Peru, or Republic of Peru (República del Perú in Spanish) is a country in western South America, it's the third largest country in South America (after Brazil and Argentina), also, it's among the countries with most variety in natural regions and subclimates in the world. How many you ask? There are somewhere over 100 subclimates subdivided in three natural regions: the coast, formed mainly by deserts and small valleys, the Andes mountains, and the jungle (the Amazon rainforest). Its population surpasses 29 million, with its capital and largest city, Lima, encompassing 9 million inhabitants, diversified between the indigenous populations and the mestizos, with a small percentage of Blacks, Asians and Europeans. Religiously however, it is mostly Christian Catholic with a growing number of Evangelical congregations.
Peru has two official languages: the Spanish, the most spoken one; and the Quechua, the most spoken of the indigenous languages. There are however, many other indigenous languages like the Aymara and the various languages of the people of the Amazon Forest.
First off: How? It is not known exactly when people started to live in the American continent and much less known is from where did these humans came from, from as early as the time of the Spanish arrival, people debated how was this continent filled with people given its geographical isolation in contrast to the continents of Europe, Asia or Africa; nevertheless, during the Nineteenth and Twentieth century it became a general concensus to argue that the start of the migration to America was done during the last Glacial period. Most known is the postulate that suggests that the first people to have arrived from the Bering land bridge, located in the northern part of America and which most likely linked it to Siberia.
The Bering theory was accepted and was widely known as the explanation ot the populating process of the continent, it eventually came to be refutated or at least amended in light of various human bones or tools found in the Southern subcontinent. The simple reason as to why there was a problem with the Bering theory was the date if those human remains, which were almost as old as the time of the last glaciar period.
This of course implied that humans had to somehow migrate further south in an incredibly short frame of time - and of course, they had to do this by foot since horsemanship had yet to be developed- and what was more, there was a tendency to find more and more vestiges of humans in the southern part of the continent rather than in the northern part, finally coupled with the finding of Caral (detailed bellow) that simply made it impossible for humans to have simply come from Siberia and reach to the south in a ludicrous short amount of time without leaving some remains of similar action what would be Canada and the USA today.
This finally lead to the researchers to take up some off the other postulates for the origin of the first amerindians that was not the Bering theory; nowadays the Bering theory is mentioned as one of, not the only, route from which the original humans from the continent came from, the other being the Polynesian route, from which people would have used boats to hop from each of the islands of the Pacific to finally reach the southern part of America in a similar fashion to how Australia or New Zealand were populated.
The territory of Perú was home to many of the ancient cultures of América like the Norte Chico civilization, which built the most ancient city in the American Continent (About 5000 years old) most known as Caral, and various others. The Precolumbine history, so called to alude the time before the arrival of Europe, is studied in six stages, with three general divisions of time.
It must be noted that the term Horizon arose to denote a time when a culture had hegemony or primacy over the others contemporary to it, and therefore, set a trend amongst them. While such thing could be done by conventional conquest, they are not synonimous.
One of the major discussions is the apparent lack of writing amongst the Peruvian cultures until the end of the Precolumbine period. Aside from the Quipus, which were knotted cords that served for logistics and accounting, there have been two speculated ways of writing, one of them being beanform marks found in some places and the other bein the Tocapus, symbols found in the clothes of the higher ranked members of society and which are thought to be a hieroglyphical way of writing.
- The Archaic Period:
- Initial Period: Ranges through prehistory, covering the Caral civilisation and diverse foundings such as Toquepala and Kotosh.
- The Early Horizon: Covers the time of the Chavin hegemony upon other cultures, such as the Paracas and its decadence.
- The Classical Period:
- The Early Intermediate: Ranges between the decadence of Chavin and the rise of the Wari, the Nazca, the Moche and other cultures appeared in this period.
- The Middle Horizon: Spans the rise and fall of the Wari Empire in Perú, features other cultures such as the Chachapoyas.
- The Postclassical Period:
- The Late Intermediate: Houses the time between the fall of Wari and the victory of the Inca Confederacy upon the Chancas, which would eventually lead to the Inca Empire, the cultures that appear are, amongst others, the Tiawanaco, the Chimu and The Inca Confederacy.
- The Late Horizon: Follows the rise of the Inca Empire, lead by Pachacutec, and its eventual expansion, which would be called the Tawantinsuyu and would eventually cover most of the northern territory of Chile, the coast and mountains of Perú as well as parts of the forests, Ecuador, and parts of Colombia and Bolivia; it ends with the capture of Atahualpa and his execution by Francisco Pizarro the 26th of July of 1533.
The events that lead to the fall of the Tawantinsuyu were both external and internal: The Incas practiced polygamy and the Inca himself could have several children born into the Panaca (Royal Family), whoever, there were rules and processes by which a son could be elected a legitimate Auqui (prince) in case the Inca died and, eventually, be crowned as the next Inca. Such princes were Huascar, born in the Panaca; and Atahualpa, son of Huayna Capac and a quitean princess, and thus barred from the normal line of succession.
