Basic Info on Peru - History

Basic Info on Peru - History

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Maps of Peru

Covering an area of 1,285,216 (496,225 sq mi), Peru, located in Western South America, is the world’s 19th largest country and South America's 3rd largest country.

As observed on the physical map of Peru above, the rugged Andes Mountains cover almost 40% of Peru. Hundreds of snow-capped peaks jut skyward here, with many exceeding 20,000 ft.

The country’s highest peak – Mount Huascaran at 22,205ft (6,768 m) [as marked on the map as an upright yellow triangle], is situated in the Cordillera Blanca range of the western Andes. Fronting the Andes – from Ecuador to Chile, in the west, there's an arid and rocky narrow coastline in essence, it's a sandy mountainous desert dissected by dozens of small rivers that flow into the Pacific.

To the east, the Andean Highlands slope gently down into the rivers and jungles of the Amazon. The tropical Amazon basin - a heavily forested, relatively flat area, occupying about three-fifths of Peru and stretching to its borders with Brazil and Chile. The lowest part of Peru is in the far northeast here the fertile land and jungles are irrigated by tributaries of the massive Amazon River. The giant Amazon River- the longest river in the world, flows through 75% of the territory of Peru. And speaking of rivers, Peru is drained by many, including the Apurimac, Maranon, Napo and Ucayali - to name but a few.

It is to be noted that Peru shares control of Lake Titicaca – the world’s highest navigable lake, with the neighbouring country of Bolivia.

Inca Facts

Who were the Incas?

The Incas were an ancient people who in the 16th century controlled the greatest empire in the Americas.

Where did the Incas come from?

The remote ancestors of the Incas were Stone Age hunters who crossed the Bering Strait from Asia to Alaska.

How did the Incas explain their origin?

The Incas explained their origin through legends. There are two main legends: The Legend of the Ayar Brothers and the Legend of Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo who emerged from the waters of Lake Titicaca in Puno.

How long did the Inca Empire last?

The Inca Empire lasted about a century from approximately 1438 to 1532, reaching its height in 1527 under Sapa Inca Huascar.

Who was the first Inca ruler?

The first Inca ruler was Pachacutec, there were 13 Incas in total.

How did the Inca Empire expand its power?

The Inca Empire expanded through military conquest and fine diplomacy.

How large was the Inca Empire?

The Inca empire covered 2 million sq km or 772,204 sq mi and extended from present day Quito, Ecuador in the north to Santiago, Chile in the south and Bolivia in the east, in the west it was limited by the Pacific Ocean.

What was the population of the Inca Empire?

The Incas ruled more than 10 million people.

What was the capital of the Inca Empire?

The capital of the Inca Empire was Cusco, it was chosen because of the fertile valleys along the Marañon River and surrounded by the Andes Mountains.

Were the Incas peaceful?

The Incas used diplomacy before conquering a territory, they preferred peaceful assimilation. However, if they faced resistance they would forcefully assimilate the new territory. Their law was draconian in nature.

How did the Incas travel?

The Incas did not use the wheel goods were carried in the backs of people and animals. They used llamas as pack animals. The Incas built a network of roads and bridges connecting all four corners of the Empire. These roads crisscrossed the territory sometimes the roads were as long as 1,250 miles (2,012 km).

What was the Inca religion?

The Incas were polytheists, they worshiped many gods but the most important were Wiracocha, Inti and Moon.

Did the Incas have a written language?

No, the Incas did not have a written language, they were unaware of writing. They used the quipu or khipu, a colored woolen cord with knots of different lengths which helped them keep track of records. A quipucayamoc was an expert in decoding and making quipus. It took four years to become a quipucayamoc. The Incas passed on ideas by oral tradition.

What were the major achievements of the Incas?

The major achievement of the Incas were their system of roads and bridges, centralized economy, social harmony, medicine, fortifications and buildings, accounting system, aqueducts and agricultural terraces.

Did the Incas sacrifice humans?

The Incas did sacrifice humans at royal funerals to accompany the dead to the next life. They also sacrificed humans and animals at important festivals to please their gods.

What did the Incas eat?

The Incas’ diet was based on potatoes, maize and native grains such as quinoa and kiwicha. The most common meat eaten with regularity was guinea pig. The most common dishes were soups and stews, a traditional Andean meal that continues to these days. Fresh fruits and vegetables that grow at lower altitudes were exchanged in order to ensure a balance diet.

