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Peru General Information

Peru, the largest area in the Andean countries, was the cradle of the most advanced indigenous civilizations and most powerful empire in  South America pre-Columbian cultures. Peru was also the focus of Spanish colonial domination for its first two hundred years of rule. What remained of pre-Columbian America with regard to people, culture, and settlements is perhaps better represented in Peru than in any other country.

The country has a 2,400 kilometer (1,500 miles) long coast on the Pacific Ocean and bordes Colombia and Ecuador in the North, Brazil and Bolivia on the east, and Chile on the south. It is the only country that borders all the Andean state.

Language: the official languages of Peru are: Spanish which is used on a 73% of the population; the Quechua or runasimi, spoken for a  24% of peruvians. Some specialists recognise to especific variations of quechua on the national territory : the huáihuash, which is quite popular on the central part of Peru and the huámpuy, spoken by the rest of the country.

Most of the quechua-speakers are bilingual and have spanish as their second language. 

 The same thing happens with the Aymaras, whose language extends strongly over the Altiplano. There are also over 55 amazonic languages spoken by tribes on the peruvian jungle such as: asháninka, aguaruna and machiguenga.

Religion: The official religion is the Roman Catholic. Over an 80%ofthe population practice it with deep devotion,  However there is a freedom of cult in this country, nobody is compulsed to believe in what others say, besides some people from the Andes and the Amazonia practice the Catholic Religion mixed with some old traditions such as the cult to the Pachamama (the mother earth) and the natural phenomenums.

Currency: The Official currency of Peru is the Nuevo Sol and its symbol is S/. It is divided in 100 centimos (cents): with coins valued at S/.5 , S/.2 , S/.1,and 50, 20, 10 centimo pieces, although the latter is being phased out as it is virtually worthless. Notes in circulation are S/. 200 , S/.100 , S/.50, S/.20 and S/.10. The echonomy of Peru goes side by side with the American dollar, that's why many businesses are treated with the use of both currencies.

Exchange Rates: The easiest foreign currency to exchange is the american dollar, very common on the tourism issue, most of the entrance fees, tickets and and fares are given in american dollars. There are plenty of Exchange Houses and you could also exchange your money with the cambistas people on the street who are usually walking up and down Sol Av. Hotels and credit card may do that for you even though they are extremely reliable their exchange rate is very low which makes you lose a fair bit of money. The exchange rate varies everyday on a consider difference.

Travellers Checks: Travellers checks are not very used, it gets a bit problematic even in some banks, and especially because the loss of porcentage is about 2 to 5% of the total value of your check.

Money Transfers: You can do some movements on your accounts from Peru with no problems at all, it is just a matter of time, which could take from three days to more in case they are of international matter, if it is a national transfer it should take no longer than one day. There is also the use of ATMs which are easy to reach and located on the main avenue , Av. Sol.

Credit Cards: The most popular and accepted credit cards are: Visa, Dinners, Mastercard and  American Express. However the use of these is not very popularing some provinces in Peru.

Banks: Generally the banks in Lima and another cities are open to the public from 09:00 until 18:00 from monday to friday and  saturdays and sundays only until midday in capital, However in some other cities like Cusco some banks close at midday or lunch time for about three hours and start again.

Time: Peruvian time is located five hours after the GMT (Greenwich Mean time) and it's similar to the EST (Eastern Standart Time) time in the USA.

Referencial Times: when it is noon in Peru, in Santiago de Chile and Caracas is 13:00; in Rio de Janeiro and buenos aires it is 14:00; in New york it is 12:00 , and  in Tokyo it is 03:00 on the day after .


For at least 300 years before the arrival of the first Europeans (Spaniards), most of the Peru (excluding the eastern lowlands) was the heart of the Inca empire that extended from present-day Ecuador to central Chile. The area from wich the empire developed was centered in the basins and valleys of Cuzco. The Incas conquered the Andean people and fostered among the most advanced of ancient American civilizations.

The incas themselves developed a civilization and administration that in many respects was of a high order, although different in basic concepts from the civilizations that prevailed in the "Old World".

