The first settlements

The first inhabitants arrived in Peru 20,000 years ago. They brought stone tools and knew only to hunt or gather fruit. Some of them were settled in Paccaicasa (Ayacucho). The oldest remains of a Peruvian (7000 years) feature him as having elongated face, longish head, and a height of 1,60m. First Peruvians have left examples of their cave art in Toquepala (Tacna, 7600 BC) and traces of their habitation in Chilca (Lima, 5800 BC). The process of plants domestication led to agriculture and the construction of villages and ceremonial public centers. As the integration of regional cultures intensified, new techniques emerged such as the work of textiles, metallurgy, ceramics craft, creating high civilizations.

Pre-Inca civilization

Preinca civilizations settled more than 5,000 years ago along the coast and the mountains of Peru. Some succeeded and managed to rule, due to their power and influence, large territorial spaces, but, at their fall, they led to the flourishing of small regional centers. All pre-inca civilizations are characterized by a surprising adaptation to the environment and a great use of natural resources, with vast knowledge that fed Incan culture afterwards. Caral was cradle of civilization, not only of Peru, but of the entire American continent. Caral civilization is 5,000 years old, which means that it was contemporary with the civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, China and India. Vestiges and temples are located in Caral capital on the Valley of Supe, 182 kilometers north of Lima, 23 kilometers of coastline and 350 meters above sea level. Caral was the economic center of a region based on agriculture and on the exchange of maritime products made with fishermen on the coast or with other populations. Caral dominated the region peacefully for a period which could have lasted between 500 and 1000 years, during which this civilization has not left evidence of weapons manufacturing, organization of a regular army nor that it would have waged war. Then came the Chavin civilization that was settled in Huantar (Ancash) in the year 1000 BC. Their power was based on a theocratic order and had its center in the Chavin de Huantar, temple whose walls and galleries are abundant of the sculptures of gods with ferocious feline traits. Paracas civilization (700 BC) occurred in the southern coast of Peru. It greatly mastered the textile art. The Moche civilization (100 AD) developed on the northern coastal region. Moche gathered a number of military authorities of the coastal valleys, including the well-known Lord of Sipan. The Moche pottery –including the portrait vessel (“huaco retratos”) – found in their graves and iconography surprise with their development and how their design has been completed. In the mountains of Peru, in the region of Collao (comprising the territories of present day Chile and Bolivia) developed Tiahuanaco civilization (200 AD), civilization from which the Peruvians took agricultural terraces, platforms and the way to manage different ecological floors (life zones) in agriculture. Nazca civilization (300 AD) overcome the challenging coastal desert with underground aqueducts and left on this land a series of ancient geoglyphs of animals and geometric shapes, which seem to form an agriculture calendar that still amazes contemporary researchers. Wari civilization (600 AD.) introduced the urban patron in Ayacucho territory and extended its influence along the Andean region. The refined Chimu civilization (700 AD.) processed gold and precious metals and built the city of Chan Chan with adobe bricks in the present-day city of Trujillo. Chachapoyas culture (800 AD) used the cultivated lands and erected constructions in the mountaintops in the north rainforest. The greatness of Kuelap walled city is a magnificent proof of their adaptation to the environment.

The Incas

Inca culture (1400 AD) was the most important civilization of South America. Economic organization and distribution of wealth, artistic manifestations and their architecture impressed the early chroniclers. The Incas worshiped the earth (Pachamama) and the sun (Inti). The Inca, ruler of Tahuantinsuyo, was considered to be holy and son of Sun. Hence the legends about the Incas origin tell us that the Sun sent its sons (Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo or the four Ayar brothers and their wives) to establish Cusco, a holy city and center of Tahuantinsuyo. Inca expansion is attributed to their extraordinary organizational capacity. Population had the ayllu as the central, family and territorial nucleus, and if an ayllu member had to move away for work reasons, he or she did not lose the bonds with the original ayllu. The Inca used to mobilize large amounts of population as a reward or punishment, and thus managed to strengthen the Tahuantinsuyo’s expansion, but at the same time, it assimilated and accepted the vast knowledge that were previously developed by Pre Inca civilizations. The relatives of El Inca grouped around a panaca, which was made up of family and descendants, except one who was to become a new Inca and who will turn to form a new panaca. Spanish chroniclers of the XVI century have reported that there were 13 sovereigns: from the famous Manco Capac to the controversial Atahualpa, who was killed during the Spanish conquest. Tahuantinsuyo or Inca Empire managed to extend its ruling over the territory of present-day Colombia in the North to Chile and Argentina in the South, including the territories of Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador. Panacas members were Inca nobles led by the sovereign. Panacas and El Inca’s power reached everywhere in Tahuantinsuyo, but it reaches its maximum splendor in the specific architecture of Cusco area: Koricancha or Sun Temple, Ollantaytambo, Sacsayhuaman and Machu Picchu, especially.

The encounter of two worlds

The encounter between the Spanish and Inca civilizations occurred in the sixteenth century. In 1532 the armies of Francisco Pizarro captured Atahualpa in Cajamarca. Aborigine population decreased considerably in the first centuries, and the Viceroyalty of Peru was created in 1542 after a confrontation between the territory conquerors and the Spanish Crown. The process of the Spanish settlement was consolidated in the sixteenth century under the administration of Viceroy Francisco de Toledo, who set the foundations of the colonial economy: the control system of native labor (mita, a tribute that had to be paid in labor by the native Indians) for mining and handcrafted production. These activities, together with mercantile monopoly, were the basis of colonial economy. But the change of dynasty and reforms implemented by the Bourbons in the XVIII century faced non-conformity in many social sectors. The most important expression of this was the indigenous uprising of Tupac Amaru II, which began to spread the creole movement that led to independence of Latin America in the XIX century. By the XVII century the Viceroyalty of Peru stretched between Panama and Tierra del Fuego. Catholic priests preach merged with Andean religious beliefs, establishing a mixed system of beliefs, syncretism, which continues to the present day. Along with Spaniards, people of African descent also arrived in Ancient Peru. They, together with indigenous population and the Spaniards form the social structure of the country. During the XVI and XVII centuries, Peruvian colonial art and intellectual production made their contributions to Spanish tradition.

