Demography of Growth, Migration, and Work

Peru Table of Contents

Significant in different ways were the divisions according to the major ecological zones. In 1990 the coastal region held 53 percent of the nation's peoples; the highlands, 36 percent; and the Selva, the other 11 percent. This distribution pattern marked an abrupt change from almost thirty years earlier when the figures for coast and highlands were nearly the reverse. These shifts obviously had significant implications for the nation in terms of government, the economy, and social relations. For example, the agricultural sector had two parts: the mechanized high-export production of the coastal plantations and cooperatives, and the intensively farmed small-holdings of the Sierra, which have depended most heavily on hand labor and were essentially unchanged in technology since the colonial period. Although the highland farm technology was effective, Andean production was undermined by urbanward migrations and the revolution and repression of the 1980s.

Within the contexts of these significant demographic changes, the general growth of the population has been constant since its low point at the end of the colonial period. Between 1972 and 1981, the country grew by 25 percent. The increase may have been greater between 1981 and 1991, reaching over 30 percent, if projections were correct. The increase ran counter to the anticipated benefits stemming from the continued drop in fertility rates, which declined from 6.7 children born per woman in 1965 to 3.3 in 1991, and in birth rates, which dropped from a high of 45 births per 1,000 in 1965 to 27 per 1,000 in 1992. The crude death rates, however, despite the many problems in health care, fell over this same period from 16 to 7 per 1,000, basically matching the decline in the birthrate and retaining the actual rate of population growth near its same level as before. Life expectancy for males in Peru has increased from fifty-one years in 1980 to estimates of sixty-three years in 1991, second lowest in South America after Bolivia. Demographers projected that Peru's population would reach 28 million by the year 2000 and 37 million in 2025 if these rates continued. Contemporary dilemmas paled before the problems posed by such estimates. A significant lowering in infant deaths would markedly increase the overall growth rate and accompanying problems posed to institutions, services, and resources.

Population Policy and Family Planning

The issue of slowing population growth through the systematic implementation of modern birth-control methods had remained lowkey since the late 1960s but erupted during the 1980s, as a result of pressure coming particularly from women. Research in the early 1980s showed that over 75 percent of women wished to use contraceptives, but over 50 percent did not do so out of fear and uncertainty about their effects or because of the disapproval of the spouse. In this context, the 1985 Law of the National Population Council came into being under the premise that although abortion and voluntary sterilization were excluded, all other "medical, educational, and information services about family planning guarantee that couples and all persons can freely choose the method for control of fecundity and for family planning." The proposed law was opposed in 1987 by the Assembly of Catholic Bishops, which retained its opposition to artificial methods and "irresponsible philosophies." Implementation of the law, however, began that year, setting targets for lowering fecundity rates to 2.5 children per family by the year 2000 and greatly amplifying the availability of clinical resources and contraceptives. In addition to government programs, there were sixteen private organizations promoting various aspects of the policy by 1988.

In 1986 a reported 46 percent of women of child-bearing age were using some form of contraception, but it was not known what percentage of men used contraceptives. The data on the incidence of abortions was not compiled until the 1980s, but according to hospital reports, in 1986 there were 31,860 abortions performed for life-threatening sociomedical reasons, which represented almost 43 percent of all hospital cases involving obstetrical procedures. The estimated rate of clandestine abortions, however, was reportedly at the high rate of 143 cases per 1,000 pregnancies, despite a law that in theory prohibited such interventions. A survey in 1986 of women's attitudes toward contraception and family planning showed that over 27 percent of women would halt their family size after one child, 69 percent would limit their family to two, and over 80 percent desired no more than three children. It was clear from this response that Peruvian women wanted to limit family size and that their demands for increased state and private services would continue to rise.

During the 1975-90 period, contraceptives became more widely available throughout Peru, being distributed or sold nationwide through Ministry of Health programs and private clinics, pharmacies, and even by street vendors in marketplaces. Pharmacies were the most common source of both information about and supply of contraceptives. Not surprisingly, use of birthcontrol techniques increased sharply with socioeconomic status, educational level, and urban coastal residence.

