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Perú ru conjures up images of the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, but there’s much more to see. Besides archaeological sites, there are several natural treasures, including the world’s deepest PP canyons and the highest navigable lake.

Peru is also a racial melting pot, a mix of indigenous peoples, mestizos, and African, Chinese, and Japanese migrants, whose profound cultural influence is everywhere.

Even before the Spanish arrived in the 1500s, Peru was a collage of cultures determined by its geography.

Anthropologists and analysts have likened it to an archipelago, with population pockets scattered across the diverse and isolated regions.

The soaring Andes exert the greatest influence on climate, topography, flora and fauna, and best illustrate the division in society: the mountains remain a refuge for impoverished indigenous peoples, who practise subsistence farming.

Dozens of rivers flow from the Andes down to the narrow ribbon of desert coastline but only about a third of them contain water year-round, thus emphasizing the importance of easonal rains.

The coast is wealthier, has better infrastructure, and is more industrialized and urbanized.

This glimmer of opportunity has led to an influx of rural poor from the highlands, generating pueblos jovenes,or young towns, around Lima which usually lack water, electricity, and other basic services.

The Amazon accounts for more than half of Peru’s territory, and onequarter of the world’s jungle.

Towns are few and rivers are the thoroughfares. An estimated 5 percent of the population lives in the jungle, with 55 ethno-linguistic groups.


To a large extent the economy reflects Peru’s geography – mineral-rich mountains and coastal waters brimming with sea-life. Mining and fishing, as well as agriculture and tourism, dominate and account for most of the employment and investment. Mining supplies almost half of export earnings. Antamina in Ancash is one of the world’s biggest copperzinc mine and Peru is the world’s fifth largest gold producer.It is the world’s second largest fishing nation afterChina, and the leading fishmeal producer. Thirty-three percent of the population is employed in agriculture. Tourism is booming with some 1.5 million tourists visitingPeru each year. Machu Picchu remains the main attraction,PromPeru, the tourism and marketing board, is promoting other destinations too. Today, nature tourism TT draws ever increasing numbers.Peru is home to 84 of the earth’s 114 life zones, while almost 10 percent of the world’s mammals and 20 percent of birds are found here. The country has 25,000 species of plants, 30 percent of which are found only in Peru.

POLITICS The president, who is head of both the state and the government, is elected for a five-year term and cannot be re-elected for a second consecutive term. The government is divided into three branches: the Executive, comprising aCouncil of Ministers appointed by the president, the Congress, which consists of 120 representatives, and the Judiciary. Peru is divided into 24 departments (departamentos), sometimes referred to as regions, and one constitutional province (provincia (( constitucional), Lima-ll Callao.

Regional authorities, including prefects and governors, and the administrative system, come directly under the shoeshine-boy-turned Harvard-educated economist, became the first democratically elected president of Quechua descent.Fluyezcambios

Both Toledo andFujimori owed their election to their position as outsiders, untainted by the political system.

EDUCATION There is widespread belief among the young that worthwhile education can only be obtained overseas. As a result, more than 400,000 Peruvians leave the country each year, most between the ages of 15 and 29.

Primary education is free and compulsory, but in many rural areas textbooks and desks are scarce and parents struggle to provide their children with pen or notepad.

Private schools are out of reach for most due to the high fees. Most urban youth are likely to finish secondary education, but the vast rural majority does not. By law each provincial capital must have a public secondary school, yet the best are concentrated in the major cities, particularly Lima. Not surprisingly, a relatively high percentage of urban youth attend post-secondary school. ARTS ANDSPORTS Peruvians have a rich tradition of expression. Ancient cultures transmitted their stories orally, often through song. Since the 19th century, however, writers have felt compelled to put pen to paper and scrutinize society. These include Ricardo Palma (see p78) and Clorinda Matto de Turner (1852–1909) whose controversial Aves sin nido (Birds without a Nest)focused on the love affair between a white man and an indigenous woman. Many regard Cesar Vallejo as Peru’s finest poet and Mario Vargas Llosa as its best novelist, but there are others such as Jose Maria Arguedas and Manuel Scorza, and more recently Jaime Bayly and Diego Trelles Paz. Formal works of art by Cusco School painters and modern artists such as Fernando de Szyszlo, Joaquin Roca Rey, and Victor Delfín constitute only a part of Peru’s artistic traditions. Just as vibrant are expressions of folk art that testify to the peoples’ creativity and ability to make the most of natural elements. The easily recognizable and restful Andean flute music (the famous “El Condor Pasa”) has drawn fans from across the globe. Also popular is the up-tempo Afro-Peruvian music of Susana Baca and Eva Ayllon, which has its roots in the communities of black slaves brought to coastal Peru in the 1500s.