When the Spanish arrived in Peru in 1531, the country's territory was the nucleus of the highly developed Inca civilization. Centered at Cuzco, the Inca Empire extended over a vast region from northern Ecuador to central Chile. In search of Inca wealth, the Spanish explorer, Francisco Pizarro, who arrived in the territory after the Incas had fought a debilitating civil war, conquered the weakened people. The Spanish had captured the Incan capital at Cuzco by 1533 and consolidated their control by 1542. Gold and silver from the Andes enriched the conquerors, and Peru became the principal source of Spanish wealth and power in South America.
Peru's independence movement was led by José de San Martín of Argentina and Simón Bolívar of Venezuela. San Martín proclaimed Peruvian independence from Spain on July 28, 1821. Emancipation was completed in December 1824, when General Antonio Jose de Sucre defeated the Spanish troops at Ayacucho, ending Spanish rule in South America. Spain made futile attempts to regain its former colonies, but in 1879 it finally recognized Peru's independence.
After independence, Peru and its neighbors engaged in intermittent territorial disputes. Following a clash between Peru and Ecuador in 1941, the Rio Protocol sought to establish the boundary between the two countries. In late 1999, the governments of Peru and Chile likewise finally implemented the last outstanding article of their 1929 border agreement.
The military has been prominent in Peruvian history. Coups have repeatedly interrupted civilian constitutional government. The most recent period of military rule (1968-80) began when Gen. Juan Velasco Alvarado overthrew elected President Fernando Belaunde Terry of the Popular Action Party.
The government under President Alejandro Toledo, who took office on July 28, 2001, restored a high degree of democracy to Peru following the authoritarianism and corruption of mathematician-turned-politician Alberto Fujimori. In 2006, former president Alan Garcia returned to the presidency with promises to improve social conditions and maintain fiscal responsibility.
The typical school year runs from April through December. There are private and public schools. Although grades one through 12 are free, public education is not available for many of the poor and those in remote, rural areas.
According to law, all Peruvians have the right to attend school. Therefore, the government has created public schools to ensure it to those who are not able to pay high amounts to get an education. But in reality, many families live on US$1.00 a day, and even public schools require some payments such as registration fees (that are cheap), uniforms, books, school supplies, bus fares, etc., which make it impossible for many children to attend.
In the Amazon jungle and the high Andean towns, there are very few schools and a tremendous lack of teachers. Additionally, many people who are farmers in rural areas do not send their children to school because they are needed to help at the farm or to help their mothers with household chores.
A middle-class family may send their children to attend school and finish a career, but in Peru it is not easy to find jobs. Therefore, many professionals perform simple jobs, such as driving taxis, and the majority of professionals emigrate out of the country.
Peru's Constitution establishes separation of Church and State; however, it recognizes the Catholic Church's role as "an important element in the historical, cultural and moral development of the nation." The constitution specifically prohibits discrimination based on religion; however, the Church is given preferential treatment in education, tax benefits and other areas.
All faiths are free to establish places of worship, train clergy and proselytize. Religious denominations or churches are not required to register with the government or apply for a license.
Conversion from one religion to another is respected and missionaries are allowed to enter the country and proselytize without following any special procedures. Some non-Catholic missionary groups claim that the law discriminates against them by taxing religious materials, including Bibles, that they bring into the country, while the Catholic Church has not been taxed on such items.
The General Education law mandates that all schools, public and private, impart religious education as part of the curriculum throughout the education process (primary and secondary). Catholicism is the only sect of Christianity taught in public schools. Some non-Catholic parochial or secular private schools have been granted exemptions from this requirement. It is mandatory for school authorities to appoint religious education teachers upon individual recommendations and approval by the presiding bishop of the local diocese.
Parents who do not wish their children to participate in the mandatory religion classes must request an exemption in writing from the school principal. Non-Catholics who wish their children to receive a religious education in their own faith are free to organize such classes, at their own expense, during the weekly hour allotted by the school for religious education; however, they must supply their own teacher.
Source: International Religious Freedom Report, released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, November 8, 2005, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2005/51650.htm.
Holidays and Festivals
Peru is rich with Indian art forms, neighborhood theaters and literature, including the world-renowned works of Mario Vargas Llosa. Peruvian opera singer, Juan Diego Flores, who sings in Italy, is known in Peru as the "Successor of Pavarotti."
"Andean Blues" is a beautiful, melancholy style of music about the hardships of the poor and it protests social injustice.
Romantic songs are also popular in Peru. The Marinera and Tondero, romantic songs with lively tunes, are typical of the northern coast.
