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A third of all Peruvians are "mestizo," a term that usually refers to a mixture of Amerindians and Peruvians of European descent. Half of the population are native (mostly quechua and in smaller numbers aymara people). Peruvians of European descent make up about 15% of the population; there also are smaller numbers of persons of African, Japanese, and Chinese descent. In the past decade, Peruvians of Asian heritage have made significant advancements in business and political fields; a past president, several past cabinet members, and several members of the Peruvian congress are of Japanese or Chinese descent.

Peru has two official languages; Spanish and the foremost indigenous language called Quechua. Spanish is used by the government and the media and in education and commerce. In recent years schools located in rural areas in the Andes are using quechua and aymara language for some of their courses. Native Peruvians who live in the Andean highlands speak Quechua and Aymara and are ethnically distinct from the diverse indigenous groups who live on the eastern side of the Andes, in the tropical lowlands adjacent to the Amazon basin. 

Geography and Climate
Area: 1.28 million sq. km. (496,225 sq. mi.); three times larger than California.
Capital: Lima, metropolitan area population 8.27 million, as of 2000). 
Other Cities: Arequipa, Chiclayo, Cuzco, Huancayo, Truujillo, Ayacucho, Piura, Iquitos
Terrain: Coastal plains and central, mountains; eastern lowlands, tropical forests.
Climate: Coastal area, arid and mild; Andes, temperate to frigid; eastern lowlands, tropically warm and humid.

Under the 1993 Constitution, primary education is free and compulsory. The system is highly centralized, with the Ministry of Education appointing all public school teachers. Eighty-three percent of Peru's students attend public schools at all levels.

School enrollment has been rising sharply for years, due to a widening educational effort by the government and a growing school-age population. The literacy rate is estimated at nearly 90%. Elementary and secondary school enrollment is approximately 7.5 million. Peru's 74 universities (2001), 42% public and 58% private institutions, enrolled about 415,000 students in 2001. Due to social and economic problems , some children cannot attend school. They must work to help their parents . 

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Copyright© 2005
©2005 Juan Lazo


The relationship between Hispanic and Native cultures has shaped the face of Peru. During pre-Columbian times, Peru was one of the major centers of artistic expression in America, where pre-Inca cultures, such as Chavin, Paracas, Wari, Nazca, Chimu, and Tiahuanaco developed high-quality pottery, textiles, jewelry, and sculpture. Drawing upon earlier cultures, the Incas continued to maintain these crafts but made even more impressive achievements in architecture. The mountain town of Machu Picchu and the buildings at Cuzco, as noted earlier, are excellent examples of Inca architectural design.

Peru has passed through various intellectual stages--from colonial Hispanic culture to European Romanticism after independence. The early 20th century brought "indigenismo," expressed in a new awareness of Indian culture. Since World War II, Peruvian writers, artists, and intellectuals have participated in worldwide intellectual and artistic movements, drawing especially on U.S. and European trends. 
During the colonial period, Spanish baroque fused with the rich Inca tradition to produce mestizo baroque art. The Cuzco school of painting of largely anonymous native artists followed the Spanish baroque tradition with influence from the Italian, Flemish, and Spanish schools. The most important painter of this school was a native man called Diego Quispe Tito.

In later years, Painter Francisco Fierro made a distinctive contribution to Peruvian painting with his portrayals of typical events, manners, and customs of mid-19th-century Peru. Francisco Lazo, forerunner in contemporary times of the indigenous school of painters, also achieved fame for his portraits. Peru's 20th-century art is known for its extraordinary variety of styles and stunning originality.

In the decade after 1932, the "indigenous school" of painting headed by Jose Sabogal dominated the cultural scene in Peru. A subsequent reaction among Peruvian artists led to the beginning of modern Peruvian painting. Sabogal's resignation as director of the National School of Arts in 1943 coincided with the return of several Peruvian painters from Europe who revitalized "universal" and international styles of painting in Peru. During the 1960s, Fernando de Szyszlo, an internationally recognized Peruvian artist, became the main advocate for abstract painting and pushed Peruvian art toward modernism. Peru remains an art-producing center with painters such as Gerardo Chavez, Alberto Quintanilla, and Jose Carlos Ramos, along with sculptor Victor Delfin, gaining international stature. Promising young artists continue to develop now that Peru's economy allows more promotion of the arts.

