Peru is the third largest country in South America, after Brazil and Argentina. It is made up of a variety of landscapes, from mountains and beaches to deserts and rainforests. Most people live along the coast of the Pacific Ocean, where the capital, Lima, is located.
The world's largest rainforest, the Amazon, covers nearly half of Peru. Called the selva in Spanish, this huge jungle, which also covers half of Brazil, is home to plants and animals that do not live anywhere else on Earth.
The second highest mountain range in the world runs through Peru. The Andes, are so tall and forbidding that the ancient Inca people thought they were gods. They run from north to south and can be seen from Peru's beaches 50 miles (80 kilometers) to the west. The highest peak, Mount Huascarán, is 22,205 feet (6,768 meters) high.
People // Groups
Peru is a multiethnic country formed by the amalgamation of different cultures and ethnicities over thousands of years. Amerindians inhabited the land for over ten millennia before the Spanish conquest in the 16th century; their cultures and influence represent the foundation of today's Peru.
Mestizos compose about 37% of the total population.
Amerindians constitute around 45% of the total population. The two major indigenous or ethnic groups are the Quechuas (belonging to various cultural subgroups), followed by the Aymaras, mostly found in the extreme southern Andes.
European descendants constitute around 15% of the total population.
The number of individual languages listed for Peru is 104. Of these, 93 are living and 11 are extinct. Of the living languages, 91 are indigenous and 2 are non-indigenous. Furthermore, 7 are institutional, 37 are developing, 5 are vigorous, 29 are in trouble, and 15 are dying. The three most spoken languages include:
Approximately 84% of the Peruvian population speaks Spanish (known as castellanoor español), making it by far the most widely spoken language in Peru. It is also the principal language of the Peruvian government, the media and the education system.
Quechua is the second most common language in Peru and the most widely spoken native language. It is spoken by about 13% of the population, primarily in the central and southern highland regions of Peru (see map of Quechua-speaking areas). Quechua was the language of the Inca Empire; it existed long before the Incas came to power, but their use and promotion of the language helped it spread -- and remain strong -- in the Andean regions of Peru.
There are less than half a million Aymara-speakers in Peru (about 1.7% of the population), but it remains the nation’s third most spoken language. The number of speakers has dwindled over the centuries, having struggled against both Quechua and then Spanish.
Peru is a democratic republic. Its government is structured following the principle of the separation of the three autonomous and independent powers: the Executive, whose maximum representative is the President of the Republic; the Legislative Power or National Congress (unicameral); and the Judicial Power.
Peru has one of the largest varieties of arts and crafts on Earth, as can be seen from the growing network of exporters who each year exhibit the skill of Peruvian craftsmen in Europe, Asia and North America. The diversity, color, creativity and multiple functions of Peru's folk art has made it a fundamental activity not just for Peru's cultural identity, but also as a way of life for thousands of families and even entire communities, such as Sarhua and Quinua in Ayacucho.
The excellence of Peruvian artisans can be seen in the harmony of the geometric designs in weavings, the minute portraits of peasant farming life on the carved gourds called mates burilados, the cultural mestizaje or blend in the colorful retablo boxed scenes. There are also the finely carved Huamanga stone sculptures, the complex Baroque nature of the wooden carvings, the beauty of gold and silver relics and the many forms that pottery has shaped the clay into pottery.
Peru has a very rich cultural history and a very diverse population. There are many holidays that are celebrated throughout the country that are based on specific cultures and history. Some of these holidays extend back over a thousand years. While the government of Peru is very proud of its heritage, it does not recognise these holidays as national events.
Major public and national holidays include:
New Year’s Day (January 1)
Maundy Thursday (March)
Good Friday (March)
Labor Day (May)
St. Peter and Paul Day (June)
Independence Day (July 28)
Santa Rosa de Lima (August 30)
Battle of Angamos (October 8)
All Saints’ Day (November 1)
Immaculate Conception (December 8)
Christmas Day (December 25)
Peru has some of the highest ranking universities in Latin America with 18 making it on the top 150 list. Peru's highest ranking institution is Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, a private university based in Peruvian capital Lima, which climbed from 31st in Latin America in 2012, to 19th this year (2015). Other top universities include, Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos (UNMSM), Universidad Católica del Perú, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Universidad de Lima, Universidad Nacional Agraria la Molina, Universidad Nacional de Ingeniería Peru, and Universidad del Pacifico.
In total, Peru has around 80 universities, with private institutions outnumbering public.
In 2014 Peru exported $39.8 billion, making it the 59th largest exporter in the world. Some of Peru’s top exports include:
Animal Meal and Pellets
In 2014 Peru imported $42.3 billion, making it the 55th largest importer in the world. Peru’s top imports include: