Culture of Peru
Peru’s culture is a set of beliefs, customs and way of life inherited from the native Incas, Spanish conquistadors and settlers. Immigrant groups such as Africans, Japanese, Chinese and Europeans have also contributed to the society, blend of cultures and ways in which Peruvians live. Whatever their ethnic background Peruvians agree on the importance of family and religion. In many cases generations of a family live together where the younger look after the elderly and help each other in difficult times.
Peruvians express their culture through their music, literature, art forms, dance, clothing, celebrations, religion, education, sports and clothing.
Fine Arts and Crafts
Art in Peru has been an important part of its culture for thousands of years dating back to pre-Inca times. Many skilled craftsmen continue the tradition today. Native Amerindians still spin cotton, llama, alpaca and sheep wool into yarn and weave the yarn into cloth that will be used to make clothing and other textile.Weaving is not limited to wool, residents of the floating islands of Titicaca Lake weave reeds to build the islands and the houses where they live. Weaving have distinctive colors and patterns distinguishing particular villages.
Other hand made crafts include wood carving and jewelry, specially gold and silver. Retablos from Ayacucho are colorful wooden altars with carved religious and everyday scenes and figurines. Pottery is made to reflect ancient Moche and Nazca patterns and designs. Many hand made crafts can be found in markets as souvenirs.
During the colonial period artists came from Spain and Italy and most of their art was related to religion, their paintings and sculptures are found in many churches today. Native Peruvian painters emerged in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, they were known as the Cuzco school of painters. The theme of their work was mostly religious but they also included local landscape scenery. The best known painter of the Cuzco school was Diego Quispe Tito. The nineteenth century was characterized by paintings of battles, independence war and heroes. The following century was mostly influenced by the great Mexican muralists best represented by José Sabogal. Modern art is mostly abstract and the best known modern painter is Fernando de Szyslo. The most famous Peruvian sculptor is Joaquin Roca Rey.
Music and Dance
One of the most important part of any Peruvian party, maybe after food, is music and dance. Andean music is world famous for the sweet sounds of its flutes and panpipes. String instruments introduced by the Spaniards such as charango, harps and violins complement the sounds of native drums, brass and wind instruments. Andean people have at least 300 different dances but the most popular is the huayno which is danced with vigorous stamping of the feet, dancers wear colorful costumes. Puno is the folklore capital of Peru.
Music from the coast is very different from Andean music. It is called Criollo music and has its origins in Spanish and African rhythms. The most popular criollo dance is Peruvian marinera, a traditional and graceful courtship dance performed using handkerchiefs. Its music is accompanied by cajon and guitar. One of the most popular composers and singers of criollo music was Chabuca Granda. Another new kind and popular music that emerged in the 1950s is chicha. Chicha has its origins in the shantytowns sourrounding Lima and it is named after a popular fermented corn drink. Chicha is a mix of Afro-Peruvian and Andean beats.
Peruvian food is different in each region, so what they eat depends on where they live. Cuisine from the coast is based on seafood. Dishes from the Amazon use fish available in rivers and lots of tropical fruits. Andean cuisine is based on potatoes and meat. Thousands of years ago potatoes, maize, quinoa and the meat of llamas and guinea pigs were the only resources in the Andes. Today Peruvians combine those staple foods with others introduced by Europeans to create tasty and unique dishes. Some ancient cooking methods are still used today such as pachamanca, a hole dug in the ground and covered with hot stones where meat and potatoes are cooked.
Peruvians are soccer crazy. It is the national sport played by every school age child, most popular among males than females but the majority of the population share a strong passion for “futbol”. There are two main teams in Peruvian soccer, Universitario de Deportes and Alianza Lima. Both clubs have dominated soccer in Peru for decades, their rivalry ignites the passion in soccer fans. The most important achievement in futbol was when the Peruvian team qualified for the 1970 World Cup in Mexico defeating and eliminating all time favorite Argentina. In 1978 Peru qualified again for the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. Soccer became a passion shared by all regions and social status and not just confined in Lima.
For people who live in coastal cities a popular sport is surfing. Chicama Beach is known for having the longest waves in the world.
Bullfighting was brought to Peru by the Spaniards and continue to be a tradition. Many Peruvians are passionate about bullfighting and it is best enjoyed at Plaza de Acho, the oldest bullring in the Americas. In Plaza de Acho there are also demonstrations of caballos de paso or steppping horses, a long established tradition in coastal cities.
In every city in Peru, where there is a plaza, there is a church. Christianity was brought to Peru 500 years ago and today more than 90% of the population consider themselves Catholics. The Spaniards encountered Inca religion whose beliefs they considered pagan. The Incas worshiped stones and other natural resources, sacrificed animals and had multiple gods. Spanish priests tried to eradicate the native religion but it was mostly transformed, what is left today is a mix of values and beliefs known as syncretism. Many Amazonian tribes were not reached by the early influence of Christianity due to their remoteness. These communities have maintained their original religion. Many national holidays and festivities have their origin in religious celebrations.
Children begin preschool when they are 5 years old. There are 6 grades in primary school and 5 grades in secondary school. After that they can choose to go to university or learn job skills at a technical school. Public school is free in Peru but not all attend or those who attend drop out early. In rural areas schools are far away from home and with no public transportation it is hard for children to get an education. Aside from the inaccessibility of schools, poverty is another factor children do not attend school as they are often needed to tend the farm and animals and provide for their younger siblings. About 25% of children do not complete primary school and only 50% go to secondary school. Standards in public school are not high, teachers are paid poorly, classes are large, schools have poor infrastructure and there are shortages of textbooks and basic school supplies. Private schools are a better option but only for those who can afford them.
There are public and private universities, some of them are internationally recognized. The oldest university in the Americas, University of San Marcos, was founded in Lima in 1551. Public university students are often active in politics many times causing student strikes.
Society in Peru
Peru’s complex social system and its hierarchical values were inherited from colonial times and continue as guidelines and principles that regulate social and interpersonal behavior that have become part of the culture of Peru.
National Museum of Archeology, Anthropology and History
The museum is the largest and oldest public museum in Peru. It was founded in 1826 and features an extensive archeological collection of more than 100,000 items from pre-Inca cultures.
Museum of Art of Lima
The museum has over 12,000 pieces as part of its permanent collection, some of the older pieces date back more than 3000 years.
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