Peru is a country in western South America. It is bordered on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil, on the southeast by Bolivia, on the south by Chile, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean.
Peruvian territory was home to the Norte Chico civilization, one of the oldest in the world, and to the Inca Empire, the largest state in Pre-Columbian America. The Spanish Empire conquered the region in the 16th century and established a Viceroyalty, which included most of its South American colonies. After achieving independence in 1821, Peru has undergone periods of political unrest and fiscal crisis as well as periods of stability and economic upswing.
Peru is a representative democratic republic divided into 25 regions. Its geography varies from the arid plains of the Pacific coast to the peaks of the Andes mountains and the tropical forests of the Amazon Basin. It is a developing country with a medium Human Development Index score and a poverty level around 40%. Its main economic activities include agriculture, fishing, mining, and manufacturing of products such as textiles.
The Peruvian population, estimated at 28 million, is multiethnic, including Amerindians, Europeans, Africans and Asians. The main spoken language is Spanish, although a significant number of Peruvians speak Quechua or other native languages. This mixture of cultural traditions has resulted in a wide diversity of expressions in fields such as art, cuisine, literature, and music.
The earliest evidence of human presence in Peruvian territory has been dated to approximately 11,000 BCE. The oldest known complex society in Peru, the Norte Chico civilization, flourished along the coast of the Pacific Ocean between 3000 and 1800 BCE. These early developments were followed by archaeological cultures such as Chavin, Paracas, Mochica, Nazca, Wari, and Chimú. In the 15th century, the Incas emerged as a powerful state which, in the span of a century, formed the largest empire in pre-Columbian America. Andean societies were based on agriculture, using techniques such as irrigation and terracing; camelid husbandry and fishing were also important. Organization relied on reciprocity and redistribution because these societies had no notion of market or money.
Machu Picchu, the "Lost City of the Incas"
In 1532, a group of conquistadors led by Francisco Pizarro defeated Inca Emperor Atahualpa and imposed Spanish rule. Ten years later, the Spanish Crown established the Viceroyalty of Peru, which included most of its South American colonies. Viceroy Francisco de Toledo reorganized the country in the 1570s with silver mining as its main economic activity and Indian forced labor as its primary workforce. Peruvian bullion provided revenue for the Spanish Crown and fueled a complex trade network that extended as far as Europe and the Philippines. However, by the 18th century, declining silver production and economic diversification greatly diminished royal income. In response, the Crown enacted the Bourbon Reforms, a series of edicts that increased taxes and partitioned the Viceroyalty of Peru. The new laws provoked Túpac Amaru II's rebellion and other revolts, all of which were defeated.
In the early 19th century, while most of South America was swept by wars of independence, Peru remained a royalist stronghold. As the elite hesitated between emancipation and loyalty to the Spanish Monarchy, independence was achieved only after the military campaigns of José de San Martín and Simón Bolívar.During the early years of the Republic, endemic struggles for power between military leaders caused political instability. National identity was forged during this period, as Bolivarian projects for a Latin American Confederation foundered and a union with Bolivia proved ephemeral. Between the 1840s and 1860s, Peru enjoyed a period of stability under the presidency of Ramón Castilla through increased state revenues from guano exports. However, by the 1870s, these resources had been squandered, the country was heavily indebted, and political in-fighting was again on the rise.
Angamos, a decisive battle during the War of the Pacific.
Peru was defeated by Chile in the 1879–1883 War of the Pacific, losing the provinces of Arica and Tarapacá in the treaties of Ancón and Lima. Internal struggles after the war were followed by a period of stability under the Civilista Party, which lasted until the onset of the authoritarian regime of Augusto B. Leguía. The Great Depression caused the downfall of Leguía, renewed political turmoil, and the emergence of the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance (APRA). The rivalry between this organization and a coalition of the elite and the military defined Peruvian politics for the following three decades.
In 1968, the Armed Forces, led by General Juan Velasco Alvarado, staged a coup against president Fernando Belaunde. The new regime undertook radical reforms aimed at fostering development but failed to gain widespread support. In 1975, Velasco was forcefully replaced as president by General Francisco Morales Bermúdez, who paralyzed reforms and oversaw the reestablishment of democracy. During the 1980s, Peru faced a considerable external debt, ever-growing inflation, a surge in drug trafficking, and massive political violence. Under the presidency of Alberto Fujimori (1990–2000), the country started to recover; however, accusations of authoritarianism, corruption, and human rights violations forced his resignation after the controversial 2000 elections. Since the end of the Fujimori regime, Peru has tried to fight corruption while sustaining economic growth; since 2006 the president is Alan García.
Peru covers 1,285,220 km² (496,193 sq mi). It neighbors Ecuador and Colombia to the north, Brazil to the east, Bolivia to the southeast, Chile to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to the west.
The Andes mountains run parallel to the Pacific Ocean, dividing the country into three geographic regions. The costa (coast), to the west, is a narrow plain, largely arid except for valleys created by seasonal rivers. The sierra (highlands) is the region of the Andes; it includes the Altiplano plateau as well as the highest peak of the country, the 6,768 m (22,205 ft) Huascarán.The third region is the selva (jungle), a wide expanse of flat terrain covered by the Amazon rainforest that extends east. Almost 60% of the country's area is located within this region, (70 million hectares) giving Peru the fourth largest area of tropical forest in the world after Brazil, Congo and Indonesia.
Most Peruvian rivers originate in the Andes and drain into one of three basins. Those that drain toward the Pacific Ocean are steep and short, flowing only intermittently. Tributaries of the Amazon River are longer, have a much larger flow, and are less steep once they exit the sierra. Rivers that drain into Lake Titicaca are generally short and have a large flow. Peru's longest rivers are the Ucayali, the Marañón, the Putumayo, the Yavarí, the Huallaga, the Urubamba, the Mantaro, and the Amazon.
The peaks of the Andes are the source of many Peruvian rivers.
Peru, unlike other equatorial countries, does not have an exclusively tropical climate; the influence of the Andes and the Humboldt Current cause great climatic diversity within the country. The costa has moderate temperatures, low precipitations, and high humidity, except for its warmer, wetter northern reaches. In the sierra, rain is frequent during summer, and temperature and humidity diminish with altitude up to the frozen peaks of the Andes. The selva is characterized by heavy rainfall and high temperatures, except for its southernmost part, which has cold winters and seasonal rainfall. Because of its varied geography and climate, Peru has a high biodiversity with 21,462 species of plants and animals reported as of 2003; 5,855 of them endemic. The Peruvian government has established several protected areas for their preservation.