Peruvian territory was home to several cultures during the ancient and medieval periods, and has one of the longest histories of civilization of any country, tracing its heritage back to the 10th millennium BCE. Notable pre-colonial cultures and civilizations include the Caral-Supe civilization (the earliest civilization in the Americas and considered one of the cradles of civilization,) the Nazca culture, the Wari and Tiwanaku empires, the Kingdom of Cusco, and the Inca Empire, the largest known state in the pre-Columbian Americas.
The Spanish Empire conquered the region in the 16th century and established a viceroyalty that encompassed most of its South American territories, with its capital in Lima. Higher education started in the Americas with the official establishment of the National University of San Marcos in Lima in 1551. Peru formally proclaimed independence in 1821, and following the foreign military campaigns of José de San Martín and Simón Bolívar, and the decisive battle of Ayacucho, Peru completed its independence in 1824. In the ensuing years, the country first suffered from political instability until a period of relative economic and political stability began due to the exploitation of guano that ended with the War of the Pacific. In the 20th century, the country endured coups, social unrest, and internal conflicts, as well as periods of stability and economic upswing. In the 1990s, the country implemented a neoliberal economic model which is still in use to this day. As the 2000s commodities boom took place, Peru experienced a period of constant economic growth, while government finances, poverty reduction and progress in social sectors improved. The nation has more recently adopted the Lima Consensus, an economic ideology of neoliberalism, deregulation and free market policies that has made foreign portfolio investment in Peru attractive. Inflation in 2012 was the lowest in Latin America at 1.8%, with the most recent annual rate standing at 1.9% in 2020. Though statistical poverty has decreased significantly – from nearly 60% in 2004 to 20.5% in 2018.
The sovereign state of Peru is a representative democratic republic divided into 25 regions. Peru has a high level of human development with an upper middle income level ranking 82nd on the Human Development Index. It is one of the region's most prosperous economies with an average growth rate of 5.9% (in 2017) and it has one of the world's fastest industrial growth rates at an average of 9.6% (as of 2018). Its main economic activities include mining, manufacturing, agriculture and fishing, along with other growing sectors such as telecommunications and biotechnology. The country forms part of The Pacific Pumas, a political and economic grouping of countries along Latin America's Pacific coast that share common trends of positive growth, stable macroeconomic foundations, improved governance and an openness to global integration. Peru ranks high in social freedom; it is an active member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the Pacific Alliance, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and the World Trade Organization; and is considered as a middle power.Peru has a population that includes Mestizos, Amerindians, Europeans, Africans and Asians. The main spoken language is Spanish, although a significant number of Peruvians speak Quechuan languages, Aymara, or other Indigenous languages. This mixture of cultural traditions has resulted in a wide diversity of expressions in diverse fields, making the country a world-renowned gastronomical destiny, along with other topics such as art, literature, and music.
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