Indigenous peoples in Peru

Dancers at Quyllurit'i, an indigenous festival in Peru
Wari culture sculpture, c. 6001000 CE, wood with shell-and-stone inlay and silver, Kimbell Art Museum

Indigenous peoples in Peru, or Native Peruvians, comprise a large number of distinct ethnic groups who have inhabited the country of Peru's territory since before its discovery by Europeans around 1500. The first Spanish explorers called the indigenous peoples of the Americas indios "Indians", a name that is still used today although sometimes with a derogatory connotation.

The 13,248,943 indigenous people in Peru formed about 45% of the total population of Peru in 2014. [1]

At the time of the Spanish invasion, the indigenous people of the Amazon basin were mostly semi-nomadic tribes who subsisted on hunting, fishing, gathering, and migrant agriculture. Those in the Andes and to the west were dominated by the Inca Empire, who had a complex, hierarchical civilization that built many cities and major temples and monuments with highly skilled stonemasonry. Many of the estimated 2000 nations and tribes present in 1500 died out as a consequence of the Spanish colonization of the Americas, especially because of associated infectious diseases, and many survivors were assimilated into the general mestizo ("mixed race") Peruvian population. All of the Peruvian indigenous groups, such as the Urarina,[2] even those that live isolated in remote areas of the Amazon rainforest such as the Matsés, Matis, and Korubo, have changed their ways of life to some extent, e.g. by using firearms and other manufactured items and trading goods with mainstream national Peruvian society—but all of the groups also maintain cultural identities and practices that keep them distinct from majority Hispano-Peruvian society.

The Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (AIDESEP) is the primary indigenous rights organization in Peru defending the interests of indigenous people in Peru. Its current president is Pedro Pablo Kuczynski.


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 12,000 BCE. Migrants from that first wave are thought to have reached Peru in the 6th 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.[3]

During the pre-Columbian era, the three main linguistic groups that dominated the territory now known as Peru were the Quechuas, the Jivaroan peoples, and the Tsimané. They possessed different organizational structures and distinct languages and cultures.


Of the 29,248,943 estimated total population of Peru, the indigenous people represent about 45%.[1] 97.8% are Andean and 2.1%, Amazonian. However, other sources indicate that the indigenous people comprise 31% of the total population.[4][5] In the Amazonian region, there are 16 language families and more than 65 ethnic groups.[6] After Brazil and New Guinea, Peru is believed to have the highest number of uncontacted tribes in the world.[7]

After the Spanish conquest

After the arrival of Spanish soldiers in Peru,[8] local people began dying in great number from Eurasian infectious diseases brought by the invaders and which spread across the New World ahead of the invadersdiseases against which they had no natural immunity. Later more people died because of the harsh treatment of the conquerors: they were killed in battle, forced from their lands, or died from the ill-treatment of forced labor. Many indigenous people refused to be enslaved, receding into the backlands, or if captured, committing suicide.


In Peru non-Chinese women married the mostly male Chinese coolies during the first Chinese migration to Peru.[9] There were almost no women among the nearly entirely male Chinese coolie population that migrated to Peru and Cuba.[10][11] Peruvian women were married to these Chinese male migrants.[12][13][14][15][16] African women particularly had mostly no intercourse with Chinese men during their labor as coolies, while Chinese had contact with Peruvian women in cities, there they formed relationships and sired mixed babies, these women originated from Andean and coastal areas and did not originally come from the cities, in the haciendas on the coast in rural areas, native young women of indígenas (native) and serranas (mountain) origin from the Andes mountains would come down to work, these Andean native women were favored as marital partners by Chinese men over Africans, with matchmakers arranging for communal marriages of Chinese men to indígenas and serranas young women.[17] There was a racist reaction by Peruvians to the marriages of Peruvian women and Chinese men.[18] When native Peruvian women (cholas et natives, Indias, indígenas) and Chinese men had mixed children, the children were called injerto and once these injertos emerged, Chinese men then sought out girls of injertas origins as marriage partners, children born to black mothers were not called injertos.[19] Low class Peruvians established sexual unions or marriages with the Chinese men and some black and Indian women "bred" with the Chinese according to Alfredo Sachettí, who claimed the mixing was causing the Chinese to suffer from "progressive degeneration", in Casa Grande highland Indian women and Chinese men participated in communal "mass marriages" with each other, arranged when highland women were brought by a Chinese matchmaker after receiving a down payment.[20][21]

In Peru and Cuba some Indian (Native American), mulatto, black, and white women engaged in carnal relations or marriages with Chinese men. [22] Chinese men were sought out as husbands and considered a "catch" by the "dusky damsels" (Peruvian women) because they were viewed as a "model husband, hard-working, affectionate, faithful and obedient" and "handy to have in the house".[23]

Political organizations

Individual indigenous groups have a variety of governance structures. MATSES, the Movement in the Amazon for Tribal Subsistence and Economic Sustainability, is an indigenous people rights organization that is working for the cultural survival of indigenous people in Peru.


