Indigenous peoples in Peru

Peru has 28.2 million inhabitants (Population Census 2007). The indigenous population represents 14% of the national population- or more than 4 million persons who belong to some 55 different indigenous peoples.

47.5 percent of the indigenous population is under 15 years of age, and 46.5 percent has no kind of health insurance.

19.4 percent stated that they were unable to read or write but, in the case of women, this rose to 28.1 percent, out of a population in which only 47.3 percent of those over 15 have received any kind of primary education.

Indigenous Peoples and Languages

Of the indigenous peoples in Peru, 83.11% belong to the Quecha people; 10.92% to the Aymara people, and 1.67% to the Asháninka people. The remaining 4.31% belong to 52 different indigenous peoples in the Amazon region, who are organized in 1786 communities according to the Census of the Indigenous Communities (2007).

This census, however, did not include nine peoples "due to the fact that certain ethnic groups no longer are organized in communities having been absorbed by other villages; there are, furthermore, other communities who because of their isolated location are of very difficult access".

According to the Ministry of Education there are 47 indigenous languages in the country. Peru's constitution stipulates in its Art. 48 "The official languages of the State are Spanish and, wherever they predominate, Quechua, Aymara and other native tongues, in accordance with the law".

Almost 3.4 million are Quechua speakers and 0.5 million are Aymara speakers. Both languages predominate in the Coastal-Andean part of the country.

Regions

The country's land mass covers 1,285,215 square km which can be divided into three regions, the:

  • Coastal region 
  • Andean region 
  • Amazon region 

These regions all enjoy great variety of ecosystems, a rich cultural and linguistic diversity and a wealth of natural resources.

Today, however, 21% of the national territory is covered by mining concessions that overlap with 47.8% of the territories of rural farming communities. Nearly 75% of the Peruvian Amazon is divided up into oil and gas concessions.

Pressure on indigenous territories

The overlapping rights on the communities territories, the enormous pressure of extractive industries, territorial disorder and deficient prior consultations, are sharpening land and social-environmental conflicts.

In 2014 the regional and local elections demonstrated to the mining industry that it had a fight on its hands in terms of better conditions and the country saw its growth in primary exports fall.

The government used this as a pretext to approve measures aimed at promoting public/private investment, and to continue to ignore the right to prior consultation while continuing to grant concessions over indigenous territories, a process that continues.

Legislation

Peru ratified ILO Convention No. 169 and voted in favour of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 2007.

Yearly Update 

Download the 2016 yearbook article on indigenous peoples in Peru to learn more about major developments and events during 2015.