What did the Incas wear?

Clothing was supplied by the state, they were given two sets, one for everyday use and another for special occasions. Men wore knee-length tunics and women wore ankle-length dresses, both wore sandals. In winter they would wear a poncho or a shawl. The style differed little, the difference was in the quality of the fabric and the accessories such as sandals, jewelry and hair pieces. Social class dictated clothing.

How did the Incas control their empire?

The Inca society was organized by ayllus or ethnic lines which in turn was integrated to its imperial policy by having a curaca, head of the ayllu, who was in charge. The curacas were overseen by Inca administrators that belonged to the Inca nobility. Mita labor or tax was extracted from the ayllus and in return they received food, services and medicine from the Inca government.

How and when did the Inca Civilization end?

The Inca Civilization ended when the Spanish arrived in 1532. The civil war between brothers Atahualpa and Manco Inca weakened the empire and the Spanish did not have a hard time conquering them. In addition, the Spanish brought diseases that wiped a large number of the Inca population.

9. The Inca Citadel Of Machu Picchu Is In Peru

One of the world's most noted archeological sites, the Inca citadel ofMachu Picchu is in Peru. It is located on a 2,430 m high mountain ridge in the Eastern Cordillera of Peru. It was built in the 15th century and serves as the most famous icon of the Inca civilization. For ages, the site remained largely ignored until it was brought to global attention by an American historian in 1911. Machu Picchu provides evidence of the Inca way of life, their religion, and culture. In 1983, the property was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 2007, a worldwide online poll selected Machu Picchu as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Peru is known for its distinct cuisine. The daily food customs are marked regionally between the coast and the highlands even though both rely heavily on soups and rice as dietary staples. In this manner seafood and plantains are typical of the coastal diet, while different kinds of meat, corn, and potatoes are much more frequently consumed in the highlands. Ceviche, fish marinated in ají, a hot sauce made mainly from spicy peppers, tomato, onions and lemon, is an example of a particular Peruvian delicacy. African dishes such as the cau cau (tripe casserole) and the mazamorra ( chicha drink made from maize) are particular Peruvian dishes that reflect this tradition more than others. Meanwhile, roasted guinea pig is also an Andean delicacy dating most probably to pre-Hispanic days.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. All Peruvian festivities are accompanied by large levels of eating and drinking, a practice that seems to have a long tradition in both indigenous and Spanish cultures. Typical indigenous celebrations, such as the Inti Raymi (summer solstice), are accompanied by large roasting of meats (such as llama, guinea pig, pork, and lamb) and the ritual drinking of chicha de jora (maize beer). Another Peruvian ceremonial occasion, the observation of holy week, has strong food restrictions. During this time the consumption of meat is religiously restricted, providing for a whole array of seafood-based dishes. High on this list of alternative foods are fish and bean dishes, mainly the consumption of cod fish ( bacalao ), as well as fanesca, and the infamous humitas (corn and cheese cakes). Humitas are highly regarded since they were originally made only for the holy week observation, but in the last couple of years have become part of the national cuisine found at restaurants and food shops.

Basic Economy. Peru is traditionally portrayed as a country with a developing economy dependent upon the export of raw materials and the import of manufactured goods. It is also one of the leading fishing countries in the world and ranks among the largest producers of bismuth, silver, and copper. Traditionally, Peru has also been an agricultural-based society with almost a third of its workforce involved in farm labor. Until the 1980s, Peru had been able to be more or less self-sufficient in terms of food since then, however, the nation began the large-level importation of wheat, corn, rice, vegetable oils, dairy products, and meat to feed its population. Since the 1980s there also has been a concerted effort, with limited success, to create nontraditional export industries (such as fish meal, shrimp, minerals, and oil) and to manufacture certain consumer goods rather than importing them.

Land Tenure and Property. After independence, land ownership remained in the hands of the traditional family elites that had governed the colonial territory. These large landholders maintained the traditional hacienda structure in which the indigenous population and other rural workers labored almost as indentured servants. Since the 1960s large projects of agrarian reform have been implemented, and these radical land transformations have significantly altered the traditionally skewed land accumulation practices. The lack of modern agricultural techniques as well as the limited size of the land plots, however, have impacted negatively on the overall production of these new farming strategies.

