5 Interesting Facts About Peruvian People

People of Peru
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5 Interesting Facts About Peruvian People

Customs and Cultures Stemming From 15,000 Year Old Traditions and Recent Colonizations

Have you ever wanted to go on a vacation spot that has it all? Maybe even visit so many countries because of their different features and landscapes? You might want to stay on the beach for the first few days, but now you want to climb the mountains, see the forest or even ride through the desert. Well, lucky for you, there’s no need to use your money for the multiple plane rides or suffer any more jet lag as Peru not only has a diverse scenery, but also one of the largest and thriving ecologies in the world! But what about Peruvian people? Well, let’s say that after 15,000 years of diverse cultures and colonizations, Peruvians have interesting sets of lifestyles on top of an already interesting, rich history.

I. The Republic of Peru

The Republic of Peru
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Peru, or officially known as the Republic of Peru, is the 3rd largest country in western South America. It is encompassed by the countries Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and the vast Pacific Ocean. The capital city is Lima and their currency is called Neuvo Sol. If you’re wondering what climate your next travel destination is, it has distinct climates in each region even though it is a tropical country near the equator. These varying climates are due to the southwest winds brought by the Peru or Humboldt Current crashing into the Pacific shoreline of Peru.

‘Peru’ is from an Indian word implying “land of abundance” because of its vast natural resources such as minerals, agriculture and marine life. Peru’s economy is based on the country’s natural resources and tourism. It is even considered as one of the richest countries in the world in terms of natural resources. Peru’s tourism is centered on it’s cultural and historical sites and artifacts. In fact, Peru is famously known as the ‘Land of the Incas’.

II. The Peruvian Culture

Peruvian culture
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They gained independence from Spain on July 28, 1821. So, every 28th July of every year in Peru has a celebration which is called ¨Fiestas Patrias¨ which celebrates their independence.

Peruvian People

The Peruvians are a mix of the cultures of Indians, Spaniards, Europeans, Africans and Asians. There are 33,015,608 Peruvians as of August 2020 (worldometer, 2020). Most speak Spanish because of the Spanish colonization from 1532 until 1821. Hence, most Peruvians are Catholic. But before the Spaniards introduced Catholicism, Peruvian people worshiped nature (i.e. plants and the Andes).

The other languages spoken in Peru is the Inca language- Quechua. The Inca culture is the most relevant culture to be seen in Peru because they were the ones that built the ancient city Manchu Picchu in the Andes. However, the first settlers in Peru goes back to 15,000 years ago. The Chavin, Moche and Nasca cultures lived in Peru 5,000 years ago. And now there are now around 250,000 natives in 65 groups inside the Amazon rain forest. 

Peruvian Arts

Peruvians are known for their textile and geometrical designs on handicrafts and their ceramics that date back to the ancient civilization of Nazca. 

Social Stratification in Peru

It may be unofficial, but it is sad to say that it’s there whether they deny it or not. The whites are on the top of the hierarchy, and everyone else is on below them. Within this bottom level is yet another hierarchy that depends on the Peruvian’s skin color and cultural class. The symbols of stratification are the way Peruvians dress and the language they speak. It wasn’t always like this. The inhabitants of Peru lived to strive together. That was until the years of colonizations occurred.

The Religions in Peru

They have the same religious beliefs, practitioners and processes as Roman Catholics around the world. The Spanish colonization impacted their choice of religion that much. Well, who can blame them as they’ve colonized Peru.

What Can You Not Do in Peru?

Let’s now talk about information that will be more relevant and useful to you when you visit Peru.  

  • Don’t react negatively when the locals ask if you’re married or if you have children. It’s a common and usual thing to ask in Peru so don’t take it personally.
  • Don’t say Chile is better because they may be similar, but no one wants to be insulted.
  • Don’t react negatively about the many coca leaves being used like an everyday treat. Coca leaves may be used to make cocaine, but that’s not what they have them for. They are used for high altitude sickness. It is usually fused into teas, candies, and gums. However, don’t try and bring those coca leaves anywhere outside the country! It may be a normal thing in Peru, but back in the states is another story!

