The origins of civilization in Peru can be traced back 20,000 years before the Incas, making the country one of the cradles of ancient cultures along with Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, and China. Today, Peru stands as the result of a collision between the Western and the Andean world, a process that began with the arrival of the Spanish in 1532. After independence, Peru set about forging its own identity, a complex process that continues even today.
Let´s learn some details about Peru History:
The Andes are thought to have been inhabited as early as 20,000 years ago, corresponding to the Paleolithic period in Europe. The first peoples were mainly hunters and gatherers. Civilization took its first big step forward with the domestication of crops such as potatoes and maize and animals such as llamas, alpacas, and guinea pig, more than 6,000 years ago. Beans, chilies, and cotton were introduced a few thousand years later. Fishing became an important source of food. They used nets, bone books, and sometimes reed rafts like the ones in Huanchaco.
The Incas, the most famous civilization in Pre-Columbian Peru, were actually here for anly a few hundred years. It was the people before the Incas that truly shaped the land. The first trace of civilization, thought to be more than 5,000 years old, appears in the city of Caral, north of Lima. This city has only recently been discovered and is shedding new light on what life during this period may have been like.
About a thousand years before Christ came the Chavins. Their center was near Huaraz, not far from the present-day town of Chavin, although their influence spread throughout the north and along the southern coast. They were the first great civilization to arise. They developed advanced artistic skills and complex religious beliefs. The Chavins brought great advances in agriculture and architecture as well.
The Chavins faded around 300 BC and several other cultures arose. In the South the Paracas, who were skilled weavers, and later the Nazca, known for their mysterious lines that cover the desert, came into power. Along the north coast, the Moche civilization flourished from the third to the eighth centuries. They are responsible for the royal tombs at Sipan, among the most important discoveries in the Americas, and were famous for their realistic ceramics with coomorphic features. They also created temples in the shape of curtailed pyramids such as the Huacas del Sol y la Luna. A serious drought led to a shift in land fertility away from the coast, and the Moche did not survive that.
In the Andes, the Wari, or Huari, emerged around 600 AD. Their rule covered much of the Andes and parts of the coast. They were fierce military conquerors and imposed their own artistic and religious values on the people they conquered. The resulting resentment eventually led to their demise.
The Chimu thrived on the coast from the 12th to 15th centuries as the Wari culture moved back into the mountains. They were architectural geniuses, building the colossal adobe city of Chan Chan. They were also skilled gold and silver jewelers, advanced farmers, and built huge aqueducts that are still used. The Incas conquered the Chimu in the 15th century.
The empire, which lasted from the 11th century to the Spanish Conquest in the early 16th century, was one of the greatest planned societies the world has ever known, and the beauty and enchantment of Cuzco reflect that. There is so much Peru history here that it can be difficult to keep straight, particularly when much of it involves myth and legends. The civilization began when the creator and sun god Viracocha´s offspring Manco Cápac (the first ruling Inca) and Mama Occlo, arose from the Sun Island in Lake Titicaca near Copacabana, Bolivia. They were sent with a golden rod to find the Q´osqo or navel of the world and begin the civilization. He was comanded to find a place where he could push the rod into the ground until it disappeared, and when he found it (Cuzco), that was to become the center of the universe.
The social and political structure was as follows. The Inca himself was surrounded by a religious and secular elite that consisted of a variety of individuals such as defeated chieftains of other cultures and tribes. They were able to make the family, and not the individual, the central unit. Government 100, 500, 1, 000, 10,000, and 40,000 people, with each having its own leader. Each was allottes work for their own group and work that had to be done for the government. Each suyo (or region) of the empire (north, south, east, and west) also had its own ruler or counselor.
Inca history divides into two stages: the Legendary and Historical Periods. The Inca´s oral historyy lists 13 emperors (Incas) with the first six from Manco Capac to Viracocha being mythical. Events from Pachacutec to Atahualpa´s reign are more precisely recorded.
Manco Cápac, the first Inca, is said to have emerged from Lake Tticaca or a cave at Pacariqtambo and led his ayllu (clan) to found the city of Cusco. He married one of his sisters, Mama Ocllo, to establish the royal Inca bloodline. Pachacútec Inca Yupanqui (1438 - 71), the ninth Inca who many consider to be the first true Inca. He was also their greatest ruler. He transformed Cusco into an empire, implementing a comprehensive code of laws to reign over his far-flung domain.
Atahualpa (1502 - 33), the 13th and last emperor, was the illegitimate son of Huayna Cápac. When the old emperor died, the kingdom was divided between Atahuallpa, who ruled from Quito, and Huascar, the legitimate beir, who ruled from Cusco. Atahualpa defeated his half-brother in a ruinous civil war over control of the kingdom.