Festejo is Afro-Peruvian music that has a lively tune in which singers lament the hardships of their ancestors' lives as slaves.
Sports and Games
New Year's Day, Jan. 1: a lively celebration with Latin music and firecrackers. Festivities start at midnight and end around 4 or 5 a.m.
Holy Week, March or April: The week before Easter when Peruvians attend church services to remember Jesus' death and resurrection.
Labor Day, May 1
Independence Day, July 28 and 29: Parades and a two-week vacation for students.
Christmas, Dec. 25: In Lima and in all big cities located along the coast, celebrations include a "party of love" or "children's party" on the 24th. Christmas dinner traditionally includes turkey or chicken, baked potatoes, salad and hot chocolate with paneton, an Italian-style fruitcake. In the Andes, people attend a midnight church service to celebrate the birth of the Baby Jesus. On Jan. 6, Peruvians dressed as the three Wise Men bring gifts for the children. Peru's poor economy has limited these traditions to the middle and upper classes.
Visit the Compassion blog and read about Easter in Peru.
Peruvian boys play soccer and girls play volleyball. Surfing, popular among the middle and upper classes, is popular in Lima and on the northern coast of Peru. Twenty-one-year-old Peruvian Sofía Mulanovich recently won the world championship in surfing.
Typical Peruvian foods include ceviche (fish and seafood marinated in lemon juice with spices and onions), rice, beef, pork (baked or fried with spices), potatoes, corn and fruit. Potatoes originated in Peru and there is a wide variety of dishes made with potatoes throughout the country.
Rice and Milk Dessert
- 4 cups water
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 3 cups sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 cup rice, rinsed and drained
- 1 small piece of orange skin
- 1 cup evaporated milk
Bring to a boil four cups of water with the cinnamon stick, orange skin and salt. Add rice. Simmer on low heat until the water evaporates, then add evaporated milk and sugar. Stir constantly while letting the mixture boil 15 minutes. Add vanilla and let boil five minutes. Pour into serving bowl. Sprinkle with cinnamon and serve.
Compassion in Peru
- Hola (Hello)
- ¿Cómo está? (How are you?)
- Bien (Fine)
- Mucho gusto. (Nice to meet you.)
- Buenos días. (Good morning.)
- Buenas tardes. (Good afternoon.)
- Buenas noches. (Good evening./Good night.)
Peru Facts and Figures
Compassion's work in Peru began in 1985. Currently, more than 48,700 children participate in more than 220 child development centers. Compassion partners with churches and denominations to help them provide Peruvian children with the opportunity to rise above their circumstances and become all God has created them to be.
Visit the Compassion blog to learn more about our work in Peru.
29,180,900 (July 2008 estimate)
|307,212,123 (July 2010 estimate)
Spanish (official), Quechua (official), Aymara and a large number of minor Amazonian languages
|English 82.1%, Spanish 10.7%, other Indo-European 3.8%, Asian and Pacific island 2.7%, other 0.7% (2000 census)
||Christian 83.1% (Roman Catholic 81%, Seventh Day Adventist 1.4%, other Christian 0.7%), other 0.6%, unspecified or none 16.3% (2003 estimate)
||Christian 78.5% (Protestant 51.3%, Roman Catholic 23.9%, Mormon 1.7%, other Christian 1.6%), Jewish 1.7%, Buddhist 0.7%, Muslim 0.6%, other or unspecified 2.5%, unaffiliated 12.1%, none 4% (2007 est.)
Definition: Age 15 and over can read and write.
|Percentage of population using improved drinking water sources
|Percentage of population using adequate sanitation facilities
||Varies from tropical in east to dry desert in west; temperate to frigid in Andes
||Mostly temperate, but tropical in Hawaii and Florida, arctic in Alaska, semiarid in the Great Plains west of the Mississippi River and arid in the Great Basin of the southwest; low winter temperatures in the northwest are warmed occasionally in January and February by chinook winds from the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains.
|Percentage of population urbanized
||73% (2006 estimate)
||82% (2008 estimate)
||Male: 68.61 years
Female: 72.37 years
|Male: 75.65 years
Female: 80.69 years
|Under-5 mortality rate
||25/1,000 (2006 estimate)
||8/1,000 (2008 estimate)
|GDP per capita
||$7,600 (2007 estimate)
||$46,000 (2009 estimate)
||nuevo sol (PEN)
||U.S. dollar (USD)
|Number of people living with HIV/AIDS
||82,000 (2003 estimate)
||1.2 million (2007 estimate)
|Percentage of population living below $1 a day
||11% (1995-2005 study)
||Data not available
Sources for facts: The World Factbook, 2008; The State of the World's Children, 2008