Lima and the Patterns of Migration

The first Belaúnde administration (1963-68) initiated concerted efforts to develop the Amazon Basin through its ambitious Jungle Border Highway (la carretera marginal de la selva or la marginal) program, the organization of colonization projects, and special opportunity zones to steer highland migrants in that direction and away from the coast. Belaúnde's Selva-oriented program thus tended to divert investments away from the Sierra, even though much was done there on a small local scale through the self-help Popular Cooperation (Cooperación Popular) projects. In hindsight, the resulting degradation of the tropical biosphere in the wake of these schemes created new sets of problems that were far from anyone's mind in 1964. Unfortunately, the net result of these expensive and sweeping efforts at tropical development has not been as planned. Significant changes in the direction of migration did not take place, and the jungle perimeter road system covering hundreds of kilometers was often used as landing strips by airborne drug traffickers and for military maneuvers.

Just as there are strong "pull" factors that attract persons to Lima and the other major cities, there are also many conditions that "push" people out of their communities: the loss or lack of adequate farmland, natural disasters such as earthquakes and landslides, lack of employment options, and a host of personal reasons. In addition, since the outbreak of terrorist activities by the Shining Path movement in 1980 and subsequent military reactions, over 30,000 persons have been dislocated from towns and villages in the Ayacucho and Huancavelica highlands, most of them gravitating to Ica or Lima.

The profound changes during the 1950-90 period, spurred by sheer increases in numbers, largely resulted from a desire for better life opportunities and progress. The significant demographic change that took place was the migration from rural areas to the cities, especially Lima. Five major features gave this great migration a particular Peruvian character: the concentration of people in Lima and other coastal cities, the regional heterogeneity of the migrants, the tendency of people to follow their family and paisanos to specific places, the development of migrant organizations, and the willingness of migrants to assist their homelands.

The migrants, searching for employment and better living conditions, went predominantly from the provinces to the national capital, creating a megalopolis out of Lima and Callao. In 1990 greater Lima had over 30 percent of all Peruvians as residents. On the north coast, cities such as Piura, Chiclayo, and Trujillo have attracted persons from their own regions in considerable numbers; significant growth has occurred in the southern highland cities of Arequipa, Juliaca, and Cusco, as well as in the remote jungle city of Iquitos. Despite rates of increase averaging more than 330 percent between 1961 and 1990, these cities drew few people compared to the numbers of persons drawn to greater Lima. In 1990 Lima was 14 percent larger than the next 24 cities combined, and 58 percent of all urban dwellers lived in greater Lima. As such, Lima had become one of the world's leading cities in terms of its level of primacy, that is, its overwhelming demographic dominance with respect to the next largest urban centers.

Lima's development as a "primate" city (megalopolis) began taking shape during the nineteenth century when the nation was recuperating from the disastrous War of the Pacific (1879-83) with Chile. This trend accelerated dramatically after about 1950, when the fishing industry began its expansion and Peru started to industrialize its urban economy in a determined manner. Thus, throughout most of this long period, no less than a third of the capital's residents were born elsewhere.

Lima's dominance has been more than demographic. In the late 1980s, the metropolis consumed over 70 percent of the nation's electrical energy; had 69 percent of its industry, 98 percent of private investment, and 83 percent of bank deposits; yielded 83 percent of the nation's taxes; had 42 percent of all university students, taught by 62 percent of all professors; and had 73 percent of the nation's physicians. Over 70 percent of the country's wages were paid out in Lima to 40 percent of all school teachers, 51 percent of public employees, and equivalent percentages of the skilled labor force and other urban workers. From television and radio stations to telephones, most consumer goods, recreational facilities, and other items of modern interest were also concentrated in Lima. In short, if Peru had it, it came first to Lima and more often than not was unavailable elsewhere.

Government, too, has been totally centralized in the capital since the establishment of the viceregal court in the sixteenth century. The centrality of Lima in colonial times was so significant that persons committing crimes were often punished by exiling them from the capital for various periods of time; the farther away, the worse the penalty. This notion still underlies much of the cultural concept of social value in Peru today. Everyone living outside of greater Lima is automatically a provincial (provinciano), a person defined as being disadvantaged and, perhaps, not quite as civilized as a limeño. Under such circumstances, it is hardly surprising that Lima has attracted the vast majority of Peruvians hoping to improve their lives, whether looking for employment, seeking an education, or attempting to influence bureaucratic decisions and win assistance for their communities. Lima has been both hated and loved by provincianos, who have been engaged in unequal struggle for access to the nation's wealth and power. The factor of primacy loomed as one of Peru's most significant problems, as the nation attempted to decentralize various aspects of the government under a reorganization law promulgated in March 1987.