The Inca Empire ended with the conquest of its heartland and Capital Cuzco (1531-1533) by the Spaniards under Francisco Pizarro. Lima was founded in 1535 and became the focal point of Spanish expansion and domination of western South America. It soon became the capital of the Viceroyalty of Peru, which until the mid-eighteenth century, extended from the Caribbean to La Plata (Argentina). During the seventeenth century Peru was the second most important producer of silver (for 20 years it was the largest producer). Indians who attempt to rebel or to evade exploitation and forced labor were executed.

The establishment of the viceroyalties of New Granada (1739) in the north and La Plata (1776) in the south greatly reduced the extent and power of the colonial administration centered in Lima. Peru declared its independence in 1821, following an uprising by local European (Creole) inhabitants against the Spanish colonial rule, which came to an end only in late 1824. A long period of instability followed, during which the country was governed by a sucession of generals. A short confederation with Bolivia (1836-1839) was broken by rebellion.

Peru went to war with Spain (1864-1871); during the fighting Callao (Lima's main port) was damaged by heavy bombardment from the sea. In 1879 Peru, together with Bolivia, fought a four-year war with Chile over posession of the nitrate-rich northern part of the Atacama desert. The defeat of the Peruavian army led to the occupation of Lima by the Chilean army and to loss of territory. The border dispute with Chile was settled only in 1929.

In the late nineteenth century, construction of railway connecting the mining centers of the highlands with the coast, coupled with large foreign capital investments, brought extensive development to Peru. With economic development came a power struggle between the conservative Creole upper class and the liberal elements pressing for social and economic changes. During the first half of the twentieth century, Peru had eighteen presidents (five were deposed and four resigned), many of whom assumed dictatorial powers. A boundary dispute with Colombia was settled in 1932 by the withdrawal of Peru from a large area in the Amazon plain. A boundary dispute with Ecuador was settled after a short war in favor of Peru (1942), but the dispute was revived in 1981.

A liberal president (Fernando Belaunde), elected in 1963, introduced reforms to improve the social and economic conditions of peasants and workers; these brought about some fundamental changes in the position of the masses. The main reforms, however, were instituted by the head of a junta, General Juan Velasco, who deposed Belaunde in 1968. Alvarado initiated a far-reaching program of agrarian reform and nationalized the major mining companies, industries, railways, banks, and other vital public services. He was deposed after seven years in power by a member of the same junta, General Francisco Bermudez, who restored free democratic elections in 1980. Since then, three presidents have been elected and finished their five-years terms of goverment


Three main natural regions are distinguishable: the coastal zone (Costa); the hoghlands (Andes or Sierra); and the eastern hills and lowlands (Selva).

The Coastal Zone
The Costa is an arid, mistly hilly region between the Pacific shore, much of which is bordered by high cliffs, and the Andes farther east. In the north, it is characterized by a low, extremly faulted plateau, a substantial part of which is an almost flat, arable land where water for irrigation is available
Because of the nature of the terrain and its aridity, settlement is almost enterely confined to river valleys and small sections of the coast, mostly near the mouths of rivers.
A narrow coastal mountain range rises steeply just behind the Pacific shore in the southern part of the Peruavian coastal zone. It is composed mainly of a very rugged surface, much of which is covered by bare hard rocks with deeply incised narrow gorges. Troughlike basins running parallel to this range separate it from the Andes. These flat-bottomed basins are covered with a thick mantle of sediment in which rivers have cut deep valleys. Agricultural settlements that irrigate and cultivate small areas of these valleys are actually oases in this desertlike environment. Unlike other parts of the coastal belt, most of the population in the south resides along its eastern margins, away from the coast and close to the foot of the Andes.
The Highlands: the Andes
The highlands in Peru are generally considered to consist of two parallel ranges, the Cordillera Occidental and the Cordillera Oriental, extending in a northwest to southeast direction. Valleys and basins, which follow the same direction and in the south broaden into the Altiplano (with lake Titicaca and a few smaller lakes), are generally cited as the structural features that separate the western range from the eastern one. 
Both the western range and eastern ranges, with peaks rising over 20,000 feet are not continous, which are in most cases arranged in echelon. The high peaks and slopes are permanently snow-covered, with some remnants of glaciers. Volcanoes, active and dormant, are confined mainly to the southern part of the highlands.
The basins and valleys wedged high between the Peruvian Andes are intermont high level surface over which, historically, the majority of Peru's population has been concentrated. Most of them, which lie at altitudes between 10,000 and 15,000 feet, are broad and covered with a mantle of sediment washed down from the neighboring mountains. They are crossed by rivers whose sources are in the Cordillera Occidental or in the basins themselves and which are, in fact, the tributary headwaters of the Amazon river.

