Discovering Peru and the Inca Civilization
Peru is the third largest country in South America after Brazil and Argentina. It shares its border with Ecuador and Colombia on the north, on the east with Brazil, on the south with Chile, on the southeast with Bolivia and on the west with the Pacific Ocean. Peru was home to the largest Pre-Columbian civilization in the Americas, the Incas.
Peru has two official languages: Spanish and Quechua. Spanish is the most widely spoken language. Quechua is an indigenous language used by the Incas and currently spoken mostly along the Andes. Quechua and its thirty to forty dialects are spoken by almost 30% of the population. Many people of Indian descent speak both Spanish and Quechua. Aymara is not an official language but it is spoken widely in the department of Puno in the Altiplano or highlands. Forest tribes in the Amazon basin have their own languages.
Peru’s population is almost 30 million of which 8 million live in Lima, the capital city. Its population is concentrated along the coast and most sparsely distributed in the Andes and the Amazon. Peru has a mixed population descended from the native Amerindians, Spanish settlers and from later immigrants such as Africans, Europeans, Japanese and Chinese. About 45% of the population is considered ethnic Amerindians, 37% mestizos, 15% European and 3% Africans, Japanese, Chinese and other ethnicity.
Peru is a democratic constitutional republic. It is divided into 25 administrative departments, subdivided into provinces which are further divided into districts. The main government is located in the capital, Lima. Peruvian citizens vote to elect a president, two vice-presidents and 120 members of Congress. The prime minister and the Council of Ministers are appointed by the president. The president can serve for two consecutive five year terms. Voting is compulsory, which means that people must vote by law. The government has three branches. The executive branch is composed of the elected president, vice presidents, prime minister and the council of ministers. The legislative branch by the 120 elected members of congress. The judiciary by the supreme court of justice and the superior courts.
Of all the South American countries Peru has the greatest variety of food, music, climates and landscapes. Its culture and society have been shaped by its Inca heritage and by the Spanish colony. The most widespread religion is the Roman Catholic with more than 90% of the country’s population belonging to that faith.
Its geography is one of the most diverse and complex; some call it “Land of Three Worlds”. On the west facing the Pacific Ocean lies the coast, a long desert strip, an arid zone which is among the driest places in the world. East of the coast is the Andean Mountain range or sierra, the highest mountain chain in the tropical world. Peru’s highest peak is Mount Huascaran located in the Cordillera Blanca in the province of Yungay, it measures 22,205 feet or 6,768 meters. The name Cordillera Blanca comes from all the glaciers along the Western Andes. To the east of the Andes lies the humid Amazonian rainforest or the selva, the high selva grows in the mountains while the low selva in the valleys and basins. The low selva is part of the world’s largest rainforest, the Amazon basin. The Amazon River has its origin deep in the Andes is it is the second longest river in the world after Egypt’s Nile River.
Each of the three regions has its own specialized fauna and flora that have adapted to different conditions. There are many native plants and animals and many that have adapted to their new home. Weather also differs at the same time of the year in each region and at different altitudes while enriching and contributing to its natural resources. Many scientists believe that the variety of landscapes and climates make Peru one of the most biodiverse countries in the world.
Living and Learning
About 35% of Peru’s population live under the poverty line. They include people living in the highlands who follow the traditional lifestyle and people living in shantytowns surrounding Lima and other cities. They live in ramshackle dwellings with few basic services providing a stark contrast with Lima’s wealthiest suburbs where families live in large houses. Lima clearly illustrates the gap between the rich and the poor however it has been observed in the last 10 years the widening of the middle class with an increased purchasing power .
Education is free for all but not all children attend school. About 25% of Peru’s children do not complete elementary school and only about 50% continue on secondary school. Standards are not high, teachers are underpaid, classes are large, there is poor or lack of infrastructure and shortage of textbooks and school supplies. Private schools offer a much higher standard by only for those who can afford them.
Medical services are in short supply as well, especially in rural areas where people rely on curanderos, doctors who use traditional medicinal plants to cure. The government has been successfully running vaccination programs trying to reach far away areas.
A promising future
Peru is a land of huge contradictions. It has a rich land full of resources but only a few benefit from it. It was the center of the Inca Empire the largest civilization that developed in the Americas but the last two hundred years has experience political chaos. It has a long Pacific coast line, yet half of its territory is covered with rain forest. Despite all its contradictions and inaccessibility of its territory Peru is a land rich in natural resources, culture and history.
It is a fact that Peruvians are developing better ways to manage their natural resources so that they can preserve them and reduce damage to the environment. They need a stable economy and the breaking of the boom and bust cycle so that they no longer rely on natural resources. One promising improvement is tourism. People from around the world are eager to see what Peru has to offer.
The Inca Civilization was the largest Pre-Columbian civilization in the Americas.
The capital of the Inca Empire and one of the most visited destinations in South America.
When planning your trip to Peru or if you are a history enthusiast immerse yourself in the history and facts of Peru’s main cities.
Weather in Peru is varies from region to region, according to the World Meteorological Organization Peru enjoys 28 out of the 32 world climates.
Tags: Amazon River, amazonia, Andean mountain range, Andes, biodiversity, coast, Cordillera blanca, ecology, economy of Peru, ecosystem, endangered animals, Huascaran, Inca, Inca civilization, jungle, Pacific Ocean, Peru, selva, sierra