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History and Politics:

Peru has a long and fascinating history, with human habitation dating back to as early as the eighth millennium B.C., and several distinct Peruvian cultures emerging by 1500 B.C.


The Inca Empire was the most prominent pre-colonial civilization. What began as a small community in the Cusco Valley in the mid-1400s, had expanded into an empire stretching from Colombia down to Argentina within the century. However, when the Spanish arrived in the mid-1500s, a civil war between two Inca rulers had just ended, and the empire was not as strong as it had been. The Spanish easily conquered the northern areas and continued down to Cusco. Although the Inca civilization put up a strong fight, the Spanish eventually conquered their lands, forcing them to retreat. In addition to the fighting, the Spanish also brought with them a myriad of European diseases that decimated the Inca population. However, they left behind an incredible archaeological legacy.  


The Spanish colonial era continued for the next few hundred years, and Peru was the last country in South America to declare independence in 1821. The period that followed was relatively tumultuous and primarily characterized by authoritarian rule, military coups and radical reforms. Democratic leadership was finally achieved in 1980, but poverty and economic issues meant it did not last. However, since 2000 political leadership has been more stable, and in the last decade poverty and unemployment levels have fallen dramatically. The current president, Martin Vizcarra, was sworn into office in March 2018 after the resignation of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, and has promised to work towards eliminating corruption.


Landscape and Culture

Peru is a large country, in the top 20 in the world, with an incredible variety of landscapes. It sits in the western part of South America and shares its borders with Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile and the Pacific Ocean. Travelers can visit beautiful beaches on the northern Pacific coast, hike through snow-capped mountains, visit one of the deepest canyons in the world, and venture into the wonders of the Amazon rainforest.


These incredible landscapes are enhanced by the interesting cultures of Peru’s local people. The Quechua and Aymara people are the two main indigenous cultures of Peru. They speak their native languages and have preserved their cultures so that travelers who visit Peru will see how these locals live during their day to day lives. These indigenous cultures live alongside the Hispanic population and various, more recent immigrant groups, creating an eclectic mix of people throughout Peru.


Visitors to Peru will also be delighted with Peruvian cuisine, which is becoming world famous. The diverse mix of cultures has created a delicious and diverse cuisine including the fresh flavours of ceviche, cuy (guinea pig) in the Andes, tasty soups made from locally grown quinoa, potatoes and corn, and rich coffee and chocolate.





  • Total: 1,285,216 sq km
  • Land: 1,279,996 sq km
  • Water: 5,220 sq km
  • Area comparison: 20th largest area in the world, it is almost twice the size of Texas, and slightly smaller than Alaska
  • Border countries (5): Bolivia 1,212 km, Brazil 2,659 km, Chile 168 km, Colombia 1,494 km, Ecuador 1,529 km.
  • Coastline: 2,414 km


Natural resources:

Copper, silver, gold, petroleum, timber, fish, iron ore, coal, phosphate, potash, hydropower, natural gas.


Land use (2018):

  • Agricultural land: 19%
  • Arable land 3%; permanent crops 1%; permanent pasture 15%
  • Forest: 58%
  • Other: 23%


Irrigated land (2018):

25,800 sq km


Natural hazards:

  • Earthquakes, tsunamis, flooding, landslides, mild volcanic activity.
  • Ubinas (elev. 5,672 m), which last erupted in 2009, is the country's most active volcano.
  • Other historically active volcanoes include El Misti, Huaynaputina, Sabancaya, and Yucamane.


Environmental challenges:

  • Deforestation (some the result of illegal logging)
  • Overgrazing of slopes leading to soil erosion
  • Desertification
  • Air pollution in Lima
  • Pollution of rivers and coastal waters from municipal and mining wastes.


People and Society


Population: 32.5 million (2019 est.), 42nd largest population in the world



  • Desert coastal belt: Approximately one-third of the population resides along the this western portion of the country, with a strong focus on the capital city of Lima;
  • Andean highlands (Sierra): strongly identified with the country's Amerindian population and contains roughly half of the overall population;
  • Eastern Andes & Rainforest: sparsely populated.



  • Noun: Peruvian(s)
  • Adjective: Peruvian


Ethnic groups:

  • 45% Amerindian
  • 37% Mestizo (mixed Amerindian and Spanish)
  • 15% White
  • 3% Black, Asian, and other



  • 84% Spanish (official)
  • 13% Quechua (official)
  • 7% Aymara (official)
  • 3% Ashaninka
  • 1% other native languages (includes a large number of minor Amazonian languages)
  • 2% other (includes foreign languages and sign language).



