What are some facts about the indigenous people of South America?


Quick Answer

Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru have the largest indigenous populations. The Incas are the largest ancestral group, and many of their descendants still honor ancient customs and holidays. The four indigenous peoples clusters include Amazon, Aymara, Guarani and Quechua, which cover approximately 40 million people in nearly 600 ethnic groups that speak more than 200 languages.

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Full Answer

The Quechua are identified by the name of the language they speak. Quechua was the language of the Inca Empire. One-quarter of all the indigenous people of South America are of Quechuan ancestry with some areas speaking only their native language. The Quechuan people inhabit the Andean mountain regions of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Argentina as well as Chile. They practice a blend of Roman Catholicism and their pre-Columbian religion. Quechua is an official language of Peru because there are 8 million native Quechua speakers in the country.

With over 3 million members, the Aymaras make up the second largest indigenous people group in South America and one of the oldest groups. They live in the high plains of the Andes in Chile, Peru and Bolivia. They resisted the powerful Inca Empire, Spanish colonial armies and modern governments to retain their own language and heritage.

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