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History of Peru

South AmericaPeruHistory of Peru

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Prehistory and pre-Columbian period

The oldest evidence of the human presence in Peruvian land dates back to about 9,000 BC. Agriculture was essential in Andean civilizations, which used methods like irrigation and terracing, as well as camelid husbandry and fishing. Because these civilizations had no concept of market or money, they depended on reciprocity and redistribution for an organization. The Norte Chico civilization, Peru’s earliest known sophisticated society, existed between 3,000 and 1,800 BC along the Pacific Ocean’s coast. Archaeological civilizations arose in response to these early changes, primarily in the coastal and Andean areas of Peru. Early pre-Incan civilization was exemplified by the Cupisnique culture, which thrived along what is now Peru’s Pacific Coast from about 1000 to 200 BC. The Chavn civilization, which flourished from 1500 to 300 BC and was centered in Chavin de Huantar, was likely more of a religious than a political phenomenon. Following the collapse of the Chavin civilization around the start of the Christian millennium, a succession of localized and specialized cultures arose and fell during the following thousand years, both on the coast and in the highlands. On the coast, there were the Paracas, Nazca, Wari, and the more notable Chimu and Mochica civilizations. The Mochica, who reached their peak in the first millennium AD, were known for their complex ceramic ceramics, towering structures, and ingenious craftsmanship, as well as their irrigation system that nourished their parched environment. The Chimu were the great city builders of pre-Inca civilization, flourishing from about 1150 to 1450 as a loose confederation of towns spread around the coasts of northern Peru and southern Ecuador. Outside of modern-day Trujillo, they had their capital at Chan Chan. Between 500 and 1000 AD, the Tiahuanaco culture, which flourished around Lake Titicaca in both Peru and Bolivia, and the Wari culture, which flourished near the present-day city of Ayacucho, established vast urban communities and complex state structures in the highlands.

The Incas arose as a strong kingdom in the 15th century, becoming the greatest empire in pre-Columbian America in a century, with their capital in Cusco. The Quechuas, a tiny and very insignificant ethnic group, was initially represented by the Incas of Cusco. They started to grow and absorb their neighbors gradually as early as the thirteenth century. The pace of the Inca conquest slowed until the middle of the fifteenth century, when it started to pick up, especially under the reign of the great emperor Pachacuti. The Incas grew to dominate much of the Andean area during his reign and that of his son, Topa Inca Yupanqui, with a population of 9 to 16 million people. Pachacuti also established a complete system of laws to regulate his vast empire, cementing his total temporal and spiritual power as the Sun God, who reigned from a beautifully restored Cusco. From 1438 to 1533, the Incas incorporated a large portion of western South America, centered on the Andean mountain ranges, from southern Colombia to Chile, between the Pacific Ocean in the west and the Amazon rainforest in the east, using a variety of methods ranging from conquest to peaceful assimilation. Although hundreds of indigenous languages and dialects were spoken, Quechua was the empire’s official language. The Inca called their empire Tawantinsuyu, which means “Four Regions” or “Four United Provinces” in English. Many local forms of worship survived throughout the empire, the majority of which concerned local holy Huacas, but the Inca leadership promoted the worship of Inti, the sun deity, and imposed its authority over other cults such as Pachamama’s. The Sapa Inca, the Inca King, was regarded as the “child of the sun” by the Incas.

Conquest and colonial period

In a civil war triggered by the death of their father, Inca Huayna Capac, Atahualpa, the last Sapa Inca, conquered and killed his elder half-brother Huascar. In the Battle of Cajamarca in December 1532, a group of conquistadors headed by Francisco Pizarro defeated and captured the Inca Emperor Atahualpa. One of the most significant campaigns in the Spanish colonization of the Americas was the conquest of the Inca Empire. It was the first stage in a lengthy campaign that took decades of warfare but culminated in Spanish conquest and colonization of the area known as the Viceroyalty of Peru, with its capital at Lima, which became known as “The City of Kings,” after years of preparatory exploration and military confrontations. As in the case of Spanish attempts to suppress Amerindian opposition, the conquest of the Inca Empire resulted in spin-off wars across the viceroyalty as well as expeditions to the Amazon Basin. When the Spaniards destroyed the Neo-Inca State in Vilcabamba in 1572, the final Inca resistance was put down.

