Facts about Peru

We found 43 facts about Peru

The third largest country in South America

Peru is an Andean country in South America whose territory has a rich, centuries-old history. There were several significant Native American civilizations there during the pre-Columbian period. The remains of these cultures are wonderful architectural artifacts, the presence of which attracts crowds of tourists to this country. Peru's nature delights us, which is characterized by extraordinary biodiversity due to the presence of the Andes, the Pacific Ocean, and the Amazon.

Peru is located in the western part of South America, on the Pacific Ocean.

The area of the country is 1.285.216 square kilometers. Its water area is 5000 square kilometers.

It is the third largest country on the South American continent - after Brazil and Argentina.

As an Andean country, it ranks second in size, after Argentina. It is also the 19th largest country in the world.

Peru lies entirely in the southern hemisphere.

The northernmost tip of the country lies approximately 3.3 km south of the equator.

Peru borders five countries and the ocean.

In the north, it borders Ecuador and Colombia, in the east with Brazil and Bolivia, in the south with Chile, and in the west with the Pacific Ocean.

Peru is a mountainous country.

A section of the Andes runs through its territory, running parallel to the Pacific Ocean.

There are three large physical and geographical regions in the country: Costa, Sierra, and Amazonia.
  • Costa covers a narrow (50-70 km) strip of land between the Pacific Ocean and the Western Cordillera of the Peruvian Andes. These areas are often hit by earthquakes. The climate there is dry, sometimes semi-arid, and desert. There are characteristic fogs on the coast, called garua, which are related to the Peruvian Current. This area is inhabited by the majority of Peru's population, although it constitutes only 12% of the country's area
  • The Sierra includes the Andes ranges stretching parallel to the coast at a width of 250-400 km - the Western Cordillera with the highest peak in Peru - Huascaran, with a height of 6768 m above sea level, the Central Cordillera and the Eastern Cordillera. The Cordillera chains are divided by longitudinal river valleys and over 4000 m high plateaus called punas, above which rise active and extinct volcanoes with an average height of 5000-6000 m above sea level. On the border with Bolivia, there is a plateau called Altiplano with the tectonic Lake Titicaca. This area is rich in raw materials: copper, zinc and lead ores, vanadium, mercury, iron
  • Amazonia includes the foothill plains at the eastern foot of the Andes, called Montania, and the western part of the Amazon Plain, Selva. This region covers over 60% of the country's area. Most of Peru's lowland areas lie in the lower reaches of the Marañón and Ucayali rivers, which form the Amazon.
The capital of Peru is Lima, the country's largest city and one of the largest cities in the Americas.

It is located in the valleys of the Chillon, Rimac, and Lurin rivers, in the desert zone of the central coastal part of the country, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Together with the seaport of Callao, it forms the metropolitan area of Lima, with a population of over 9.5 million. The city is the political, cultural, financial, and commercial center of the country. On an international scale, Lima is one of the thirty most populous urban agglomerations in the world. The city is home to one of the oldest institutions of higher education in the New World - the National University of San Marcos, founded on May 12, 1551. It is the first officially established and oldest continuously operating university in the Americas.

According to the most popular theory, the name of the country of Peru comes from the local word "biru," which means river.

According to another theory, the name of the country may come from the name of the local ruler Biru, who lived near San Miguel Bay in Panama at the beginning of the 16th century. The Spanish conquistadors considered it to be the southernmost part of the New World. When Francisco Pizarro invaded areas further south, he named them Biru or Peru.

However, the then writer Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, the son of an Inca princess and a conquistador, wrote that Biru was the name of a common Indian encountered by the crew of a Spanish ship, and when asked about the name of the country, he gave his name. Yet another hypothesis assumes that the name of the country may come from the word Pelu, which was the former local name of the region.

Peru is a country with a centuries-old, rich history.

The earliest traces of human presence in this country date back to around 12.500 BC in the settlement of Huaca Prieta on the Pacific Ocean. The country has one of the longest histories of civilization, starting with the Norte Chico civilization, which flourished in 3500 BC, the oldest civilization in the Americas and one of the five cradles of civilization after the Inca Empire - the largest state in the pre-Columbian Americas. In the pre-Columbian period, several other significant civilizations developed there: the Chavin culture (1200-600 BC), Nazca - in the south of the country, Mochica - in the north, Chimu and Aymara.

In the 16th century, the country was conquered by the Spanish Empire.

Francisco Pizarro began the conquest on the west coast of South America. In 1525, the Inca Empire collapsed, the Inca troops were defeated, and the Spaniards took over the entire country. In 1535, Pizarro founded Lima, and a year later the Viceroyalty of Peru (New Castile) was established, which ruled over all the lands conquered in all of South America. The country's colonization, settlement, and development of local crafts and trade continued. Silver exploitation began in local mines. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Peru was the most valuable colony of Spain. The oppressed Indians tried to free themselves from the rule of the conquistadors by organizing various uprisings, but each time they were bloodily suppressed.

