Manu Biosphere Reserve Information from Reader's Digest World and PBS Online.
Manú National Park A World Heritage site
Rio Abiseo National Park A World Heritage Site
|Background: Ancient Peru was the seat of several prominent
Andean civilizations, most notably that of the Incas whose empire was
captured by the Spanish conquistadores in 1533. Peruvian independence was
declared in 1821, and remaining Spanish forces defeated in 1824. After a
dozen years of military rule, Peru returned to democratic leadership in
1980, but experienced economic problems and the growth of a violent
insurgency. President Alberto FUJIMORI's election in 1990 ushered in a
decade that saw a dramatic turnaround in the economy and significant
progress in curtailing guerrilla activity. Nevertheless, the president's
increasing reliance on authoritarian measures and an economic slump in the
late 1990s generated mounting dissatisfaction with his regime. FUJIMORI
won reelection to a third term in the spring of 2000, but international
pressure and corruption scandals caused him to resign in November of that
year. A caretaker government oversaw new elections in the spring of 2001,
which ushered in Alejandro TOLEDO as the new head of government.
Government type: constitutional republic
Currency: 1 nuevo sol (S/.) = 100 centimos
Geography of Peru
Location: Western South America, bordering the South Pacific Ocean, between
Chile and Ecuador
People of Peru
Most Peruvians are "mestizo," a term that usually refers to a mixture of Amerindians and Peruvians of European descent. Peruvians of European descent make up about 15% of the population; there also are smaller numbers of persons of African, Japanese, and Chinese descent. In the past decade, Peruvians of Asian heritage have made significant advancements in business and political fields; a past president, several past cabinet members, and several members of the Peruvian congress are of Japanese or Chinese descent. Socioeconomic and cultural indicators are increasingly important as identifiers. For example, Peruvians of Amerindian descent who have adopted aspects of Hispanic culture also are considered "mestizo." With economic development, access to education, intermarriage, and largescale migration from rural to urban areas, a more homogeneous national culture is developing, mainly along the relatively more prosperous coast.
Peru has two official languages--Spanish and the foremost indigenous language, Quechua. Spanish is used by the government and the media and in education and commerce. Amerindians who live in the Andean highlands speak Quechua and Aymara and are ethnically distinct from the diverse indigenous groups who live on the eastern side of the Andes and in the tropical lowlands adjacent to the Amazon basin.
Peru's distinct geographical regions are mirrored in a socioeconomic divide between the coast's mestizo-Hispanic culture and the more diverse, traditional Andean cultures of the mountains and highlands. The indigenous populations east of the Andes speak various languages and dialects. Some of these groups still adhere to traditional customs, while others have been almost completely assimilated into the mestizo-Hispanic culture.
Under the 1993 constitution, primary education is free and compulsory. The system is highly centralized, with the Ministry of Education appointing all public school teachers. Eighty-three percent of Peru's students attend public schools at all levels.
The relationship between Hispanic and Indian cultures has shaped the face of Peru. During pre-Columbian times, Peru was one of the major centers of artistic expression in America, where pre-Inca cultures, such as Chavin, Paracas, Wari, Nazca, Chimu, and Tiahuanaco developed high-quality pottery, textiles, jewelry, and sculpture. Drawing upon earlier cultures, the Incas continued to maintain these crafts but made even more impressive achievements in architecture. The mountain town of Machu Picchu and the buildings at Cuzco are excellent examples of Inca architectural design.
Population: 27,925,628 (July 2005 est.)
SOURCES: The World Factbook, U.S. Department of State