The heart of the great South American civilizations is Peru. Its strategic location in South America has been exploited in the past by both the Incas and the Spaniards.
Peruvian history, for many people, begins in the 11th. Century when the Incas descended to the coast and conquered the powerful Chimu kingdom. In fact, Peruvian civilization has been evolving since 4,000 BC. Long before the Incas, the Chavin (1,500-400 BC) and the Mochica (200 BC-700 AD), and others, made significant achievements in agriculture, engineering and architecture. All these early civilizations left impressive remnants which can be seen today.
From his base in Cusco, the Inca Tupac Yupanqui managed to expand the Tahuantisuyo Empire over an area of approximately 2 million sq. km~. This military feat, comparable to the great conquests of Alexander the Great, extended his empire from Pasto, Colombia, to Tucuman and the Maule River.in Argentina and Chile. The division of the Empire between Inca Huayna Capac’s sons, Huascar and Atahualpa, brought on a civil war which destroyed the fundamental principle of Tahuantisuyo -that the Inca ruled by divine right~.
In 1532, therefore, when the Spaniards led by Francisco Pizarro met the Incas in Cajamarca, in Peru’s northern sierra, the Empire’s foundation had already been weakened. Atahualpa was captured after a quick and violent battle. The reign of the divine Children of the Sun had ended. Cusco was occupied, and Pizarro founded his capital – Lima “the City of King” – on the coast.
Peru’s importance in the history of Spanish America did not decline, even with the fall of the Tahuantisuyo Empire. Since Peru was the richest vice royalty, Lima became the administrative and commercial center for the Spanish colonies.
Spanish America was organized originally along feudal lines. The King of Spain was the sovereign and represented by viceroys. However, Creoles (children of Spaniards born in America) occupied positions of authority.
This system continued for nearly 300 years, until the beginning of the 19th. Century, when independence movements emerged in South America. Once again, control over Peruvian territory was considered strategic to underwrite the new South American nations’ independence. The continents two great freedom fighters, Jose de San Martin and Simon Bolivar, figured in Peru’s struggle for independence, which San Martin proclaimed in 1821.
The Republic of Peru was established, with a popularly elected president and parliament. Although the country’s political history has swung between civil and military governments, there have been continuous democratic elections since 1980.
Now and Tomorrow
At the beginning of the 1990s, Peru was suffering the greatest crisis in its modern history. The country and the government elected in July 1990 recognized that changes had to be done. In August 1990, the new administration put in place a strict stabilization program which included reforms intended to reestablish fiscal and monetary equilibrium and to open up the economy to competition and foreign investment.
By 1993, Peru has made important strides in restoring order. Inflation has been reduced significantly; net reserves are way up; and tax collection has doubled. Peru is part of the international financial system once again, and it makes its debt payments punctually.
Structural reforms have liberalized and deregulated the economy in many areas, including foreign investment, privatization of state-owned businesses and the labor and financial markets, which are now more flexible. These reforms boosted the performance of the Lima Stock Market, which was the world’s second most profitable market in 1992.
The pacification process also made important advances in 1992. The leaders of the two terrorist movements were captured, as were various upper level members of their respective organizations. The substantial progress made in the deactivation of these groups has restored tranquility to the population and to the productive sectors.
Today Peru has recovered its confidence in the future. The majority of the population supports the reforms and the current economic policy. This confidence in Peru’s possibilities extends to investors, business leaders and foreign tourists who are returning to take advantage of the country’s unmatched opportunities.
Businessmen from the Northern Hemisphere show increasing interest in Peru’s coastal climate which offers year-round growing conditions. Peru’s fishing grounds are among the richest on earth, and offer innumerable opportunities to develop fishing and aqua culture activities. Investors such as China’s Shougang Corporation, which bought the state-owned HierroPeru, have recognized the mining potential. The country’s high quality raw materials and skilled labor force have encouraged the development of a recognized textile industry.