Peru's independence was proclaimed in 1821.

Anti-Spanish uprisings also broke out in neighboring countries under the command of the Argentinian Jose de San Martin and the Venezuelan Simon Bolivar. It was Jose de San Martin who captured Lima in 1821 led to the proclamation of independent Peru. Peru gained full independence in 1824 after the victorious Battle of Ayacucho, where the Spanish were defeated by Simon Bolivar's subordinate, General Antonio de Sucre.

In 1825, Bolivia was created by separating from Upper Peru.

In 1845, slavery was abolished in Peru, financial reform was introduced, the railway was expanded and a universal education system was created. At that time, the country was shaken by numerous coups d'état, after which presidents changed.

In the 1860s, the Spanish tried to regain control over Peru - without success.

They fought a war with Peru and Chile, but in 1879 they were forced to recognize the country's independence. Throughout history, Peru has also fought numerous wars with its neighbors. The most important of them was the so-called "Saltpetre War" (War of the Pacific) between Chile and the combined forces of Bolivia and Peru. The war ended with Chile's victory, which gained territory rich in mineral resources and cut off Bolivia's access to the Pacific. Peru then lost its Tarapaca province, which was rich in saltpeter. This defeat caused Peru's economic collapse.

According to the 1993 constitution, Peru is a republic.

The head of state is the president, elected in universal elections for a 5-year term.

Peru is a multi-ethnic country with Indians, Mestizos, Europeans, Africans, and Asians.

Before the Spanish conquest in the 16th century, the country was inhabited by Indians for several millennia. According to historians, the Indian population decreased from almost 5-9 million in the 1520s to approximately 600.000. in 1620, mainly due to infectious diseases brought there by Europeans. Currently, Indians constitute 45% of Peru's population, mestizos - 37%, white inhabitants - 15%, 1.6% are Afro-Peruvians, and the rest are Asians (Chinese and Japanese).

The official languages in Peru are Spanish, Quechua and Aymara.

Spanish is the native language of over 80% of citizens, and Quechua is the native language of 16.5%.

Peru is the fourth most populous country in South America.

Its population is approximately 28 million people. Every fourth citizen of the country lives in Lima. Other cities with over 200.000 inhabitants are Arequipa, Trujillo, Chiclayo, Piura, Iquitos, Chimbote, Cuzco, and Huancayo. Men in Peru live on average 62 years and women 66 years.

The dominant religion is Catholicism.

About 76% of people there profess Catholicism. The second group - 15.6% are evangelicals (mainly Pentecostals and Seventh-day Adventists).

In Peru, there is compulsory schooling, which includes free primary and secondary education.

About 90% of the country's population can read and write. Peru has 16 universities, the oldest of which is in Lima - Saint Mark's University, founded in 1551, 5 polytechnics, a dozen other universities, and three academies.

Peru is one of the countries with the greatest biodiversity in the world.

Its wildlife is very diverse due to the presence of the Andes, the Amazon rainforest, and the Pacific Ocean. It has the fourth-largest tropical forest and ninth-largest forest area, covering approximately 54% of the country's land area. Humid equatorial forests (selva) cover areas up to 500-700 m above sea level. Valuable tree species grow there: mahogany trees, rosewood trees, rubber trees, and downy trees. Characteristic cinchona trees and tree ferns grow in mountain equatorial forests (500-1000 m above sea level). Up to an altitude of approximately 3000 m above sea level grow the so-called cloudy forests, dominated by coniferous trees.

The most spectacular plant in Peru is the queen of the Andes - Puya raimondii.

It is a plant from the bromeliad family, endemic to the higher parts (3200-4800 m above sea level) of the Peruvian and Bolivian Andes. He is the largest representative of his family. It can live for over 100 years and dies out after blooming. It is an endangered species. Puya is a perennial plant with a dense rosette of leaves up to 3-4 m high, from which an inflorescence grows up to 8 m high. It occurs in a plant formation called puna (a high-mountain formation in the dry and cool climate of the Andes). It can be admired in the Huascaran National Park.

Peru has over 1800 species of birds (including 120 endemics), 500 species of mammals (about 70 endemics), and over 300 species of reptiles.

There are rare mammal species there, such as the puma, the jaguar, the spectacled bear, and the endemic yellow-tailed woolly monkey. A well-known Peruvian animal is the alpaca, which has recently become very popular around the world.

The national bird of Peru is the Andean cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola Peruvianus), also known as the tunki (Quechua).

