of Peru; the largest percentage of any Latin American nation.
Around 2% of Peruvians are of pure African ancestry and most of them live in coastal cities found south of Lima such as that of the Ica Region, cities like Cañete, Chincha, Ica, Nazca and Acari.
The two major indigenous ethnic groups are the various Quechua-speaking populations, followed closely by the Aymara, as well as several dozen small Amerindian ethnic tribes scattered throughout the country beyond the Andes Mountains and in the Amazon basin.
Most Peruvians are Christian Catholics (more than 75% of the population), although only two-thirds participate in the liturgy and services. Peru's predominant religion has remained with a powerful influence in both state affairs and daily activities after 460 years . Church activities and personnel are, of course, centered in Lima, symbolically located on the east side of the Plaza de Armas (Main Square).
These days, Parish priests and bishops play significant roles in local affairs. The rituals of the Catholic religion, moral principles, and values are deeply entrenched in Peruvian culture.
Catholicism and Native Religiosity
When the Spaniards conquered Peru, they brought their religion but they also found a civilization with strong native cultural traditions. The native inhabitants of Peru hold firm animistic concepts about the spirits and forces that are present in natural settings. The Incas and other Andean people venerated the inti (sun), the pachamama (earth mother), and other gods.
In converting the people to Catholicism, the Spaniards followed a purposeful tactic of syncretism, where they replaced local deities for Christian saints and often used existing temple location as the setting of churches.
As a result, the Catholicism that communities are living is very different from other places of the world.
The native populations are still keeping their notions about the spirits and forces found in natural world such as the great snowpeaks where the apus (lords of sacred places) dwell. Many places are seen as inherently dangerous, emanating airs or essences that can cause illness, and are approached with care.
Moreover, the annual celebrations of village patron saints' days often coincide with important harvest periods and are clearly reinterpretations of preconquest harvest observances disguised as Catholic feast days.
The main religious figures are:
Recently many diverse churches have appeared, and we can see that the Peruvian population is still very religious and that the percentage of atheists and declared agnostics is very low.
For example, Peru has Protestant churches that are the fruit of the work of North American and European missionaries. We also have Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Adventists, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, and Hare Krishnas.
Popular celebrations are the product of every towns' traditions and legends. These celebrations gather music, dances, meals and typical drinks. In addition to the religious celebrations like Christmas, Corpus Christi or Holy Week, there are others that express the syncretism of the indigenous peoples' beliefs with Christianity. For example, there is the Alasitas (an Aymara word that, according to some studious people, would mean «buy me») that combines crafts and miniatures fair with dances, meals and a mass. Another example is the peregrination of the Qoyllur Rit'i (Cuzco), that gathers the ancient cult to the apus (tutelary divinities of the mountains) with a peregrination to a Christian Sanctuary in a long trek to the top of a mountain, of more than 5000m above sea level, that is covered with snow. More than 6,000 people make this trek every year, although not all of them come back.
In these popular celebrations, it is very common the consumption of alcohol and a lot of food. Usually every town has its own traditions and they prepare for several months to have their annual feasts. For these activities, there is one person that is “in charge” and this person is called “El Padrino” (The Godfather) and he will spend a lot of money offering delicious food and alcohol to all the inhabitants and also the guests. It is a very memorable experience to be part of these festivities, since for a couple of days, everything is happiness, eating very delicious food, drinking a lot, and of course dancing at the rhythm of the local band or music.
The best carnival of Peru are in:
These are some facts about the peruvian customs. It is better to know the people on this country and learn to appreciate their own characteristics that might or might not be different to yours.
Please know that:
Here some of the things that make Peruvians very proud:
Things that mark our history
Characters that mark our history
The most important monuments
Symbols of the City
The principal Geographic Area
The National Drink
In Peru, the predominant language is the Spanish. But it is not surprising to find non-European words intruding constantly into any Peruvian conversation:
Cancha, for instance, the Inca word for "courtyard", is still commonly used to refer to most sporting areas. It also means Pop Corn.
Chuma, meaning with no taste, or without enough sugar.
Other quechua words: llama, condor, puma and pampa among them.
Perhaps more interesting is the great wealth of traditional Creole slang – utilized with equal vigor at all levels of society. This complex speech, is difficult to catch without almost complete fluency in Spanish, though one phrase you may find useful:
For directing a taxi driver is “de fresa alfonso” – literally translatable as "of strawberry, Alfonso" but actually meaning "straight on" (de frente al fondo).
The word “Guarda” - literally translatable as “keep with yourself” actually means “watch out/watch your step/Be careful”
The phrase “Un Toque” - literally translatable as “one touch”, means “on moment”.
Also don't use the word "indio", although it's Spanish. For natives, it sounds like "nigger" since it was used by Spanish conquerors.
Another word to be careful with is chola/cholo or cholita, meaning indigenous. This may be used affectionately among indigenous people (it's a very common appellation for a child, for instance) but is offensive coming from an outsider.
|Good morning||Buenos días|
|Good afternoon/night||Buenas tardes/noches|
|See you later||Hasta luego|
|Excuse me||Con permiso/perdón|
|How are you?||¿Como está (usted)?|
|I (don't) understand||(No) Entiendo|
|You're welcome||De nada|
|Do you speak English?||Habla (usted) inglés?|
|I don't speak Spanish||(No) Hablo español|
|My name is...||Me Ilamo...|
|What's your name?||¿Como se Ilama usted?|
|I am British||Soy británico(a)|
|Barrio||Suburb, or sometimes shantytown|
|Campesino||Peasant, someone who works in the fields|
|Chacra||Cultivated garden or plot|
|Chicha||Maize beer, or a form of Peruvian music|
|Flaco/a||Skinny (common nickname)|
|Gordo/a||Fat (common nickname)|
|Huaca||Sacred spot or object|
|Huaquero||Someone who digs or looks for huacos|
|Plata||Silver; slang for "cash"|