Peru neatly divides into nine regions, each with its own distinct character and landscape. The capital, Lima lies on the parched coast, hemmed in by the Andes. When visit Peru, you´ll appreciate high peaks and glaciers in the Andes, desert landscape in the south, marvelous beaches in the north, and unparalleled biodiversity in the Amazon Basin, The country´s architecture stands testament to the great Inca builders and their Spanish conquerous, while numerous monumental ruins reveal how Peru was one of the cradles of civilization in the ancient world. Peru is also a racial melting pot, a mix of indigenous peoples, mestizos, and African, Chinese, and Japanese migrants, whose profund cultural influence is everywhere.
In trying to define Peru people, it really matters where you are. The population is made up of many ethnic groups that have been mixed with a variety of immigrants. On the coast, in the Andes, or in the Amazon, each region has significantly different ancestral legacies. The coastal area is where you will find the most people with mixed ancestry, or mestixos, and what are considered white people. In the Andes you will encounter mainly Ameri-Indians, the legacy of the Incas and their predecessors. The Amazon Peru region is mainly mixed blood, but there are several indigenous tribes that survive. Best of Peru is that, no matter where you go, Peru people are usually friendly, quite proud, and ready to explain to you how great their country is. Families and friendships are usually quite close. When a baby is born, much of the family gets involved in raising it. Whenever there is a birthday, anniversary, graduation, or wedding there will always be a large party. By and large, the people are friendly and enormously patriotic. Participants is an annual poll conducted around Independence Day unfailingly rejected the idea of having another nationality, with 90 percent declaring themselves happy to be Peruvian. Corruption tops the list of what they are most ashamed of, with poverty coming fourth of fifth.
Peru has a clear-cut class structure with indigenous peoples at the bottom, and the descendants of the Spanish at the top. The rich are very rich, and the poor very poor. A middle class is only just beginning to envolve. Political and economic power has been in the hands of a small white and Mestizo (of mixed European and indigenous descent) elite for centuries.
Peru people are predominantly mestizo (of mixed Spanish and indigenous heritage) and Andean Indian, but the population is a true melting pot of ethnic groups. Significant minority groups of Afro-Peruvians (descendants of African slaves, living mainly in the coastal area south of Lima), immigrant Japanese and Chinese populations among the largest in South America, and smaller groups of European ommigrants, including Italians and Germans, are among, Peru´s 28 million people. In the early days of the colony, Peruvian-born offspring of Spaniards were called criollos, though that term today refers mainly to coastal residents and Peruvian cuisine. Peru has, after Bolivia and Guatemala, the largest population by percentage of Amerindians in Latin America. Perhaps half the country lives in the sierra, or highlands, and most of these people, commonly called campesinos (peasants), live in either small villages or rural areas. Descendants of Peru´s many Andean indigenous groups in remote rural aereas continue to speak the native languages Quechua (made an official language in 1975) and Aymara or other Amerindian tongues, and for the most part, they adhere to traditional regional dress. However, massive peasant migration to cities from rural higland villages has contributed to a dramatic weakening of indigenous traditions and culture across Peru.
Nearly two-thirds of Peru is jungle, and the vast Amazon basin that pertains to Peru holds a phenomenal wealth of flora and fauna, and one of the best places to visit in Peru. Indigenous people of Peru in the Amazon have been greatly reduced by centuries of disease, deforestation, and assimilation. There were once some six million people, 2,000 tribes and ethnic groups, and innumerable languages in the Amazon basin; today, the indigenous population is less than two million.
Peru has the largest indigenous population of South America, with almost half its nearly 28 million people being of native descen. Living in the Amazonian Basin or in remote mountain villages, they still dress in their traditional style, observe ancient customs, and conitnue to speak Quechua or Aymara - the language of their ancestors. The Ashaninka, Aguaruna, and Shipibo-Conibo, who developed elaborate shamanistic traditions, are the main ethnic groups of the Amazon. The Quechua, Q'eros, and Aymara, who were great builders, live in the Andean region.
The Shipibo have been living in the Amazon for over a 1,000 years. Their universe is a highly petterned one. The intricate geometric designs, which appear in their textiles, pottery, homes, tools, and even body-art, are believed to be spitritual in origin and a manifestation of shamanic visions.
The Aymara Nation is the second largest group of indigenous people of Peru. About 2.3 million live in the south-eastern region of Peru in the Altiplano and around Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, northern Chile, and northeastern Argentina. The Aymaras are presumed to descend from the Tiahuanaco, a technologically-advanced culture that flourished during the Middle Horizon period.
Ashaninka is the biggest indigenous people of Peru and in the Amazon, with 65,000 people living in the central jungle region of Peru. They have a long history of struggle against colonization, slavery, and the Shining Path Maoist group.
Quechua is the largest group of indigenous people of Peru, about 13 million, living in the Andean region. It is also the name of Peru´s second official language than 3 million. Its origins trace back to the Inca period.
Lamas is situated 13 miles northwest of Tarapoto. This small settlement in the high jungle is home to the descendants of the Chanca tribe that escaped from the Andes in the 15th century after having been defeated by the Incas. Also called Quechua-Lamistas, they have a distinct lifestyle, a miz of jungle and Andean culture.
Most people over the age of 15 can read and write; the literacy rate stands at 87.7% (93.5% for males and 82.1% for females). Schools remain quite bad, and most affluent families in large cities send their children to private or Catholic schools. University education is affordable by just a small percentage of the population, mainly in large coastal cities, which also are home to colleges and universities. State universities offer a discount based on you economic resources. Some students go to the United States or Europe to study in university if they can afford it, although that percentage is small.
Peru has two official languages: Spanish, used by 73% of the population, and Quechua, the language of the Incas, spoken by 24%. The Aymara language is spoken as well, on Peru´s high altiplano along the border with Bolivia. There are also some 50 Amazon languages, including Ashaninka, Aguaruna, and Machiguenga. English is used by many in the tourist industry and by a significant portion of the youth in large cities such as Lima and Arequipa.
Peruvians are a predominantly Roman Catholic people, though Protestant evangelical churches have been winning converts, a fact that is worrisome to the Catholic Church. Animistic religious practices inherited from the Incas and others have been incorporated into the daily lives of many Peruvians and can be seen in festivals and small individual rituals such as offerings of food and beverage to Pachamama, or Mother Earth.