Quechua people are the indigenous peoples of
South America who
speak any of the Quechua languages. Most Quechua speakers live in
Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina,
Chile and Colombia.
The most common Quechua dialect is Southern Quechua. The
Ecuador speak the
Kichwa dialect; in Colombia, the Inga people
speak Inga Kichwa.
The Quechua word for a Quechua speaker is runa or nuna ("person"); the
plural is runakuna or nunakuna ("people").
Some historical Quechua peoples are:
Chanka people, who lived in the Huancavelica, Ayacucho, and
Apurímac regions of Peru.
Huanca people of the
Junín Region of Peru, who spoke Quechua
before the Incas did.
The Inca, who established the largest empire of the pre-Columbian era.
Cañari of Ecuador, who adopted the Quechua language from the
The Chincha, an extinct merchant kingdom of the
Ica Region of Peru.
1 Historical and sociopolitical background
Material culture and social history
3 Examples of recent persecution of Quechuas
5 Contribution in Modern Medicine
6 Traditional clothing
7 Further reading on Quechua-speaking ethnic groups
9 Notable people
10 See also
12 External links
Historical and sociopolitical background
The speakers of Quechua, who total some 4.4 million people in Peru,
1.6 million in Bolivia, 2.2 million in
Ecuador (Hornberger and King,
2001), and according to
Ethnologue (2006) 8,200 in Chile, 60,000 in
Argentina, and a few hundred in Brazil, have an only slight sense of
common identity. The various Quechua dialects are in some cases so
different that no mutual understanding is possible. Quechua was not
only spoken by the Incas, but in some cases also by long-term enemies
Inca Empire. These include the Huanca (Wanka is a Quechua
dialect spoken today in the Huancayo area) and the
Chanka (the Chanca
dialect of Ayacucho) of Peru, and the
Kañari (Cañar) in Ecuador.
Quechua was spoken by some of these people, for example, the Wanka,
before the Incas of Cusco, while other people, especially in Bolivia
but also in Ecuador, adopted Quechua only in
Inca times or afterward.
Quechua became Peru’s second official language in 1969 under the
military regime of Juan Velasco Alvarado. Recently there have been
tendencies toward nation building among Quechua speakers, particularly
Ecuador (Kichwa) but also in Bolivia, where there are only slight
linguistic differences from the Peruvian version. An indication of
this effort is the umbrella organization of the
Kichwa peoples in
Ecuador Runakunapak Rikcharimuy). Some Christian
organizations also refer to a “Quechua people,” such as the
Christian shortwave radio station HCJB, "The Voice of the Andes" (La
Voz de los Andes). The term “Quechua Nation” occurs in such
contexts as the name of the Education Council of the Quechua Nation
(Consejo Educativo de la Nación Quechua, CENAQ), which is responsible
for Quechua instruction or bilingual intercultural schools in the
Quechua-speaking regions of Bolivia. Some Quechua speakers claim
that if nation states in Latin America had been built following the
European pattern, they should be a single, independent
Material culture and social history
Quechua woman with llamas (
Cusco Department, Peru)
Despite their ethnic diversity and linguistic distinctions, the
various Quechua ethnic groups have numerous cultural characteristics
in common. They also share many of these with the Aymara, or other
indigenous peoples of the central Andes.
Traditionally, Quechua identity is locally oriented and inseparably
linked in each case with the established economic system. It is based
on agriculture in the lower altitude regions, and on pastoral farming
in the higher regions of the Puna. The typical Andean community
extends over several altitude ranges and thus includes the cultivation
of a variety of arable crops and/or livestock. The land is usually
owned by the local community (ayllu) and is either cultivated jointly
or redistributed annually.
Beginning with the colonial era and intensifying after the South
American states had gained their independence, large landowners
appropriated all or most of the land and forced the native population
into bondage (known in
Ecuador as Huasipungo, from
“front door”). Harsh conditions of exploitation repeatedly led to
revolts by the indigenous farmers, which were forcibly suppressed. The
largest of these revolts occurred 1780-1781 under the leadership of
José Gabriel Kunturkanki.
Some indigenous farmers re-occupied their ancestors' lands and
expelled the hacendados during the takeover of governments by
reform-minded juntas in the middle of the 20th century, such as in
Bolivia (Víctor Paz Estenssoro) and 1968 in
Velasco Alvarado). The agrarian reforms included the expropriation of
large landowners,. In
Bolivia there was a redistribution of the land
to the indigenous population as their private property. This disrupted
traditional Quechua and Aymara culture based on communal ownership,
but ayllus have been retained up to the present time in remote
regions, such as in the Peruvian Quechua community of Q'ero.
