Peru is an extremely biodiverse country with habitats ranging from the arid plains of the Pacific coastal
region in the west to the peaks of the Andes mountains vertically extending from the north to the southeast of
the country to the tropical Amazon Basin rainforest in the east with the Amazon river.
Peruvian territory was home to ancient cultures spanning from the Norte Chico civilization in Caral, one of the oldest in the world, to the Inca Empire, the largest state in Pre-Columbian America. The Spanish Empire conquered the region in the 16th century and established a Viceroyalty with its capital in Lima, which included most of its South American colonies. Ideas of political autonomy later spread throughout Spanish America and Peru gained its independence, which was formally proclaimed in 1821. After the battle of Ayacucho, three years after proclamation, Peru ensured its independence. After achieving independence, the country remained in recession and kept a low military profile until an economic rise based on the extraction of raw and maritime materials struck the country, which ended shortly before the war of the Pacific. Subsequently, the country has undergone changes in government from oligarchic to democratic systems. Peru has gone through periods of political unrest and internal conflict as well as periods of stability and economic upswing.
Peru is a representative democratic republic divided into 25 regions. It is a developing country with a high Human Development Index score and a poverty level around 25.8 percent. Its main economic activities include mining, manufacturing, agriculture and fishing.
The Peruvian population, estimated at 30.4 million, is multiethnic, including Amerindians, Europeans, Africans and Asians. The main spoken language is Spanish, although a significant number of Peruvians speak Quechua or other native languages. This mixture of cultural traditions has resulted in a wide diversity of expressions in fields such as art, cuisine, literature, and music.
Peru covers 1,285,216 km2 (496,225 sq mi) of western South America. It borders Ecuador and Colombia to the north, Brazil to the east, Bolivia to the southeast, Chile to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. The Andes mountains run parallel to the Pacific Ocean; they define the three regions traditionally used to describe the country geographically. The costa (coast), to the west, is a narrow plain, largely arid except for valleys created by seasonal rivers. The sierra (highlands) is the region of the Andes; it includes the Altiplano plateau as well as the highest peak of the country, the 6,768 m (22,205 ft) Huascarán. The third region is the selva (jungle), a wide expanse of flat terrain covered by the Amazon rainforest that extends east. Almost 60 percent of the country’s area is located within this region.
Most Peruvian rivers originate in the peaks of the Andes and drain into one of three basins. Those that drain toward the Pacific Ocean are steep and short, flowing only intermittently. Tributaries of the Amazon River are longer, have a much larger flow, and are less steep once they exit the sierra. Rivers that drain into Lake Titicaca are generally short and have a large flow. Peru’s longest rivers are the Ucayali, the Marañón, the Putumayo, the Yavarí, the Huallaga, the Urubamba, the Mantaro, and the Amazon.
The combination of tropical latitude, mountain ranges, topography variations, and two ocean currents (Humboldt and El Niño) gives Peru a large diversity of climates. The coastal region has moderate temperatures, low precipitations, and high humidity, except for its warmer, wetter northern reaches. In the mountain region, rain is frequent during summer, and temperature and humidity diminish with altitude up to the frozen peaks of the Andes. The Peruvian Amazon is characterized by heavy rainfall and high temperatures, except for its southernmost part, which has cold winters and seasonal rainfall. Because of its varied geography and climate, Peru has a high biodiversity with 21,462 species of plants and animals reported as of 2003, 5,855 of them endemic.
Peruvian culture is primarily rooted in Amerindian and Spanish traditions, though it has also been influenced by various Asian, African, and other European ethnic groups. Peruvian artistic traditions date back to the elaborate pottery, textiles, jewelry, and sculpture of Pre-Inca cultures. The Incas maintained these crafts and made architectural achievements including the construction of Machu Picchu. Baroque dominated colonial art, though modified by native traditions.
During this period, most art focused on religious subjects; the numerous churches of the era and the paintings of the Cuzco School are representative. Arts stagnated after independence until the emergence of Indigenismo in the early 20th century. Since the 1950s, Peruvian art has been eclectic and shaped by both foreign and local art currents.
