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Travel Guide > South America > Peru

Peru People & Culture

  
 
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Customs

Don't use the word "indio", although it's Spanish. For natives, it sounds like "nigger" since it was used by Spanish conquerors. The politically correct way of speaking is "el indígena" or "la indígena" - although, like "nigger", very close people inside a circle of friends can get away with it. Another word to be careful with is chola/cholo or cholita, meaning indígena. This may be used affectionately among indigenous people (it'a very common appellation for a child, for instance) but is offensive coming from an outsider.

Even if you have about 20 "No drugs" T-shirts at home, accept that especially people from the country side chew coca leaves. See it as a part of the culture with social and ritual components. And keep in mind: Coca leaves are not cocaine and they are legal. You can try them to experience the culture.

If you don't like to chew them, try a mate de hojas de coca. Also quite effective against altitude sickness. However, the use of coca leaf tea may lead to testing positive on North American drug tests within the next few weeks.

Officially, most of the Peruvians are Roman Catholic, but especially on the country-side, the ancient pre-Hispanic religiosity is still alive. Respect that when visiting temple ruins or other ritual places and behave as if it were a church.





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