Commercial Activities. Hernando De Soto's book, The Other Path (1989), was quite influential in making explicit the large place occupied by the informal economy in Peru. According to some, over half of Peru's population is part of this informal economy as noncontractual workers making a living off the streets or in nonregulated small business ventures in addition to street vendors who sell anything from food to flowers, with some of the most typical jobs in the informal sector include car cleaning, windshield wiping, and working in family-owned stores and businesses. But even the other half of the workforce that labors under signed legal contracts must also rely on informal labor (such as selling jewelry, and driving taxis) in their spare time to make enough for themselves and their families to survive.

Major Industries. Most of Peru's industries are located within the greater radius of the capital, Lima, even after concerted efforts from the state to disperse their location. Traditionally Peru had provided the labor force and minor raw materials for its assembly industry. However, the recent state tendency has been to provide wider support for industries that meet the national demand for consumer goods, as well as in the laws that regulate the production of cement, steel, fertilizers, processed food, textiles, and petroleum. The support has come in the form of tax relief and trade protection policies that have allowed manufacturing to become one of the fastest growing segments of the economy. The demand for increased manufacturing has been met to some degree, although the fact that many of these incipient industries still fall within the ranks of the informal economy makes it quite difficult for the state to regulate their growth and secure the complete benefits.

Trade. Because of Peru's colonial past, trade has always played a major role in the economy—mainly the export of raw materials and the importing of manufactured goods. The United States is by far Peru's most important trading partner, accounting for-one third of all its imports and exports. Western Europe, Japan, Colombia, and Brazil comprise most of the rest of the country's trading relationships. The main products sold to these countries are minerals (silver, lead, copper, bismuth, and zinc) and agricultural products (cotton, sugar, and coffee). Oil has also become a major export item since the 1980s when a large reserve was found in the Amazon basin along with the reserves already being exploited along Peru's northern coast. Both shrimp and other types of fish (anchovies and tuna, for example) also figured high in Peru's exports in the late twentieth century.

Division of Labor. In general, the most menial forms of labor in rural and urban settings are reserved for those populations with the lowest social status: Indians, blacks, and mestizos. It is not a coincidence that these populations are the ones with the least amount of formal schooling or secondary education. Meanwhile, political office and high-level financial positions are traditionally occupied by both the white and mestizo elite. These individuals tend to have at least a secondary school education, although the majority of the time the positions are much more a result of family relationships than personal merit. Peru also suffers from a "brain exodus" ( fuga de cerebros ) since many of its most capable and educated professionals have left the country for better paying and more secure jobs abroad.

Modern Peru

At the turn of the 20th century, Lima enjoyed another period of wealth and prosperity. Lima’s most iconic buildings were constructed during this time, often in an ostentatious, neoclassical style that mimicked the early colonial period. Big avenues were constructed to connect to coastal settlements such as Miraflores and Barranco.

At mid-20th century, Peru was embroiled in political and economic tumult with alternating periods of democratic regimes and military dictatorships. This was also a period of rural-to-urban migration mainly to Lima resulting in a demographic explosion concentrated in the capital. Other major cities such as Arequipa and Cusco also expanded during this time.
In 1990, Alberto Fujimori was elected president partly as a reaction against decades of political corruption and the rise of violent guerrilla movements like Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso). The leader of Shining Path, Abimael Guzman, was captured in 1992. Although many Peruvians perceived that the president’s wide-ranging neoliberal reforms ushered in a period of stability, Fujimori fled to Japan in 2000 to escape charges of bribery and human rights violations. He was later extradited and sentenced to prison.



Falconer, Kieran. Peru: Cultures of the World . Tarrytown, N.Y.: Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 1995.

King, David C. Peru: Lost Cities, Found Hopes . Tarrytown, N.Y.: Benchmark Books, 1998.

Peru . 4 th ed. Victoria, Australia: Lonely Planet Publications Pty. Ltd., 2000.

Peru Handbook . 2 nd ed. Bath, England: Footprint Handbooks, 1999.

The Rough Guide to Peru . 3 rd ed. London: Rough Guides Ltd., 1997.

Traveler's Peru Companion . Old Saybrook, CT: The Globe Pequot Press, 1999.

Ten fun facts about Peru

Fact 1
Peru declared its independence from Spain on July 28, 1821.

Fact 2
The average life expectancy in this country is 70 years. The percentage of poverty is 42%. Peru has a literate population above 90%, with an impressive schooling system and an equally national health care system.

