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Peru Culture, Geography and History
Culture and Customs of Peru
Like many other South American nations, contemporary Peru is a rich mix of the modern and the ancient. The population is made up of Quechuans, Peruvians of Spanish descent and small groups of people from Asia, Africa and the Caribbean nations. With a long history of migration, many Peruvians may identify with several ethnic groups. While city dwellers tend to live modern lives, the Quechua communities of Peru have lived in the Andes for hundreds of years and live more of a traditional village-based lifestyle that revolves around markets and agriculture. While visiting Quechuan communities, travellers will be able to observe a markedly different way of life - with locals speaking a different language and wearing traditional clothing that isn't often seen in Peru's large cities. While the official religion is Christianity, some people still practice traditional rituals and customs alongside Christian beliefs. Indigenous celebrations and festivals offer fascinating insights into the ancient customs of Peru that have been carried into contemporary society from Inca times, with centuries-old food, clothing, song and dance playing an integral role in these celebrations.
Geography and Environment of Peru
Sharing borders with Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Ecuador, Peru also has a long stretch of coast along the Pacific Ocean. Home to a diverse range of landscapes, Peru can lay claim to parts of the Amazon Basin, Andean mountain range and Lake Titicaca as well as areas of tropical savanna, desert, cloud forest, mangroves and beaches. Peru's major cities are decidedly colonial, with historic buildings from the colonial era sitting alongside newer constructions. Out of the cities, rural life is largely agriculture-based, with locals working on potato, maize, coffee, rice and other farms.
History and Government of Peru
Archaeological evidence indicates that early life in Peru started up to 11,000 years ago, with nomadic people living a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Organised civilisations based on land cultivation appear to have been established some time around 6000 BC. Over the centuries, Peru has seen many different civilisations rise and fall, grow and decline and evidence of these ancient civilisations can be found all around the country today, with the Nazca Lines being one of the most enigmatic examples.
However, the Incas can lay claim to being one of the most famous and revered empires of all. Spanning from 1438 to 1532, the audacious Inca Empire was responsible for one of the world's most impressive archaeological ruins - Machu Picchu. While certainly a scene-stealer, there are also many other reminders of the Inca throughout Peru, with the ruins at Sacsayhuaman also holding much significance. The decline of the Incas began some time around 1532, with the arrival of Spanish colonisers, civil war and the devastating smallpox virus contributing to the instability of the once-great empire. The indigenous population was decimated by infectious diseases brought from Europe, for which they had no immunity.
By 1542, the Spanish Crown had created the Viceroyalty of Peru yet over the years various indigenous uprisings and rebellions indicated the level of dissatisfaction the original population felt at having their traditional way of life, identity and land interfered with by foreigners. These disputes finally led to the War of Independence, which lasted from 1810 to 1824, when Spanish troops were defeated in the Battle of Ayacucho. Peru's independence was finally officially recognised in 1879.
Peru's more recent history has been dominated by military coups and regional disputes with the years between 1960 and 1990 being a time of political instability and economic difficulty. With world commodity prices levelling out, Peru's agriculture-based economy suffered, as did its population who were largely reliant on farming. New leadership in the 1990s and beyond has led to economic reforms and trade promotion, which has driven economic growth for the country. With a focus on mining, construction, tourism and private investment, Peru withstood the Global Economic Crisis of 2008 considerably well and managed to avoid the high inflation and economic uncertainty that plagued many other nations. Celebrating the centenary of the re-discovery of Machu Picchu in 2011, Peru continues to enjoy widespread international attention for its cultural and historical riches.
Peru at a glance
- Lima (population 8.2 million)
- 29.9 million
- Spanish, Quechua
- (GMT-05:00) Bogota, Lima, Quito, Rio Branco
- Type A (North American/Japanese 2-pin), Type B (American 3-pin), Type C (European 2-pin)
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