III. Living in Peru

Living in Peru
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If you want to stay in Peru, you need to know what Peru has to offer in terms of land. Peru consists of mountains, beaches, deserts and rainforests. This land is divided into three longitudinal regions: in the west we have the Costa plains, the Amazon or Amazon Basin forest in the east, and in the middle of the two is the Sierra or Andes mountain range. Let’s swoop down and take a closer look into these three regions:

The Costa

The Costa is 10% of the land but it holds more than 50% of the population. It houses many species such as fishes, seabirds and even penguins! No, it’s not as cold as the Antarctic, but these Humboldt penguins are South American penguins that are the mini inhabitants of the coasts of Peru. 

The Andes

Andes is the world’s second highest mountain range at 80 kilometers at length and 6,768 meters at height. These mountains are so majestically tall that the Inca people thought they were gods.

The Amazon

Amazon rain forest is the world’s largest rain forest and covers half of Peru. Unlike most parts of the world, Peru preserved rather than extorted its rain forest. It thrives in biodiversity and is home to many rare and unique species. It is theorized that the Indian tribes living here have never seen the outside world. 

What about the Amazon River? You guessed it. It belongs to the Amazon rain forest. It starts in Peru and ends up in the Atlantic Ocean. “The Amazon River” has that ring to it, don’t you think? The Amazon River was named in 1541 by Francisco de Orellana who was a Spaniard in search of El Dorado- the city of gold- when we suddenly came across what he thought were the Amazon warrior women in Greek Mythology when they were just natives who wore grass skirts and were armed with bows and arrows. So, the great Amazon wasn’t named correctly. However, it turned out fine because we don’t see any other fitting name to call this forest that swarms with life, culture and history.

IV. 5 Interesting Facts About Peruvians

interesting facts about Peruvian people
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Even after that lengthy background check on Peru, Peruvians and its history, I still have 5 fun facts about Peruvian people that’ll make you look twice and share it with your friends and family.

1. Uros people live on floating reed islands in the middle of Lake Titicaca.

Unfortunately, it’s not a bed of grass that floats away (although that might have been cool). It’s more like reeds that float in place. Lake Titicaca in Puno (which borders Bolivia) is the largest lake in South America and the world´s highest navigable lake. There are around 60 little houses on approximately 44 of these floating totora reed islands. To earn money, they sell tourists fish from fishing and handicrafts from reeds.

If they are usually secluded from the rest of society, they are bound to have fascinating cultures and customs. One of them is how the women would wear colorful; pompoms on their hats to show that they’re ready to marry. Once married, they wear red clothes to indicate just that. But it doesn’t mean that they are completely secluded from society. In fact, some Uros families have motorboats and solar panels to live life easier and to get and facilitate tourists.

2. Shamanism is widely practiced.

Shamanism has been a popular practice for at least 3000 years. The shaman, who leads this practice, takes on multiple roles in indigenous groups like roles such as healer, religious leader and counsellor. One of the most internationally known shamanic ritual is the Ayahuasca ritual. Ayahuasca is classified as a drug in most countries in the world, but in the ritual, it is used as traditional spiritual medicine. Just think of the movie ‘Ghost’ of 1990. Remember how Sam (Patrick Swayze), the protagonist who is a ghost, asked for the psychic help of a from Oda (Whoopi Goldberg) to project himself into Oda’s body to talk to Molly (Demi Moore)? That’s how Shamanism works

3. The Incan Empire was one of the world’s most powerful and advanced civilizations.

Machu Picchu was lost within the Amazon for hundreds of years until it was rediscovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911. Machu Picchu is an astronomical observatory all thanks to the Incas’ understanding of the alignment of the stars. They even built each sun temple and the sacred Intihuatana stone to line up with the sun for each solstice. The Inca people must’ve been so knowledgeable about the Amazon and the land of Peru that they turned to the sky for more knowledge.

4. Peruvian couples enter a period of Servancy before they can get married.

Weddings usually start off with a bachelor and bachelorette party, wedding rehearsals and even some family dinners before the day of the wedding. But in Peru, it is not only different, it is also challenging. Peruvians have a unique tradition where before they get married, the woman stays with the mother-in-law, and the man stays with the father-in-law. They work and sleep together under the same roof. This way, the parents can see the lengths and capabilities of their future son and daughter-in-law. It’s more of a compatibility test more than anything if you ask me.

5. Peruvians celebrate New Year’s by gifting one another yellow underpants on New Year’s Eve.

We’ve been talking too much about the history of the great Peru. Let’s go to something we can actually see happening in modern times. It is tradition to wear the yellow underpants inside out (underneath clothing) until midnight, then flip them around at the stroke of midnight. They believe that it brings good luck in the coming year.

