Lying between Ecuador and Chile [at 10 00 S and 76 00 W] and spanning nearly 1,500 miles of Pacific coastline, Peru’s topography encompasses mountains of extreme altitudes, forest, jungle, as well as both arid and humid regions. Peru borders five nations: Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Ecuador, and covers approximately 496,000 square miles.
Peru’s culture is a culmination of both Spanish and ancient Andean influences. The majority of Peru’s population today is a mixture of Incan/Andean and European descendants. Conquistadors overtook Peru in 1533, and Peru remained under oppressive Spanish rule until 1821, at which time it declared its independence, and finally defeated Spain, after nearly 300 years of absolutism, in 1824, and has remained independent since.
The climate in Peru is arid in the West, warm and tropical in the East, and frigid in the mountains due to extreme altitudes. Geographically, Peru experiences nearly every type of terrain, inside of which is a variation of weather: inland is equatorially rainy, monsoon regions surrounding the equatorial territory is extremely hot Amazonian rainforest. A tropical savanna zone runs through the center of the country which consists of both a wet and dry season of equal duration, a warm, coastal desert climate runs the length of the country, another region just inland of the coast has semi-arid conditions, and, just inland of this, a colder semi-arid climate is found, and further inland in the south are humid subtropical ocean highlands. Peru’s high mountainous regions run just inland of the coastline and experience sub-zero temperatures during our summers--the season when Peru sees most of its tourist traffic.
Peruvian culture is considered to begin at Cuzco, where many cultures converge: Quechua and Aymara, descendants of the Inca, are prevalent in outlying areas, and their languages are still spoken widely. The earliest groups, dating back 1,500 years are the Chavin and Sechin who were known for their stone carvings. As these groups diminished, they were followed by the Paracas and the Nazca, who left behind geoglyphs (visible only from great heights) as well as pottery. The art and influence from these cultures can be seen today as colorful clothing, frescoes, and architecture, both old and new--a clear mixture of Spanish and Indo-Peruvian influences. Many cultures over many centuries make up what is considered uniquely Peruvian today.
- 1533: Incan empire overtaken by Spain
- 1821: Peru declares independence
- 1824: Spain is finally defeated
- 1911: Fabled Incan city of Machu Picchu discovered by Hiram Bingham
- 1960s-80s: Military takes leadership of nation
- 1970s-80s: Coca production explodes as major source of income for drug traffickers
- 1980: Economic problems and violence with shift to democratic leadership
- 1990s: Fujimori’s presidency sees decrease in problematic guerilla activity
- 2001: Peru sees its first indigenous president elected
- 2001-Present: Poverty/economic troubles drop dramatically