Peru is a land of intriguing contrasts. This South American country boasts of a fascinating variety of ecological areas like no other in the world. Exotic rain forests, towering mountain ranges, baked desert lands, soothing oasis or unfathomable canyons, Peru has it all for you. Situated on the western side of the continent, the country is bordered by Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile and the South Pacific Ocean. Lima is the capital city. Other important cities are Arequipa, Callao, Trujillo, and Chiclayo.
Peru is a glaring exception from other Latin American countries when it comes to historical evolution. Like most of its neighbouring country, Peru’s antiquity was influenced by European explorers, Spanish in this case. The amazing part is that despite centuries of foreign rule, the ancient Inca civilisation and its culture managed to survive to see the urbanisation of the 21st century. The rich history and culture of the country is reflected in the interesting variety of people in Peru. The ethnic descendants of the Amerindians tribe dominate the country population with a share of nearly 45%. The native population mainly consist of the Quechua-speaking people and the Aymará descent that in most regions ouster the Spanish-Indian mix of mestizos. Apart from these, small African and Asian communities form the minority of the Peru population. About 89% of the population is Roman Catholic and various Indian religions are also practised.
Peru, economically, was one of the most rich and powerful states in the entire Americas. However, years of colonialism, war, corruption, guerrillas and terrorism took its toll on Peru’s economy that finally took a positive turn in early 21st century. One of the reasons for this financial prosperity lies in the immense opportunities of tourism in the country. Ponder the enigma of the Nazca Lines, travel to Cusco, walk the Inca Trail, visit the amazing sites of Machu Picchu or explore the wide-ranging flora and fauna of Peru's Amazon rainforest; Peru is a treasure trove of astonishing features.
Republic of Peru is South America's third largest country, covering 1,285,215 sq. km. The geographical diversity of the country is one of a kind in the whole world as it is blessed with nearly every extremity and beauty of nature. The topographical variety of Peru is largely influenced by its bordering neighbours that include Colombia and Ecuador to the north, Brazil and Bolivia to the east, Chile at south and the Pacific Ocean in west. The climate zones and landscapes of the country can be divided into three distinct regions. The categorisation includes a narrow strip of desert along the coast or the La Costa, a region of high Andes Mountains in the centre or the La Sierra and a large area of rainforests and lowlands at foothills in the east or the La Selva.
Also of great interest is Peru's narrow, lowland coastal region, a northern extension of the Atacama Desert. Although the Atacama is generally known as the most arid region on the planet, the climate along Peru's shores is made cooler and less dry by La Garuùa, a dense fog created by the collision of the frigid waters of the Humboldt Current with the heated sands of the Atacama. Lima, Trujillo, and Chiclayo, three of Peru's major population centres, are located along this coastal desert.
The best known amongst these is the central high sierra of the Andes, with its massive peaks, steep canyons, and extraordinary pre Columbian archaeological sites. The Andes are still one of the world's most unstable mountain ranges, with frequent earthquakes, landslides, and flash floods. Despite such instability, the Andes are also the site of the most fascinating pre-Columbian cities of South America like the great city of the clouds, Machu Picchu. Peru's third great region is the dense forest that surrounds the headwaters of the Amazon beneath the eastern slopes of the Andes. This part of the country is so inaccessible that only the most adventurous and intrepid travelers should attempt to penetrate its mysterious emerald depths.
Peru’s weather conditions are dominated by the frequent occurrence of natural disasters like drought and heavy flood. The contributor to such extremities is the menace of El Nino. Its climate varies considerably by region, although January through March tends everywhere to be the wet season. The coastal areas, which are quite hot and humid during those months, are cooled during the rest of the year by La Garuùa. The fog doesn't penetrate very far inland, however, and the western side of the Andes are very clear, warm, and dry for the greater part of the year. As one moves up into the mountains, night-time temperatures become considerably colder. The eastern slope of the Andes, like the Amazon basin, experiences very heavy rainfall during the wet season, which extends from January all the way through April.
Peru officially celebrates independence every year on July 28 since it freed itself from the bondage in 1821. But the decades previous to this auspicious Peruvian date or the ones following were no less eventful. There is evidence of human habitation in Peru as long ago as the eighth millennium BC, there is little evidence of organised village life until about 2500 BC. To start from the ancient times, the country is best known as the heart of the Inca Empire. However, it was home to many diverse indigenous cultures long before the Incas arrived. Early civilizations in Peru included the Chavin (1500-300BC), the Moche (200 BC-700 AD) and the Chimu Kingdom (900-1450 AD). The Inca Empire developed much later, reaching its peak in the early sixteenth century. Among the number of distinctive regional cultures, the Nazca are the most legendary due to the immense and cryptic Nazca Lines. It still remains one of the greatest mysteries of the world. Meanwhile, the Incas controlled a vast territory that extended from present-day northwest Argentina to southern Colombia. The climatic changes in the coastal regions prompted the inhabitants to move toward the more fertile interior river valleys.