The racial and cultural mix in Peru has enriched the expression of artists and artisans since pre-Hispanic times. Traditions and beliefs as diverse as those of Spaniards and Africans have been added to ancient skills in ceramics, textiles and metallurgy. The resulting Mestiza Tradition is charged with mysticism and color.
Peruvian artisans produce the most interesting and varied handicrafts on the continent. Artisans display regional preferences, but all have two things in common; a centuries long craft heritage and an ability to express their culture through craft.
Among the most popular handicrafts are exquisite gold and silver jewelry; finely knitted aplaca and pima cotton sweaters, in either traditional or modern designs; decorative wool tapestries, ponchos and woves belts in different regional styles; diverse ceramics, including pieces created with the same techniques used by ancient Peruvians; carved wooden objects; gourds with popular designs; reproductions of colonial mirrors and candelabras. One can find more than over 50 different souvenirs to take home.
Local markets are the most interesting and picturesque places to purchase handicrafts. In Lima, however, it is possible to find fine craft pieces from all regions of the country.
But the mystique of Peru is reflected in more than just handicrafts. Local festivals and dances also exhibit Peru’s exotic cultural mixture. The lnti Raymi, the Inca festival which commemorates the winter solstice, coincides with Saint John the Baptist Day (June 24). On that day, there is a majestic performance, with typical costumes and a symbolic sacrifice to the sun, with the Sacsayhuaman fortress ruins near Cusco as a backdrop. Puno also retains an impressive folkloric tradition. Here the main festival is devoted to the Virgin of the Candlemas, and offers more than 100 different dances with strange and colorful costumes.
Along the coast, the Festival of the Marinera, the sensuous courting dance of Spanish and African roots, takes place during the third week of January. Even Peru’s famous pacing horses dance the marinara during this festival week when Trujillo brings together the country’s most accomplished dancers. In October, Lima celebrates its two great passions: the procession of the Lord of Miracles, in which thousands of Limenos take part, and the bullfights in the Plaza de Acho, the oldest bullring in South America
Peruvian cities founded during the colonial era are showcases of period architecture, with churches, convents, monasteries and aristocratic houses of unsurpassed quality. Among such cities are Arequipa, Ayacucho, Cusco, Lima, and Trujillo. Lima’s history as the capital of the Peruvian Vice royalty makes it uniquely attractive. The city’s colonial architecture is so rich that it has been awarded status as Cultural Heritage of Mankind by UNESCO.
Lima also possesses interesting museums with exhibits of magnificent pieces from the Pre-Columbian and colonial periods. The Gold Museum’s display of 6,500 gold statues, bowls, cups, plates and ceremonial objects gives an idea of the Inca wealth as well as the Incas’ skills as gold. and silversmiths.
Peruvians have a taste for good living and good food, entertainment and culture. These qualities, together with their renowned hospitality and friendliness, make for a cordial atmosphere in which to enjoy the country’s interesting tourist attractions and many opportunities for fun and pleasure.
On the basis of restaurants alone, Lima is a cosmopolitan city. There are excellent Creole (native) dishes, and restaurants which offer German, Arab, French, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese and vegetarian specialties. Many of these restaurants are located in lovely colonial mansions, or along the seashore.
Peru probably has the most varied native cuisine in South America. Cebiche (raw fish “cooked” in a super tart lemon juice) and anticuchos (spiced grilled beef heart) are a must. Ocopa (boiled potatoes in a seasoned sauce of cheese and nuts), aji de gallina (shredded chicken in a spiced milk sauce) and rocoto relleno (meat-stuffed pepper) are typical dishes. On the beverage front, the pisco sour, a cocktail made with Peru’s grape brandy, lemon juice, egg whites and sugar, is world famous.
Night life in Peru is lively, particularly on weekends. Many cities offer penas and picanterias, restaurants with entertainment which ranges from Andean song and dance to latin rhythms such as salsa.