Huayna Capac and his heir perished due to an illness never heard from before (most likely smallpox, a disease brought by the Spaniards), leaving a succesion crisis inside of the Empire. The elite of Cusco and the religious leaders supported Huascar as the next Inca to lead the Tawantinsuyu; however, Atahualpa, having the support of the army, lead a civil war in which he managed to capture Huascar, take the Maskaypacha (crown) for himself and seize de facto control of the Tawantinsuyu as the next Inca.
It's in this frame of time that Francisco Pizarro and his conquistadores entered the territories of the Empire and made their way to Tumbes. Atahualpa, having heard of the bearded men before and knowing of their mortality (therefore, ruling out the possiblity of them being gods) arranged to meet them in Cajamarca, bringing with himself a thousand strong men as guards with other thousands in reserve for an eventual ambush.
Eventually, Pizarro and Atahualpa met in Cajamarca, the Spaniards frightened by the army before them (them being a few men) were rallied by Pizarro to go on until they were surrounded, it is now thought that the Spanish themselves managed to gather some followers amongst the natives in a similar fashion as it was done in Mexico and had them waiting in case the Spanish forces were attacked; at the moment of the meeting, Pizarro used a translator to tell Atahualpa that he was to abandon his idolatric ways, submit to God and become a subject of the King of Spain. What followed is still debated by historians, however it's agreed that Atahualpa intended to kill or capture the Spaniards and take whatever they had with him, and when he was given the Bible, Atahualpa looked at it and later tossed it away, making his intentions to the Spaniards explicit and taking the initiative.
Atahualpa however made a mistake in relying only in his numerical advantage without having the foresight of any hidden cards the Spaniards could use against him, which so happened to be the horse and the cannons the Spaniards brought with them, alongside the native auxiliars that they had in reserve, which served to rout the imperial guard and eventually lead to Atahualpa's own capture.
In captivity, Atahualpa hoped to play with the greed of the Spaniards at his favour and made an offer of a personal rescue of a pair of rooms filled with gold and silver each. As time passed, the Spaniards grew evermore paranoid due to the fear of being overrun and slain by the Inca's armies, something that seems to be a certainty as Atahualpa had given orders to his generals to await his word before moving and there was an army nearby the place where he was being kept.
Pizarro isn't thought to have desired for Atahualpa's subsequent trial and execution, and was even planning to have him shipped to Spain before the court of Charles I as an exiled monarch, however the urging of his men and his own nerves eventually won and made a mock trial to kill the Inca.
Atahualpa was to be killed in the pyre for the crimes of idolatry, polygamy, incest and the execution of his brother Huascar, the latter point being one of dubious certainty given that he indeed died but is not known if it was by the direct command of Atahualpa and the formers being extrajudicial accusations given that he was not part of the Spanish Empire and he couldn't be judged by under its law, given however that this was not a veridic trial and more of an excuse to have him killed it mattered little. Atahualpa made one last request and asked to be baptised so he would die by the garrote vil instead, a tool of extrangulation; baptised as Francisco, he was executed the 26th of July of 1533.
Classically, it is said that the Inca Empire peacefully died right the moment Atahualpa was killed, which is a BIG misconception debunked as early as the time of the first chronicles made by the friars or the writings of Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, the truth is that after his death, Atahualpa's other generals continued the fight against the Spaniards, however, the Spanish were evermore aided by various indigenous people who saw in them a chance to free themselves from the Tawantinsuyu and, ironically, the Inca elite who had been enemies of Atahualpa. Eventually, this would lead to the coronations of puppet rulers such as Túpac Hualpa, who died three months after his coronation, and Manco Inca who was another brother of Túpac Hualpa and Atahualpa.
However, Manco Inca realised that the small contingent of Pizarro was nothing more than the screening for the Spanish Army and they intended to conquer the country, this lead to his flight from Cuzco to the city of Vilcabamba near the mountain jungles, from where he and other three rebel Incas would lead a war against the Spaniard conquistadores, these four are known as the Incas of Vilcabamba and their war against Spanish authority lasted between the years 1537 and 1572.
The situation amongst the conquistadores was not harmonic on the other hand, the rivalry between Pizarro and Diego de Almagro over the city of Cuzco (and later the new capital, Lima) and fact that the partition of the lands were more in favour of Pizarro than the latter ended in what is known as the Wars of the Conquistadores amongst the two and all who supported either of them, this war was carried on by the brothers and familiars of Pizarro and Almagro, lasting between 1537 and 1546.
