"The Quechua Indians" Peru Local Custom Tip by traveldave

Peru Local Customs: 129 reviews and 113 photos


The Quechua Indians are the direct descendants of the Incas, and inhabit the high Andean regions of Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador. There are about 7,500,000 Quechua Indians that live in those three countries, and in Peru they make up about one-third of the country's population.

Outsiders generally call their language Quechua, but the Quechua Indian term for their language is Runa Simi, meaning "Language of the People." In Peru, about 8,000,000 people (many of whom are non-Quechua Indians) speak Quechua, and it is one of the country's two official languages, along with Spanish. Quechua words that have made it to English include puma, condor, llama, and cocoa.

Most Quechua Indians rely on subsistence agriculture, growing mainly potatoes and corn in the poor soil of the high Andes. They are also nomadic herdsmen, tending herds of llamas on the steep slopes of the mountains. Some live in stone houses that have thatched roofs and were constructed during Inca times. However, most live in structures made of adobe or concrete cinder blocks, and tiles have replaced the traditional thatch.

In 1572, the Spanish prohibited the wearing of native Inca tunics and wrap-around dresses. Nowadays, though, many of the Quechua Indians wear traditional costumes as part of their heritage. The costumes are the normal mode of dress and are not worn for tourists. However, in areas with a lot of tourists, some of the Quechua Indians will let visitors photograph them, but permission should be asked first, and then a tip for posing should be offered.

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  • Updated Aug 31, 2012
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