Peru: General Information
Peru is divided into three regions:
The Coast: which features deserts, beautiful beaches and
Highlands: a mountainous area dominated by the Andes, where Mount
Huascaran soars to 6,768 meters.
Jungle:a vast region of tropical vegetation in the Amazon River Basin,
home to Peru's largest natural reserves
Although this simple division
is a fair portrait of Peru's geography, the reality is much richer and far more
complex: in Peru, nature appears to have taken on particular characteristics
which have turned its mountains, plains, jungles and valleys into unique
An extraordinary variety of eco-systems shelters a wide diversity of animals
With an area of 1,285,215 square km,
Peru is the third-largest country in South America after Brazil and Argentina,
ranking it amongst the world's 20 largest nations.
Peru also holds sway over the sea up to 200 miles from the Peruvian
coast and has territorial rights to an area of 60 million hectares in the
Peru is divided into 24 departments,
plus the Constitutional Province of Callao. Lima is the capital of Peru
Peru is a nation of mixed
ethnic origins. Throughout its history, Peru has been the meeting ground for
different nations and cultures. The indigenous population was joined 500 years
ago by the Spaniards. As a result of this encounter, and later enriched by the
migration of African blacks, Asians and Europeans, Peruvian man emerged as the
representative of a nation whose rich ethnic mix is one of its leading
Lyrics and Melody
Three strips. Two external of red color and the internal of white color.
Other languages: 3.0%
Foreign languages: 0.2%
As part of its rich cultural tradition, Peru
features many different languages. Although Spanish is commonly spoken across
the country, Quechua is a major legacy of the Inca empire, and is still spoken
with regional dialects in many parts of Peru. In addition, other languages are
spoken such as Aymara (in Puno) and a startling variety of dialects in the
Amazon jungle, which are divided up into 15 linguistic families and 38
The official currency in Peru is the Nuevo Sol (S/.),
which is divided into 100 centimos. The currency includes coins for 5,
10, 20 and 50 centimos and 1, 2 and 5 sol coins. There are bills in the
denomination of 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 soles.
Currency Convertion: US$ 1 = S/. 3.50 (aprox.)
Peru is a democratic republic.
The president and members of Congress are elected every five years by universal
suffrage. The current constitutional president of Peru is Alejandro Toledo Manrique (2001-2006).
Roman Catholic: 89%
Other religions: 4%
Peru is a naturally religious
country: a diversity of beliefs and freedom of worship can be seen from
the wide range of festivals and rituals that feature both Catholic fervor and
the mysticism of age-old pre-Hispanic cultures.
GDP: S/.188.21 billion (around US$54 billion) through
December 12, 2000.
Net International Reserves: US$8.38 billion (through April 3, 2001).
Exports: US$7 billion (through December 12, 2000).
Main export products: Minerals (copper, gold, silver, lead, zinc),
fishing products (mainly fishmeal), cotton, textiles.
Imports: US$7.33 billion (through December 12,
Direct Foreign Investment: US$9.75 billion
(through December 12, 2000).
1. First Settlers
The first settlers reached Peru some 20,000 years ago. They
brought stone tools and were hunter-gatherers, living off game and fruit. Some
of them settled in Paccaicasa, Ayacucho. The most ancient Peruvian skeletal
remains found to date (7000 BC) show the ancient settlers had broad
faces, pointed heads and stood 1.60 meters tall. The early Peruvians left
examples of cave paintings at Toquepala (Tacna, 7600 BC) and houses in Chilca
(Lima, 5800 BC).
The process of domesticating plants was to lay the foundations
for organized agriculture and the construction of villages and ceremonial
sites. As the regional cultures gradually integrated, new techniques surfaced
such as textile weaving, metallurgy and jewelsmithy, giving rise to advanced
2. PreIncas Cultures
Over the course of 1400 years,
pre-Inca cultures settled along the Peruvian coast and highlands. The power and
influence of some civilizations was to hold sway over large swaths of
territory, which during their decline, gave way to minor regional centers. Many
of them stood out for their ritual pottery, their ability to adapt and superb
management of their natural resources; a vast knowledge from which later the
Inca empire was to draw.
The first Peruvian
civilization settled in Huantar, Ancash in around 1000 BC. The power of
the civilization, based on a theocracy, was centered in the Chavin de Huantar
temple, whose walls and galleries were filled with sculptures of ferocious
deities with feline features.