Meanwhile, Charles the First of Spain was not amused with the actions of the conquistadores, who made themselves warlords and dukes of the conquered territory and literally worked to death the indigenous population, as well as the execution of Atahualpa by a lesser man, which was an outrage amongst the court, eventually, and, by the aid of Bartolome de las Casas, who was horrified by the abuse of the conquistadores towards the indigenous people, promulgated the New Laws (Leyes Nuevas) which put an end to the system of Encomiendas, which were hereditary territorial possessions of the conquistadores, and paved the way to the Viceroyalty system.
Needless to say that the conquistadores were not going to accept this without a fight.
What followed was an open rebellion against the Spanish crowd led by Gonzalo Pizarro (Francisco Pizarro's brother and successor) who managed to capture and execute the first viceroy, Blasco Nuñez Vela, but were eventually defeated by Vela's successor, Pedro de la Gasca which marked the end of the encomiendas and the beginning of the Viceroyalty of Peru.
Viceroy Francisco de Toledo is credited as the real "founder" of the viceroyalty, he broke the power of the encomenderos, reorganized the native population in reductions, strengthened the presence of the Catholic Church, established the Inquisition and fortified the coasts against the attacks of the Dutch and English pirates.
The Viceroyalty period is equated as the Middle Ages of the American territories in control of Spain due to the development of a feudal-like system of land owning and the revival of titles and jobs not used in the Peninsula for being outdated, there was also the interaction between the local nobles or leaders who found themselves competing or collaborating with the new government. It must be noted as well that the Spanish Kings didn't saw themselves disturbing the continuity of the previous rulers and advocated to the concept of Translatio Imperii to justify their rule of the American Kingdoms.
The Viceroyalty itself was a system used before the establishment of the American holdings and served as well to rule the other kingdoms attached to the Spanish crown -Aragon, Napoles and eventually Portugal-, in general, it has two periods that reflect the approaches of the ruling dynasties.
- The Habsburg Period: Also known as the Austrian period, it had the greatest parallels to the Middle Ages and even to the Roman Empire itself in its way to rule. The Habsburgs, having experiences with running empires before, used indirect rule, the influence of the Catholic Church and alliances with the local nobility to keep the Empire together, which they managed to at the cost of the Peninsular holdings being eclipsed by the American kingdoms they ruled, on the flip side, Hispanic America was left out of much of the modern changes that were happening in Europe at the time and only recieved it by hand of the Jesuit order.
- The Bourbon Period: The French period, it paved the way to the modernisation of the American Kingdoms, creating more territorial divisons to better manage the Empire such as the Viceroyalties of Rio de la Plata, Nueva Granada and the captaincies general of Cuba, Phillipines, Chile, Venezuela, Guatemala, Yucatan and others. Like its parallel in Versailles, the period marked an age of cultural and intellectual flourishment. It also started the tendency of centralisation of power that would eventually lead to various problems ahead.
During the next centuries, the vice-royalty of Peru expanded its borders encompassing all of South America minus Brazil, it's capital, Lima, became along with Mexico City in the largest and wealthiest city of the New World mainly thanks to the exports of silver from Potosi and Pasco, although under the mantle of opulence, it lied a deeply segregated society ruled by the Spanish nobility and high clergy.
Following the rise of the Bourbon Dynasty in Spain (1713) the Vice-royalty experienced a series of reforms,the most important where the creation of the Vice-royalties of Bogota (Colombia) and Rio de la Plata (Argentina), the expulsion of the Jesuit order and confiscation of their lands and the appointment of criollos (descendants of Spaniards born in America) to the government.
Ironically, this reforms eventually alienated the Viceroyalties since it also ended some of the old alliances with the local nobility and the federal type of control that was the signature of the Habsburg Monarchy was left aside in favour of a stronger centralization of power in the metropolis.
Eventually, the eighteen century saw the decline of the Vice-royalty power, the rebellions of Tupac Amaru II, Jose Santos Atahualpa and Mateo Pumacahua led to the implementation of increasingly strict rules regarding the indean population that only got worst during The Napoleonic Wars when several cities refused to recognize spanish authority and established it's own juntas. Interestingly, during this period, Lima remained a strong royalist bastion, thanks to the fact that the city held a privileged position in the colonies, with its own nobility and merchant society that relied on strong commercial ties with the metropolis.
The first decade of the 19th century saw the rising of several separatists groups in Peru, mainly formed by students from the universities and colleges of Lima, Cuzco and Trujillo but, because of the aforementioned royalist presence in Lima and the increasingly militaristic governments of the Viceroys Jose Fernando de Abascal and Joaquin de la Pezuela, those movements didn't enjoyed the same grade of success than the ones from Bogota and Rio de la Plata.
The newly independent republics of South America saw in the Spanish presence in Peru a threat to their own independence, hence the two main powers, Argentina and Gran Colombia, organized separately and invasion force to the Vice-royalty.