Peruvian literature is rooted in the oral traditions of pre-Columbian civilizations. Spaniards introduced writing in the 16th century; colonial literary expression included chronicles and religious literature. After independence, Costumbrism and Romanticism became the most common literary genres, as exemplified in the works of Ricardo Palma. The early 20th century’s Indigenismo movement was led by such writers as Ciro Alegría and José María Arguedas. César Vallejo wrote modernist and often politically engaged verse. Modern Peruvian literature is recognized thanks to authors such as Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, a leading member of the Latin American Boom.
Peruvian music has Andean, Spanish, and African roots. In pre-Hispanic times, musical expressions varied widely in each region; the quena and the tinya were two common instruments. Spaniards introduced new instruments, such as the guitar and the harp, which led to the development of crossbred instruments like the charango. African contributions to Peruvian music include its rhythms and the cajón, a percussion instrument. Peruvian folk dances include marinera, tondero, zamacueca, diablada and huayno.
Climate of Peru
The climate of Peru is very diverse, with a large variety of climates and microclimates, including 30 of the 32 world climates. Such a diversity is chiefly conditioned by the presence of the Andes mountains and the cold Humboldt Current
The climate on the coast is subtropical with very little rainfall. The Andes mountains observe a cool-to-cold climate with rainy summers and very dry winter. The eastern lowlands present an Equatorial climate with hot weather and rain distributed all year long.
The climate of the coast ranges from warm-semiarid (north of 10°S, and thus very close to the equator) to a climate which is a bit like the Mediterranean (Köppen Csb) climate with an important difference — the winter, although cloudy, cool and very humid, does not have sufficient rainfall to be considered a Köppen C climate.
The high coastal climate is chiefly determined by the influence of the cold Humboldt Current, which runs parallel to the Peruvian coast, blocking the possibility of precipitation coming from the Ocean. Should this current be warm instead, the presence of the Andes would suffice for high amounts of orographic precipitation, such as registered in the top north and south part of the South American coastal Andes.
The Peruvian Andes (clima de Sierra in spanish) exhibits the largest diversity among the country. Temperature is proportional to altitude, varying from temperate (annual average of 18 °C or 64 °F) in the low-lying valleys to frigid (annual average below 0 °C or 32 °F) in the highest elevations. The maximum
temperature is often steady throughout the year, the low varying due to the presence of clouds in the rainy season, which help keeping to some extent the daytime heat during the night. In the absence of clouds, nights are much colder.
Precipitation varies in different scales and has a marked seasonality. The rainy season starts in September but peaks between January and March, whereas the May–August part of the year is characterized by strong insolation, very dry conditions and cold nights and mornings, which is almost the exact reverse, in terms of insolation, to the coast climate. There is a marked southwest-northeast rainfall gradient with the driest conditions (200–500 mm or 7.9–19.7 in per year) along the southwestern Andes, and the wettest conditions along the eastern slopes (>1,000 mm or 39.4 in per year). Upon the interaction between the topography and the mean flow, some regions immediately east of the Andes can receive as much as 10,000 mm (393.7 in) per year. Rainfall is also larger over mountain ranges than over valley floors, since most of the rainfall occurs in the form of afternoon convective storms. Lakes also modulate the distribution and rainfall amounts. Lake Titicaca, for example, induces nocturnal convective storms that produce twice as much rainfall over the lake than over the surrounding terrain. Occasionally thunderstorms can be accompanied by frequent cloud to ground lightning, strong winds and damaging hail, especially during the onset of the rainy season and over higher elevations. Snowfall is frequent above 5,000 m (16,404 ft) during the rainy season, and occasional above 3,800 m (12,467 ft) between May and August.
The eastern lowlands are characterized by the Equatorial climate which feeds the Amazon Rainforest. The climate of this region is hot and rainy most of the year. Temperatures oscillate between 18–36 °C (64.4–96.8 °F) most of the year and rainfall varies between 1,000 and 4,000 mm (39.4 and 157.5 in) per year. South of 8°S, a short dry season occurs between June and August. Occasional cold surges that originate over Argentina may lower the temperature to 10–15 °C (50–59 °F). These events occur 1–5 times per year between May and September.