History of Peru

Brief history of Peru summarized

A brief review of the summarized history of Peru, a country in South America.

The Chavín in Peru

Around 2,500 BC in what is now Peru they began to cultivate. By 1800 BC they were already making pottery. The first South American civilization was the Chavín. It emerged in what is now Peru around 900 BC.

The Chavín did not invent writing, but they were skilled architects, stonemasons, potters, and goldsmiths. They built in both brick and stone and their engineers were able to build dams and reservoirs.

Chavín farmers irrigated their land and grew corn (their staple food), squash, and beans. They also grew cotton and wove it on looms. They raised lamas and alpacas for meat and wool. The Chavín take their name from a large religious center in Chavín de Huántar. It has two stone temples.

Little is known about the Chavín religion, but they worshiped a jaguar god. They buried the dead with goods that included ceramic containers with food and drink. They probably believed that the dead would need them in the next life. However, the Chavín civilization disappeared around the year 200 BC.

Later cultures in Peru

In southeastern Peru, another culture called the Paracas flourished between about 400 BC and 300 AD. They built a large number of large settlements on artificial mounds. They also buried their leaders on the dry and windy Paracas Peninsula. The weather mummified several bodies and also preserved their clothes.

Later, between 100 BC and 700 AD, a culture called the Nazca existed in southeastern Peru. They are famous for creating the Nazca lines, patterns that cross the desert and are best seen from the air. They include animals such as spiders and monkeys. The exact purpose of the lines is unknown.

The Moche in Peru

Further north, a culture called the Moche or Mochica flourished from about AD 50 to about AD 700. They lived in coastal valleys in northern Peru. Like other Peruvian cultures, Moche farmers built canals to irrigate their crops. They grew corn, potatoes and peanuts. They also grew cotton.

The Moche were a warrior people and warriors held high status in their society. However, the Moche were also merchants. They imported things like feathers from the Amazon. The Moche were skilled goldsmiths and silversmiths.

The Moche also built pyramid temples. Its largest temple was the Huaca del Sol. Its base measured 224 meters by 134 meters and was 46 meters high. At least 50 million adobe bricks were needed to build the temple.

In the last years of the Moche culture, two empires grew in what is now Peru. In the north was the empire of Tiwanaku, with its capital across the border in Bolivia. It began its rise to greatness around AD 500 and at its height around AD 850 Tiwanaku controlled some 350,000 square kilometers of territory.

The people of the Tiwanaku empire are noted for their skill as stonemasons and potters. In the south of Peru another strong state called Huari grew up. Huari began to grow around 600 AD and soon controlled a wide area.

The Huari people also traded over very long distances. However, both the Tiwanaku and Huari states collapsed around 1100 AD.

The Chimú in Peru

Around the year 1,000 AD a race called the Chimu created an empire in northern Peru with their capital at Chan Chan. The Chimú worshiped the Moon. They believed that the Moon made it rain and also controlled thunder and lightning. The Chimú also mummified their dead. The body was placed in a sitting position and then tied with ropes.

It was then wrapped in a cloth. The Chimu were also skilled potters and metalworkers. Its artisans worked in gold and silver and also made copper and bronze blades for tools. The Chimú also dug irrigation canals and built reservoirs. The Chimú were conquered by the Incas around 1466.

The Inca Empire in Peru

The Incas ruled a great empire in South America, but only for a short period of time. At its height the Inca Empire lasted less than a century before being destroyed by the Spanish. In the year 1300 the Incas founded their capital, Cuzco.

They were only a small tribe, but came to rule a vast empire that included most of Peru and parts of Chile, Ecuador, Bolivia, and northwestern Argentina. The expansion began in 1438 under the rule of Pachakuti and continued under his successors.

Inca society

At the top of Inca society was the emperor, the Inca Sapa. (His title of him means unique Inca). The Incas believed that his ruler was a descendant of the sun god and he was treated with great respect.

Visitors had to remove their shoes if they approached the Sapa Inca and had to carry a load on their back to show their respect. When he traveled, the Inca Sapa was transported on a stretcher. Below the Inca Sapa were the nobles. Below them was a class of men called curacas. They were not necessarily Incas.