Fact 3
Peru borders the Pacific Ocean and Ecuador and Columbia to the North. It borders Brazil to the east, Bolivia to the southeast and Chile to the South.

Fact 4
It does not have a uniform climate and experiences 28 different distinct climates. Due to the location in the seismic zone, earthquakes are common occurrences.

Fact 5
Peru contains the most famous ruins of the Inca Empire which was the largest in the world.

Fact 6
Machu Picchu, one of the Seven Wonders of the World is the largest tourist attraction with over 2 million people visitors annually.

Fact 7
There are over 4,000 native varieties of Peruvian potatoes cultivated in the Andes. Major agricultural products are cotton, sugarcane, coffee, cocoa and rice.

Fact 8
Mining and fishing are the main sources of employment in Peru.

Fact 9
The religious presence is diverse and includes Greek Orthodox, Catholic and Baptist. Spanish is the main language spoken and Lima is the capital and largest city.

Fact 10
There are about 1816 different species of birds, 3500 species of orchids and 3532 species of butterflies that can be seen in the Amazon Rainforest in Peru.

What are the lines?

The lines are known as geoglyphs – drawings on the ground made by removing rocks and earth to create a “negative” image. The rocks which cover the desert have oxidized and weathered to a deep rust color, and when the top 12-15 inches of rock is removed, a light-colored, high contrasting sand is exposed. Because there’s so little rain, wind and erosion, the exposed designs have stayed largely intact for 500 to 2000 years.

Scientists believe that the majority of lines were made by the Nasca people, who flourished from around A.D. 1 to 700.

Certain areas of the pampa look like a well-used chalk board, with lines overlapping other lines, and designs cut through with straight lines of both ancient and more modern origin.


The first inhabitants of Peru were nomadic hunter-gatherers who lived in caves in Peru's coastal regions. The oldest site, Pikimachay cave, dates from 12,000 BC. Crops such as cotton, beans, squash and chili peppers were planted around 4000 BC later, advanced cultures such as the Chavín introduced weaving, agriculture and religion to the country. Around 300 BC, the Chavín inexplicably disappeared, but over the centuries several other cultures - including the Salinar, Nazca, Paracas Necropolis and Wari (Huari) - became locally important. By the early 15th century, the Inca empire had control of much of the area, even extending its influence into Colombia and Chile.

Between 1526-28, the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro explored Peru's coastal regions and, drawn by the riches of the Inca empire, returned to Spain to raise money and recruit men for another expedition to the country. Return he did, marching into Cajamarca, in northern Peru, before capturing, ransoming and executing the Inca emperor Atahualpa in 1533. Pizarro subsequently founded the city of Lima in 1535 but was assassinated six years later. The rebellion of the last Inca leader, Manco Inca, ended ingloriously with his beheading in 1572.

The next 200 years proved peaceful, with Lima becoming the major political, social and commercial center of the Andean nations. However, the exploitation of Indians by their colonial masters led to an uprising in 1780 under the self-styled Inca Tupac Amaru II. The rebellion was short lived and most of the leaders were rounded up and executed. Peru continued to remain loyal to Spain until 1824 when the country was liberated by two outsiders: the Venezuelan Simón Bolívar and the Argentinean José de San Martín. In 1866, Peru won a brief war with Spain but was humiliated by Chile in the War of the Pacific (1879-83), which resulted in the loss of lucrative nitrate fields in the northern Atacama Desert. Peru also went to war with Ecuador over a border dispute in 1941. The 1942 treaty of Rio de Janeiro ceded the area north of the Río Marañón to Peru but the decision was fiercely contested by Ecuador. Border skirmishes have continually flared up, usually around January, the month when the treaty was signed. The squabbling has died down in recent years, as both countries work to impress potential foreign investors (who tend to be scared off by territorial skirmishes), and a treaty is in the works that should finally bring an end to this dispute.

Cuban-inspired guerrilla uprisings in 1965 led by the National Liberation Army were unsuccessful, but a series of nationwide strikes coupled with a violent insurgency by the Maoist Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) guerrillas caused political instability in the 1980s. However, the 1990 presidential election of Alberto Fujimori and the capture in 1992 of inspirational Sendero Luminoso leaders has brought a sustained period of peace. Peru has once again become a favorite destination among adventure travelers from around the world.

Watch the video: Οι Αρχαίοι Έλληνες είχαν ανακαλύψει το Περού


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