The Peruvian Andes provide us with exceptional flora and fauna that are increasingly present in various industries in our country. One of the most outstanding is the Peruvian alpaca, an animal whose fine hair is turned into a high value fiber; valued in the planet’s most exclusive fashion markets.
Ever since ancient times the inhabitants of pre-Columbian cultures recognized the benefits of this fiber, dressing their highest-ranking figures with it, and not only distinguishing them with gold and feathers. Today, too, alpaca is synonymous with luxury and elegance; receiving the recognition it deserves in the fine hairs segment worldwide.
Alpaca are classified as South American camelids and are native to the Andes. They live at altitudes of between 3,500 and over 4,500 meters above sea level, regions where they withstand temperatures ranging from -20ºC 30ºC.
They grow to between 1.20 and 1.50 meters tall and reach a maximum of about 79 kg. They have a smaller and more curved figure than the llama. There are two types of alpaca:
- Huacaya (Lama Pacos): Represents 90% of the population of alpaca in Peru. Its fiber is short and curly, and has a great variety of natural tones.
- Suri (Suri): Its fiber is very long, bright and silky. They are white, beige and light brown.
There are between 3.5 and 4 million alpaca in South America and Peru has 95% of these. 80% of world alpaca production is in Peru and it competes with fine fibers like cashmere and mohair.
The climate and natural conditions of Peru have allowed a particular type of cotton to be cultivated ever since pre-Hispanic times, representing a great power today in the world textile industry. Its long, soft fibers allow for yarns and fabrics that are very strong and uniform, resulting in garments of the highest quality that the world recognizes, admires and desires.
Gossypium barbadense is the scientific name that represents two of its most famous varieties: Pima cotton and Tangüis. These plants, which need a lot of sun, high humidity and rain, are originally from the north coast of Peru, where this land exists.
The very elaborate fabrics found in the Paracas and Nazca cultures are testimony to the presence of cotton in the coastal areas of our country since before 3000 years BC. According to history Christopher Columbus got to know about this plant in South America, taking it to the West Indies where it acclimated and was grown, Barbados being the first British colony that exported this fiber. Then, in 1670, part of its cultivation was transferred to the English colonies of North America. This is where cotton acquired the name of Pima, in honor of the Pima Indians who helped to plant it and produce it in Arizona.
Peruvian cotton is highly resistant, up to 50% more so than most standard cotton varieties. It has the properties of durability, flexibility and delicacy. The type of seed found in Peru, the quality of the soil and climatic conditions allow the existence of this very fine cotton with the longest fiber in the world, which results in an incomparable softness, good drape, brightness and freshness.
Pima Cotton is perfect for sensitive skins due to its hypoallergenic properties. Its fiber length ranges from 39.10 to 41.27 millimeters, compared to other fibers that average between 20 and 32 mm. Purity starts as soon as it is collected, which is done by hand. Furthermore, Tangüis cotton, developed by the Puerto Rican engineer Fermín Tangüis, and grown between the central and southern areas of Peru, also strengthens the industry since its essential characteristics allow it to blend perfectly with wool or other synthetic fibers.
In world trade, coffee represents the second most widely sold export after petroleum. In Peru, coffee is one of the two most important agricultural exports – along with asparagus – and represents half of the national agricultural exports. In the international market, Peruvian coffee has positioned itself favorably.
Coffee was introduced to Central America by French immigrants at the beginning of the 18th century. The Dutch subsequently extended its cultivation to South America. This allowed the agricultural frontier to expand to several American countries and was a determining factor for population growth on land that had little value.
Towards the end of the 19th century, coffee production in Peru was devoted to local consumption. The production area was situated in the high tropical jungle, in areas corresponding to Moyobamba, Jaén, Huánuco and Cusco. From 1850, the fertile valley of Chanchamayo acquired a constant coffee-growing pace. The increase in prices in 1887 made Peru a coffee exporter for the first time, its main markets being Chile, England and Germany.
After some ups and downs in the early part of the 20th century, Chanchamayo consolidated itself as a coffee-growing area in 1930. Companies formed by British capital tried to produce high quality coffee as a guaranteed way of selling at high prices. During the period from 1950 to 1960 coffee bean cultivation became firmly established, achieving international prestige. The agrarian reform of 1968 temporarily halted its boom and became a determining factor in the appearance of small coffee farmers, who currently make up the bulk of coffee producers in our country.
Coffee is grown from 600 to 1800 meters above sea level in almost all the geographic regions of Peru. However, 75% of coffee plantations are over 1000 meters above sea level. The types of coffee that are grown in our country are Typica (70%), Caturra (20%) and others (10%). They all belong to the Arabica coffee variety. The diverse combination of climates, soils, precipitation and sunlight represent a favorable scenario for its cultivation.
d. Peruvian Paso Horses
The Peruvian Paso Horse is one of the most outstanding horse breeds due to its ambling gait and its proportions. This breed, typical of the regions of northern Peru, is protected by Decree Law 25919, promulgated on November 28, 1992.
