Peru’s original residents fell sharply in numbers during and after the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. Today, just over a quarter of Peruvians identify themselves as belonging to an indigenous people, of which Quechua is by far the most. A majority of residents have both European and South American roots.
Until recently, about half of the population was estimated to belong to the indigenous peoples and a third to be “masters”, as they are of mixed origin officially called. But in a 2017 census, 27 percent identified themselves with indigenous peoples and 60 percent as belonging to the group of mixed origins. Nearly 6 percent identified themselves as white and about 3.5 percent identified as Afroperuans, while the rest did not want or could identify with any group.
- COUNTRYAAH.COM: Key populations estimated size and data of Peru, including population density of how many people per square mile. Also included are facts for population and language.
Immigration to Peru has varied over the years. From the 16th century onwards Europeans and African slaves came. During the 19th century larger groups of Chinese immigrated and during the 20th century a large number of Japanese immigrants. The Spaniards settled along the coast and their descendants, like other Europeans, still live mainly in the coastal cities. The indigenous peoples (formerly called Indians) live mainly in the highlands and in the rainforest area in the north and east.
A sharp increase in population and difficult living conditions in the second half of the 20th century led many to move from the highlands to the coast and from country to city, especially during the 1980s when guerrilla groups ravaged the countryside. However, the flight to the coastal cities has decreased somewhat after the turn of the millennium, at the same time as many poor people have made their way to the sparsely populated rainforest area, where the exploitation of raw materials provides jobs.
The gaps are still wide between different groups of people. There is a traditional “elite” of Spanish descent, but today’s upper class also includes other whites and many of mixed origin. Asians are generally considered to be the middle class made up of shop owners and small business owners, and some Asians have achieved high political and economic positions. The black minority is lowest on the social scale. In 2009, for the first time, the government made an official apology to the Afro-Peruvians for abuse and discrimination for several centuries.
Which group you are considered to belong to is partly determined by the color of the skin but also based on social and cultural identity. The boundaries between the groups have become more fluid, especially in coastal cities.
Of the indigenous peoples, Quechua is the most; they make up more than a fifth of the total population. Aymara (or aimara) is the second most and lives mainly in the southern parts of the country, significantly more aymara on the other side of the border with Bolivia. To the east of the mountains and in the Amazon region live larger and smaller groups of people who speak close to 90 different languages. The number of people living in the lowlands is uncertain, with a few hundred thousand people.
Spanish is the official language, while the native peoples’ languages have official status in areas where they dominate. In the 2017 census, 83 percent of those surveyed stated that they had Spanish as their mother tongue or first language, while 14 percent indicated Quechua and 1.7 percent Aymara.
The Spanish spoken in Peru is characterized by many terms from the native peoples’ languages. A certain African influence is also evident. Quecha is the language spoken in the Incarct (see Ancient History). It was used during the colonial era as a lingua franca and that practice lives on.
FACTS – POPULATION AND LANGUAGE
60% of mixed European-American origin, 22% quechua, 5.9% white, 3.6% afroperuanas, 2.4% aymara, 5.6% other 1
Number of residents
32 165 485 (2017)
Number of residents per square kilometer
Percentage of residents in the cities
77.7 percent (2017)
Nativity / birth
19.3 per 1000 residents (2016)
Mortality / mortality
5.7 per 1000 residents (2016)
1.2 percent (2017)
2.4 number of children born per woman (2016)
Percentage of women
50.1 percent (2017)
75 years (2016)
Life expectancy for women
78 years (2016)
Life expectancy for men
72 years (2016)
Spanish is the official language; native languages have official status in areas where they dominate
- self-identification in census
Storm around the president’s family
A brother of the president, Alexis Humala, is a partner in an export company that has received government contracts in violation of the law; relatives of the president may not participate in government procurement. President’s wife Nadine Heredia – who is considered to have very large political influence – tweeted that Alexis should be brought to justice if he is guilty and Chief Minister Jiménez demands an investigation. The president’s father accuses Heredia of being power-hungry and calls Jiménez an idiot, and he publicly wonders if all his children should be sent to prison like his son Antauro (see April 2009). The president refrains from his father’s statements.
Renovation in the government
Pressed by declining opinion figures, President Humala is implementing a new government reform. Six of the ministers are replaced, including Chief Minister Valdés, who has only been in the post for six months. New Chief Minister becomes Human Rights Attorney Juan Jiménez, who was previously Minister of Justice.
Violent at mining protest
Clashes between police and protesters protesting the Conga mining project in northern Peru (see November 2011) require five casualties.
New state of emergency in mining district
An emergency permit is again introduced after violent protests against planned mining activities (see also November 2011). The protests in the province of Espinar near Cusco in the south concern wages and concerns for the environment.
Ministers may go after the kidnapping drama
About 40 construction workers at a gas plant in the Cusco region are held hostage for a week before being released in connection with a military operation that forces the kidnappers to flee. Nine police officers and soldiers lose their lives, which raises general criticism. When it turns out that the father of one of the victims is allowed to go into the jungle without help to retrieve his son’s body, the outrage becomes so great that the interior minister and the defense minister are forced to leave. The gas plant is located near Vraem (Apurímac-Ene-Mantaro Valley) in the southeast, the only area next to the upper Huallaga Valley where guerrillas are still said to be active.
Violent confrontations around mining
Concerns erupt in Puerto Maldonado in the Amazon, after mining rights negotiations are stranded. The authorities believe that illegal mineral mining leads to environmental problems, and wants those who wash for gold, among other things, to apply for licenses and comply with applicable regulations. But around 10,000 protesters who distrust the authorities are trying to occupy government buildings, a marketplace and an airport. Three are reported killed and about 30 injured.
Guerrilla conductor is arrested
One of Sendero Luminoso’s original leaders, Florindo Flores (“Comrade Artemio”), is found seriously injured after a fight and is arrested by police. Artemio is the leader of the remaining spill of the left guerrilla Sendero Luminoso, which operates in the upper part of the Huallaga Valley. After the capture, the president says the guerrillas there are crushed, but in March and April, people designated as Artemio’s replacement are arrested. Artemio is later sentenced to life in prison for terrorism and drug trafficking.