Peru is located on the western coast of South America. Its geographically uneven territory is divided in three major topographic regions: a desert coast (11.7% of its territory), where 54.6% of the Peruvian population lives; La Sierra, the Peruvian portion of the Andes, which covers 28.4% of the territory and which is home to 31.7% of the population; and La Selva, the rainforest region of the Amazon Basin (jungle), which extends over an area representing 58.9% of Peru and where 13.7% of the population lives.
Because of extremes in topography, Peru is an extremely diverse country with 27 (84%) of the 32 types of climate existing on earth, and 84 of the world’s 117 different types of ‘life zone’. The country ranks eighth in the world in mineral wealth, and in the first fifthin the production of copper, silver, tin, zinc, molybdenum, tungsten, lead and gold. Peru is also considered one of the six ancient civilizations of humanity and its population of 31 million inhabitants is a mix of ‘all bloods’ as the Peruvian writer José Maria Arguedas affirmed.
As a matter of fact, Peruvians are a mix of Asian-origin people (who arrived in the continent more than 20,000 years ago and constitute the country’s original indigenous population, enlarged by new Chinese (1840) and Japanese (1898) migrations), by Europeans (the Spanish in 1532 and the Italians within 1840) and Africans (who were brought as slaves by the Spanish in 1532 and were freed in 1840). This mixture is very well reflected in Peruvian cuisine. Ten percent of the Peruvian population has recently migrated to other countries due to several problems: the economic crisis (1975-1990), terrorism (1980-2000) etc. According to Peruvian politicians and human rights activists, Alberto Adrianzén and Hilaria Supa, the vast majority of Peruvians abroad are working-age young adults, and adults and women of child-bearing age, 75.5% of whom are aged between 15 and 49 years old.
The majority of Peruvians has migrated to North America, mainly to the United States (33%), but also to Latin America (31.6%), especially to Argentina (368,000), Chile (244,000) and Venezuela. Europe is home to 30.7% of Peruvian immigrants, Spain and Italy being the preferred countries of destination, while 4.4% of Peruvians has migrated to Asia, most of them to Japan. The seven countries above mentioned are home to 88.6% of Peruvian migrants. (1)
(1). Informe Política Pública del Estado Peruano hacia los peruanos/as en el exterior y la trata de personas (Lima, Parlamento Andino, diciembre 2011), pp. 23-24 y 25.