Cultural activities are as varied as opera and experimental theater, with listings in both Spanish and English in the local press. International magazines, newspapers and phone call service, as well as cable television are available to all who wish to maintain contact with their own country.
In Inka mythology, Manco Capac and Mama 0cllo, children of the Sun, emerged from the depths of Lake Titicaca to found their empire. Like famous naturalist Jacques Cousteau, today’s visitors to Titicaca will surely feel the same emotion that captivated the symbolic universe of the ancient Peruvians. With lofty snow-capped peaks along its far shores, the vast blue lake at 3,800m is one of the Andes’ most enchanting scenes.
The 81 square hectare lake is situated on the high plateau that extends for hundreds of kilometers between Bolivia and Peru and is still home to a monolingual people. The plains abound in llamas and alpacas, whose wool the women knit into colorful clothing to sell in the Puno and Juliaca markets. The men still make their boats of the reed that grows in the lake. The region’s folklore is one of the richest expressions of Peruvian folk art, reflected for example, in the festivities for the Virgen de Ia Candelaria.
In the Titicaca National Reserve near Puno, you can see the famous floating reed islands of the Uros Indian community. A visit to the remote islands of Taquile or Amantani is also an unforgettable experience.
Isolated from the modern world, these communities have kept their traditional customs alive. The Taquilenos produce elegant dresses sold only on the island and offer visitors lodging in their own homes.
Towns near the lake possess treasures of colonial architecture, such as the carved stone churches of Juli and Pomata. Between Puno and Juliaca are the Chullpas de Sillustani, huge stone tombs. You can also visit the Pukara Temple and find good handicrafts in the city.
Climate and Environment This is a subtropical zone with dense woods, and the climate is mild, warm and damp with an average year-round temperature of 13c during the day. The heaviest rains fall from November to March and April through October brings drier, higher temperatures.
Flora and Fauna Both are abundant and varied. Typical plant life in the historic reserve of Machupicchu includes plaonayes, qientas, alisos, puya palm trees, ferns and more than 90 species of orchids.
The fauna in the reserve includes the spectacled bear, cock-of-the-rocks or ‘”tunqui”, tankas, wildcats and an impressive variety of butterflies and insects unique to the region.
The natural surroundings and the strategic location of Machupicchu give this monument a fusion of beauty, harmony and balance between the work of the ancient Peruvians and the whims of nature unlike any other in the world.
History Historians do not know exactly who was the first to discover this area, but we do know that some of the first explorers included Antonio Raymondi, the Count of Sartiges and Chartes Wiener. Other visits included one in July 1909 by the Sartander brothers, whose inscription can be found carved into the base of the Temple of the Sun. At the same time, Peruvian explorers Enrique Palms, Augustin Lizarraga and Gavino Sanchez arrived at the citadel via San Miguel.
On July 14,1911, Hiram Bingham arrived with a team of Yale University specialists in topography, biographies, geology, engineering and osteology. They were guided to the area by local inhabitant Meichor Arteaga. When he was asked about the city, he toid them it was located on top of an old peak (“Machupicchu” In Quechus).
In 1914, Hiram Bingham retumed to Machupicchu with economic and logistic backing from Yale University and the U.S. Geographic Society and subsequently published the report which became known around the world as “The Lost City of the Inca”.
In his original map, Bingham carved Machupicchu into sectors according to the four cardinal points. Studies subsequent to the discovery of Machupicchu 82 years ago have provided valuable insight about the functions of the bulidings. These were based on archaeological excavations and the architectonic relations between the bulidings with similar constructions across the vast Inca empire.
The periods of occupation have been broken down into 4 categories and are based on historical accounts, construction style and ceramics:
1. Initial (up to 1,300 AD.)
2. Classic (up to 1,400 A.D.)
3. Imperial (up to I533A.D.)
4. Contact or Transition (1533 to 1572)
Description of the Route to Machupicchu : Cusco and the station of Puente Ruinas or Machupicchu are connected by 112 km of railway line. The trip starts in the station of San Pedro in Cusco and zig-zaggs up the Picchu mountain until it reaches the highest point, a spot called “El Arco” (the arch), in the northwest part of the city.