Quechua woman with children
The struggle for land rights continues up to the present time to be a
political focal point of everyday Quechua life. The
Ecuador which are part of the
ECUARUNARI association were
recently able to regain communal land titles or the return of
estates—in some cases through militant activity. Especially the case
of the community of Sarayaku has become well known among the
the lowlands, who after years of struggle were able to successfully
resist expropriation and exploitation of the rain forest for petroleum
A distinction is made between two primary types of joint work. In the
case of mink'a, people work together for projects of common interest
(such as the construction of communal facilities).
Ayni is, in
contrast, reciprocal assistance, whereby members of an ayllu help a
family to accomplish a large private project, for example house
construction, and in turn can expect to be similarly helped later with
a project of their own.
In almost all Quechua ethnic groups, many traditional handicrafts are
an important aspect of material culture. This includes a tradition of
weaving handed down from
Inca times or earlier, using cotton, wool
(from llamas, alpacas, guanacos, vicunas) and a multitude of natural
dyes, and incorporating numerous woven patterns (pallay). Houses are
usually constructed using air-dried clay bricks (tika, or in Spanish
adobe), or branches and clay mortar (“wattle and daub”), with the
roofs being covered with straw, reeds, or puna grass (ichu).
The disintegration of the traditional economy, for example, regionally
through mining activities and accompanying proletarian social
structures, has usually led to a loss of both ethnic identity and the
Quechua language. This is also a result of steady migration to large
cities (especially to Lima), which has resulted in acculturation by
Hispanic society there.
Examples of recent persecution of Quechuas
Hilaria Supa, human rights activist and Peruvian politician
Up to the present time Quechuas continue to be victims of political
conflicts and ethnic persecution. In the
Peruvian civil war
Peruvian civil war of the
1980s between the government and
Sendero Luminoso about three quarters
of the estimated 70,000 death toll were Quechuas, whereas the war
parties were without exception whites and mestizos (people with mixed
descent from both natives and Spaniards).
The forced sterilization policy under
Alberto Fujimori affected almost
exclusively Quechua and Aymara women, a total exceeding 200,000.
The Bolivian film director Jorge Sanjines dealt with the issue of
forced sterilization in 1969 in his Quechua language feature film
Perceived ethnic discrimination continues to play a role at the
parliamentary level. When the newly elected Peruvian members of
Hilaria Supa Huamán and
María Sumire swore their oath of
office in Quechua—for the first time in the history of
Peru in an
indigenous language—the Peruvian parliamentary president Martha
Hildebrandt and the parliamentary officer
Carlos Torres Caro
Carlos Torres Caro refused
Practically all Quechuas in the
Andes have been nominally Roman
Catholic since colonial times. Nevertheless, traditional religious
forms persist in many regions, blended with Christian elements.
Quechua ethnic groups also share traditional religions with other
Andean peoples, particularly belief in Mother Earth (Pachamama), who
grants fertility and to whom burnt offerings and libations are
regularly made. Also important are the mountain spirits (apu) as well
as lesser local deities (wak'a), who are still venerated especially in
The Quechuas came to terms with their repeated historical experience
of tragedy in the form of various myths. These include the figure of
Pishtaco (“butcher”), the white murderer who sucks out
the fat from the bodies of the indigenous peoples he kills, and a
song about a bloody river. In their myth of Wiraquchapampa 
Q'ero Indians describe the victory of the Apus over the Spaniards.
Of the myths still alive today, the
Inkarrí myth common in southern
Peru is especially interesting; it forms a cultural element linking
the Quechua Indians throughout the region from Ayacucho to
Contribution in Modern Medicine
Quinine, which is found naturally in bark of cinchona tree, is known
to be used by Quechuas people for malaria-like symptoms.
When chewed, coca acts as a mild stimulant and suppresses hunger,
thirst, pain, and fatigue; it is also used to alleviate altitude
Further information: Andean textiles
Quechua woman and child in the Sacred Valley, Peru
Many indigenous women wear the colorful traditional costume, complete
with bowler style hat. The hat has been worn by Quechua and Aymara
women since the 1920s, when it was brought to the country by British
railway workers. They are still commonly worn today.
The traditional dress worn by Quechua women today is a mixture of
styles from Pre-Spanish days and Spanish Colonial peasant dress.
Younger Quechua men generally wear Western-style clothing, the most
popular being synthetic football shirts and tracksuit pants. In
certain regions, women also generally wear Western-style clothing.
Older men still wear dark wool knee-length handwoven bayeta pants. A
woven belt called a chumpi is also worn which provides protection to
the lower back when working in the fields. Men's fine dress includes a
woollen waistcoat, similar to a sleeveless juyuna as worn by the women
but referred to as a chaleco. Chalecos can be richly decorated.