The indigenous population plummeted as a result of pandemic illnesses brought in by the Spaniards. Exploitation and socioeconomic upheaval had a role in the downfall as well. In the 1570s, Viceroy Francisco de Toledo restructured the nation, focusing on gold and silver mining as the major source of revenue and Amerindian slave labor as the dominant labor force. The viceroyalty thrived as a major supplier of natural resources with the discovery of the large silver and gold lodes in Potos (modern-day Bolivia) and Huancavelica. The Spanish Crown received income from Peruvian bullion, which supported a sophisticated trading network that reached as far as Europe and the Philippines. African slaves were added to the labor population due to a shortage of available labor. Parallel to the economic restructuring, the colonial administrative machinery and bureaucracy grew. The introduction of Christianity in South America began with the invasion; most people were forcibly converted to Catholicism, which took just a decade to complete. In every city, they constructed churches and replaced certain Inca temples with churches, like the Coricancha in Cusco. To guarantee that freshly converted Catholics would not wander to other faiths or beliefs, the church used the Inquisition, which included torture. Peruvian Catholicism follows the Latin American trend of syncretism, in which religious local rites are mixed in with Christian festivities. The church became an essential player in the acculturation of the indigenous peoples, bringing them into the cultural circle of the Spanish settlers.

Royal revenue had been severely impacted by decreasing silver output and economic diversification by the 18th century. The Crown responded by enacting the Bourbon Reforms, a set of edicts that raised taxes and divided the Viceroyalty. Tpac Amaru II’s insurrection, as well as others, were sparked by the new rules, but they were all put down. As a consequence of these and other developments, the Spaniards and their creole descendants monopolized land ownership, taking much of the finest areas left vacant by the enormous native depopulation. The Spanish, on the other hand, did not stand in the way of the Portuguese expansion of Brazil over the meridian. Between 1580 to 1640, while Spain ruled Portugal, the Treaty of Tordesillas was made worthless. The split of the viceroyalty and the creation of new viceroyalties of New Granada and Rio de la Plata at the expense of the territories that made up the viceroyalty of Peru reduced the power, prominence, and importance of Lima as the viceroyal capital and shifted the lucrative Andean trade to Buenos Aires and Bogotá, while the fall of Buenos Aires and Bogotá shifted the lucrative Andean trade to Buenos Aires and Bogotá

When national independence movements erupted at the turn of the nineteenth century, the viceroyalty, like most of the Spanish empire, was forced to disintegrate. These movements resulted in the creation of the bulk of modern-day South American nations in areas that had previously been part of the Viceroyalty of Peru. The invasion and colony introduced a combination of cultures and ethnicities to Peru that did not exist before the Spanish conquest. Despite the loss or diluting of many Inca traditions, new habits, traditions, and knowledge were introduced, resulting in a vibrant Peruvian culture.


While much of South America was engulfed in independence conflicts in the early nineteenth century, Peru remained a royalist stronghold. As the aristocracy vacillated between emancipation and allegiance to the Spanish Monarchy, independence was only gained after the conquest of the country by military operations led by José de San Martn and Simón Bolvar.

Economic difficulties, Spain’s loss of influence in Europe, the struggle of independence in North America, and native uprisings all contributed to a conducive environment for the growth of emancipating ideals among South America’s criollo population. The criollo elite in Peru, on the other hand, enjoyed advantages and remained loyal to the Spanish Crown. The liberation movement began in Argentina, when independent juntas were formed as a consequence of the Spanish government’s loss of control over its colonies.

After battling for the Viceroyalty of Rio de la Plata’s independence, José de San Martn formed the Army of the Andes and crossed the Andes in 21 days, a remarkable feat in military history. Once in Chile, he joined forces with General Bernardo O’Higgins of the Chilean army and freed the nation in the battles of Chacabuco and Maip in 1818. On September 7, 1820, a fleet of eight vessels under the leadership of general Jose de San Martin and Thomas Cochrane, who was serving in the Chilean Navy, landed at the port of Paracas. On the 26th of October, they seized possession of the town of Pisco. On November 12, San Martin arrived in Huacho, where he established his headquarters while Cochrane sailed north, blockingading the port of Callao in Lima. At the same time, rebel troops led by Gregorio Escobedo seized Guayaquil in the north. Because Peru was the Spanish government’s bastion in South America, San Martin’s plan for liberating Peru was to utilize diplomacy. He dispatched emissaries to Lima to persuade the Viceroy to give Peru independence, but all talks failed.

