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Peru, Population

worker cooperatives, Native American background, Chinese ancestry, mestizos, great civilization

About 45 percent of Peruís inhabitants are Native Americans, some of whom are descended from the Inca who established a great civilization in the region by the 15th century. About 100 other indigenous groups live in the rain forest of eastern Peru. These tribes live in virtual isolation from the rest of Peruís population, speaking traditional languages and surviving by hunting, fishing, and agriculture. Some 37 percent of the countryís people are mestizos, those of mixed white (mainly Spanish) and Native American background. About 15 percent of Peruvians are of unmixed white descent, and many of the remainder are of black African, Japanese, or Chinese ancestry. Some 73 percent of the people live in urban areas.

Politically and economically, Peru is a divided society. At the top of the social structure is a minority of Spanish-speaking Europeans living on the coast, and especially in Lima. They control most of the countryís wealth and political power. At the bottom are Quechua- and Aymara-speaking Native Americans living in the highlands and in the shantytowns surrounding Arequipa, Lima, and other coastal cities. In between is a largely mestizo middle class of professionals, businessmen, army officers, and government employees.

The military government that ruled from 1968 to 1980 carried out several reforms to curtail the power of wealthy Peruvians and benefited people in the middle and lower-middle classes. These reforms redistributed land to highland Native Americans, turned sugar plantations over to worker cooperatives, and extended the governmentís role in all sectors of the economy. In the end, however, soaring inflation and unemployment left the mass of Peruvians as poor as they were before the reforms, and the majority still have a very low standard of living. Much of rural Peru lacks electricity, safe drinking water, adequate sanitary facilities, and accessible health care, as do most of the shantytowns to which former rural residents emigrated during the later decades of the 20th century.

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Article key phrases:

worker cooperatives, Native American background, Chinese ancestry, mestizos, great civilization, Aymara, Arequipa, shantytowns, Quechua, sugar plantations, indigenous groups, Inca, unemployment, social structure, tribes, Lima, safe drinking water, government employees, Native Americans, army officers, coastal cities, Europeans, highlands, political power, military government, Peru, reforms, urban areas, electricity, businessmen, hunting, century, fishing, economy, majority, agriculture, remainder, end, region, people, Japanese, sectors


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