We call people from Peru “Peruvian(s)” or, in Spanish, peruano(s) (male) or peruana(s) (female). This is the demonym of Peru (also known as the gentilic): the word used for the people or inhabitants of a particular place. In the same way, people from England are English and people from Canada are Canadians.
Once you start traveling in Peru, you’ll often hear less familiar demonyms: those referring to people — and sometimes products — from a specific geographical area, administrative region or city within Peru.
Head to Tingo Maria, for example, and you’ll be among beautiful tingalésas; travel south to Arequipa and you can hang out with friendly arequipeños (note that while names of countries and cities are capitalized in Spanish, words derived from them are not).
The Geographic Demonyms of Peru
Peru is a country with three distinct geographical regions — the coast, the highlands and the jungle — each with its own cultural identity and customs (one of the things that makes Peru such an interesting country). Each region has its respective demonym:
If you’re from coastal Peru, you’re a costeño (m) or costeña (f).
If you’re from the Peruvian jungle, you’re a selvático or selvática (from the word selva, or jungle). Peruvians from the jungle, male and female, are also known as charapas, after the charapa turtle that lives in the Amazon. Charapa is used in a friendly way among jungle-born Peruvians, but some might take offense if called charapa by someone from outside the jungle (especially someone from Lima!).
This is particularly true when a Peruvian man from the coast or highlands refers to a woman from the jungle as a charapa — the word can carry a sexual connotation connected with the stereotype of the Amazonian woman (more sexually liberated, more sexual etc., which can suggest that the woman is in some way “easy”).
If you’re from the highlands/mountains of Peru, you’re a serrano or serrana (from the word sierra). At least, you are in the original sense of the word. Unfortunately, serrano has become more of an insult than a demonym. According to Wilfredo Ardito, a professor of law at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru:
“In Peru, they associate the sierra [highlands] with poverty and backwardness… Its use as an insult reflects the racism existing in our society.”
It’s therefore best to avoid using the word serrano unless you’re sure it won’t cause offense.”
Peruvian Demonyms for Cities and Administrative Regions
Here are the demonyms for all the administrative regions (departments) in Peru and many of the country’s cities. Only the male version (singular) is included for readability’s sake; simply replace the final ‘o’ with an ‘a’ for the female demonym (unless otherwise stated).
- Abancay — abanquino
- Amazonas — amazonense (male and female)
- Ancash — ancashino
- Andahuaylas — andahuaylino
- Arequipa — arequipeño
- Ayacucho — ayacuchano
- Cajamarca — cajamarquino
- Callao — chalaco
- Camaná — camaneño (also camanejo)
- Chachapoyas — chachapoyano
- Chiclayo — chiclayano
- Chimbote — chimbotano (also chimbotero, an older demonym)
- Chincha — chinchano
- Cusco — cusqueño (hence the name of the popular Peruvian beer)
- Huacachina — huacachino
- Huancavelica — huancavelicano
- Huancayo — huancaíno
- Huánuco — huanuqueño
- Huaral — huaralino
- Huaráz — huaracino
- Ica — iqueño
- Ilo — ileño
- Iquitos — iquiteño
- Juliaca — juliaqueño
- Junín — juninense
- Lambayeque — lambayecano
- Lima — limeño
- Loreto — loretano
- Moquegua — moqueguano
- Moyobamba — moyabambino
- Pacasmayo — pacasmayino
- Paita — paiteño
- Pasco — pasqueño
- Pisco — pisqueño
- Piura — piurano
- Pucallpa — pucallpino and pucallpeño (both are used)
- Puerto Maldonado — materdeitano or portomaldonadino
- Puno — puneño
- San Martín — sanmartinense
- Sullana — sullanero
- Tacna — tacneño
- Tarapoto — tarapotino
- Tingo Maria — tingalés (tingalésa for females)
- Trujillo — trujillano
- Tumbes — tumbesino
- Ucayali — ucayalino
- Urubamba — urubambino
- Yurimaguas — yurimaguino
If you know any more demonyms from Peru (Mancora, anyone?), please leave them in the comments section below and I’ll add them to the list. Thanks!
I find this a fascinating exposition about the origins of words themselves, and the dynamics of language in a context of how they actually are perceived. In a pure sense, one might think that words carry specific meaning. People are the ones who assign meaning to words. (re: the difference in actual meaning, and implication of “serrano” & “charapa” being prime examples shown here) I’ve observed that in most cultures otherwise innocuous words have fallen into disrepute. Thank you.