The Viceroy of Peru, Joaquin de la Pazuela, appointed Jose de la Serna as commander-in-chief of the loyalist army to defend Lima against a possible San Martin invasion. On January 29, de la Serna staged a coup against de la Pazuela, which was acknowledged by Spain, and he was appointed Viceroy of Peru. This internal power struggle aided the liberating army’s victory. To prevent a military conflict, San Martin met with the newly chosen viceroy, Jose de la Serna, and suggested establishing a constitutional monarchy, which was rejected. De la Serna abandoned the city, and San Martin seized Lima on July 12, 1821, declaring Peruvian independence on July 28, 1821. He designed Peru’s first flag. Alto Peru (Bolivia) remained a Spanish stronghold until it was freed three years later by Simón Bolvar’s troops. Jose de San Martin was named Peruvian Protector. During this time, Peruvian national identity was formed when Bolivarian ideas for a Latin American Confederation failed and a union with Bolivia proved transitory.

Simon Bolivar began his campaign from the north, freeing the Viceroyalty of New Granada at the Battles of Carabobo in 1821 and Pichincha the following year. In July 1822, Bolivar and San Martin convened in Guayaquil for the Guayaquil Conference. After the first parliament was formed, Bolivar was left in charge of completely freeing Peru, while San Martin withdrew from politics. The newly formed Peruvian Congress appointed Bolivar as dictator of Peru, granting him the authority to organize the military.

They defeated the stronger Spanish force at the Battle of Junn on 6 August 1824 and the crucial Battle of Ayacucho on 9 December of the same year, securing Peru’s and Alto Peru’s independence. Alto Peru was subsequently renamed Bolivia. During the early years of the Republic, recurrent power conflicts among military commanders exacerbated political instability.

19th century to present

Peru had a period of stability from the 1840s through the 1860s during the presidency of Ramón Castilla, thanks to increasing state income from guano exports. By the 1870s, however, these resources had been exhausted, the nation was severely indebted, and political infighting was on the increase once again. Peru embarked on a railroad-building initiative that benefited the nation but also bankrupted it. Peru joined the Pacific War in 1879, which lasted until 1884. Bolivia cited its partnership with Peru in opposition to Chile. The Peruvian government attempted to resolve the conflict by sending a diplomatic delegation to talk with the Chilean government, but the committee decided that war was unavoidable. Chile declared war on the United States on April 5, 1879. Almost five years of conflict resulted in the loss of the Tarapacá department, as well as the provinces of Tacna and Arica in the Atacama area. Francisco Bolognesi and Miguel Grau were two excellent military commanders during the conflict. Originally, Chile promised to holding a referendum for the cities of Arica and Tacna to self-determine their national affiliation years later. However, Chile refused to implement the Treaty, and neither country was able to establish the legal framework. Following the Pacific War, a massive reconstruction effort started. In order to recover from the effects of the war, the administration began to implement a variety of social and economic changes. Only in the early 1900s was political stability established.

Internal conflicts following the war were followed by a period of calm under the Civilista Party, which lasted until the beginning of Augusto B. Legua’s authoritarian government. The Great Depression led to Legua’s demise, increased political instability, and the formation of the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance (APRA). For the next three decades, Peruvian politics were characterized by the struggle between this organization and a combination of the elite and the military. Tacna was restored to Peru by the Treaty of Lima, which was signed in 1929 between Peru and Chile. Peru was embroiled in a year-long conflict with Colombia over a territorial dispute affecting the Amazonas department and its seat, Leticia, during 1932 and 1933. Later, in 1941, Peru got engaged in the Ecuadorian-Peruvian War, which resulted in the Rio Protocol, which attempted to codify the border between the two nations. Gen. Manuel A. Odria was elected president in a military coup on October 29, 1948. The president of Odra was known as the Ochenio. Momentarily satisfying the oligarchs and all those on the right, he took a populist path that earned him widespread support among the poor and lower classes. A strong economy enabled him to engage in costly but popular social programs. At the same time, civil liberties were significantly curtailed, and corruption remained widespread during his reign. Manuel Prado Ugarteche took over for Odra. However, numerous fraud accusations caused the Peruvian military to remove Prado and establish a military junta headed by Ricardo Pérez Godoy. Godoy presided over a brief transitional administration until holding fresh elections in 1963, which were won by Fernando Belande Terry, who served as president until 1968. Belande was honored for his dedication to the democratic process. The Armed Forces attempted a coup against Belande in 1968, headed by General Juan Velasco Alvarado. Alvarado’s administration implemented bold changes aimed at promoting growth, but they were met with considerable opposition. General Francisco Morales Bermudez was forced to replace Velasco in 1975, paralyzing reforms and overseeing the reestablishment of democracy.

