Traditions and customs of Peru

What traditions and customs are there in Peru?

In this article we will learn about the customs and traditions of Peru.


Food in daily life

Peru is known for its different cuisine. Daily food customs are regionally marked between the coast and the highlands, although both rely heavily on soups and rice as staples.

In this way, shellfish and plantains are typical of the coastal diet, while different types of meat, corn and potatoes are consumed much more frequently in the highlands.

Ceviche, fish marinated in ají, a spicy sauce made primarily of hot peppers, tomato, onion, and lemon, is an example of a particular Peruvian delicacy.

African dishes like cau cau (tripe) and mazamorra (corn chicha) are particular Peruvian dishes that reflect this tradition more than others. Meanwhile, roast guinea pig is also an Andean delicacy that probably dates back to pre-Hispanic times.

Food customs on ceremonial occasions

All Peruvian festivities are accompanied by copious amounts of food and drink, a practice that seems to have a long tradition in both indigenous and Spanish cultures.

Typical indigenous festivals, such as the Inti Raymi (summer solstice), are accompanied by a large barbecue of meats (such as llama, guinea pig, pork and lamb) and the ritual of drinking chicha de jora (corn beer). Another Peruvian ceremonial occasion, the observance of Holy Week, has strong food restrictions.

During this time meat consumption is religiously restricted, providing a wide variety of seafood-based dishes. In this list of alternative foods are fish and bean dishes, mainly cod consumption, as well as fanesca, and the infamous humitas (corn and cheese cakes).

Humitas are highly prized as they were originally made just for the observance of Holy Week, but in recent years they have become part of the national cuisine found in restaurants and food stores.


In general, Peruvians have freedom of choice about whom they may or may not marry, with class and money being the two most significant variables in terms of marriage decisions. Many couples decide to live together (instead of getting married) due to lack of resources to carry out legal and religious ceremonies.

Lack of financial resources is also a key reason for couples to continue living with one of the spouse’s families until they are financially secure enough to move out on their own. Heterosexual and monogamous marriages are the only ones sanctioned by the State and the Catholic Church, although men who have more than one home are tolerated and even expected.

Divorce and remarriage are legal possibilities, but the Catholic Church and conservative society are very concerned about remarrying after a Catholic (or other) religious ceremony.


Possibly as a legacy of strongly hierarchical pre-Hispanic cultures or European colonialism, self-discipline is strongly defended among Peruvians. Control of one’s own emotions and feelings is highly valued among all Peruvians, but especially among men.

Respect for older people, demonstrated through actions such as giving up seats for older people on buses, also ranks high among public values.

These values ​​of discipline and respect for others contrast with a political scene marked by high levels of authoritarianism and widespread corruption. Young people are also responsible for providing a strong alternative counterculture to mainstream normative values.

This counterculture expresses itself primarily through musical outlets, such as the national adaptation of rock and punk music, and North American tastes in fashion and popular culture. Public expressions of sexuality, including homosexual conduct, are strongly discouraged.


Religious beliefs

Peru has been proud to be a Catholic country since the end of the 16th century. Currently, about 90 percent of the population is Catholic, while the other 10 percent belongs to the Protestant faith, the most important being Evangelists, Adventists and Mormons.

The indigenous communities have also created a symbiotic form of religion that is not really recognized by any other name than a popular form of Catholicism.

Indigenous groups have mixed Catholic saints with pre-Hispanic traditions, thus allowing them to maintain ancient forms of worship under the guise of Catholic rituals. For example, the indigenous festival of Inti Raymi (summer solstice) is celebrated in many communities like the festivals of Saints Peter and Paul.

Religious professionals

In the Catholic tradition, male priests, especially bishops and archbishops, still command an enormous amount of respect and authority. Nuns come second and are highly respected for their religious commitment to sexual abstinence, obedience, and poverty.

Among indigenous communities, shamans, or sorcerers/healers, are considered the local counterparts of priests in terms of religious and spiritual authority.

Rituals and sacred places

The huacas (sacred mountain places) continue to be considered as sacred deity dwellings that demand the respect and veneration of the indigenous populations.

Spanish Catholic missionaries were well aware of these Andean practices, which is why many Catholic churches were built on top of huacas and other pre-Hispanic temples.

Death and the afterlife

The Peruvian notion of an afterlife largely follows Catholic notions of heaven, purgatory, and hell. Even indigenous groups have been heavily influenced by Christian notions of Armageddon and rebirth.

In the indigenous communities there are long-standing millenary traditions and the second coming of the Inca ruler to punish the white colonizers.

This symbiotic myth of the second coming of Andean Christians was initially strengthened in the Túpac Amaru resistance movement that initially challenged Spanish colonialism in the 17th century.

Secular celebrations

The main Peruvian secular celebrations are the National Independence Day (celebrated three consecutive days, July 28, 29 and 30); the Battle of Arica (June 7); and Carnival (a moving holiday celebrated the three days before Catholic Lent).

Religious holidays, with the exception of Christmas, used to have a higher level of public celebration than in modern times. All holidays tend to be celebrated with lots of food, booze, sports (mainly soccer and volleyball), and general merriment and relaxation.

The arts and humanities

Arts support

Due to the difficult economic conditions in the country, the arts in general are one of the areas that are least supported by the government.


Peru has a literary selection of world-class authors, starting with writers like Ricardo Palma (1833-1919), who was the first to use Peruvian themes in his writing. Only in the 20th century did Peru produce authors of the stature of Ciro Alegría, José María Arguedas, Alfredo Bryce Echenique, and probably the best-known literary figure in the country, Mario Vargas Llosa.

Meanwhile, César Vallejo is hailed as Peru’s most talented poet, and is by many second on the continent, behind only Chilean noble laureate Pablo Neruda.

Graphic arts

Peru has a long artistic tradition, beginning with the famous colonial schools of painting and sculpture in Lima, one of the most successful on the continent. Contemporary artists such as Fernando de Szyszlo (painter) and Joaquín Roca Rey (sculptor) have continued a more abstract tradition.

Performing arts

Theater had an early start in the colonial period and the country also maintains a National Symphony Orchestra, a national ballet company, as well as folk dance companies.

Meanwhile, the popular music genre has featured giants like Lucho Barrios, Jesús Vásquez, Chabuca Granda, and Susana Baca, to name a few.

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