  • 3% Roman Catholic
  • 5% Evangelical
  • 3% other
  • 9% none


Demographic profile:

Peru's urban and coastal communities have benefited much more from recent economic growth than rural, Afro-Peruvian, indigenous, and poor populations of the Amazon and mountain regions. The poverty rate has dropped substantially during the last decade but remains stubbornly high at about 30% (more than 55% in rural areas). After remaining almost static for about a decade, Peru's malnutrition rate began falling in 2005, when the government introduced a coordinated strategy focusing on hygiene, sanitation, and clean water. School enrollment has improved, but achievement scores reflect ongoing problems with educational quality. Many poor children temporarily or permanently drop out of school to help support their families. About a quarter to a third of Peruvian children aged 6 to 14 work, often putting in long hours at hazardous mining or construction sites.


Peru was a country of immigration in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but has become a country of emigration in the last few decades. Beginning in the 19th century, Peru brought in Asian contract laborers mainly to work on coastal plantations. Populations of Chinese and Japanese descent - among the largest in Latin America - are economically and culturally influential in Peru today. Peruvian emigration began rising in the 1980s due to an economic crisis and a violent internal conflict, but outflows have stabilized in the last few years as economic conditions have improved. Nonetheless, more than 2 million Peruvians have emigrated in the last decade, principally to the US, Spain, and Argentina.





Economic policy has varied widely in the past decades, due to changing and inconsistent leadership. However, reforms have permitted sustained economic growth since 1993. Peru's economy reflects its varied climates of an arid lowland coastal region, the central high sierra of the Andes and the tropical, dense forest of the Amazon. A wide range of important mineral resources are found throughout the country, and the exports of these resources account for almost 60% of the country's total exports. Peru is the world's second largest producer of silver, and third largest producer of copper.


Despite Peru's strong macroeconomic performance, dependence on minerals and metals exports and imported foodstuffs makes the economy vulnerable to fluctuations in world prices. Peru's rapid expansion coupled with cash transfers and other programs have helped to reduce the national poverty rate by 28 percentage points since 2002, but inequality persists and continues to pose a challenge for the country.


Peru's implementation of a free trade policy since 2006 has lead to deals being signed with a variety of countries, including, the US, Canada, Singapore, China, and, the EU. Peru also has signed a trade pact with Chile, Colombia, and Mexico, called the Pacific Alliance, that seeks integration of services, capital, investment and movement of people. Since the US-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement entered into force in February 2009, total trade between Peru and the US has doubled.


The combination of recent economic modernization, natural resource abundance and continued improvements in economic governance and political stability that have been taking place, are helping Peru to emerge as one of the most stable economies in Latin America. The World Bank estimates that Peru will expand 3.8% in 2019, and will be one of the fastest-growing economies in South America


GDP (official exchange rate): $225.2 billion (2018 est.)


GDP – real growth rate (PPP):

  • 5% (2017)
  • 9% (2018)
  • 8% (2019 est.)
  • GDP world rank: 44


GDP – per capita (PPP):

  • $14,224 (2018 est.)
  • GDP per capita rank: 82


GDP – composition, by sector of origin:

  • Agriculture: 7.6%
  • Industry: 32.7%
  • Services: 59.9% (2017 est.)


Agriculture - products:

Artichokes, asparagus, avocados, blueberries, coffee, cocoa, cotton, sugarcane, rice, potatoes, corn, plantains, grapes, oranges, pineapples, guavas, bananas, apples, lemons, pears, coca, tomatoes, mangoes, barley, medicinal plants, quinoa, palm oil, marigold, onion, wheat, dry beans, poultry, beef, pork, dairy products, guinea pigs, fish.



Fishing, mining and refining of minerals including gold, coper, lead and zine, textiles, metal mechanics, food industry, agricultural industry, manufactures, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, machinery and services, and of course tourism!


Industrial production growth rate:

  • 7% (March 2019)
  • World Rank: 21 (2017)


Labor force:

  • 17 million (2017 est. – age 15 and older, International Labour Organisation definition)
  • World ranking: 37
  • Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 28.4%, industry: 15.9%, services: 55.7% (2017)


Unemployment rate:

  • 7% (2017 est.)
  • World ranking: 122


Population below poverty line: 7% (2017 est.)




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