The southern army, led by Jose de San Martín, managed to occupy Lima and declared the independence in July 28th 1821, and was achieved three years later after the northern army, led by Simon Bolivar, defeated Jose de la Serna, the last viceroy in the battles of Junin and Ayacucho. Its identity started to form once the Peruvians refused Bolivia's (and Simon Bolivar's) plans for a Latin American Confederation and, later, a union between these two states.
The first years of the new Republic of Peru were marked by political and economical instability, alternating between wars with it's neighbors and coup d'etats done by local warlords in almost repetitive succession, it wouldn't be until the government of Ramon Castilla around the 1850's that the country achieved a lengthy period of stability.
Following the Chincha Islands War that pitched Peru, Chile, Ecuador and Bolivia against Spain, the country entered their golden age also called the Age of Guano, the mass production and exportation of this product launched Peru into an economic boom that saw the rise of a new upper class, the modernization of the country and the influx of immigrants, mainly from China, Japan, Italy and Germany.
The Age of Guano came to and end with the War of the Pacific (1879-1883) between Peru, Bolivia and Chile, not only Peru lost the war and was forced to cede it's saltpeter rich southern provinces of Arica, Tacna and Tarapaca but most of its army and infrastructure were destroyed, following the occupation of most of the country (including Lima) by the Chilean troops.
Following the war, the country entered the period of Reconstruction which was plagued by civil wars between former war generals that ended with Nicolás de Pierola's victory.
The beginning of the twentieth century was marked by the rule of the Peruvian Upper Class in a period known as the Aristocratic Republic where the presidents were chosen by and amongst a group formed by the wealthiest citizens. This period gained its peak during the eleven year government of Agusto B. Leguia. Leguia's government saw the modernization of the largest cities at the price of neglect of the Andean provinces and the countryside. In reaction to his government, two political parties appeared that would affect the future development of the country, the APRA and the Peruvian Communist Party (PCP), the increasingly discontent with the government plus the economic crash of 1929 led to the deposition of Leguia. The following years would witness the alternation between military dictatorships and democratic governments.
In this century there were also the roots of the problems that would eventually afflict the country, namely, the ever growing segregation of the people of Amerindian ascendency or factions by the criollos.
In 1968, after a rather scandalous agreement of the president towards a Canadian company for the extraction of oil in Talara, the Armed Forces, led by General Juan Velasco Alvarado, staged a coup against president Fernando Belaunde and deposed him under the excuse of "acting on behalf of the people of Peru", this lead towards the last military dictatorship in Peru. Velasco broke relationships with the US after it tried to force him to make the Canadian company stay in Peru, something that he refused and proceeded to nationalize the oil produced in Talara. This made the US declared a blockade against Peru but, to the joy to the peruvians, many countries in Latinamerica, such as Mexico were sympathetic towards the cause and didn't followed the blockade. Afterwards he made some reforms to cut down the power of the Hacendados, who were landowners and were the power behind the Aristocratic Republic, eventually proclaiming the Agrarian Reform which, while well intended, ended up leaving the land in the hands of people with little to no education who eventually satisfied themselves with an agriculture of self-substantion. In his last years, he began to arm the country for a planned invasion against Chile in order to recover the lost province of Arica and Tarapaca, however, General Morales Bermudez, whose wife was Chilean, instigated a coup against him.
In 1975, the general was deposed and the regime under Morales Bermudez started to become a democracy again, all the while appeasing the US with whom Velasco had broken ties with after the coup. Following a period of instability in the 80s and early 90 characterized by a general inflation and the surgent of guerrillas in the countryside, the country finally gained a political stability in the 2000s. From here, it had its usual problems of crime, corruption and drug trafficking, coupled with a sustaining economic growth.
- Inca Garcilaso de la Vega. The world's first Latino writer and the earliest known mestizo to be born in the Americas. He wrote several books about the history and events in the continent such as the Florida del Inca. He is best known for Comentarios Reales del Inca, a rundown of Peru's history from the Inca period to the start of the Viceroyalty.
- Michael Bentine. note Although born in England, comedian, author and TV presenter Bentine was a Peruvian citizen through his father. He was bilingual in Spanish and never forgot his roots in this country, fronting appeals in the UK for aid after natural disasters in Peru. He visited frequently, and, as a member of the family that founded Peru's first airline company, was familiar with the country, its strengths and weaknesses, and worked tirelessly to raise awareness of its existence outside South America.
- Some notable Peruvian Americans include:
- Benjamin Bratt was born to a Quechua mother from Lima.
- Daniella Alonso. Her father is a Peruvian of Japanese descent.
- Josh Keaton is of Peruvian descent on his mother's side and was raised speaking Spanish as his first language.
- Rosa Salazar
- Isabela Moner was born to a Peruvian mother and considers herself more Peruvian than American.
- Boris Vallejo, USA-based fantasy artist.
The Peruvian flag