It is a medium-sized bird from the cornflower family. The male has scarlet or orange-red plumage, with a black tail and wings with wide white flight feathers.

Peru ranks second in the world in terms of the number of bird species (1800).

Scientists continue to discover new species - in 30 years, 42 new bird species have been added and cataloged in Peru. In January 2010, scientists discovered a new population of five long-haired owls, which are very rare in the wild.

One of the richest natural regions of the New World is Manu National Park - a biosphere reserve under UNESCO protection, included in the World Heritage List since 1987.

It is located in Peru, in the Eastern Cordillera, on the border of the Northern Andes and the Amazon. It protects the landscape of the mountain cloud forest and equatorial forest. Its area is 17.162.95 square kilometers. There are over 20.000 species of flora - about 200 different species of trees per 1 ha. There are 159 species of mammals, 100 species of bats, 99 species of reptiles, 140 species of amphibians, and 1000 species of birds, which constitute about 1/10 of the world's avifauna. Since 2008, the national park has been completely incorporated into the Important Bird Area called Manu. The status was granted due to the presence of species such as the hooded tinamou, black tinamou, Taczanowski's tinamou, Orinoco goose, blue-headed macaw, crested eagle, black-necked stilt, Selva cacique, and others.

Peru's reptile fauna includes spectacular species such as giant anacondas and caimans.

Among the 300 species of reptiles, about 100 are endemic. One of the representatives of the family Alligatoridae is the black caiman, the largest living Alligatoridae species.

There are approximately 380 species of frogs in Peru.

These include, among others, red-eyed tree frog, European tree frog, or three-striped poison frog.

In March 2009, scientists discovered in Peru Noble’s pygmy frog, which is the smallest species found in the Andean mountain range.

In 2023, scientists described a unique Scinax pyroinguinis, which is a species of frog in the family Hylidae.

We can only assume that Peruvian fauna holds more fascinating surprises for scientists and researchers to unravel.

The basis of Peru's economy is the extraction and export of metal ores, crude oil and natural gas, and guano.

Peru ranks second in the world in the extraction of copper ore (after Chile) and zinc (after China). Lead, iron, bismuth, mercury, molybdenum, antimony, silver (first place in the world in 2009), and gold are also mined there.

Peru is a leading exporter of gold.

However, a large part of the mining of this metal takes place "outside the government administration". An area where a huge, unregulated gold mining industry thrives is Madre de Dios in southeastern Peru. NASA released photos taken from the International Space Station (ISS) on December 24, 2020, showing rivers shimmering with gold running through the Amazon rainforest in Peru. In reality, however, these are not "golden rivers, ", but pits dug during illegal gold mining.

These photos are evidence of the scale of destructive gold mining in the Madre de Dios region.

Pits dug by illegal miners form a river trail as these people follow the paths of old rivers where valuable minerals have been deposited for hundreds of years. These are hundreds of pools from which vegetation has been removed, filled with water, and surrounded by mud - thanks to the reflected light they look like rivers of liquid gold.

This practice led to intensive deforestation and destruction of important habitats for wild animals in an area previously rich in biodiversity - there were, among others, monkeys, jaguars, and many butterflies.

In 2018 alone, almost 10.000 hectares of the Peruvian Amazon were destroyed as a result of illegal gold mining. Another problem is the contamination of the environment with mercury because miners mix sediments with boiled mercury to separate gold from other minerals. As a result, up to 55 tons of mercury are released into rivers or the atmosphere every year.

Peru boasts great architecture, especially from the pre-Columbian period.

The most important example of such architecture is Machu Picchu - the best-preserved Inca city. The Nazca Plateau is also stunning, containing the famous Nazca Drawings - a system of lines that, when viewed from above, represent animals or geometric figures. These geoglyphs are the work of the Nazca culture.

In colonial times, Baroque dominated in Peru, visible primarily in sacred art.

Many churches and religious works date from this period, such as the Church of La Compañía, and the facade of the University of Cuzco. Peruvian architecture is a combination of European styles with the original indigenous style.

The most popular sport in Peru is football.

The Peruvian national team qualified for the 2018 World Cup finals after an absence from the competition for over 30 years. The Dakar Rally route also runs through Peru.

Peruvian prose writer, essayist, and novelist Mario Vargas Llosa received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2010.

Peruvian literature was initially passed down orally and has survived to this day in stories as folk legends. After the Spanish invaders took over the country and writing was introduced, chronicles and religious works immediately began to be written.

One of the most famous Peruvian painters is Jose Sabogal - the creator of indigenism in Peruvian painting.

He elevated the Indian to the rank of an artistic subject, which initially caused a scandal when he exhibited his canvases painted in Cuzco for the first time in Lima in 1919.

During the Viceroyalty of Peru, the Cusco School of painting was established.