The Spanish first made contact with the Incas during the second voyage of Francisco Pizarro, which reached Tumbes in 1528. After learning of a great empire that flourished there, he went back to Spain to organize a party and funding to conquer it.
A few years later, in May of 1532, Pizarro and his men landed in Ecuador, not, far from Tumbes., with 179 men, most on horseback. After some small skirmishes with the natives there, they founded the city of Piura in September. They soon learned of the civil war and that the Incan ruler was stationed not far away in Cajamarca. The moved quickly to arrange a meeting. This small group of conquistadors would drastically change the course of Peru history.
After a few years, however, Manco rebelled. An army as large as 100,000 men laid siege to Cuzco, but, in the desperate battle of Sacsayhuaman, the greatly outnumbered Spanish defeated them. Manco retreated to Ollantaytambo, where he was defeated again. He then retreated to ilcabamba and set up a new Inca state. Manco Inca, after several years in hiding, would be caught and executed, but Vilcabamba would remain. Titu Cusi , who would be crowned Inca, left the stronghold at Vilcabamba in 1567 and was baptized, hoping to have a greater role in the lives of Cuzqueños. After he had died, Quispe Titu would be his sucessor. However, back in Vilcabamba, Tupac Amaru rose to become head of the rebel faction. Another rebellion would begin, but Tupac Amaru would be captures and executed just a year later.
More puppet Incas would be installed and Vilcabamba would also survive. Strife among the Incan royalties, the new mixed-blood Incas, and the loyalists in Vilcabamba would divide the great civilization to its end. Tupac Amaru II did manage to lead a strong rebellion attempt in 1780 - 1781, but it was abruptly defeated.
With the abdication of Spain´s King Charles IV in the early 1800s, thoughts of independence spread throughout South America. In 1821, José de San Martín, who liberated Argentina and Chile, defeated the royalist forces in Peru and proclaimed its independence on July 28, 1821. San Martín then met Venezuelan general Simón Bolivar, liberator of Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador, and ceded control. Peru finally gained complete independence from Spain in 1824 after crucial battles in Junin and Ayacucho.
Cross border bickering put an end to Bolivar´s vision of a union of states, though Peru and Bolivia did form 1836 - 39. In the 40 years after independence, the presidency changed hands 35 times and 15 different constitutions were produced. Only four presidents were constitutionally chosen during the time. Despite the political mayhem, there was money to be made. Humble dried seabird droppings (guano) became big business. It was the main export to America and Europe and even sparked the Peruvian - Spanish War in 1866 when Spain occupies the guano - rich Chincha Islands. Peru, was again at war in 1879, but this time with Chile, a conflict that saw parts of the country occupied and some territory lost.
After the War of the Pacific, Peru oscillated between democracy and military dictatorship. In 1920, Augusto Leguía, who had assumed the presidency in a coup in 1919, introduced a new constitution which gave the state wide - ranging power and also allowed him to run unopposed for re-election. His crackdown on worker militancy coupled with the Russian and Mexican Revolutions spawned dissent, prompting exiled political leader Victor Raúl Haya de la Torre in 1924 to form the Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana (APRA), a worker´s party which today still exerts tremendous influence on politics.
General Juan Velasco Alvarado, seized power in 1968 and immediately suspended the constitution, nationalized mines, banks, factories, oil companies, and the media, and pushed for a more independent foreign policy. Intending to impose a controlled revolution,he confiscated large privately - owned land holdings (haciendas), transferring them to worker co-ops as part of a wideranging Reforma Agraria. He also proclaimed Quechua as the official second language. This restructuring, however, wreaked havoc on the economy and led to his outsing in 1975. In 1980, the first fully democratic election in Peru brought Fernando Belaunde Tery to power or a second time. Intent on privatizing industry term was severely hampered by high inflation, rising drug trafficking, and the threat of guerrilla movements.
Accumulated inflation and corruption too plagued Alan Garcia´s presidency (1985 - 1990) . Accused of embezzlement, Garcia fled Peru in 1992 exiling himself to Colombia and then France
In 2001, Alejandro Toledo defeated Alan Garcia to become the first elected Peruvian president of Indian descent. Taking over a country mired in political scandal, the former shoeshine boy turned World Bank economic growth (6.5 percent) and an export boom. Toledo´s five-year term, however, was dogged by scandals and accusations of document falsification, nepotism, and misapropriation of funds.
Ex-president Alan Garcia returned to power in 2006, with voters reluctantly electing the previously reviled leader over nationalist rival Ollanta Humala. Although poverty remains high, Peru has enjoyed relative economic stability and political calmness since 2000. Yet the divide between rich and poor remains and the country still seems a long way away from social integration.