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Peru History

Pre-history

The first pre-Columbian cultures in Peru arose about 10,000 years before Christ. The remains of this are to be found at the coast, in the Andes and in the Amazon. The first people who lived on the whole continent of America most probably came here at the end of the last ice age, about 12,000 years ago. They came here most probably over a narrow ice bridge between Asia and Alaska. During the ages after, those peoples went from north to south. Other theories suggest people having lived in South America much earlier. Tracks in Brazil date from more than 40,000 years ago.

However, the oldest tracks in Peru date from about 10,000 years ago, found near Ayacucho and lake Titicaca, they were hunters and foragers. Around 6,000 B.C. the first settlements were built and people started cultivation and livestock-farming.  Around 3,000 B.C. the first bigger buildings were built and the first small societies arose. Because of new irrigation skills people also went inland.

Indian cultures

An important source about the pre-Columbian cultures is the ceramic which dates from 1800 B.C. and was used in whole Peru from 1500 B.C. Here a summary of the most important Indian cultures until the Inca time.

  • Chavin Culture (1400 - 400 B.C.): First important society in Peru; great performances concerning architecture and sculpture art; introduced corn cultivation on high altitude.
  • Paracas Culture (800 - 100 B.C.): Arose in the desert area of southern Peru; extension to Pisa and Chincha; small villages, living of cultivation; Terrific weaving skills.
  • Nazca Culture (100 B.C. - 600 A.D.): Succeeded the Paracas in about the same region; Built houses, temples and cemeteries; Irrigated and cultivated land; Exciting phenomenon are the Nazca lines, ground drawings of hundreds of meters size. Most probably they were a astronomical calendar; Last period Nazca changed to Wari culture.
  • Moche Culture (100 B.C. - 700 A.D.): Arose at the same time as Nazca, but in North of Peru; Also artist with ceramic, first to use malls, matrixes and stamps; masters in processing gold and developed a way to draw on white background.
  • Tawaniku Culture : Same period as Nazca and Moche; advanced skilled farmers; also developed a large trade network; Used techniques later to be used by the Kollas and the Incas.
  • Wari Culture (500 - 900): First to found an empire, by invading all other peoples at the coast and in the mountains; very quarrelsome but not very culturally educated and took over many styles and knowledge from other cultures; the first to discover and use bronze.
  • Chimu Culture(1000 - 1480): Developed in the same region after the Moche (north of Peru); Chan Chan was an important king's city, then largest of the world with 30,000 inhabitants; extended pyramids build by Moche and took over a lot of things of Moche and Wari culture; Ceramics had become too normal, edelsmeedkunst was more special for this people. Conquered Lambayeque in the south and Chancay in the north, but were defeated in the 15th century by the Incas, leaded by Tupac Yapanqui.
  • Chancay Culture (1000 - 1400): South of the Chimú Empire.
  • Ica Culture (900 - 1550): In the Nazca region; High quality pottery; in 1470 incorporated by the Incas.
  • Kolla Culture (900 - 1300): Lived west of lake Titicaca; were farmers but resisted heavily against the Incas.

The Inca Empire

The Inca empire existed from 1200 to 1500 A.D. From the capital Cusco amongst others Bolivia was ruled by the Incas. Every person in the empire was obliged to speak the Quechua language which is still one an official language in Peru. The empire was divided in four parts: a big part of Peru, entire Chile, a part of northern Argentina and entire Bolivia. The Incas built roads, aqueducts, terraces, fortresses and temples. Also big cities on the plains arose. After all 43 peoples were submitted by the Incas. About 1520 the empire started to collapse because of intern conflicts and the arrival of the Europeans. The most important ruling period of the Incas did not even last 100 years.

The European invasion

As everyone knows, in 1492 Columbus discovered America of which he then thought it was India. Early 16th century the Europeans started to realise they had discovered a whole new world. In 1513 the Pacific Ocean was discovered by the Spaniard Vasco Nuñez de Balboa by crossing the Isthmus of Panama. He was also the first to have seen the Peruvian coast, but did not land there yet.

In the first half of the 16th century a lot of expeditions from the Caribbean cared for the discovery of large parts of mid- and Central America. These expeditions led by Hernán Cortez were called ‘la Conquista' and the people who carried them out ‘los Conquistadores'. The first Conquistador to enter Peru was Francisco Pizzaro in 1525 at Tumbes. Initially they did not go further. Some years later he got permission to go back and this time with a large army.

At that moment a war in between Atahualpa and Huascar, who both owned a part of the Inca Empire, was happening. In spite of the yet ongoing war, Pizarro needed a trick to beat the Incas. The Spaniards were invited as friends by Atahualpa, but on arrival they attacked and half a year later killed him. After this the Spaniards plundered all Inca cities and took loads of gold to Spain. Thousands of Indians were killed, not just by murder but also by diseases brought by the Spaniards.

