Cave art at Toquepala suggests the first settlers in Peru arrived from Central America about 20,000 years ago. As agriculture developed, the first settlements and cultures began to appear. The first civilization in Peru is believed to be the Caral, considered to be the most ancient in the Americas, dating back some 5,000 years.
After Caral, Andean culture expanded into the different areas of Peru, and produced civilizations that have left a wealth of archaeological and intangible heritage. Each pre-Inca culture had its own level of development, but with common aspects in terms of agriculture, food, clothing, social organization and even art.
The empire reached high levels of political organization and had a regulated system for wealth distribution, as well as excellent architectural and agricultural development. They implemented stone-based construction techniques in their large citadels, in harmony with the landscapes that surrounded them. Examples of this are Machu Picchu, Choquequirao and Sacsayhuamán.
Inca society had no written language, so there are no exact records nor dates of its people, events or experiences. We know what wk now about the Incas through their archaeology, drawings and art.
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 Viceroyalty of Peru was formed, a dependency of the Spanish crown. The Viceroyalty’s territory included a large part of South America and existed for almost 200 years under the diverse forms of authoritative control. By the 18th century there was much discontent, and successive rebellions flared up. They would eventually lead the push for independence throughout Latin America.
In 1821, Peru was declared an independent country by José de San Martín. As a nascent republic, Peru faced economic crises and military governments. The Peruvian economy was based on guano, cotton and sugar production. Slavery was ended midway through the 19th century. 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.
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” based on an economy dominated by the land-owning elite.
During the 1970s, Peru was governed by a military dictatorship led by General Juan Velasco. The military administration nationalized oil and the media and reformed agrarian bases, radically changing ownership of agricultural lands.
Democratic governments returned in the 1980s, but the country sank into a severe economic crisis with extremely high levels of hyperinflation.
In the 1990s, Alberto Fujimori dictated a series of laws that led the country to be reincorporated into the global economic system. As of 2000, Peru has had consecutive democratic governments, led by Alejandro Toledo, Alan García and currently Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. The country is currently enjoying high economic growth, reaching levels of growth never seen before, and overcoming the crisis of past decades.
Sign up to receive exclusive discounts, deals, the latest Peruvian travel trends and moreSubscribe