As a consequence of a territory dispute between the two nations, Peru participated in a short but victorious war with Ecuador in the Paquisha War. After the nation suffered chronic inflation, the sol was replaced by the Inti in mid-1985, which was then replaced by the nuevo sol in July 1991, when the new sol had a total value of one billion old soles. Peruvian per capita yearly income plummeted to $720 (below 1960 levels), while Peru’s GDP declined 20%, with national reserves falling to a negative $900 million. The economic turmoil of the period exacerbated social tensions in Peru, contributing to the development of violent rebel rural insurgent groups like as Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) and MRTA, which wreaked devastation throughout the nation. Alberto Fujimori took office in 1990, concerned about the economy, the growing terrorist threat from Sendero Luminoso and MRTA, and accusations of government corruption. Fujimori took severe steps, resulting in a decrease in inflation from 7,650 percent in 1990 to 139 percent in 1991. Faced with resistance to his reform initiatives, Fujimori dissolved Congress on April 5, 1992, in an auto-golpe (“self-coup”). He subsequently amended the constitution, held fresh legislative elections, and enacted significant economic reforms, including the privatization of many state-owned enterprises, the development of an investment-friendly environment, and solid economic management. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Fujimori’s government was plagued by insurgent organizations, most notably the Sendero Luminoso, who carried out terrorist operations throughout the nation. Fujimori cracked down on the insurgents and was largely successful in putting them down by the late 1990s, but the fight was marred by atrocities committed by both the Peruvian security forces and the insurgents, including the Barrios Altos massacre and the La Cantuta massacre by Government paramilitary groups, and the bombings of Tarata and Frecuencia Latina by Sendero Luminoso. These events come to represent the human rights abuses perpetrated in the last years of conflict.

In early 1995, Peru and Ecuador fought again in the Cenepa War, but in 1998, the administrations of both countries negotiated a peace treaty that firmly defined their international border. Fujimori resigned from government and went into self-imposed exile in November 2000 to escape prosecution for human rights abuses and corruption accusations by the new Peruvian authorities. Peru has attempted to combat corruption while maintaining economic development after the fall of the Fujimori administration. Despite improvements in human rights after the insurgency, numerous issues remain apparent, demonstrating the continuing marginalization of individuals who suffered as a result of the Peruvian conflict’s brutality.

A caretaker administration led by Valentn Paniagua was tasked with holding fresh presidential and legislature elections. In 2001, Alejandro Toledo was elected President.

After winning the 2006 elections, outgoing President Alan Garca took office on July 28, 2006. Peru joined the Union of South American Nations in May 2008.

Ollanta Humala was elected President on June 5, 2011.

How To Travel To Peru

By air The capital Lima has the Jorge Chávez International Airport, with frequent flights to/from all over the world. The main airlines operating from Lima's Jorge Chávez International Airport are Air Canada, Aeromexico, Aerolineas Argentinas, American Airlines, Avianca Holdings, Copa, Delta, Grupo Latam (formerly Lan & Tam Airlines), Gol, Iberia,...

How To Travel Around Peru

Time and distance Almost all cities outside Lima had a flight time of between 1 and 1.5 hours. It is recommended to use the airlines. For example, from Lima to Zorritos in Tumbes (beautiful beach with modern resorts), the bus trip takes 21 hours. Yurimaguas-Iquitos(water): 2.5 daysQuito-Lima(Bus): 27 hoursLima-Cuzco(Bus): 21 hoursLima-Cuzco(plane):...

