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.
Source: The World Factbook, 2014.
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 those living in poverty or those in remote, rural areas.
According to law, all Peruvians have the right to attend school. Therefore, the government has created public schools to provide it to those who are not able to pay high amounts to get an education. But in reality, even public schools require payments for registration fees, 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 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 in 2012 by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.
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 to 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.
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. After potatoes originated in Peru, a wide variety of dishes were 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 4 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 5 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 began its ministry in Peru in 1985, when the Child Sponsorship Program was started. In 2003, both the Child Survival Program and the Leadership Development Program began.
Child Sponsorship Program
Peruvian schools offer a morning schedule from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and an afternoon schedule from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. The children generally attend the child development center either in the morning or the afternoon, whenever they are not in school. However, some church partners have chosen to hold activities on Saturdays so that the children can more fully enjoy their time at the center and have more energy to participate.
Children typically eat a meal at the center three times a week. A typical meal consists of a vegetable salad, meat stew with beans and rice, and a fruit plus a drink.
Public schools give free high school education, but there are some expenses that the family must contribute (e.g., uniforms, textbooks, school supplies, back packs and a very small amount of money for the annual extra-curricular activities that public schools do). If the parents of a sponsored child are not able to afford all of these expenses, the Compassion center assists through an educational reimbursement.
Each month children participate in one extracurricular activity sponsored by the center, such as camping, outings, a special show to share their abilities, visits to museums and to factories (e.g., to see the manufacturing of canned goods, soda drinks, crackers/cookies, ice cream, candies, etc.), and to help with a church ministry, etc.
Adolescents have the opportunity to have one or two shop school trainings. Most of the trainings are done at the church building through weekly workshops, under the direction of a technician or a sponsored teenager who has been formerly trained at a technical school. Each church partner decides what to teach, according to the job opportunities in that specific community or region. Among the most popular skills chosen by the teenagers are silk screening, jewelry for teens (bracelets, earrings and necklaces), baking, chocolate candy preparation and buffet preparation.
Child development centers hold monthly meetings for the parents. There are programmed activities such as a Bible meditation, program information and participation in the local church activities. There are also some other activities where parents are invited to join, such as church anniversary celebrations, Christmas celebrations, and Holy Week, Mother's Day or Father's Day celebrations. Some churches offer recreational activities where parents and children participate together, such as special parties or sports contests. Also, there are home visits, Bible studies and discipleship, which are conducted through the local church.
Visit the Compassion blog to learn more about our work in Peru.
30,147,935 (2014 estimate)
Spanish (official) 84.1%, Quechua (official) 13%, Aymar (official) 1.7%, Ashaninka 0.3%, other native languages (includes a large number of minor Amazonian languages) 0.7%, other 0.2% (2007 census)
||Christian 93.8% (Roman Catholic 81.3%, Evangelical 12.5%), other 3.3%, unspecified or none 2.9% (2007 census)
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
|Percentage of population urbanized
||77% (2010 estimate)
||Male: 71.23 years
Female: 75.33 years
|Under-5 mortality rate
||18/1,000 (2012 estimate)
|GDP per capita
||$11,100 (2013 estimate)
||nuevo sol (PEN)
|Number of people living with HIV/AIDS
||75,500 (2012 estimate)
|Percentage of population living below $1.25 a day
||5% (2007-11 study)
Sources: The World Factbook, 2014; The State of the World's Children, 2014