The great cultural legacy of ancient Peru is also expressed by the wide variety of native languages that co-exist in its territory. Spanish is the official language and is used in most of the country. Other languages have constitutional recognition, including Quechua, which is spoken in many Andean regions with their respective variants, and Aimara, predominant in the southern Andes.
Freedom of worship is a fundamental right in Peru, although Catholicism is the main religion, another legacy of the Spanish. Religious festivals have a strong Spanish influence, but they are also an example of how different beliefs and types worship from Peru's pre-Hispanic cultures co-exist.
The coming together of different creeds, customs and experiences have created close to 3,000 annual popular festivals in Peru, including patron saint festivals, processions, carnivals and rituals, encompassing the expression of faith in a god, respect for nature and the celebration of freedom. Peruvian festivals have a mystical side to them, and most demonstrate the fusion of Catholicism with the region's pre-Hispanic traditions. Repaying the earth is a part of the main celebrations in all regions, and is about rewarding and recognising the eternal generosity of Pachamama (Mother Earth).
Eating in Peru is about your palate, it is an expression of the multiple cultures that co-exist in one territory, and in recent years it has become part of the national identity and an incontrovertible, unifying element in Peru.
Peruvians have become experts in experimenting with new flavours, harmonising aromas and discovering new ways of cooking. For that reason, the diversity of its agricultural production, its microclimates, varied geography, multiple cultures and the brilliance of its chefs have enriched Peru's cuisine to the point where it is now recognised as one of the best cuisines in the world, on a par with Italian or French food.
Mistura is the main gastronomic fair in Peru. It brings together Peru's leading chefs and restaurants and is held once per year in Lima, which is considered to be the gastronomic capital of America. The fair has even begun to appear as a main event on international tourism itineraries in the region.
Ancient Peruvians were handicraft artisans par excellence, and their technical abilities developed to very high levels. Pre-Hispanic Peruvian art has been dated back to ancient times through the discovery of weavings, gourds, wood, stone, gold, silver, pottery and even mud, all of which were materials used in day-to-day life. This ancestral heritage is still seen today in the coastal, mountain and jungle towns, and in a variety of high-quality woven items. Silver filigrees, chiselled gourds, Ayacuchan altars, Huamanga stone and wood carvings, Chulucanas pottery and Monsefú ponchos, among other items, are highly valued around the world.
Music and Dance:
Since pre-Hispanic times, music and dance have played an important role in Peruvian society. Ancient Peruvians used sea shells, reeds and even animal bones to produce sounds. It is said that the Peruvians of the Nazca culture were the most important pre-Hispanic musicians on the continent. Panpipes or zampoñas, terracotta trumpets and pututos were some of the most important musical instruments in ancient Peru. The music explored religious, war and secular themes.
Another result of its many cultures, Peru today has a rich and varied folklore and a wide diversity of both musical styles and dances, which combine indigenous genres and spirit with Hispanic influences, as well as modern styles that have adapted to the changes and tastes of society's main social groups.