Peru, officially the Republic of Peru, is a country in western South America. It is bordered in the north by Ecuador and Colombia, in the east by Brazil, in the southeast by Bolivia, in the south by Chile, and in the west by the Pacific Ocean. Peruvian territory was home to ancient cultures spanning from the Norte Chico civilization, one of the oldest in the world, to the Inca Empire, the largest state in Pre-Columbian America. Peru is, as of 2011, one of the world's fastest-growing economies and has a high Human Development Index based on 2011 data.
The heart of the historic Incan empire, Peru offers a rich past, diverse cultural heritage and extraordinary biodiversity. Peru, located on the central Pacific coast of South America bordered by Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil and Bolivia, is the world's 20th-largest nation. With a population of approximately 23 million, Peru is South America's third-largest country after Brazil and Argentina.
Peru's complex landscape is divided into three distinct geographic regions: the high sierras of the Andes, one of the world's least stable mountain ranges; the lowland coastal region, recognized as the planet's most arid region; and the inaccessible jungle forest region below the Andes' eastern slopes, incorporating the Amazon River Basin. Because of these differences, Peru's terrain is wildly diverse, offering everything from grasslands to highlands to coastal plains and the Atacama desert. These distinct ecosystems display unique habitats and wildly variable climates.
Peru's economy is a reflection of its diverse geography and topography. Plentiful mineral resources are found in the mountain regions; in fact, Peru is the leading producer of silver in the world; it is also a leader in zinc, copper and tin, lead and gold. Mineral exports have accounted for as much as 61 percent of Peru's entire export revenue. Meanwhile, Peru's coastal waters make the country an international leader in fishing, producing nearly 10 percent of the world's total fish catch, and representing about 3.5 percent of the country's GDP. The Peruvian economy continues to expand, thanks to government programs focused on promoting growth.
Peru's government was established in 1993 as a constitutional republic consisting of three parts: the president-led Executive branch; the Legislative branch, a unicameral body which comprises the Congress; and The Judiciary, of which the Corte Suprema de Justicia, or Supreme Court of Justice, is the sole functioning judicial body. Each of Peru's 25 regions, as well as the province of Lima, has its own elected government, each serving a four year term.
Peru has historically been a melting pot of nations and cultures. The result is a rich ethnic mix, of which most of the people are a combination of Amerindians and European ancestry known as mestizo. People of African, Japanese, and Chinese ancestries are also found in Peru. Peruvian culture is a celebration of music, festivals, literature, and cuisine, with over 180 museums and historical sites celebrating thousands of years of history, culture and customs. Additionally, 40,000 restaurants serving a variety of cuisines reflect Peru's diverse constituency.
Essential Facts about Peru
- Peru's capital city--also its largest city--was founded in 1535 by Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro. It was originally called la Ciudad de los Reyes, or "the City of Kings."
- Peru's primary language is Spanish, but also features different languages such as Quechua, leftover from the Inca empire, as well as a number of other indigenous dialects comprising 43 different languages.
- As host to the great Andean civilizations, Peru maintains many Inca monuments, including the lost city of the Incas, Machu Picchu, one of the seven wonders of the world.
- Peru's flag features three vertical stripes in shades of red, symbolizing the blood shed during the quest for sovereign independence, and white, signifying peace, centered by a national coat of arts
- Peru celebrates Independence Day on July 28 in commemoration of its 1824 liberation from Spain.
- "Marcha Nacional," or National March, is Peru's national anthem.
- 13 percent of Peru's territory fall under the Protected Natural Areas designation.
- Peru is home to 84 of the 104 life zones found on Earth, and hosts 20 percent of the world's birds, as well as 10 percent of its reptiles.
Depending on the region and the season, Peru's climate varies considerably. In general, the months between January and March constitute the west season. The coastal areas are sweltering during this period, but are more temperate at other times thanks to La Garuùa. The western slope of the Andes, meanwhile, is warm and dry for the better part of the year; alternatively, on the eastern side of the Andes, heavy rainfall occurs due to the wet season, extending well into April. Temperatures drop--particularly at night--as you travel up into the mountain range.
Peru's currency is the Nuevo Sol, with the Banco central de Reserva del Peru as its issuing authority. The Nuevo Sol is divided into 100 centimos, including 5, 10, 20 and 50 centimo coins and 1, 2, and 5 sol coins. There are also bills with denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200.
Religion in Peru
More than 75 percent of Peru's population is Catholic, although indigenous Peruvians have incorporated their traditional pre-Hispanic beliefs into their contemporary Catholicism. Other religious designations in in Peru include Protestants, Adventist, Muslim, Buddhists and Hindus.