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Peru & Peruvian People, Culture and Values

Updated on March 11, 2012

There are many reasons why Peruvians have been naturally divided since pre Columbian times. There are many natural boundaries between them from the deserts along the western coast line to the formidable Andean sierra mountains that rise nineteen thousand feet into the air. The majority of the territory in Peru compromises highlands in between the two. With this natural divide, many problems were posed in the development and integration into a single society

The result is a significant regional diversity, and an abundant quality of different services and standards of living. All across Peru there is an uneven distribution of services including health, education, and police coverage.


When we first look into the Peruvian culture, it seems significantly divided between the colonial and indigenous societies. This is where the divide is more significant between living in the cities and the mountains. In the colonial town, the people can trace blood lines back to the original Spanish conquest of 1536. Like most that have come before them, Lima is the most populated and where European visitors will feel most comfortable with the diversity of cafes and markets.

On the other side, Mountains rural communities dream of owning simple pleasures like televisions and blue jeans. This does come into conflict with tradition cultural values. The main cultural values that the mountainous culture have been, the struggle to maintain a standard of living like their ancestors in a very divers and rapidly changing world. Most of them still own traditional family farms which they base their lively hood off of. The farms are or charkas are done by hand, or with assistance from farm animals.

The social complexity of the rural communities in the Andes differs greatly from its European descendants. From work, marriage, and land ownership, all is centered on the complex family structure called the ayllu which dates back to the ancient Inca times. One of the main objectives of the ayllu is the focus and organization of sharing work exchange.

Over the centuries, there has been a long integration of culture mixing; creating a mestizo which is a person is part European and part Indian heritage. Today most Peruvians would fall into this category. In Peru, you can become a mestizo not only by birth, but by choice. So, socially the divisions in Peruvian society can the racially just as culturally defined.

The Andes have two large main groups; the larger of the two speaks a language called Quechua. The smaller of the groups speaks a language called Aymara and is settled to the southeast of Bolivia around Lake Titicaca. Beyond these obvious traits, there are a couple of others there is a group of Peruvians called Morochucos of Pampa who have lighter colored eyes and hair and speak a language called Quechua

The most dominate cultural class in the Andes is called Misti and they mostly speak the language of Queschua and share other cultural trait. They enjoy a more modern existence because of easier access to education, healthcare, and other luxuries. A little farther north in the middle of the Amazon jungle there are an additional 60 indigenous groups that are currently known. However, each group of people carries their own traits and values that have been handed to them throughout the generations. They consist up to ten percent of the total population of Peru.

Peru also enjoys a modern history rich in cultural diversity. In the nineteenth century, wealthy European land owners brought in African black slaves, to work the lands and repress the local Indians. The owners used this cheap labor to build a modern railway through the Andes.

Most of the people that live in the mountainous regions of Peru live a harder than normal existence. They battle against poverty, lack of water, and diseases. While doing this, they are retaining an unchanged loyalty to their devoted ancestral heritage. They are worldly identified to the outside world by their brightly colored homemade costumes, yet they are still eager to share in the world modernized luxuries like education, electricity, sewage, and running water. However, instead of improving these communities they are quickly disappearing due to the large scale migration to larger cites of Peru.

Peru also does have what would be comparable to the US middle class. However, still this set of people is not easily defined. With the convenience, of modernization the middle class kind of took on its own life both in Lima and other Cities. The growth was due in large part to the diversification of the economy and to the expansion of the Peruvian state, both as an entrepreneur and the need for public services. Most if it started during the early 1070s due to the penetration of roads and mass communication began to reach a larger audience.

Today the largest city in Peru is Lima, the capitol which has become what is everything wrong with Peru. Because, most if not all government services and policies take effect in the city of Lima instead of spreading it out more evenly across the country. They are grossly inadequate to sustain Peru’s massive population of over seven million people from this one city.

One thing that is very noticeable in today Peruvian society is the reemergence of the informal economy. The national economy has shrunk in the last few years but has led to the abundance of market streets and corner neighborhood bartering for sustaining a quality of life. Ambulantes or street vendors are found on every corner of the city with which you can buy anything your heart desires.

Despite decades of political upheaval and social unrest, Peru can now be seen to be entering a more stable phase in its history. An increasing level of governmental consistency and growing economic strength has led to growing confidence from within.


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