Chavin Monolith - Ancash
Paracas Textile - Ica
The Paracas culture (700 BC) rose to power along
the south coast, and was to craft superb skills in textile weaving.
The north coast was dominated by the Mochica civilization
(100 AD). The culture was led by military authorities in the coastal valleys,
such as the Lord of Sipan. The Moche pots which featured portraits, and their
iconography in general were surprisingly detailed and showed great skill in
mask of the Lord of Sipan - Lambayeque
The highlands saw the rise of the Tiahuanaco culture
(200 AD), based in the Collao region (which covered parts of modern-day Bolivia
and Chile). The Tiahuanaco were to bequeath a legacy of agricultural terracing
and the management of a variety of ecological zones.
The Nazca culture (300 AD) were able to tame
the coastal desert by bringing water through underground aqueducts. They carved
out vast geometric and animal figures on the desert floor, a series of symbols
believed to form part of an agricultural calendar which even today baffles
(Hummingbird) - Nazca Lines
Vilcashuaman - Ayacucho
The Wari culture (600 AD) introduced urban
settlements in the Ayacucho area and expanded its influence across the Andes.
The refined Chimu culture (700 AD) crafted
gold and other metals into relics and built the mud-brick citadel of Chan Chan,
near the northern coastal city of Trujillo.
- Chan citadel - La Libertad
Kuelap Fortress - Amazonas
The Chachapoyas culture (800 AD) made the
best possible use of arable land and built their constructions on top of the
highest mountains in the northern cloud forest. The vast Kuelap fortress is a
fine example of how they adapted to their environment.
3. The Incas
The Inca empire (1500 AD) was
possibly the most organized civilization in South America. Their economic
system, distribution of wealth, artistic manifestations and architecture
impressed the first of the Spanish chroniclers.
The Incas worshipped the earth
goddess Pachamama and the sun god, the Inti. The Inca sovereign,
lord of the Tahuantinsuyo, the Inca empire, was held to be sacred and to
be the descendant of the sun god. Thus, the legend of the origin of the Incas
tells how the sun god sent his children Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo (and
in another version the four Ayar brothers and their wives) to found Cuzco,
the sacred city and capital of the Inca empire.
Wayna - Cuzco
The rapid expansion of the Inca
empire stemmed from their extraordinary organizational skills.
Communities were grouped, both as families and territorially, around the ayllu,
their corner of the empire, and even if villagers had to move away for work
reasons, they did not lose their bond to the ayllu. The Inca moved around large
populations, either as a reward or punishment, and thus consolidated the
expansion while drawing heavily from the knowledge of the cultures that had
flourished prior to the Incas. The Inca's clan was the panaca, made up
of relatives and descendants, except for the one who was the Inca's successor,
who would then form his own panaca. Sixteenth-century Spanish chroniclers
recorded a dynasty of 13 rulers, running from the legendary Manco Capac
down to the controversial Atahualpa, who was to suffer death at the
hands of the Spanish conquerors.
The Tahuantinsuyo expanded
to cover part of what is modern-day Colombia to the north, Chile and
Argentina to the south and all of Ecuador and Bolivia.
The members of the panaca clans
were Inca nobles, headed by the Inca sovereign. The power of the clans and the
Inca was tangible in every corner of the empire, but the might of the Incas
reached its peak in the architecture of Cuzco: the Koricancha or
Temple of the Sun, the fortresses of Ollantaytambo and Sacsayhuaman,
and above all the citadel of Machu Picchu.
4. The Encounter of two worlds - Spanish Conquest
The encounter between the Inca
culture and Hispanic culture got underway as a result of the Spanish conquest
in the early sixteenth century. In 1532, the troops of Francisco Pizarro
captured Inca ruler Atahualpa in the northern highland city of
Cajamarca. The indigenous population was to dwindle during the first few
decades of Spanish rule, and the Vice-regency of Peru was created in
1542 after a battle between the conquerors themselves and the Spanish Crown.
la Compañía Church - Cuzco
Spain's foothold in the New
World was consolidated in the sixteenth century when Viceroy Francisco de Toledo
laid down a set of rules governing the colonial economy: the mita system used
indigenous labor to operate the mines and produce arts and crafts. These
activities, together with a monopoly over trade, formed the basis of the
colonial economy. But the changeover in the dynasty and the Borbon reforms in
the eighteenth century sparked dissent among many social sectors. The main
indigenous uprising was led by Tupac Amaru II, which was to set rolling
the Creole movement that led to independence of Hispanic America from the
Spanish crown in the early nineteenth century.
