The Diversity of Peru and Its Problem With Identity

Essay, 2013

13 Pages, Grade: 2,3


Lack of Acceptance

Peru is a rich country - not in the economical sense, because even if it is today “one of the best performing economies in Latin America“ (World Bank, 2012), Peru still suffers from poverty, hunger, and ethnic conflicts as many countries in Latin America do. The focus lies here more on the country‘s richness based on history, nature, climate and cultural life.

Peru is a country in western South America and borders on Ecuador and Columbia in the north, Brazil in the east, Bolivia in the southeast and Chile in the south. The world‘s driest desert, the Atacama desert, is located in the south of Peru to the boarders of Chile. What distinguished Peru from other countries in South America is the division of the country into three different biomes: The Costa ( coastline ) in the west of the country bordering the South Pacific Ocean; the Sierra, with the high and rough Andes in the centre; and the Selva, the eastern lowland jungle of Amazon Basin. The capital of Peru is Lima and lies in the Costa region. With its coastline which is approximately 2,000 kilometres long (longest in the world) and innumerable beaches, unique flora and fauna, climate from tropical to dry desert, historical pre-Hispanic places like the Inca site Machu Picchu, and the multicultural capital, Peru is a very diverse country. Not only geographically, but also when it comes to its population and cultural life. Peru is an indigenous country, which means that the majority of the population consist of so called amerindios or indios, and define the pre-Hispanic citizens of Latin America. 37 percent are mestizos, which describes the mixture of white, black and asiatic people with the amerindios due to colonization and immigration. What stands out is the white minority which makes today only 15 percent of the Peruvian population. Three percent are, because of large immigration during the 1970s and 1980s, Japanese or Chinese Peruvians. Undoubtedly, the mixture of different ethnic groups defines what is today the Peruvian culture and national identity. However, there are still problems among Peruvians which can be noticed in terms of the acceptance of the own identity.

I spent the first ten years of my life in Peru and almost every member of my family is a Peruvian by birth. Technically, I have, as we like to say it, Peruvian “blood running through my veins“, since my parents are Peruvians. However, now that I live in Germany it is difficult to say if I would really call myself a Peruvian. Furthermore, I noticed how difficult it is to describe what is really Peruvian and what not, what defines the Peruvian culture and identity and not only because I might not have enough experience, but also because it is a complicated topic. I noticed this difficulty when I started this essay. First, I had to do a lot of research in order to describe the history or different aspects of the culture that exists today due to the fact that ten years are not enough time to internalize it. Nevertheless, I have been able to live in this country and had therefore the opportunity to experience, especially through my parents, at least some faces of the Peruvian way of life. Certainly, it includes the way Peruvians raise their children and what kind of values and traditions they want to pass on. But I also experienced what children learn in pre-school, for instance, how Peruvians in general like to spend their free time and even their attitude towards other Peruvians did not go unnoticed. For this reason, I try to explain some problems of the Peruvian identity based on different incidents I was part of. Despite all the good experiences I had with Peruvians so far, I had also to learn that they are very often not able to accept each other. The reason for this is that Peru suffers from a simple yet alarming problem, namely the discrimination against different ethnic groups and especially against the indigenous population. A lot of tension can be notice when talking about affiliation of Peruvians to a certain ethnic group. Some of them can become very aggressive when you call them, for instance, an indio, cholo or serrano (latters are the most current expressions). And even the term mestizo has a bad connotation and can be an insult for almost every Peruvian, despite the fact that this nomenclature clearly defines their ethnic roots.

If we take a look at the people from the Andes who come in droves to the capital trying to find work and cultural stimulation, it becomes clear within a short time that sooner or later they will be victims of racial discrimination. It seems as if most of the Peruvians have yet not been able to realize how important their own people can be, since the indigenous make up the majority of the country‘s population. With their chuyo, a typical Peruvian hat that covers the ears and has colorful patterns, their poncho, a Peruvian jacket made of alpaca wool, and their children on their backs, they can easily attract everybody‘s attention. Their skin color (which is taint from the strong insolation in the Andes) and language (quechua) give a hint to their background as well. Dressed like that and with the typical accent from the Andes, they get insulted and are sometimes even completely marginalized from society. They usually earn their money with the selling of their vegetables and fruits or as domestics. Furthermore, Peruvians who have always been resident in Lima are even afraid to be compared with them since they are so “uneducated, false and malicious“. At this point it becomes clear that Peruvians are still uncertain about their identity because in my opinion, I do believe that those indios play an essential role when describing a Peruvian nowadays. They are those who still preserve an indigenous heritage after the conquests of the Spanish Empire yet it seems like they will always be isolated from the rest of the country.

