Meeting of Two Worlds
Inca and European cultures clashed when the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the 16th century. In 1532, Francisco Pizarro's troops captured the Inca King Atahualpa in Cajamarca, an event that marked the decline of the Inca Empire.
In 1542, the Vice-Royalty of Peru was formed, a dependency of the Spanish crown. The Vice-Royalty's territory included a large part of South America and existed for almost 200 years under various forms of authoritative control. The Vice-Royalty was consolidated in the 16th century by Viceroy Francisco de Toledo, who established the basis of the colonial economy: mita, a system of controlling the indigenous work force for mining and handicraft production. Extracting this mineral wealth had a negative impact on the colonised Peruvian Indians, who saw their rights restricted and their culture repressed. The reforms of the 18th century generated much discontent among many social sectors and successive rebellions flared up. The most serious indigenous uprising was led by Túpac Amaru II, who sparked the criollo movements that would eventually lead the push for independence throughout Spanish America in the 19th century.
Birth of the Peruvian State
In 1821, Peru was declared an independent country by José de San Martín, and in 1824 Simón Bolívar culminated the freedom process with the wars of independence. As a nascent republic, during its early years Peru had to face economic crises and military governments that made it difficult to consolidate a new national spirit between the indigenous and mixed-race peoples.
In economic terms, there was a boom in guano, cotton and sugar production. Slavery was ended midway through the 19th century, although at the same time the first waves of Chinese immigrants arrived to work in agriculture, which was followed by Manuel Pardo's first civilian governments. At that time, the guano boom had come to an end and the national economy entered into crisis, as guano had been providing the country's main income.
In 1879, Peru was defeated in a war with Chile. Racked by bankruptcy, this saw a new era of military governments, followed by a return to civilian rule. A period began which is known as the "Aristocratic Republic" and was based on an economy dominated by the land-owning elite. At this time, rubber production in the jungle reached its peak and an even wider gap opened between the capitalist elite and the rest of the population, who mainly lived off the land.
During the 1970s, Peru was governed by a military dictatorship led by General Juan Velasco. The military administration nationalised oil and the media and reformed agricultural support, radically changing ownership of agricultural land.
Democratic governments returned in the 1980s, but the country sank into a severe economic crisis with extremely high levels of hyper-inflation. At the same time, two terrorist movements emerged that brought violence to the country for twenty years.
In the 1990s, Alberto Fujimori, after a self-inflicted coup in 1992, enacted a series of laws that brought about the end of these terrorist groups. The country was reintegrated into the global economic system, from which it had expelled in the 1980s due to its decision to not pay back its foreign debt.
Since 2000, Peru has had consecutive, clearly democratic governments, led by Alejandro Toledo, Alan García and, currently, Ollanta Humala Tasso (2011-2016). The country is currently enjoying high economic growth, reaching levels of growth never seen before, and overcoming the crises of past decades.