Visa & Passport Requirements for Peru

Tourists from North America, Australia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and the European Union (and many others, check with the nearest Peruvian embassy or foreign ministry for the latest information, albeit in Spanish) will be issued a visa on arrival for up to 180 days. When you enter the country, you must...

Destinations in Peru

Regions Central coastSouth coastNorth CoastSouthern SierraCentral SierraNorthern SierraAltiplanoSan MartínPeruvian AmazonMadre de Dios Cities LimaArequipaAyacuchoCajamarcaChiclayoCuzcoIquitosPunoTrujillo Other destinations Chan Chan - impressive ruins of the ancient earthen city of Chimor, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.Chavín de Huántar - UNESCO World Heritage Site, originating from the pre-Inca Chavin culture around 900 BC.Huascarán National Park - High mountain...

Weather & Climate in Peru

The combination of tropical latitude, mountain ranges, topographical variations and two ocean currents (Humboldt and El Niño) gives Peru a wide variety of climates. The coastal region has moderate temperatures, low rainfall and high humidity, except for the warmer and more humid northern areas. In the mountainous region, summer...

Accommodation & Hotels in Peru

Hotels in Peru are very common and quite cheap. They range from 1 to 5 stars. The 5 star hotels are usually for package tourism or business travel, and are very common outside Lima for the most visited tourist attractions like Cuzco/Machu Picchu with its stunning scenery, Paracas (to...

Things To See in Peru

Forgotten temples in the dense Amazon jungle, lost Inca cities, fabulous wildlife and extraordinary folklore. Peru has everything that adventure films are made of. Most of the best Inca sites are in the Inca highlands around the beautiful city of Cuzco, once the capital of the Inca empire and now...

Food & Drinks in Peru

Food in Peru Peruvian cuisine is one of the most varied in the world. Not only does the country grow a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, but it does so all year round. Peru's geography offers at least 8 different climates (coastal desert, steep and high mountains, Amazon basin)....

Money & Shopping in Peru

The currency of Peru is the Sol (PEN), symbolised by S/. As of 20 October 2015, 1 USD = 3.25 PEN and 1 € = 3.69 PEN is one of the most stable currencies in South America in recent years. Coins come in five, two and one soles, as well as...

Festivals & Holidays in Peru

Public holidays in Peru DateNameJanuary 1New Years Day(movable)Holy Thursday(movable)Good Friday(movable)Easter DayMay 1International Workers' DayJune 29St. Peter and St. PaulJuly 28 and 29Independence DayAugust 30Santa Rosa de LimaOctober 8Battle of AngamosNovember 1All Saints DayDecember 8Immaculate ConceptionDecember 25Christmas

Internet & Communications in Peru

Except in the tiniest towns and villages, public telephones for national and international calls are available. The majority are in pubs or shops. Some of them take coins, but be wary of stuck coins or suspicious-looking coin receivers, since these may cause you to lose your money. Don't worry...

Traditions & Customs in Peru

Even if it is Spanish, do not use the term indio. Because it was employed by Spanish invaders, it sounds a lot like the English n-word to locals. The politically acceptable phrase is el indgena or la indgena — but, like with the n-word, extremely close pals within a...

Language & Phrasebook in Peru

Peru, like many South American nations, has Spanish as its official language. It's a good idea to learn a few basic Spanish phrases since you'll need them to travel about outside of the major tourist areas. Although English is spoken by a growing number of young people in Lima...

Culture Of Peru

Peruvian culture is mainly based on Amerindian and Spanish traditions, but it has also been affected by ethnic groups from Asia, Africa, and Europe. Peruvian creative traditions may be traced back to Pre-Inca civilizations' exquisite ceramics, textiles, jewelry, and sculpture. These skills were preserved by the Incas, who also...

Stay Safe & Healthy in Peru

Stay Safe in Peru There is a kind of local police called "Serenazgo" in Lima and several of the bigger cities: you may ask for assistance, but they do not provide tourist-oriented services. Be alert of your surroundings and avoid dark or unpopulated places, particularly at night. There is a lot...



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