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

Peru is a signatory of the ILO Convention 169.[6] In 1994, Peru signed and ratified the current international law concerning indigenous people, the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989.[24] The laws made to protect the indigenous people are not always respected by the Peruvian government or the companies, such as Perenco, Repsol YPF, and Petrobras,[25] who seek to explore the natural resources of their land.[26]


There is an institution for Andean, Amazonian and Afro-Peruvian People called the INDEPA.[6] It is an autonomous ministerial-level decentralized public body that reported directly to the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, and was created by a law issued to the Congress of the Republic.[27] On 23 February 2007, the government decided to abolish the authority and make it a Native People' Department within the MIMDES, without consulting the indigenous people. But, on 6 December, Congress passed a law cancelling the executive decree.[27]


In health care, discrimination against indigenous people exists.[28] Peru has one of the highest maternal mortality rates of the Americas.[28]

Territorial rights of the communities

The draft law 1770, presented by the government, wanted to formalise and title rural plots, peasant and native communities that may suspend the regulations protecting communal such as Law 22175 on native communities and Law 24657 on the Demarcation and Titling of Peasant Community Lands.[27] It would supersede the property titles of communities registered in the Community Lands Register and revise the community property titles according to the new law.[29] The draft law 1900, of the Peruvian Aprista Party, proposes to authorise the COFOPRI to return lands not cultivated by the communities to the state, so they may be sold in a public auction.[27]

Ethnic groups

See also



  1. 1 2 "People and Society: Peru." CIA - The World Factbook. Retrieved 28 Dec 2011.
  2. Dean, Bartholomew. (2009) Urarina Society, Cosmology, and History in Peruvian Amazonia, Gainesville, Florida: University Press of Florida ISBN 978-0-8130-3378-5
  3. Grossman, Ron. "Americas' cradle of civilization." Chicago Tribute. 23 Dec 2004. Retrieved 9 Oct 2013.
  4. (Spanish) / Conclusiones del presidente de la Comisión de la Verdad y Reconciliación (pag.4)
  5. (Spanish) / Comisión de la Verdad y Reconciliación
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 Wessendorf 158
  7. " 'Uncontacted' Tribes Fled Peru Logging, Arrows Suggest", National Geographic News, 6 Oct 2008.
  8. 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
  9. Teresa A. Meade (2011). A History of Modern Latin America: 1800 to the Present. Volume 4 of Wiley Blackwell Concise History of the Modern World (illustrated ed.). John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 1444358111. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
  10. Isabelle Lausent-Herrera (2010). Walton Look Lai; Chee Beng Tan, eds. The Chinese in Latin America and the Caribbean. Brill ebook titles. BRILL. p. 143. ISBN 9004182136. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
  11. Adam McKeown (2001). Chinese Migrant Networks and Cultural Change: Peru, Chicago, and Hawaii 1900-1936 (illustrated ed.). University of Chicago Press. p. 47. ISBN 0226560252. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
  12. Robert G. Lee (1999). Orientals: Asian Americans in Popular Culture. Temple University Press. p. 75. ISBN 1439905711. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
  13. Chee-Beng Tan (2004). Chinese Overseas: Comparative Cultural Issues (illustrated ed.). Hong Kong University Press. p. 47. ISBN 9622096611. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
  14. Josephine D. Lee; Imogene L. Lim; Yuko Matsukawa (2002). Re/collecting Early Asian America: Essays in Cultural History. Temple University Press. p. 181. ISBN 1439901201. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
  15. 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 9766400210. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
  16. Michael J. Gonzales (2014). Plantation Agriculture and Social Control in Northern Peru, 1875–1933. University of Texas Press. ISBN 1477306021. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
  17. Isabelle Lausent-Herrera (2010). Walton Look Lai; Chee Beng Tan, eds. The Chinese in Latin America and the Caribbean. Brill ebook titles. BRILL. p. 144. ISBN 9004182136. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
  18. Isabelle Lausent-Herrera (2010). Walton Look Lai; Chee Beng Tan, eds. The Chinese in Latin America and the Caribbean. Brill ebook titles. BRILL. p. 145. ISBN 9004182136. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
  19. Isabelle Lausent-Herrera (2010). Walton Look Lai; Chee Beng Tan, eds. The Chinese in Latin America and the Caribbean. Brill ebook titles. BRILL. p. 146. ISBN 9004182136. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
  20. Michael J. Gonzales (2014). Plantation Agriculture and Social Control in Northern Peru, 1875–1933. University of Texas Press. ISBN 1477306021. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
  21. Michael J. Gonzales (1985). Plantation Agriculture and Social Control in Northern Peru, 1875-1933. Brill ebook titles. Volume 62 of Texas Pan American Series. University of Texas Press. p. 100. ISBN 029276491X. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
  22. Elliott Young (2014). Alien Nation: Chinese Migration in the Americas from the Coolie Era Through World War II. The David J. Weber Series in the New Borderlands History. Volume 4 of Wiley Blackwell Concise History of the Modern World (illustrated ed.). UNC Press Books. p. 82. ISBN 1469612968. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
  23. From an Occasional Correspondent (28 Jun 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.". New York Times. CALLAO, Peru. Retrieved 28 Jul 2015.
  24. "ILOLEX: submits English query". 2004-01-09. Retrieved 2010-06-26.
  25. "Peru bars oil companies from uncontacted tribes' reserve". Survival International. 2009-12-31. Retrieved 2010-06-26.
  26. "Uncontacted Indians of Peru". Survival International. Retrieved 2010-06-26.
  27. 1 2 3 4 Wessendorf 159
  28. 1 2 "Zugang zum Gesundheitssystem für arme und indigene Frauen! | Amnesty International Deutschland". Retrieved 2010-06-26.
  29. Wessendorf 160


External links

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