History of Lima

Brief history of Lima summarized

A brief look at the history of Lima summarized.

First settlers

The Ychsma are the best known of the many Amerindian groups that lived around Lima before the Inca conquest.

The most unusual artifacts that the Ychsma left behind in the area’s history were a collection of pyramids, numbering about 40 in all. These were used to irrigate the surrounding river valleys, both the Lurín and the Rímac.

The Pachacamac religious center constituted the most significant set of religious buildings built by the Incas during their occupation of the area in the fifteenth century.

Today Pachacamac remains an important archaeological site and ancient temple complex, being situated some 30 km to the southeast. It is noteworthy that Atahualpa was the last Inca ruler to rule Peru during the history of Lima before the Spanish conquest of 1532.

City of the Kings

Barely a year after Francisco Pizarro founded the capital, which he called Ciudad de los Reyes, Manco Inca and his rebel troops attempted to regain control of the city, but were quickly defeated by the Spanish.

The new capital of the burgeoning Viceroyalty of Peru soon became the hub of a rapidly growing trade network between Europe, the Far East, and the rest of the New World.

Walls, earthquakes and recessions

In the mid-1680s, Lima’s walls were built to keep pirates out of the city and provide a much-needed defensive barrier.

However, the same year that the construction of the walls was completed, much of Lima was destroyed by a devastating earthquake. The city’s fortunes faded further with the commercial recession, the decline in silver production, and competition from other fast-growing South American cities, including mighty Buenos Aires.

In the mid-18th century, another earthquake further devastated both Lima and the nearby port of Callao.

Republic of Peru capital

Many local citizens were reluctant to support independence from Spain, due to the city’s dependence on the Spanish royal family. Although General José Francisco de San Martín and his troops approached Lima in 1820, they decided not to enter the city.

Lima changed hands numerous times during the two years after San Martín convinced the city council to sign a declaration of independence.

Pacific War

Even after Lima became the new capital of the Republic of Peru, the city remained in economic decline until the mid-19th century, when it became a prosperous export center.

However, these exports did not help the poor residents much. During the War of the Pacific, angry locals caused as much damage to city businesses and wealthy citizens as Chilean troops did to public libraries, cultural institutions, and schools.

After the end of the War of the Pacific in 1883, Lima entered a period of expansion that would last until the 1920s.

Earthquakes, population growth and slums

Another devastating earthquake demolished most of the city’s primitive quincha and adobe (clay, sand, and water) buildings in 1940. Soon after, migrants from rural villages in the Andes Mountains began to flock to Lima in seeking employment and educational opportunities.

During the next four decades of Lima’s history, the city’s population rose from about 600,000 in 1940 to almost five million in 1980.

As a result of this rapid growth, shantytowns began to appear throughout the city. Today, the safest and most prosperous districts of the city are Miraflores and San Isidro, as well as, of course, its attractive historic center.

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