The law in Peru requires that the Government hold a census every ten years. In total, there have been 11 censuses held in Peru since the first in 1836. Generally (see the next paragraph for the exception), the data collected is considered fairly reliable.
The last census in Peru that attempted to classify its population by ethnicity occurred in 1940, at which point 53% of the population was white or mestizo (white and Amerindian ancestry) with 46% Amerindian. The CIA World Factbook cites the majority of Peruvians as Amerindians, particularly Aymara and Quechua, followed by mestizo people at 37%.
In 2006, a survey from the Instituto Nacional de Estadistica e Informatica (INEI), Peruvians self-identified as mestizo (59.5%), Quechua (22.7%), Aymara (2.7%), Amazonian (1.8%), Black/Mulatto (1.6%), white (4.9%) and other (6.7%).
There are estimated to be 15 uncontacted Amerindian tribes in Peru as of 2016.
The further inland, the higher the density of the Amerindian population. The original Amerindian population was devastated by the arrival of colonists from Spain in the 1520s and dropped from an estimated 9 million in the 1520s to around 600,000 a century later. The catastrophe was caused by a mixture of smallpox, to which Amerindians had no natural immunity, war and the economic chaos that followed the collapse of the Inca Empire.
Europeans are largely descendants of Spanish and Italian settlers, but following waves of settlers from other European nations also left their mark and there are many descendants of British, German and even Croatian colonists. The highest proportion of Europeans can be found in the northern highlands, in coastal areas and in Peru's major cities.
Asian Peruvian numbers are unclear; the source used in the box above gives figures of both 1% and 3% of the population. The bulk of Peru's Asian population is descended from Chinese and Japanese immigrants. Notably, Alberto Fujimori, Peru scandal hit President from 1990 to 2000 was of Japanese descent.
Afro-Peruvians make up around 1-2% of the population and are largely descended from slaves transported to Peru in the 18th and 19th centuries. Like the descendants of European colonists, Afro-Peruvians are largely concentrated in the coastal cities.
Peru Religion, Economy and Politics
Christianity is by far the most dominant religion in Peru, but there are different branches that are followed. The most popular branch of Christianity in Peru is Roman Catholicism. Many Peruvians have blended their Christian beliefs with traditional Peruvian belief systems, for instance, many equate the Virgin Mary to be an equivalent of the Peruvian Pacha Mama (Mother Earth).
Although Spanish is the official language of Peru, used nationwide, indigenous languages also have official status in areas where they are widely used. Quechua is used widely, particularly in Eastern Peru, and is therefore often quoted as Peru’s second official language. In effect the number of official languages has been limited to two for many years. However, recently Aymara was made an official language in the Puno region in South Eastern Peru.
As well as the official languages listed above, around 150 other indigenous languages are known to be spoken in Peru today (although the exact number cannot be determined as there are still a number of un-contacted or rarely contacted tribes in the country).
Today Spanish is spoken by more than 80% of Peruvians and Quechua by 16%. As its urban population increased in the second half of the twentieth century, Peru saw a steady shift toward speaking Spanish. Recently, though, an increased effort has been made to promote the teaching and usage of indigenous languages, so it is possible they will see a resurgence in use.
Peru Population History
Peru is a very multiethnic country and its population has been formed by various groups for more than 500 years. The area was inhabited by Amerindians for thousands of years prior to the Spanish Conquest in the 1500s, and their population decreased from 5 to 9 million in the beginning of the 16th century to just 600,000 one hundred years later due to infectious disease. Spaniards and Africans then moved into the area, mixing with each other and indigenous people of the region, with European immigration from Italy, Germany, Britain and France following behind. Peru freed its black slaves in 1854, then Chinese immigrants began moving into the region to replace the slave workers.