Birth of the Peruvian State

Peru was declared an independent country by Jose de San Martin in 1821, and in 1824 Simon Bolivar secured it by winning the wars of independence. However, despite efforts to organize the young Peruvian republic, in the XIX century the country faced with paying the price of struggle: a tough economic crisis and a military autocratic government that offered little prospect of government to civilian governments. By 1860, thanks to the profit from business with guano, cotton and sugar, the government waived the contributions of indigenous population and abolished the slavery of black people. Chinese and Europeans migrated to Peru to increase manpower and integrated into society. Railways were built to improve the connectivity along the Peruvian territory and Manuel Pardo led the Peru’s first civilian regime. The first wave of Japanese migration arrived in Peru at the end of the century. In 1879, Peru, allied with Bolivia, faced Chile in the War of the Pacific. After 4 years of clashes war ended in 1883. Peru and Chile signed the Treaty of Ancon (1883) and the Treaty of Lima in 1929. After a new peak of military autocratic government, civilian governments returned to power, occurring the period called “Aristocratic Republic”, during which power was in the hands of the oligarchy devoted to agricultural export, economic activities, mining and finance. There was a rubber exploitation boom and a number of movements championing the union and worker’s rights emerged.

Peru today

The early years of the XX century were marked by a long civil dictatorship whose leader was Augusto B. Leguía. His project to modernize the country, by launching an ambitious program for building a large infrastructure  to create the basis of a Patria Nueva (“a new homeland”) indebted the State, which could not cope with the economic crisis of 1929. It was also a period with a rich intellectual creation, whose main representatives were both the founder of APRA, Víctor Raúl Haya de la Torre, and José Carlos Mariátegui, creator of the Peruvian socialist thought. The latter was also at the core of the country’s intellectual and artistic expressions throughout his short life. After the fall of Leguía, militarism reappeared and was interrupted by the democratic governments of Prado in 1939 and Bustamante y Rivero in 1945. In 1948, Manuel A. Odria initiated a new military government which lasted for eight years. His government mixed large infrastructure public works with a harsh crackdown of opposition political parties. Navigation conditions on Amazon River motivated the agreements with Brazil until 1909 when the border between the two countries was defined. After a long negotiation, the border treaty with Colombia was approved by the Peruvian Congress in 1927 and Colombians were provided access to the Amazon river. In 1929, after territorial disputes with Chile, result of the war waged in the XIX century, the decision to resume relations led to the signing of the treaty by which Peru reacquired the region Tacna and Chile kept Arica. In 1968 the Armed Forces led a coup d’etat and removed President Fernando Belaúnde Terry from power. The early years of this military dictatorship were different from those of their Latin Americans contemporaries because of its rather socialist inspiration. Peru was governed by General Juan Velasco Alvarado, who proposed an expansion of the state, a policy intended to solve major problems that had impoverished the country. For this purpose, oil industry and communication media were nationalized and an agrarian reform was implemented. In 1975 followed the leadership of General Francisco Morales Bermúdez who, under population pressure, convened a Constituent Assembly.
In 1980, Belaúnde Terry was elected again as President of the Republic. In the early years of this decade two subversive movements emerged and shook Peru through their extreme violence for more than ten years. During Alan García’s government (1985 – 1990), initial economic growth was followed by a crisis of external debt and the generation of large macroeconomic imbalances, while witnessing an increase in the violence of terrorist movements such as “Sendero Luminoso” (Shining Path) and MRTA. In that context, Alberto Fujimori was elected in 1990. His government proved controversial, some giving him credit for defeating terrorism and halting hyperinflation and others highlighting the unconstitutional dissolution of Congress in 1992, his second reelection in 2000 and acts of corruption and human rights violations during his commission. Facing people protests demanding new elections, Fujimori abandoned the country and the Democratic Transition Government of President Valentín Paniagua was established in November 2000.
Since then, there have been four consecutive democratic elections in Peru, which were not affected by any interruption. In this period were elected Alejandro Toledo Manrique (2001-2006), Alan García Pérez (2006-2011), Ollanta Humala Tasso (2011-2016) and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski who will officially take over the position of President in July 28, 2016. In this period, Peru turned into a more prosperous and more just society. Peruvian economy (GDP of 218 billion US dollars in 2014) has experienced sustained average annual growth of around 6%; the value of exports increased substantially (from 12 billion US dollars in 2002 to 44 billion USD in 2012) and the incidence of poverty declined from 57.7% in 2001 to 21.8% in 2016. There also declined the inequality, given that Gini index is 0.44, below the levels recorded in most countries in the region. Regarding foreign policy, five developments should be highlighted: i) commencement of negotiations for a trade agreement with the United States (November 2003), a milestone in the formation of a network of increasingly large preferential trade agreements which nowadays reached 19 – including trade agreement with the European Union – and covers 94% of Peruvian exports; ii) creation of the regional integration mechanism Pacific Alliance, through the Declaration of Lima (28 April 2011); iii) the demarcation of the maritime border with Chile through a ruling of the International Court of Justice in The Hague (January 27, 2014); iv) Agreement with 30 European countries on visa exemptions for Peruvian citizens, including those of the Schengen zone (March 15, 2016); and v) the beginning of the participation in the Country Program with the objective of Peru becoming a full member of the OECD in 2021.