When the Incas conquered a town, they took the sons of the leader and taught them to rule in the Inca way. Then they became curacas. At the bottom of Inca society were the artisans and farmers.

All the people were part of extended families called Ayllus. Each was ruled by a man called one of the curacas. In theory, the Sapa Inca owned all the land and wealth of the empire. The Inca Sapa gave peasants land to grow food. In return they had to do some work for him.

The Inca Sapa reserved some land for himself and others to maintain the temples and priests. The Inca peasants had to pay a kind of tax for the work of the land of the Incas of Sapa and of the temples. Sometimes they also had to work on projects like building roads and bridges.

Inca religion

The Incas were polytheistic (they worshiped several different gods). The most important god was Inti, the sun god. The Incas also worshiped Quilla, the goddess of the moon, wife of the sun. They also worshiped the thunder god Illapa, who controlled the rain. The Incas had a multitude of priests and priestesses to serve their gods in temples throughout the empire.

The priests were also surgeons who performed simple operations. Patients chewed coca leaves to relieve pain. The priests bit off the heads of a type of ant and used the mandibles as clips to close the wounds.

The conquerors in Peru

The Inca Empire was destroyed by the Spanish conquistadors. Even before the arrival of the conquistadors, smallpox began to spread among the Incas. They had no resistance to this European disease and many of them died. So the Inca Empire was weakened even before the arrival of Pizarro.

Worse yet, the Inca Empire was afflicted by civil war. When Emperor Huayna died in 1527 he did not name a successor. There were two claimants on the throne. Huayna had many wives. His wife, his ‘chief’ or coya, had a son named Huascar. However, he had an older brother named Atahualpa. His mother was one of the ordinary Huaynas wives.

The two half brothers Huascar and Atahualpa waged a civil war. Atahualpa finally won and took terrifying revenge on his enemies. However, when the Spanish arrived, Atahualpa’s surviving enemies were willing to join them against the emperor.

In 1532 a small force of Spaniards, 100 infantry and 67 cavalry, reached the coast. They were led by Francisco Pizarro (c.1475-1541). The Spanish first surveyed the country and then entered a town called Cajamarca. Atahualpa was in a nearby camp. Atahualpa was not afraid of the small group of strangers.

After all, he had thousands of soldiers at his command. However, Pizarro planned to kidnap him. Atahualpa and several thousand bodyguards entered a town square. There were only a few entrances to the square, which were easily blocked. In addition, the Spanish hid weapons in the buildings surrounding the square.

A Spanish friar (friars were like monks) approached the Sapa Inca and offered him a bible. Atahualpa had never seen a book before and threw it to the ground. Angry, the friar asked the Spanish to avenge what he considered an insult to God.

The Spanish fired cannon and muskets and the cavalry charged. (The Incas had never seen horses before and the sight of a man charging a horse must have been terrifying). The Spanish were also protected by steel armor and carried steel swords. (Steel was a metal unknown to the Spanish).

The bodyguards had little chance against the Spanish and thousands were killed in the plaza. Atahualpa himself was taken prisoner. The Inca Empire was like a pyramid with the Inca Sapa at the top. Orders flowed from him. Capturing it was like cutting the head off a body. Without him, the Incas did not know what to do.

Atahualpa eventually offered to fill a large room with gold and a small room with silver twice if the Spanish would let him go. Meanwhile, Spanish reinforcements arrived. However, when the gold and silver were collected, Pizarro had no intention of letting Inca Sapa go. He claimed that Atahualpa was plotting against him and that the Inca Sapa was tried for treason and sentenced to death.

At first he was sentenced to be burned. Atahualpa was horrified because he believed that his spirit would be destroyed if his body was burned and he could not enter the afterlife. Instead, he agreed to be baptized as a Christian and was strangled with a rope.

The Spanish then ruled through a puppet, which they made the Sapa Inca. However, the puppet Sapa Inca soon became disillusioned and fled Cusco. In 1536 he raised armies to besiege both Cuzco and Lima (which the Spanish founded in 1535). However, both sieges failed. The Incas besieged Cuzco again in 1537, but again failed.