Until the seventeenth century,
the Peruvian vice-regency covered an area stretching from Panama down to Tierra
missionary work of the Catholic priests blended with ancient Andean beliefs,
forging a fusion of beliefs that still exists today. The Spaniards also brought
along African slaves, who together with Spaniards and the indigenous
population, form part of the social and racial fabric of Peru.
The Lord of Miracles procession - Lima
Santo Domingo Convent - Lima
During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Peruvian
intellectual writings and colonial art contributed to Spanish tradition.
5. The Birth of the Peruvian State
Peru was declared an independent nation by Jose
de San Martin in 1821, and in 1824 Simon Bolivar put an end to
the War of Independence. However, despite efforts to organize the young
Peruvian republic, in the nineteenth century the country had to face up to the
cost of the struggle: a tough economic crisis and a tradition of military
strongmen who gave civilians little chance to govern.
Government Palace - Lima
Train Station - Tacna
By 1860, thanks to income from guano,
cotton and sugar, Peru was able to do without enforced labor imposed on
the indigenous population and African slaves alike. Chinese and European
immigrants swelled the workforce and integrated with Peru's society. The
country was linked up by a railway network, and during the mandate of President
Manuel Pardo, Peru organized its first civilian government. The
first Japanese immigrants were to arrive at the end of the nineteenth
But in 1879, the
country found itself at war with Chile. Peru was defeated and left
bankrupt. After another spell of military regimes, Peru returned to civilian
rule, giving rise to a time called "the Aristocratic Republic".
The economy was dominated by the land-owning elite, and an export-oriented
model imposed. The success of the rubber boom lent fresh splendor to the myth
of El Dorado.
6. Peru Today
The early part of the twentieth
century was marked by a drawn-out civilian dictatorship headed by President
Augusto B. Leguia. The project to modernize the country, creating works for a
New Fatherland left the State heavily in debt and unable to deal with the 1929
crash. It was also a time of intellectual creativity, symbolized by the founder
of the APRA party, Victor Raul Haya de la Torre and Jose Carlos Mariategui, the
father of Socialist beliefs in Peru and the center of intellectual and artistic
thinking in the country during his short life.
area in Barranco - Lima Porcon
farm - Cajamarca
After the fall of Leguia,
military regimes once again rose to the forefront, despite apparently having
run their course with the presidencies of Prado in 1939 and Bustamante y Rivero
in 1945; but in 1948 a new military government was formed by Manuel A. Odria.
Over the next eight years, major public works were built amidst severe
Peru, which has made major
efforts to forge friendly relations with neighboring countries, has managed to
overcome long-running border conflicts. Navigation conditions along the Amazon
River led to agreements with Brazil, until in 1909 the frontier between the two
nations was finally established. After lengthy debate, the border treaty with
Colombia was approved by Congress in 1927, and Colombians were granted an
access route to the Amazon River. In 1929, after border disputes with Chile
resulting from armed conflict, the will to improve relations led both nations
to sign a treaty whereby the city of Tacna was returned to Peru.
The border with Bolivia was
marked by mutual accord in 1932. Finally, after several armed conflicts and
diplomatic controversies with Ecuador, Peru in 1999 managed to get the 1942 Rio
Protocol to prevail, closing the final chapter of the dispute over the
territory within the Cordillera del Condor mountain range, shoring up Peru's
relations with Ecuador.
In 1968, the armed forces
staged a coup d'etat and overthrew then-President Fernando Belaunde. The first
few years of the military regime stood out from other dictatorships in Latin
America in that Peru's military had socialist sympathies. Led by General Juan
Velasco, the military regime expanded the role of the State in a bid to solve
the problems that had impoverished the country. Thus the State nationalized the
oil industry, the media and carried out an agrarian reform. Velasco was
replaced by General Francisco Morales-Bermudez, who bowed to public pressure
and called for a Constituent Assembly.
Belaunde was re-elected in
1980, but the deep-lying poverty spurred the birth of two insurgencies which
unleashed a wave of violence for over a decade. After the government of Alan
Garcia (1985-1990), Alberto Fujimori was elected president in 1990, but shut
down Congress in 1992 and decreed an emergency government. He was re-elected in
1995 and 2000, but public discontent forced him to call fresh elections for
2001. Valentin Paniagua was then chosen to head a caretaker government. In July 2001, Dr. Alejandro Toledo
Manrique took office as the Constitutional President of the Republic of Peru.
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