Main Takeaways

Peruvian people
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If you want a summary of Peru and its people, I have here a quick facts sheet for the taking. Enjoy!

The Republic of Peru

• It’s officially called the Republic of Peru

• The capital city is Lima 

• Currency is called Nuevo Sol

• 3rd largest country in western South America, after Brazil and Argentina

• It is encompassed by the countries Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and the Pacific Ocean 

• Tropical country since it is near the equator but has different climates in each region because of the southwest winds brought by the Peru or Humboldt Current crashing into the Pacific shoreline of Peru

• ‘Peru’ is from an Indian word implying “land of abundance” because of its vast natural resources such as minerals, agriculture and marine life. 

• Gained independence from Spain on July 28, 1821 

• Peru’s economy is based on the country’s natural resources and tourism. It is even considered as one of the richest countries in the world in terms of natural resources. 

• Peru’s tourism is centered on it’s cultural and historical sites and artifacts

Land of Peru

Land of Peru - Machu Picchu
Image Source: dmarge.com

• Consists of mountains, beaches, deserts and rainforests

• Divided into 3 regions: Costa plain, Sierra or Andes mountains and the Amazon or Amazon Basin forest (that has the famous Amazon River)

• The Costa is 10% of the land but it holds more than 50% of the population. It houses many species such as fishes, seabirds and penguins. 

• Andes is the world’s second highest mountain range at 80 kilometers at length and 6,768 meters at height – they were so tall that the Inca people thought they were gods

• Amazon rain forest is the world’s largest rain forest and covers half of Peru. Unlike most parts of the world, Peru preserved rather than extorted this rain forest. It is home to rare and unique species along with many diverse species – it is theorized that the Indian tribes living here have never seen the outside world. 

• The Amazon River was named in 1541 by Francisco de Orellana who was a Spaniard in search of El Dorado- the city of gold- when we suddenly came across what he thought were the Amazon warrior women in Greek Mythology when they were just natives who wore grass skirts and were armed with bows and arrows. 

Peruvian People

Peruvian people
Image Source: mymodernmet.com

• A mix of the cultures of Indians, Spaniards, Europeans, Africans and Asians

• Population of 33,015,608 as of August 2020 (worldometer, 2020) 

• Most are Catholic that was introduced by the Spanish

• Before the Spaniards, Peruvian people worshiped nature

• Most speak Spanish because of the Spanish colonization from 1532 until 1821. The others that are in the highlands speak the Inca language- Quechua 

• The first settlers in Peru goes back to 15,000 years ago. 

• The Chavin, Moche and Nasca cultures lived in Peru 5,000 years ago. 

• The Inca culture is the most relevant culture to be seen in Peru because they were the ones that built the ancient city Manchu Picchu in the Andes. However, they were then conquered by the Spaniards in 1532. 

• There are now around 250,000 natives in 65 groups inside the Amazon rain forest. 

• Peruvians are known for their textile and geometrical designs on handicrafts and their ceramics that date back to the ancient civilization of Nazca. 

• Social stratification is unofficial but it’s there. The whites are on the top of the hierarchy, and everyone else is on below them. Within this bottom level is yet another hierarchy that depends on the Peruvian’s skin color and cultural class. 

• The symbols of stratification are the way Peruvian people dress and the language they speak. 

• Most Peruvians are Catholic, and they have the same beliefs and practitioners as Roman Catholics around the world. The Spanish colonization impacted their choice of religion. 

And lastly, what you’ve been waiting for and the reason you clicked this article, the 5 Interesting Facts about Peruvian People:

1. Uros people live on floating reed islands in the middle of Lake Titicaca.

2. Shamanism is widely practiced.

3. The Incan Empire was one of the world’s most powerful and advanced civilizations.

4. Peruvian couples enter a period of Servancy before they can get married.

5. Peruvians celebrate New Year’s by gifting one another yellow underpants on New Year’s Eve.

Remember! Acknowledge, understand and respect one’s culture and customs. It may seem weird to you but maybe your culture and customs may seem weird to them! But they don’t comment or make fun of it and neither should you. I hope this article helps in preparing you to take on an exciting adventure to Peru while simultaneously respecting their culture and origins. I think you will really enjoy spending time with Peruvian people.

Reference Worldometer (2020). Peru Population (LIVE). Retrieved on August  17, 2020 from https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/peru-population/.

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