Peru is primarily made up of three distinct ethnic groups:
- The white population — 10 to 15 percent of the population—is mostly concentrated on the coast around Lima and in a few of the larger cities of the highlands such as Cuzco and Arequipa. Most are descendants of Spanish emigrants.
- Mestizos — about 50 percent of the population—are mostly descendants of mixed white and Indian heritage. They are found throughout the country but live mostly in rural areas and in the highlands.
- Indians — about 30 percent of the population—are made up of the eastern or Selva Indians and the highland or Sierra Indians. The Sierra Indians are the largest group (about 2 million) in Peru. They speak Quechua and Aymara. About half of the Indians speak only their native Indian languages. The term Cholo refers to Indians who have adopted the Spanish language and culture. (See Peru Native Races for further information.)
The number of Black slaves was never a significant element of the population. Smaller ethnic minorities include Jews, Japanese, Chinese, Spaniards, Germans, and Italians. It is important to learn the history of the ethnic, racial, and religious groups your ancestors belonged to. For example, you might study a history of the Jews in Peru, Germans in Peru, or Japanese in Peru. This historical background can help you identify where your ancestors lived and when they lived there, where they migrated, the types of records they might be listed in, and other information to help you understand your family’s history.
For some minorities in Peru, there are unique records and resources available. These include histories, gazetteers, biographical sources, minority settlements, and handbooks.
Descendants of Peruvian immigrants in the United States and other countries have organized local and national societies to gather, preserve, and share the cultural contributions and histories of Peruvian minority groups. Contact the Peruvian Consulate for information on groups you might contact.
The Family History Library has some published histories about Peruvian minority groups. These are listed in the Family History Library Catalog “Locality” section under:
PERU - MINORITIES
PERU, [DEPARTMENT] - MINORITIES
PERU - JEWISH HISTORY
Other sources are also in the “Subject” section of the Family History Library Catalog under the name of the minority, such as:
GERMANS - PERU
ITALIANS - PERU
JEWS - PERU
An example of a book on minorities in Peru is:
- Meseldzic de Pereyra, Zivana. Yugoslavos en el Perú (Yugoslavians in Peru). Lima: Editorial “La Equidad,” 1985. (FHL book 985 F2m.)