The modern Peru culture certainly reflects the impressive
pre-Columbian civilizations that thrived before the arrival
of the Spanish. Of course, the most notable of these is
the Inca civilization, which in a relatively short amount
of time, established itself as the premier ancient culture
in Peru history. Many of the native peoples of Peru still
maintain traditions that date back to their predecessors,
and when it comes to showing the mix of Spanish and Indian
cultures, it is perhaps the Peru
events and festivals that best display this aspect of the culture of Peru.
There is no escaping Peru history if you choose to come
here, as its people and its attractions serve as vestiges
of those who came before.
Peruvian history generally begins with traces of human presence dating as far back as 11000 BC. The Chico civilization is known to represent the first complex society to figure prominently in the history of Peru, and they occupied territory along the Pacific coast from approximately 3000-1800 BC. Around the year 1250 BC, groups moving in from the north began to settle mostly near the ocean in the dry, desert region of Peru. These groups included cultures such as the Chavin, Mochica (Moche), Nazca and Chimu. Near the northern Peru cities of Trujillo and Chiclayo, the Moche, who are noted for their sometimes explicit pottery, built impressive temples. The Moche ruins that have resulted from this civilization surely provide insight into early Peruvian history, and if you are traveling in northern Peru, they are a recommended visit. After the Moche, the Chimu came to inhabit the Moche Valley, near Trujillo. Their adobe city of Chan Chan is among the top archaeological sites in the country, and it also begs a visit if you are in the area. The Moche flourished between 100 AD and 800 AD, and the Chimu Kingdom of Chimor thrived between 850 AD and 1470 AD. In terms of the pre-Columbian groups that figure into the history of Peru, the Chimu were most capable of stopping the Inca. However, the Inca, who rose from just a small tribe, would conquer the Chimu on their way to establishing the largest pre-Columbian empire in the Americas.
The Inca, whose cities produced some of the most identifiable
of all Peru attractions,
started out small, but grew exponentially in under 400
years. The Inca civilization begins with a myth as to
the origins of its founder. According to this myth, the
first Inca king, Manco Capac, emerged from an island in Lake Titicaca. Born with
his sister, Mama Ocllo, by the sun god, Inti, he would
go on to establish the Inca Kingdom of Cusco.
Peruvian history shows that the first Inca tribe of Cusco
began to form their society around the year 1200 AD. Cusco
would become their first city-state, and it would remain
the capital of their empire until the coming of the Spanish
Conquistadors in the 1500"s. The actual Inca Empire was
not officially founded until the Inca ruler, Pachacutec,
began to rapidly expand the Inca civilization in the year
1438. It was during the rule of Pachacutec that the fortresses
of Pisac and Ollantaytambo were built, as well as Qoricancha in Cusco, and the venerable Machu Picchu. The Sacred
Valley near Cusco is the best place to see Inca ruins,
and many visitors come here every year to hike the Inca
Trail. Other notable Inca ruins that give insight
to Peru history are the Tucume pyramids found near Chiclayo.
You can still here descendants of the Inca speaking the
Inca Quechua language to this day, and it remains a large
part of the culture of Peru.
The Inca, like every other concurrent native culture in Latin America, would eventually see the Spanish invasion essentially bring a permanent end to their empire. Francisco Pizarro, a conquistador of importance, first arrived with his men in Peru around 1529. After scouting about and returning to Spain, he returned in 1532 with permission to conquer the Inca and establish a Spanish hold. The most notable battle between the Spanish and the Inca occurred in that same year. The Battle of Cajamarca saw the Spanish capture, imprison and kill the last great Inca ruler, Atahualpa. Just a decade later, the Viceroyalty of Peru was created by the Spanish Crown. This viceroyalty was the most powerful in the Americas. The Spanish would convert the majority of the native peoples to Catholicism and begin to erect their notable Spanish colonial architecture. Most Peru cities, like Lima, Cusco, Arequipa and so on, have plenty in the way of beautiful Spanish colonial architecture. Lima became the capital of Peru in 1535, and was founded by Pizarro as the Ciudad de los Reyes (City of the Kings). By the late 1700"s, the native peoples of Peru began to grow tired of Spanish rule. The 1780 revolt led by Inca Tupac Amaru (José Gabriel Condorcanqui), saw some 60,000 natives rise up against the Spanish Crown, and though unsuccessful, the seeds of revolution were being planted. The one-time Argentine soldier, José de San Martín, led an invasion on Spanish Lima on July 12, 1821. 16 days later, on July 28, Peru would proclaim its independence. Later struggles would see the Venezuelan-born Simón Bolívar continue to fight the Spanish. You can visit the home in Trujillo where Bolívar lived for a short while.
In the late 1800"s and early 1900"s, Peru would experience its fair share of external and internal struggles, such as the War of the Pacific, which saw Peru relinquish certain provinces to Chile. Coups and significant political violence would plague Peru through the 1980"s. By the 1990"s, President Alberto Fujimori would help Peru to recover from years of turmoil, though that didn’t mean the struggles had ended. Corruption and economic growth issues are what the current Peru government is most concerned with, and by the looks of things, it’s doing a pretty good job, all things considered. The culture of Peru is as rich today as it ever was, and benefitting from a most storied history, it enjoys its status as one of the world’s prime tourist destinations.