Its greatest representative is Diego Quispe Tito, a Peruvian painter from the Quechua people. His most famous works are a series of paintings showing the life of John the Baptist in the church of St. Sebastian in Cuzco and the Zodiac in the Archcathedral in Cuzco - 12 paintings, based on graphics by European artists.

In the eastern foothills of the Andes, there are cultivations of the Erythroxylum coca, also known as Coca.

This shrub occurs only in cultivation. Coca leaves contain cocaine in the amount of 0.25-1.3% and are used by South American indigenous people as a stimulant. The plant itself plays an important role in traditional Andean culture, and its cultivation is the basis of the existence of indigenous farmers, especially in the mountains. The plant is used to produce Coca-Cola, and while at the beginning of its production (after 1886) it contained cocaine, in later years (after about 1900) decocainized coca extract was used. The dwarf tree is also used to produce the drug. The larvae of the butterfly Eloria noyesi feed on the leaves of the kelp, so the Colombian government has proposed a plan to combat the cultivation of this shrub using this species.

One of the highest railway lines in the world (until recently the highest) is the Lima-La Oroya-Cerro de Pasco line, built by Polish engineer Ernest Malinowski.

The higher railway line is in Tibet.

The railway was intended to enable the transport of mineral resources from the mountainous regions of Peru to the port of Lima. Manuel Pardo, Malinowski's friend from the time of his emigration to France and the future president of Peru, became the spokesman for the project. The contract included the construction of a 219 km long railway line from Lima to La Oroya. The first stage was completed in 1893. At the beginning of the 20th century, the line was extended to the center of the mining industry in Cerro de Pasco, and later to Huancayo in the Jauja Valley. All three sections are 332 km long.

All of Peru's culinary traditions come from the traditions of the Andean peoples and European cuisine.

Peruvian cuisine shows great territorial diversity. The coastal regions and Lima are famous for their seafood dishes - the most famous of them is seviche.

Peru, considered the homeland of the potato, has 10.000 varieties of potatoes that are used in Peruvian cuisine, in addition to them, other tuber plants are also used, such as oca, olluco, camote, and arracacha. Corn also plays an important role, as do potatoes, available in many types.

In Peru, llama meat is traditionally eaten. Guinea pigs are considered a delicacy around Cuzco.

The most important spice used there is chili peppers.

Recently, a hunter's grave from about 9000 years ago was discovered in Peru - this is proof that women hunted there on an equal footing with men.

Both this grave and analysis of other hunter burial sites suggest that in ancient South America, women hunted game together with men. In excavations in the area known as Wilamaya Patjxa, scientists found six human graves, including one containing a very large number of artifacts, including a set of hunting tools (arrowheads, spears, stone blades). A thorough analysis showed that the grave belonged to a 17-19-year-old woman, and based on the number of accessories found with her, it was concluded that she performed some important functions in the community and was very successful in hunting. Detailed examination of a large number of ancient graves showed that out of 26 people buried with hunting tools, 11 of them were women, and 15 graves belonged to men. Further statistical analyses confirmed the active participation of women, showing that they constituted between 30 and 50% of hunters in these populations. It turns out that we are taught the idea that the gender roles that we take for granted in society today, or that many take for granted, may not be as natural as some people think.

The national dish of Peruvians is cuy - guinea pig.

Guinea pigs have been bred in the Andes for over 5000 years. Their meat is lean and low in cholesterol, and its taste resembles rabbit or chicken. The dish can be served in various forms: fried, grilled, stewed. The long tradition of serving this dish can be seen in the painting "The Last Supper" from the cathedral in Cuzco, where a guinea pig lies on the table in front of Jesus and the apostles. A colorful festival is also organized in the town of Huacho in honor of this animal. Guinea pigs dressed in various costumes act as models. The finale of this festival is a great feast prepared with models. Peruvians eat about 65 million of these animals every year.

In the Amazon jungle, above Ucayali, there is a small village of Caimito, where the Shipibo Indians live.

In 2020, 750 people lived there and as many as 80% of them were infected with the COVID-19 virus. The distance of the village from the regional capital Pucallpa, where there is medical assistance, is 8 hours by boat on the Ucayali. Caimito is one of many settlements of the Shipibo tribe scattered throughout the Amazon. The number of Shipibo is estimated at 20.000 to 35.000 people. Their shamans produce the famous psychedelic drink - ayahuasca, but treatment with a decoction of magical herbs does not bring any results in the fight against the coronavirus - the local hospital, from which the doctor fled after the first signs of the virus appeared, does not even have paracetamol. Although these people live in isolation from large agglomerations, the virus entered the jungle, with people returning from the city who lost their jobs during the lockdown and, having nothing to live on, returned to their villages.

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