In 1532, at the height of its power, the dominion of Inca Empire was challenged by a war of succession. In this one of the greatest invasion of history, Francisco Pizarro and his group of Spanish explorers arrived on the shores of Peru. Although the Incas continued to fight for the next several years, their empire finally came to an end and the Spanish ruled for next couple of centuries. In the next fifteen years, the Spanish had conquered the Inca and founded Lima. Lima became the capital of the Vice Royalty of Peru, which ruled the region for the next three hundred years.
Peru's independence was achieved under the leadership of South Americans, Jose de San Martin and Simon de Bolivar. In the second decade of nineteenth century Peru proclaimed its independence, but the Spanish were not finally defeated until 1824. For a hundred years thereafter, revolutions were frequent. First it was the unification of Peru and neighbouring Bolivia. Though the alliance didn’t stay for a long time, the countries came together again to fight the Spainish in 1864–1866, and an unsuccessful war was fought with Chile from 1879 to 1883. Eventually, Peru along with Bolivia lost some territories to Chile, which it recovered after signing the peace Treaty of Ancon on the early twentieth century.
From this time on began Peru’s struggle for democracy. It was freed from the clutches of dictatorship in 1945 with the first free election in many decades. President José Luis Bustamente y Rivero came into power but he served for only three years. In the succeeding years, he was succeeded in turn by Gen. Manuel A. Odria, Manuel Prado y Ugarteche, and Fernando Belaúnde Terry. On Oct. 3, 1968, Gen. Juan Velasco Alvarado overthrew Belaúnde. In 1975, his prime minister, Gen. Francisco Morales Bermudez, who promised to restore civilian government, replaced Velasco in a bloodless coup. In elections held on May 18, 1980, Belaúnde Terry, the last civilian president, was elected president again. Although, the bloodshed in Peruvian history was far from over, the Maoist guerrilla group Shining Path, or Sendero Luminoso, began their brutal campaign to overthrow the government. As a combat measure to these uprisings, the military's subsequent crackdown led to further civilian human rights abuses and disappearances. The Tupac Amaru is another small but significant group that also gave tough times to the government.
Peru's democracy was in shatters by this time but somehow managed to survive. In 1985, Belaúnde Terry was the first elected president to turn over power to a constitutionally elected successor since 1945. Alberto Fujimori won the 1990 elections and brought in brighter days from Peru, both economically and politically. However, he too was compelled to resign on charges of corruption after a few years. Now, Alejandro TOLEDO is the new head of government in Peru.
Peru's economy resembles its varied geography that consists of an arid coastal region, the Andes further inland, and tropical lands and rainforest on the other end of the borders. After decades of suppression, civil war and weak economic policy making, Peru has now opened its economy to foreign trade and private investments. The country has well utilised its abundant mineral resources. The mountainous areas and Peru's coastal waters being especially rich the later provides excellent fishing grounds. The Peruvian economy has always remained prone to eternal shocks that have resulted in several years of inconsistent economic performance. The turning point came in the early half of the 1st century and the financial set up of the country grew by an average 4 percent per year. The exchange rate was stabilised and the inflation came under control.
A series of financial help from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank smoothened out the economic hurdles for Peru but brought along the fear of vicious circle of debt repayment. The main concerns of the Peruvian economy at the moment are the over dependence on minerals and metals and sensitivity to the fluctuations in world prices. The infrastructure sector needs to be more equipped to accommodate the new entrants in trade and investment. Finally, unemployment and poverty are still the most evident problem areas of Peruvian economy.
Peru is still walking on the road towards political liberalisation. Though the extreme and almost tyrannical president rule is now counter balanced by a powerful congress, the peak is yet to be achieved. The Peruvian constitution came into action from 1993 and was amended in 2002. The president is considered to be Peru's chief executive and head of state is the president. He is directly elected for a five-year term and exercises the executive power with his team of ministers. Legislative power is vested in a 120-member unicameral National Congress. There is a consistent effort going on part of the Congress to make the Judiciary of the country more fair and self-reliant. For administrative purposes, Peru is divided into 25 regions that have their own elected presidents and councils.