About 45% of Peru's population is indigenous, while mestizos make up about 37% and whites 15%. There are also small numbers of persons of Japanese, Chinese, and African descent. Most of the native inhabitants speak Quechua (an official language) or Aymara; they live in the Andes and have retained much of their traditional way of life. Small groups of indigenous peoples live in the isolated rain forest of E Peru and speak a variety of languages. Most other Peruvians speak Spanish (the other official language) and are Roman Catholic. Power and wealth in the country have traditionally been monopolized by the European-descended inhabitants and by a small number of the mestizos; the bulk of the mestizos and virtually all of the indigenous people are laborers or subsistence farmers. The leading universities are at Lima, Arequipa, Trujillo, and Cuzco.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.