The route then descends to the villages of Poroy, Cachimayo and Izcuchaca until it reaches the Anta plains, an extensive cattle area. It climbs down the gulley of Pomatales before descending to the Sacred Valley of the Incas and arriving at the station of Pachar. The route then crosses the Urubamba River to the right bank and arrives at the station of Ollantaytmbo. For those who arrived here by road via the Sacred Valley, one can board the train here to continue to Machupicchu.
The railway line runs parallel to the river in winding loops that follow the riverbed. From here one can see the typical vegetation of the upper jungle, which climbs up to the top of the steep mountain range that forms the Urubamba Canyon. The train passes through the Chilca train station with views of the snow-capped peak called “Veronica”. At a height of 5,750 meters above sea level, it is the highest peak in the Urubamba range. The train stops at Kilometer 88, where the Inca Trail begins and then continues on its way, passing through the station of Pampacahus and the town of Aguas Calientes, located at Kilometer 110. The visitor passes through a hugh granite mountain through two tunnels before arriving at the station of Puente Ruinas. From here, minibuses take the travelers up 8 kilometers of roads up to the Tourist Hotel. The entry control to Machupicchu is at the hotel.
Guided Tours The guided tour of Machupicchu starts on a path that leads from the bus terminal. The path enters the citadel in the section that houses a cluster of rooms near the outer wall and continues through a terrace to where one views the agricultural zone followed by the urban areas.
Architecture The citadel is divided into two sectors: the agricultural or terracing about 20 hectares) and the urban sector (about 10 hectares) which contains main squares, temples, palaces, storehouses, workshops, stairways, cabies and water fountains which run through both sectors. The agricultural and urban sectors are split by a dry ditch which is the result of a geographic fault line. And excavations following Bingham’s discovery of the ruins showed the area previously had granite foundations with little surrounding soil.
The architectural design was influenced by that of Cusco which was the capital of the Inca empire. It is evident the Incas built Machupicchu to fit in with its natural surroundings as its construction follows the natural curves, dips and rises of the land.
Located on a wide, arid plain near the coastal city of Nazca, are one of the greatest mysteries known to man: a mosaic of gigantic stylized figures. A monkey, a fish, a spider and a hummingbird are among the many drawings and geometric figures visible only from the air.
The purpose of the Nazca lines has long been a subject of debate and there are several theories. Flying over the plains in a small plane is an unforgettable experience, generating profound reflection on the beliefs and abilities of our ancestors on the American continent. A visit to the aqueducts and the Sacaco fossil desert are also inspiring.
A trip south of Lima should include the Paracas National Reserve, a few hours before Nasca on the Pan Americana highway.
In addition to the beauty of the desert and the geological formations of the coast, Paracas is a paradise for animal and bird watchers. Bird species abound: penguins, piranhas, piqueros, zarcillos and even Andean condors.
The diverse mammals include sea lions, “lobos marinos”, otters, dolphins and whales. Excursions by boat, launch and glider are also available from Paracas to the Ballestas islands for a close view of all these species. The Paracas Reserve also has beautiful beaches, plains and cliffs for swimming and relaxation.
Getting there: By bus along the Pan Americana highway from Lima to Pisco (Paracas 250km, 4 hours), to Ica (380km, 5 hours) and to Nazca (460km, 6 hours).
From Arequipa to Nazca (570km, 10 hours), to Ica (650km, 11 hours) and to Pisco/Paracas (780km, 13 hours). Daily flights in small planes from Lima to Nazca or Ica, flights over the lines from the city of Nazca, Ica and Lima. Tours in motorized launch to the Ballestas islands from Paracas. There is no public transportation to the Paracas Reserve.
Lodging: 1 * to 3*** hotels in Paracas (in town), Pisco and Nazca. There is no lodging inside the Paracas Reserve.