Another aspect of the migration had to do with its heterogeneity of origin in terms of both place and sociocultural features. At the beginning of the twentieth century, most of the provincial migrants were fairly homogeneous representatives of local elites and relatively prosperous sectors of provincial urban capitals. The last decades of the century, however, have seen a marked growth in the social and cultural diversity of the migrants. Between 1950 and 1990, increasing numbers of persons came from villages and hamlets, not the small district capitals, and thus were more representative of the bilingual and bicultural population, referred to as cholos. Whereas in the earlier years of this period, it was unusual to hear migrants speaking the Quechua or Aymara languages on the street, by 1990 it was commonplace to hear these languages used for commerce and general discourse in Lima. This change occurred mostly after 1970, when the populist military regime of Juan Velasco Alvarado began a strong effort to legitimize the native tongues. And thus, it has also become more common to see persons retaining various aspects of their regional clothing styles, including hats and colorful skirts, and in, general, not discarding those cultural class markers that were so denigrated a short generation earlier.

A third migratory pattern was that people invariably followed in the footsteps of relatives and fellow paisanos. Once a village had a few paisanos established in the city, they were soon followed by others. During the course of Peruvian migration, relatively few persons simply struck out on the migratory adventure alone. Thus, the society of migrants was not a collection of alienated "lost souls," but rather consisted of groups of people with contacts, social roles, and strong cultural and family ties.

This fact produced the fourth dimension of the Peruvian migratory process: the propensity of migrants to organize themselves into effective voluntary associations. The scale and pattern of these associations distinguished the process in Peru from that in most other countries. The organizations have taken several forms, but the two most outstanding examples are found in the squatter settlements and regional clubs that have proliferated in all the largest cities, particularly Lima. The process of urban growth in Lima has produced an urban configuration that conforms to no central plan. Without access to adequate housing of any type, and without funds or available loans, migrants set about developing their own solutions by establishing organizations of their own, occasionally under the sponsorship of APRA. They planned a takeover of unoccupied land at the fringes of the city and, with the suddenness and effectiveness of a military attack, invaded the property, usually on a Saturday night.

Once on the land, the migrants laid out plots with precision and raised temporary housing in a matter of hours. Called by the somewhat deprecatory term barriada, the shantytowns quickly developed both an infrastructural and a sociopolitical permanence, despite initial official disapproval and police harassment. At first, the land invasions and barriada formation provoked enormous unease among traditional limeños and especially in the halls of government. The barriadas were wildly characterized as dangerous slums by the Lima middle- and upper classes, which felt threatened by the squatters. Research by anthropologist José Matos Mar Santos and others demonstrated beyond doubt, however, that these "spontaneous settlements" were, in fact, solutions to grave urban problems. Subsequent research by anthropologist Susan Lobo established that such settlements were civilly organized and rapidly assumed positive urban attributes under the squatters' own initiatives.

In 1990 there were over 400 of these large settlements surrounding Lima and Callao, containing at least half of Lima's population. Over time, many of them--such as San Martín de Porres, Comas, and Pamplona Alta--had become new political districts within the province of Lima, with their own elected officials and political power. Political scientists Henry A. Deitz and David Collier have called attention to squatter organizations as mechanisms of empowerment for persons otherwise denied a base or place in the political system. An important step for the squatters was the acquisition of the skill and the ability to exercise influence in the corridors of bureaucratic power. As these settlements and their organizations gained public legitimacy in the 1960s, the Velasco government, on assuming power in 1968, soon renamed them pueblos jovenes, a name which was quickly adopted and has remained.

The regional club aspect of Peru's urban migration was not as obvious a phenomenon as the ubiquitous squatter settlements. The need for a social life, as well as the desire to maintain contact with the home community, friends, and relatives, had moved migrants from particular villages and towns to create representative organizations based on their common place of origin. As a result, according to Teófilo Altamirano, in 1990 there were over 6,000 such clubs in greater Lima, with hundreds more to be found in the other major cities. Not only have these clubs provided an important social venue for migrants, but they also have served as a vehicle by which members could give not insubstantial assistance to their homeland (terruño), when called for.

More about the Population of Peru.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress