Beyond the carved stone walls of Machu Picchu, the amazing clay temples of the Moche culture on the north coast and the sacred pyramids of Caral, Peru has a long civilizational development that began in the cold high Andean punes, makes more of ten millennia.
The men who built the lost city of the Incas; the same ones who designed the most intricate ways and traced the most formidable works of hydraulic and agricultural engineering, started from cold caves at more than four thousand meters in height. These hunters and gatherers were the first to populate our territory and have left innumerable traces of their way of life in places such as Pikimachay (Ayacucho), Lauricocha (Huánuco) and Toquepala (Tacna), where researchers have succeeded in deciphering the birth of civilization Peruvian
These first settlers left their caves to descend to the western valleys of the Pacific about seven thousand years ago and from there they happened to the coastal hills and finally to the sea. Flame hunters and deer suddenly became fishermen and shellfish, and then tame the plants in the warm valleys that cross the desert. Men like Nanchoc show this dramatic moment of the Peruvian man, in which they began to cultivate their first products like beans, corn, potatoes and cotton, thanks to which they ended their wandering life to create their first villages.
- Ancient civilizations
More than five thousand years ago appeared what today is considered as the oldest civilization of America: Caral, in the valley of the river Supe, north of the city of Lima. Contemporary Egypt and Mesopotamia, this coastal lordship completely changed the historical timeline of Peru for over a decade and consolidated our country as one of the most important cultural centers in the world, along with Mesoamerica, and the basins of the Nile, the Euphrates and the Indus.
Caral is the culmination of a first cultural process called the Initial Period, whose main characteristics are the absence of ceramics (Preceramic) and the construction of staged adobe temples, circular plazas and small villages around the centers of worship and administration . To this stage belong notable archaeological sites like Sechín, in the coast of Áncash, and the Temple of the Hands crossed of Kotosh, in Huánuco.
A thousand years later Chavín emerged, in the north-central Andes, in the department of Áncash. This new state spread its culture through much of the territory, as can be seen in the ‘chavinoide’ iconography of sites as far away as the south coast and the Altiplano. Its main religious center was located in the valley of the Waqueqsa River, in the beautiful region of Conchucos, and constitutes one of the greatest archaeological finds of the Country. Even before the discovery of Caral Chavin was believed to be the first great Peruvian civilization. Towards 700 BC there appeared on the central coast another fascinating culture, the first great settlers of the desert: Paracas, whose inhabitants were skillful weavers – their great looms of intricate designs have circled the world – and stood out for the form of their burials and for having practiced successful operations of the skull, as evidenced by the evidence found by Julio C. Tello in the 1940s. During the first centuries of our era and after the hegemony of Chavín, several lordships appeared throughout the territory, among them the Mochica, who extended their dominion for almost the entire northern coast of Peru. With their center in the valley of Moche, in La Libertad, these men were characterized by their figurative ceramics, delicate goldwork and their efficient use of water resources that allowed them to greatly expand their agricultural frontier and support a large population. After this first regional development, appeared what denominates the first regional empire: Wari, towards the 550 d.C. As a continuation of the Tiahuanaco culture, forged in the Altiplano of Peru and Bolivia, the Wari dominated an extensive territory and configured what would later become the Tahuantinsuyo. It was they who began with the outline of the great pre-Hispanic roads and laid the foundations of social administration and territory that would later be inherited by the Incas of Cusco. With the disappearance of Wari, approximately in 1200 d.C. begins the Late Intermediate period, a second wave of regional developments, where several cultures like Ichma, holders of the powerful oracle of Pachacamac stand out; the Chincha, great merchants of the sea who later became ‘trading partners’ of the Incas; and above all the Chimu, great lords of the north, who took the place of the Mochica and the Lambayeque. Like them, the Chimú are characterized by their exquisite ceramics and complex irrigation systems. It was they who built the vast city of Chan Chan, the largest adobe building in the world. Este es también el tiempo de los Chachapoyas, los ‘hombres de las nubes’, dueños de los exuberantes bosques de neblina de Amazonas, donde levantaron las más alucinantes ciudades y mausoleos, que excavaron en los más filosos acantilados. Mientras estas culturas alcanzaron su apogeo, en el valle del río Vilcanota, en el Cusco, un señorío de origen quechua iba tomando forma, ganando tierras sobre la base de alianzas y sistemas de reciprocidad, además de las armas. Tras vencer a los Chancas de Apurímac y Ayacucho, los Incas –como los conoce la historia– forjaron el más grande imperio de América, uno que cubrió los territorios de seis actuales países y reunió bajo una misma bandera a gentes de los más disímiles ambientes gracias a un férreo control social y a un eficiente sistema de administración. Entre los siglos XII y XV, los Incas crearon lo que nadie antes había imaginado: un gran Estado comunicado por una eficiente red de caminos –el Qhapac Ñan– que sintetizó milenios de sabiduría. Lejos de acabar con las culturas conquistadas, los Incas asimilaron las formas de vida de sus súbditos y usaron lo mejor de cada pueblo para construir su asombrosa cultura.
- The arrival of the Spaniards
The Inca culture was confronted with the Spanish with the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the sixteenth century. In 1532, the troops of Francisco Pizarro captured the Inca Atahualpa in Cajamarca and that fact marked the decline of the Inca Empire. In 1542 the Viceroyalty of Peru was created that depended on the Spanish crown. The territory of the viceroyalty comprised much of South America and remained for almost 200 years under various forms of control by its authorities.
The viceroyalty was consolidated in the sixteenth century with the viceroy Francisco de Toledo, who established the bases of colonial economy: a system of control of indigenous labor (mita) for mining and artisanal production. The exploitation of mining wealth fell on the shoulders of colonized Peruvian Indians who saw their rights restricted and their culture oppressed.
With the reforms of the eighteenth century created a great disagreement between many social sectors and exploited successive rebellions. The most important indigenous uprising was led by Tupac Amaru II, with whom he began to generate the Creole movement that made Latin America independent in the 19th century.
- The independence
In 1821 Peru was declared an independent country by Don Jose de San Martin and in 1824 Simón Bolívar culminated the libertarian process with the wars of independence. As a republic in formation, during its first years Peru had to face economic crises and military caudillismos that made difficult the consolidation of a new national spirit between Indians and mestizos.
In economic terms, there is the boom of guano, cotton and sugar. In the middle of the nineteenth century the slavery of blacks was ended. At the same time, the first migrations of Chinese who came to work in agriculture began. Subsequently, the civil governments arose with Manuel Pardo.
By then, the boom of guano, a product by which the country had had its main income, was over and the national economy entered a crisis situation. Towards 1879 the country faced a war with Chile in which it was defeated. In the midst of bankruptcy, a new heyday of military governments came and civilians returned. Thus began a period called the “Aristocratic Republic” which was based on an economy dominated by the landed elite.
- The heyday of rubber exploitation in the jungle began and the gap widened between an elite, basically capitalist, with the rest of the population in the interior of the country, who lived mainly from agriculture. During the 1970s, Peru was governed by a military dictatorship led by General Juan Velasco. The military administration nationalized the oil, the media and reformed the land bases, with which the ownership of agricultural land changed radically. Democratic governments returned with the 1980s, but the country was plunged into a severe economic crisis with great hyperinflation.
In parallel, the emergence of two terrorist movements that for twenty years violently shook the country became more important. In the 1990s, Alberto Fujimori, after a self-coup in 1992, established a series of laws that began the end of these terrorist groups. The country rejoined the world economic system, from which it had been withdrawn in the previous decade by its decision not to pay its external debt.
Since 2000, Peru has had clearly democratic governments in a consecutive way, with Alejandro Toledo, Alan García, Ollanta Humala Tasso and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. The country is in full economic development, with growth rates never reached and overcoming the crises of the past decades.