Brief History
When the Spanish landed in 1532, Peru's territory was the nucleus of the highly developed Inca civilization. Centered at Cuzco, the Inca Empire extended over a vast region from northern Ecuador to central Chile. In search of Inca wealth, the Spanish explorer Francisco Pizarro, who arrived in the territory while the Incas were fighting a debilitating civil war, conquered the weakened people. Diseases such as measles and smallpox , introduced by the Spanish conquistadores decimated the native population . The Spanish had captured the Incan capital at Cuzco by 1533 and consolidated their control by 1542. Gold and silver from the Andes enriched the conquerors, and Peru became the principal source of Spanish wealth and power in South America.

Pizarro founded Lima in 1535. The viceroyalty established at Lima in about 1542 initially had jurisdiction over all of South America except Portuguese Brazil. By the time of the wars of independence (1820-24), Lima had become the most distinguished and aristocratic colonial capital and the chief Spanish stronghold in America. 
Peru's independence movement was led by Jose de San Martin of Argentina and Simon Bolivar of Venezuela. San Martin proclaimed Peruvian independence from Spain on July 28, 1821. Emancipation was completed in December 1824, when Gen. Antonio Jose de Sucre defeated the Spanish troops at Ayacucho, ending Spanish rule in South America.

After independence, Peru and its neighbors engaged in intermittent territorial disputes. Chile's victory over Peru and Bolivia in the War of the Pacific (1879-83) resulted in a territorial settlement.
Following a clash between Peru and Ecuador in 1941, the Rio Protocol--of which the United States is one of four guarantors--sought to establish the boundary between the two countries. Continuing boundary disagreement led to brief armed conflicts in early 1981 and early 1995, but in 1998 the governments of Peru and Ecuador signed a historic peace treaty and demarcated the border. In late 1999, the governments of Peru and Chile likewise finally implemented the last outstanding article of their 1929 border agreement.

During the 1990s, Peru was transformed by market-oriented economic reforms and privatizations, and met many conditions for long-term growth. From 1994 through 1997, the economy recorded robust growth driven by foreign direct investment. The economy stagnated from 1998 through 2001, the result of an "El Niño" weather phenomenon, global financial turmoil, and other factors. Growth strengthened to 3.1% in 2000. The collapse of the Fujimori government and ensuing political instability deterred investment, however, and GDP grew only .2% in 2001. Upon taking office, President Alejandro Toledo , maintained largely orthodox economic policies, and took measures to attract investment.

The government brought the deficit down to 2.5% of GDP in 2001, and 2.2% of GDP for 2002. Peru’s economy recovered dynamically in 2002, which saw GDP growth of 5.2%. This growth has continued into 2003, with GDP likely to expand 4.0% for the year. GDP currently is $61 billion, in a country of 27.1 million. Banking, retail services, agriculture, mining and manufacturing are key sectors. Inflation is under 2%, with a stable currency and 9.1% unemployment. The fiscal deficit is in control, and likely to meet the IMF target of 1.9% of GDP. Foreign reserves grew over $1 billion in 2002, and are near $9.8 billion. External debt equals 48.5% of GDP.

The president is popularly elected for a 5-year term, and the 1993 Constitution permits one consecutive re-election. The first and second vice presidents also are popularly elected but have no constitutional functions unless the president is unable to discharge his duties. The principal executive body is the Council of Ministers, headed by a prime minister, all appointed by the president. All presidential decree laws or draft bills sent to Congress must be approved by the Council of Ministers.

The legislative branch consists of a unicameral Congress of 120 members. In addition to passing laws, Congress ratifies treaties, authorizes government loans, and approves the government budget. The president has the power to block legislation with which the executive branch does not agree.

The judicial branch of government is headed by a 16-member Supreme Court seated in Lima. The Constitutional Tribunal interprets the constitution on matters of individual rights. Superior courts in departmental capitals review appeals from decisions by lower courts. Courts of first instance are located in provincial capitals and are divided into civil, penal, and special chambers. The judiciary has created several temporary specialized courts, in an attempt to reduce the large backlog of cases pending final court action. In 1996 a Human Rights Ombudsman's office was created to address human rights issues. Peru is divided into 25 regions. The regions are subdivided into provinces, which are composed of districts. High authorities in the regional and local levels are elected. 

U.S. Embassy in Peru
The U.S. embassy in Peru is located at Avenida Encalada, Cuadra 17 s/n, Monterrico (Surco), Lima 33 (tel. (511) 434-3000; fax. (511) 434-3037.

Home page: 

The embassy is open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday-Friday, except U.S. and some Peruvian holidays. The mailing address from the United States is American Embassy Lima, APO AA 34031 (use U.S. domestic postage rates). The American Citizen Services section is open to the public from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m