The most distinctive part of men's clothing is the handwoven poncho.
Nearly every Quechua man and boy has a poncho, generally red in colour
decorated with intricate designs. Each district has a distinctive
pattern. In some communities such as Huilloc, Patacancha, and many
villages in the Lares Valley ponchos are worn as daily attire. However
most men use their ponchos on special occasions such as festivals,
village meetings, weddings etc.
As with the women, ajotas, sandals made from recycled tyres, are the
standard footwear. They are cheap and durable.
A ch'ullu is frequently worn. This is a knitted hat with earflaps. The
first ch'ullu that a child receives is traditionally knitted by his
father. In the
Ausangate region chullos are often ornately adorned
with white beads and large tassels called t'ikas. Men sometimes wear a
felt hat called a sombrero over the top of the ch'ullu decorated with
centillo, finely decorated hat bands. Since ancient times men have
worn small woven pouches called ch'uspa used to carry their coca
Further reading on Quechua-speaking ethnic groups
Quechua people in
Bolivia among the municipalities
(2001 national census).
Quechua woman (Puruhá), Ecuador, neighborhood of Alausí (Chimborazo
The following list of Quechua ethnic groups is only a selection and
delimitations vary. In some cases these are village communities of
just a few hundred people, in other cases ethnic groups of over a
Southern Pastaza Quechua
Magaly Solier, actress
Túpac Amaru II, revolutionary
Manco Cápac, Sapa Inca
Ollanta Humala, President of Perù
Q'orianka Kilcher, actress
Alejandro Toledo, President of Perù
Martín Chambi, photographer
Diego Quispe Tito, painter
Benjamin Bratt, American Actor
Josh Keaton, American Actor
Penelope Velasco, American lesbian activist
Sacha Duchicela, Pediatric Emergency Medicine Doctor
Latin America portal
^ 2001 INEC census
^ "Censo Nacional de Población, Hogares y Viviendas 2010: Resultados
definitivos: Serie B No 2: Tomo 1" (PDF) (in Spanish). INDEC.
p. 281. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 December 2015.
Retrieved 5 December 2015.
^ a b Converting
Inca Indians in
Peru Archived 26 May 2011 at the
^ CUNAN CRISTO JESUS BENDICIAN HCJB: "El Pueblo Quichua".
^ Consejo Educativo de la Nación Quechua: Quienes somos, Consejo
Educativo de la Nación Quechua / Qhichwa Suyu Yachachiymanta Umalliq:
Currículo Regionalizado de la Nación Quechua, Sucre 2012[permanent
^ Orin Starn: Villagers at Arms: War and Counterrevolution in the
Central-South Andes. In Steve Stern (ed.): Shining and Other Paths:
War and Society in Peru, 1980–1995. Duke University Press, Durham
und London, 1998, ISBN 0-8223-2217-X
^ Mass sterilisation scandal shocks Peru, 24 July 2002, BBC News,
^ Perú: Congresista quechua Maria Sumire sufrió presiones para
juramentar en español. http://www.servindi.org/archivo/2006/927
^ Congresistas indígenas sesionarán en quechua. Diario Hispano
^ Examples (
Ancash Quechua with Spanish translation) at "Archived
copy". Archived from the original on 19 December 2007. Retrieved 12
May 2009. and (in
Chanka Quechua) "Archived copy". Archived from
the original on 12 March 2010. Retrieved 12 May 2009.
^ Karneval von Tambobamba. In: José María Arguedas: El sueño del
pongo, cuento quechua y Canciones quechuas tradicionales. Editorial
Universitaria, Santiago de
Chile 1969. Online: "Archived copy".
Archived from the original on 5 June 2009. Retrieved 12 May
2009. (auf Chanka-Quechua). German translation in: Juliane
Bambula Diaz and Mario Razzeto: Ketschua-Lyrik. Reclam, Leipzig 1976,
^ a b Thomas Müller and Helga Müller-Herbon: Die Kinder der Mitte.
Die Q'ero-Indianer. Lamuv Verlag, Göttingen 1993,
^ http://www.runasimi.de/inkarri.htm (in Quechua)
^ Juliane Bambula Diaz und Mario Razzeto: Ketschua-Lyrik. Reclam,
Leipzig 1976, pp. 231 ff.
^ La Paz and Tiwanaku: colour, bowler hats and llama fetuses. Archived
10 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine. 05.08.2011.
^ A Guide to the Culture and Traditions of the Andean Communities of
Peru, 05.08.2011. http://www.myperu.org/traditional_clothing_peru.html
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