On the other hand, what I also experienced, during the time I was living there and with every single visit afterwards, is the fact that all Peruvians shared an incomparable pride for their coun- try, even if the population is more or less strictly divided as mentioned before. Every Peruvian is proud to be Peruvian and to live in this country, whether he is of indio or white heritage. They shout their pride out loud at every single opportunity they get and patriotism defines almost every aspect of their lives. “Showing flag“ is not a problem at all. You can notice it everywhere: For instance in schools, where every monday morning children line up in front of the Peruvian flag singing with passion the national anthem. Even politicians and other important persons are not afraid to show their passion for their country in public and one might think that everyone is united under a banner of patriotism yet without acting like that in everyday life. Just when it seems convenient. The most obvious evidence for that remains the Peruvian music, but more about this later. All this passion for the own country is not forbidden and it might even help the people to get closer to each other, because in this case it is something every Peruvian has in common. It might even influence the development of a strong and stabile sense of community.

However, in the end, this pride and patriotism can also become very irritating since Peruvians have such difficulties with their own people as mentioned before. Sometimes you do not know if this love for the own country is really justified. At this point the key question of my observation is: Why do Peruvians have such a problem when it comes to their identity? How can they be so proud and patriotic if they are not able to accept their own ethnic roots? The ethnic issue is a very controversial aspect of the Peruvian society and yet not the only one which makes it so difficult to define a real Peruvian identity. Considering what happened to Peru and how difficult it has become to describe Peru‘s identity it might help to first take a closer look at the history of this country and what the population had to deal with after being colonized for so many years by European invaders.

When the Spanish came

The territory of Peru was home of the Inca Empire, the largest empire of pre-Columbian America. During the 16th century many countries there have been target of Spanish conquests. In the case of Peru it was Francisco Pizarro, a mature veteran of fifty years, who arrived in April 1532 at the Peruvian coast. Some years before Pascual de Andagoya had conquered Panama and had moved then southwards until finding Columbia. During those conquests he found out that the rumors about the existence of a rich civilization in the Andean region were true. Short time later Pizarro asked the Spanish Crown for permission to start his last conquest towards the New World or “El Dorado“. Pizarro was known as a good soldier and gifted fencer, always ready for a fight and brave in every situation. In 1502 his impulsive behavior brought him to leave his country on course to America because of an incident playing cards where he killed a soldier. But he was able to prove his military skills during several other conquers and it was therefore not a problem to get King Carlos‘ I support. It was then in 1530 when Pizarro and his 180 soldiers started their last journey back to America. The Spanish had to take two attempts until they arrived in Tumbes, an important Incan harbor located in the northwest of the country. To the surprise of Pizarro the Incas did not show any resistance against him and his soldiers. One reason was the fact that the Incas were facing a hard time after the death of the Emperor Huayna Capac and the civil war of his two sons Atahualpa and Huáscar, both fighting to become the successor. At the end Atahualpa won, arrested his brother and became the next Emperor. The Spanish took very quickly advantage of the situation and managed to find their way deep into the Inca Empire. Atahualpa, who was at this time in Cajamarca, heard from the intruders, so that, instead of preparing his army, he sent a messenger to find out more about them. He even accept to meet the strangers in order to negotiate with them. Short time later Atahualpa was captures and executed, after Pizarro had found out that the Incas, weak from illness and inner conflicts, would not fight. The Incan army was defeated in the War of Cajamarca, where many members of the Incan clergy were killed, too. Decades of fights against the local population followed with the result of Spanish victory and the total colonization of the region. Until its independence in 1821, initiated by José de San Martín of Argentina and Simón Bolivar of Venezuela, it has been ruled by the Spanish Crown. Today Peru is a Republic. With the Spanish a new time started in which not only new political and economic norms would be introduced, but also religion, art and music of the Spanish would have a major impact on the life of the indigenous citizens and consequently on today‘s Peruvian culture and identity, too.

How the Past still lives on

Since the early years of colonization Peru is a Catholic country. The majority of the population (87,3 percent) is Catholic, while 10 percent belongs to Protestant faiths, the most important being Evangelists, Adventists, and Mormons. The Catholic Church had therefore influenced almost every aspect of the Peruvian life.

The indigenous population, on the other hand, has been able to preserve some of the pre-Hispanic traditions, attitudes and beliefs. This can be explain with the following situation: For the people who live high above in the Andes it is almost impossible to find a doctor or a hospital whenever they need it.


Excerpt out of 13 pages


The Diversity of Peru and Its Problem With Identity
University of Hildesheim  (Interkulturelle Kommunikation)
Perspectives on Intercultural Communication
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
502 KB
American English
diversity, peru, problem, with, identity
Quote paper
Mayra Condemarin (Author), 2013, The Diversity of Peru and Its Problem With Identity, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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