About 45 percent of Peru's inhabitants are Native Americans, some
of whom are descended from the Inca who established a great civilization
in the region by the 15th century.
About 100 other indigenous groups live in the rain forest of eastern
Peru. These tribes live in virtual isolation from the rest of Peru's
population, speaking traditional languages and surviving by hunting,
fishing, and agriculture.
Some 37 percent of the country's people are mestizos, those of
mixed white (mainly Spanish) and Native American background.
About 15 percent of Peruvians are of unmixed white descent, and
many of the remainder are of black African, Japanese, or Chinese
Spanish, spoken by some 70 percent of the people, was the sole official
language of Peru until 1975, when Quechua, one of the principal
languages of the Native Americans, also was made an official language.
Another Native American language, Aymarα, was declared official
in 1980. English is also spoken.
More than 90 percent of Peruvians adhere to the Roman Catholic religion.
In 1915 a law was passed that made Roman Catholicism the established
religion of the country. However, the constitution of 1979 ended
Roman Catholicism's status as the established religion, although
it recognized Catholicism "as an important element in the historical,
cultural, and moral formation of Peru."
Other religions are permitted and tolerated, and small numbers of
Protestants, Jews, and Muslims live in Peru.