However, the Inca resistance did not end. The puppet Sapa Inca fled east from Cuzco with his supporters and ruled a small Inca state called Vilcabamba. It was finally conquered by the Spanish in 1572.

Colonial Peru

After the destruction of the Inca empire, Peru became a Spanish viceroy. The Spanish took over much of the land in Peru and the natives were forced to work on it. Other natives were forced to work in silver mines where they died by the thousands. In addition, European diseases such as smallpox, to which they had no resistance, decimated the natives of Peru.

So the Spanish brought African slaves to replace them. The Spanish also tried to convert the natives of Peru to Christianity. However, the natives kept their ancient religion under a Christian veneer.

Independent Peru

In the late 18th century there were native rebellions in Peru, though none were successful and discontent continued to simmer. Additionally, the British colonies in North America provided an example of how colonists could free themselves from the home country. Later the ideas of the French Revolution reached Peru.

Finally, the Spanish colonies in South America revolted. In 1820 General José de San Martín landed on the coast of Peru with 5,000 Argentine and Chilean soldiers. He occupied Lima and declared Peru’s independence on July 28, 1821. The royalists continued to fight, but were crushed at the Battle of Ayacucho on December 9, 1824.

Decades of political instability in Peru followed. However, for most of the period 1845-1862 General Raman Castilla was president of Peru and restored order. Under his rule, Peru prospered by selling guano (bird droppings used as fertilizer).

The first railway in Peru was built in 1851 and the African slaves were freed. However, by 1880 the guano supply was running low. Then, between 1879 and 1883, Peru waged a war with Chile over deposits of sodium nitrate. It was called the War of the Pacific and it ended in humiliation for Peru. By the Treaty of Ancón in 1883, Peru was forced to hand over territory to Chile.

In 1885 General Andrés Cáceres became dictator of Peru. He ruled Peru until 1895, when Nicolás de Pierola led a revolution.

Peru in the 20th century

Under presidents Pierola (1895-1899), José Pardo (1904-1908) and Guillermo Billinghurst (1912-1914) Peru prospered. Sugar and cotton exports soared. Peru also exported oil and rubber. More railroads were built and factories opened.

The urban working class in Peru grew and in 1919 the unions carried out two general strikes to demand an 8-hour day. Augusto Leguia was president from 1908 to 1912 and returned to power in 1919. He ruled for eleven years. This period is called the Oncenio from the word once, which means eleven.

However, the depression of the 1930s meant that demand for Peru’s exports plummeted and the country faced an economic crisis. In August 1930 Leguia was deposed in a military coup. Then, in 1924, Víctor Raúl Haya de la Torre founded the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance (APRA).

In 1931 Haya de la Torre became president. Sánchez Cerro hit him, but APRA said the election was fraudulent. A virtual civil war began between APRA and the government. Sánchez Cerro was assassinated in 1933. He was succeeded by General Oscar Benavides. In 1948 the army staged another coup and General Manuel Odria came to power. He governed until 1956, when Manuel Prado assumed the presidency.

In 1963 Fernando Belaunde became president of Peru. However, in 1968 the army staged another coup. General Juan Velasco seized power.

The new government nationalized many industries in Peru and reformed agriculture. However, in 1975, Peru was suffering from inflation, unemployment and a growing public debt. In August 1975 General Francisco Morales Bermúdez replaced Velasco in another coup. However, in 1980 presidential elections were held.

Unfortunately, starting in 1976, Peru suffered from terrorist attacks by the Shining Path. However, in September 1990, Abimael Guzmán, the leader of Sendero, was captured. In 1992 Alberto Fujimori assumed the presidency. He managed to control inflation. Fujimori resigned in November 2000.

Peru today

Alan García was elected president of Peru in 2006. Ollanta Humala became president in 2011. However, Peru’s economy is constantly growing.

Poverty is decreasing. In 2009, the Peru- United States Trade Promotion Agreement entered into force. Pedro Pablo Kuczynski became the president of Peru in 2016. The current population of Peru is 31 million.

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