Latin America is undergoing the epidemiologic transition that occurred earlier in developed countries, and is likely to face a gigantic epidemic of heart disease in the next few years unless urgent action is taken. The first essential component of any effective cardiovascular disease (CVD) control program is to establish reliable estimates of cardiovascular disease-related morbidity and mortality. However, such data from population-based studies in Latin America are still lacking. In this paper, we present the design and operation of PREVENCION (Estudio Peruano de Prevalencia de Enfermedades Cardiovasculares, for Peruvian Study of the Prevalence of Cardiovascular diseases). PREVENCION is an ongoing population-based study on a representative sample of the civilian non-institutionalized population of the second largest city in Peru. Its population is comparable to the rest of the Peruvian urban population and closely resembles other Latin American populations in countries such as Bolivia and Ecuador. Our study will contribute to the enormous task of understanding and preventing CVD in Latin America.