The Indians were used as slaves and treated as inferior. Every Spaniard that settled in South America, automatically had the right to own him a land or village, but they were obliged to let the Indians convert to Christianity. In 1550 however, the new law prohibited slavery, but the Indians were used as slaves for ages longer. Later also the Africans were added to this.

Independent Peru

In 1739 the vice-kingdom of New-Granada (Colombia, Venezuela and Panama) was divided from Peru. The same goes for that of Rio de la Plata (Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay) in 1776. At the end of the 18th century there was one more big rebellion, leaded by Tupac Amaru II, but in 1781 he was executed.

When the United States defeated the English, it was time for the South American leaders of independence movements to get busy. Together with the collapse of Spain in Europe it led to the independence of Peru in 1821. The Spaniards did not just subside and after some years of resistance, Peru was really independent in 1827.

The Republic of Peru

For farmers and labourers the situation actually stayed as it was, poverty. Peru remained possession of some mighty families and most of the earned money went to land owners and foreign investors. In 1864 a war broke out because the Spaniards occupied the Peruvian Guano-islands, but with help from Chile, Ecuador and Bolivia, the Spaniards were defeated in 1866. In 1879 Spain finally declared Peru independent.

In the same year Chile attacked the coast and desert of Peru because of the precious salt there. In the salpeter war Peru was helped by Bolivia but they lost badly, also politically. In 1883 Peru signed a pact with Chile loosing the provinces Tarapacá and Arica. This had very bad economical effects, for in 1890 Peru was factually bankrupt. The country than was ruled by foreign companies. The labour conditions got even worse and the people lived in isolation and poverty. At the end 19th and the beginning of the 20th century the military dictatorships of general Piérola and the presidents Pardo and Leguía succeeded each other rapidly. The economy recovered a bit until the first World War, but the foreign debt multiplied by 10.

The World Wars and military governance

After World War I Northern American companies invested in the copper and zinc industry but the money still went to a small elite. In 1924 the first labour movement was founded as well as the first communist party, the PCP. The dictator Benavides strongly took his country through the hard 1930´s, which also reached Peru.

Peru was not really involved with World War II but had its' wars with Ecuador. In 1942 Ecuador lost 42% of its' territory. This still stays an issue with the most recent dispute in 1995.

In the years after the war until 1968 a lot of changes happened. In spite of these changes the economy slowly improved.a military coup was committed by Juan Velasco Alvarado. The first thing he did for the nation was giving back the companies by nationalising them, what produced disputes with the Americans. In 1970 the guerrilla movement Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) was founded, leaded by Abimael Guzmán. From 1980 it became much more violent trying to bring about the wished societal changings.

The next coup happened in 1975 by general Francisco Moralez Bermudez. The democratic elections he had promised were held in 1980 and were won by Belaúnde Terry became the democratically elected president.

The 1980's and Fujimori

The economy stayed weak under the governance of Terry. In 1981 a short war happened between Peru and Ecuador about the territory. A larger threat for the political stability became the illegal trade in cocaine and the larger violence that Sendero Luminoso started to use.

In 1985 the APRA leader Alan García Pérez won the next elections. He was very popular amongst the pour because of his promises of defeating terrorism and suspending the foreign debts. There was a positive period in the economy but in 1988 it totally collapsed. García couldn't comply with his promises which ended his popularity. Another guerrilla movement was founded in 1985, the MRTA, Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Amaru. They committed some big terrorist attacks and the police and army killed tens of thousands of people between 1980 and 1992. In ´88 the situation got even worse because of some right-wing death brigades, which made García subside.

The next elections were surprisingly won by Alberto Fujimori (from now F.). The conditions got really worse and half of the people lived under the poverty limit. The National Congress was dismantled in 1992. The intention was to pushing back corruption and bureaucracy and the economy improved a little because of financial support from Japan and the selling of companies to foreign investors. It had a small success. The leaders of Sendero Luminoso were arrested and got a life sentence. The movement was as good as eliminated.

The following elections in the same year were won by F.'s party. Also the elections in 1995 were won by F. In 1997 guerrillas captured high officials of the Japanese embassy for 4 months with the demand of the release of hundreds of Tupac Amaru soldiers. The F. government didn't follow this demand and elite soldiers attacked and ended the hostage.

In 1997 three judges were fired because of objection against changes in the constitution F. wanted to make. In the same year doubts existed about the birth country of F. which must be Peru according to the constitution. Social differences were harrowing and this got worse because of F. Also the organized crime got worse and worse and on May 12th 1997 F. used special competences for tackling it.

The 21st century

In 2000 F. wanted to join the elections for the 3rd time which was prohibited in the new constitution signed by F., but he defended by saying this new constitution applied just since his second ruling period. In 2000 F. won the second election round because his opponent (Toledo) had withdrawn because of election fraud. This scandal leaded to the fall of F. and in 2001 Toledo won the elections.

In 2004 the government proved to be ineffective and in July the chairmanship of the parliament went to the opposition, Antero Flores Aráoz of the PPC. In 2006 he was succeeded by former president Alan García.

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