In order to determine its history it is necessary to go back to what is believed to have been its predecessor, the Spanish horse from Andalusia, introduced to Peru during the time of the Conquest and the first stage of the Colony. At first this breed was an indefatigable worker in the country, used as a work tool in agriculture and ranching. It served as a means of transport for riders on the haciendas of the northern coast of Peru. The subsequent stabilization of the breed took about four centuries, as a result of cross-breeding, selection and improvement.
Its morphology is characterized by being compact and muscular, wide and deep; elongated and strong limbs, a flat head and robust neck. Its height varies between 1.44 and 1.54 meters. The thing that makes this breed different from other types of horses is the type of gait it employs to move. This is undoubtedly the most fascinating aspect. Although there are no genetic arguments explaining the origin of this trait, we can say that this type of gait constitutes an inherent characteristic of the breed.
Most horses move diagonally. In the case of the Paso horse it has a lateral gait. Nevertheless, there are different rhythms and speeds that give rise to different types or gaits, such as the catlike gait, the ambling gait, the staccato gait or the pounding gait. In these gaits the horse has a single and exceptional horizontal balance, which makes it pleasant to ride. Its smooth gait is undoubtedly one of the fundamental and best appreciated virtues of this breed.
The National Association of Peruvian Paso Breeders and Owners (ANCPCPP) is officially recognized nationally and internationally, responsible for the breeding, selection, evaluation, conservation and diffusion of our Paso horse. There are also departmental and even foreign associations, supported by the ANCPCPP that collaborate in the promotion of this flagship product.
e. Gastronomy and pisco
The geographical size and the different climates of the Peruvian ecological layers have provided an enormous gastronomic wealth in the development of ancient towns. Peruvian cuisine is captivating; using novel, native and natural products that the knowledge of successive waves of immigrants from four continents have made maximum use of. Peruvian gastronomy is currently a melting pot that integrates traditions and uses the best haute cuisine techniques worldwide.
Peru is a destination that is best discovered through the senses of smell and taste. It is a paradise of ingredients, added to the excellence of a creative and innovative cuisine, based on unique and original products, and which today triumphs throughout the world.
Succulent traditional Peruvian dishes contain the history and culture of the country:
- Aguadito de mariscos: a combination of fish and seafood accompanied by a green sauce.
- Peruvian chicken and rice: rice cooked “graneado” style with cilantro, vegetables and chicken or duck previously marinated with chicha de hora (fermented corn drink).
- Ceviche: a delicious combination of fish and seafood marinated in salt, lemon juice and limo chili pepper.
- Lomo saltado: pieces of meat sautéed with onion, tomato and soy sauce.
- Jalea mixta: all kinds of breaded seafood and fish.
- Papa a la huancaína: potato with cheese sauce and yellow chili pepper.
- Stuffed rocoto peppers: spicy rocotos are baked stuffed with a mixture of meat and dried raisins, covered by a slice of cheese.
- Tacu Tacu: a magnificent amalgam of beans and rice, whose flavor is normally combined with a juicy steak.
This fascinating gastronomy has the good fortune of having an exceptional drink: the traditional pisco. This is the "flagship beverage" of Peru and an essential ingredient in Peruvian cuisine. It is an elixir derived from distilled grapes and has various presentations: pure pisco (when it is made from a specific type of the different pisco varieties that are divided into aromatic or non-aromatic categories), acholado (a blend of two or more grape varieties) and green must. It is only produced in the departments of Lima, Ica, Arequipa, Moquegua and Tacna.
This drink, with a denomination of origin, can be enjoyed pure or in the classic Pisco Sour, the Peruvian national drink, which combines pisco with sugar syrup, lemon, ice, a frothy egg-white top and a few drops of Angostura bitters. It may in addition be used as the basis of an addictive invention of unequaled freshness: the typical Chilcano, which only admits pisco (preferably aromatic), ice and ginger ale.
One of the best narrators of the history of the iconic drink of Peru is José Moquillaza, ambassador of the Peru Brand and a character who has written the best lines about pisco.
“In 1614, Felipe III decreed the prohibition of shipping wine from Peru to Castile. What could be done with the perishable wine? The answer was to distill massive amounts and millions of liters were therefore transported in pans and stills. There was a port in Ica, to the south of Lima, which specialized in receiving and dispatching these spirits. Its name: The Port of Pisco. Over the years the 'spirits from Pisco' gained fame and value until they ended up forming a single word: "pisco", states Moquillaza resolutely. The origin is not disputed. And through the Peru Brand, history is defended and honored in various areas.