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The history of Peru goes back to some 20 000 years B.C. when the territory began to be populated with groups of hunters and gatherers.
Various real civilizations known as Pre-Inca developed:
On the coast: Chimú, Nazca, Paracas.
In the mountains: Chavín, Tiahuanaco .
For Dr. Julio C.Tello, a prominent Peruvian archaeologists, the Chavin culture was the most ancient in Peru , existing between 1000 to 250 B.C.Their principal Center was located in Chavin de Huantar, in the Ancash region.
Going back to approximately 1200 A.D, the Inca Empire was the strongest in South America , at a similar time as the Maya and Aztec peoples. The principal center of the Inca culture was the city of Cusco , from where the Incas governed more than three million square kilometers of territory composed of over 40, 000 kilometers of trails and hundreds of conquered towns.
According to the legend, the Incas emerged as a powerful clan after the migration of their founders from the Tiahuanaco region. Manco Cápac and Mama Ocllo departed from Lake Titicaca to found the capital of their civilization, Cusco , at the request of their god Inti (the Sun). Various governors or “Incas” succeeded these founders and made the Inca Empire a great nation.
Historians classify the Incas that governed into two dynasties: the Legendary or Mythical Empire (from 1200 to 1410) and the Historical Empire (from 1438 to 1532). In 1532, at the height of its power, the Inca Empire was driven by a war of succession. It was at precisely this moment that Francisco Pizarro and his band of Spanish conquistadors arrived on the scene, meeting with Atahualpa, the Inca ruler, whom they assassinated. In the face of fierce resistance, Pizarro and his men seized Cusco and sacked the city. Although the Incas continued to fight for the next several years, their empire had ended and Spanish rule had begun.
The crown had assumed from the Incas patrimony over all native land, which it granted in usufruct to indigenous community families, in exchange for tribute payments and mita labor services. This system became the basis for a long-lasting alliance between the colonial state and the native communities, bolstered over the years by the elaboration of a large body of protective legislation. Crown officials, such as the corregidores de indios , were charged with the responsibility of protecting natives from abuse at the hands of the colonists, particularly the alienation of their land to private landholders. Nevertheless, the colonists and their native allies, the curacas , often in collusion with the corregidores and local priests, found ways of circumventing crown laws and gaining control of native American lands and labor.
Lima , "The city of the Kings" was founded by Pizarro as the capital of the new vice-royalty in 1535 in order to reorient trade, commerce, and power away from the Andes toward imperial Spain . As the outlet for silver and gold bullion on the Pacific, Lima and its nearby port, Callao , also received and redistributed the manufactured goods from the metropolis for the growing settlements along the growth pole. The two-way flow of imports and exports through Lima concentrated both wealth and administration, public and private, in the city. Lima became the headquarters for estate owners and operators, merchants connecting their Andean trading operations with sources of supply in Spain , and all types of service providers, from artisans to lawyers, who needed access to the system in a central place. Not far behind came the governmental and church organizations established to administer the vast vice-royalty. Once population, commerce, and administration interacted, major cultural institutions such as a university, a printing press, and theater followed suit.
With an estimated population of 9 to 16 million people prior to the arrival of the Spaniards, Peru's population forty years later was reduced on average by about 80 percent, generally higher on the coast than in the highlands.
To counter such exploitation and to conserve their historical rights to the land, many Native American leaders shrewdly resorted to the legal system. Litigation did not always suffice, of course, and Andean history is full of desperate native peasant rebellions.
San Martín was the son of a Spanish army officer stationed in Argentina.As commander of the 5,500-man Army of the Andes , San Martín, in a spectacular military operation, crossed the Andes and liberated Chile in 1817. Three years later, his somewhat smaller army left Valparaíso for Peru in a fleet commanded by a former British admiral, Thomas Alexander Cochrane (Lord Dundonald). He was able to take Lima in July 1821 only when the viceroy decided to withdraw his considerable force to the Sierra, where he believed he could better make a stand. On July 28, 1821 , San Martín proclaimed Peru independent and then was named protector by an assembly of notables. However, many problems, stalled the campaign to defeat the royalists. As a result, San Martín seek aid from Simón Bolívar, who had liberated much of northern South America from Spanish power. Bolívar then proceeded to invade Peru , winning the Battle of Junín in August 1824. But it remained for his trusted lieutenant, General Antonio José de Sucre, to complete the task of Peruvian independence by defeating royalist forces at the battle of Ayacucho on December 9, 1824 . This battle in the remote southern highlands effectively ended the long era of Spanish colonial rule in South America .
Into the political vacuum left by the collapse of Spanish rule surged a particularly virulent form of Andean caudillismo. The upshot was internal political fragmentation and chronic political instability during the first two decades of the post independence era. The country experienced at least twenty-four regime changes, averaging one per year between 1821 and 1845, and the constitution was rewritten six times.
Castilla's rise to power, coming as it did at the onset of the guano boom, marked the beginning of an age of unparalleled economic growth and increasing political stability that effectively ended the country's post independence decline. It also enabled him to abolish slavery in 1854 and the onerous native tribute, modernize the army, and centralize state power at the expense of local caudillos.
The war with Chile developed over the disputed, nitrate-rich Atacama Desert . Chile chose to attack Bolivia , in response, Bolivia invoked its secret alliance with Peru , the Treaty of 1873, to go to war.
Peru was obligated to enter a war for which it was woefully unprepared. Although the Peruvians fought the superior Chilean expeditionary forces doggedly thereafter, resorting to guerrilla action in the Sierra after the fall of Lima in 1881, they were finally forced to conclude a peace settlement in 1883. For Peru , defeat and dismemberment by Chile in war brought to a final disastrous conclusion an era that had begun so auspiciously in the early 1840s with the initial promise of guano-led development.
Internal demographic changes since the middle of the twentieth century have shaped contemporary Peru . The total population grew from over 7 million in 1950 to nearly 20 million in 1985. In 1980, over 60 percent of its work force was located in towns and cities, principally the capital, Lima . By 1985 half of Lima 's 7 million inhabitants lived in informal housing, and at least half of the country's population was employed or underemployed in the informal sector.
Along with the demographic changes, Peru experienced an increasing leadership crisis. This occurred when the longstanding power of the government came to an abrupt end in the 1968 military "revolution." The reform of 1969 destroyed the economic base of both the export elite and the rural bosses in the Sierra. After more than a decade, the military, in public disfavor, returned to the barracks, opening the way, once again, to the democratic process.
The resumption of elections was reaffirmed in 1985, democratization confronted many problems. The end of military rule left an enormous political gap that the parties, absent for twelve years and historically weak, were hard-pressed to fill. Peru 's long history of authoritarian rule,made effective democratic government difficult to accomplish. More serious, democratization faced an increasingly grave threat from a deepening economic crisis. In 1985 wages approached mid-1960 levels.
Finally, democratization was threatened in 1980 by the Shining Path guerrilla movement, Latin America 's most violent insurgency. By 1985, the so-called "people's war" had claimed over 60,000 victims, most of them innocent civilians. Violence was a thread that ran throughout Andean history, from Inca expansion, the Spanish conquest and colonialism, and countless Native American insurrections and their suppression to the struggle for independence.