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The term Quechua refers to several ethnic groups in South America who speak a Quechua language, especially in Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia and Argentina. One of the earliest peoples to be conquered by the Inca Empire, the Quechua came under Spanish rule in the sixteenth century when the Spanish conquered the Inca Empire. During this period the Quechua way of life changed drastically. Forced to surrender their land, they were subjected to harsh working conditions, including producing unfamiliar crops for the Spanish at the expense of their own food supply. In addition, Spanish colonization in the region brought disease, which eventually wiped out millions of native peoples. When the colonial era ended in the nineteenth century, many Quechua remained as servants on the large estates or moved to the cities, though some stayed in their mountainous homeland.

Today, with a population of around 2.5 million, Quechua Indians are the largest Indigenous group in the Americas. Agriculture and pastoral farming on community-owned land spread across several altitude ranges is central to their daily lives, and their number one food staple is the potato. Known as Kichwa in their own language, they are often the subject of studies into high-altitude living.
Feb 8, 2016
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