The Altiplano of the southern Peruvian Andes (which extends into Bolivia) is made up of some basins and valleys of the high level surface, including Peru's share in Lake Titicaca, with its densely inhabited environs. Only the lower basins and valleys of the high level surface are climatically within the zone suitable for agriculture. The altitude of most of this surface is outside the limit of cultivation or is marginal for some crops, such as potatoes, barley and corn. Much of the high level surface is used mainly as pasture for sheep, goats, alpacas, and llamas. 
The Eastern lowlands
The eastern lowlands are generally divided in the selva alta,, the higher hilly areas at the foot of the Andes, and the selva baja, the lower areas farther east (espacially in the northeast) that slope toward the bounderies of Colombia and Brazil. The selva alta is dominated by low, gently sloping eastern spurs of the Andes (1,200-3,000 feet) with broad valleys that have potentially arable land.
There is a gradual transition to the selva baja, a much lower undulating plain where the relief is dominated by a dense network of rivers and river terraces. It slopes gently northeastward from aproximately 1,200 feet to 300-400 feet. The eastern lowlands are covered with dense tropical rain forest. Over large areas the forest is so dense that access is possible only via the rivers. The eastern lowlands of Peru are, in fact, part of the western margin of the huge Amazon plain. 


Estimated at 22 million in 1990, Peru's population has more than tripled over the last 50 years (it was slightly more than 7 million at 1940 census), more than doubled over the last 30 years (10.4 million at the 1961 census). The average annual rate of increase over the last decade has been 2.6 percent.
The ethnic composition of the population is estimated as: indian 45-47 percent, mestizos 32-37 percent, unmixed Europeans 12-15 percent, blacks and mulattos 2 percent, and Asian (Japanese and Chinese) about 1 percent.
In the basins and valleys of the Highlands, the population is predominantely Indian. Spanish is spoken by about two thirds of the population, the majority of Indians still speak Quechua and Aymara too. About 93 percent of the population is Roman Catholic.

Most of Peru is sparsely populated, with large areas in the Andes and eastern lowlands almost inhabited. The average population density for the country as a whole is 17 inhabitants per square kilometer (43 per square mile). Only a comparatively small part of the country - the coastal region and the high level surface of the Andes- has a dense population.

Extensive internal migrations and demographic changes have taken place since the beginning of the twentieth century. Many people migrated from the higher and poorer settled areas of the highlands to the coastal region and the eastern lowlands. Toward the end of the nineteenth century about 70 percent of the Peruvians lived in the highlands, 25 percent in the coastal region, and 5 percent in the eastern lowlands. In early 1990, only about one third of the population lives in the highlands, and more than half dwells in the coastal region.About 71 percent is urban, 25 percent of which lives in the conurbation of Lima, which includes the capital, its port Callao, and a number of satellite towns. 

Mining, agriculture, industry, and fisheries are the main components of the Peruvian economy. While the development of mining and industry over the past three decades has been very substantial, that of agriculture, especially for the domestic market, has been slow. 
The GNP per capita was $ 1,470 in 1987 and has grown in recent years at an average annual rate of approximately 8 percent. The unemployment rate was 8.2 percent in the same year.   
Underemployment, however, is very widespread and, in the mid-1950s was estimated to affect 51 percent of the workers. The inflation rate was 114% in 1987. Tourism is assuming a growing importance in Peru's economy. 

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