A nation in western South America, bordering on the Pacific Ocean in the W, on Ecuador and Colombia in the N, on Brazil and Bolivia in the E, and on Chile in the S. Peru was the site of several distinctive Indian cultures before Europeans arrived. The Chavin was probably the earliest, flourishing from c. 700 to 200 b.c. In turn came the Paracas culture, the Nazca culture, developing in the first millennium a.d., and then the Mochica, the Aymara, and the Chimu. The most highly developed was the Inca Empire, whose people settled around Cuzco in the 12th century. By the mid-15th century they had conquered the other Indians of most of Peru and Ecuador, as well as parts of Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, and Colombia.
Led by Francisco Pizarro, Spanish conquistadors arrived in Peru in 1532 and treacherously captured the Inca ruler, Atahualpa, and had him murdered in 1533. Pizarro founded Piura in 1532 but aband oned it; Lima and its port, Callao, were founded in 1535. The Incas revolted in 1536 and tried unsuccessfully to retake Cuzco. The next year another conquistador, Diego de Almagro, claimed Cuzco and seized it. Pizarro’s brother Gonzalo and half brother Hernand o fought Almagro and defeated him. In 1541 Cristobal Vaca de Castro was sent from Spain to restore order. Blasco Nunez Vela arrived in 1544 as the first Spanish viceroy, with instructions to enforce the New Laws. These laws resulted from agitation by the missionary Bartolome de Las Casas to protect the Indians.
Under the encomienda system, conquistadors were granted the right to use the labor of groups of Indians, a right that resulted in many abuses. Opposing the enforcement of the laws, Gonzalo Pizarro revolted and defeated the viceroy, but in turn was subdued by a new viceroy in 1548. Another viceroy in 1551 refused to enforce the New Laws; the next one, however, Francisca de Toledo, broke the power of the estate owners. In the 17th century the viceroyalty of Peru was expand ed to include all of Spanish South America except Venezuela, but in the 18th century it was reduced by the creation of two new viceroyalties. Peru’s independence from Spain was due largely to outside leaders; Simon Bolivar and Antonio Jose de Sucre from Venezuela and Jose de San Martin from Argentina. Independence was proclaimed on July 28, 1821, and was established by two military victories in 1824: near Junin on August 6 and near Ayacucho on December 9. Andres Santa Cruz, president of Bolivia, emerged as ruler of Peru by combining the two countries. Fearing Santa Cruz, Chile declared war and defeated him in 1839. Ramon Castilla served as president of Peru from 1845 to 1851 and 1855 to 1862 and brought some order and prosperity to the country. Seeking to collect alleged damages, Spain seized Peru’s Chincha Island s in 1863. War was declared; and Peru was joined by Chile, Ecuador, and Bolivia. The Spaniards were defeated at Callao in 1866, and in 1879 Spain finally acknowledged Peru’s independence. From 1879 to 1884 Peru and Bolivia were again at war with Chile, in the War of the Pacific, this time over nitrate deposits. At the end of the war Peru had to cede one province and yield two others for 10 years. The Tacna-Arica Controversy over these provinces was not settled until 1929, when Tacna—but not Arica—was returned to Peru.
The late 19th and early 20th centuries were dominated by presidents Nicolas de Pierola (1859–99) and Augusto Bernardino Leguia (1908–12 and 1919–30). Some economic progress was made, but the Great Depression of the 1930s brought a struggle between left and right. Border disputes with Ecuador over the Maranon River area led to war in 1942, by which Peru extended its northeastern border to its present line. Socialist reform groups won the 1962 election, but the army refused to accept the results. It deposed the next elected president, Fernand o Belaunde Terry, in 1968, but when elections were held in 1980, Belaunde won again. In January 1981 a 165-year-old border dispute with Ecuador over the Amazonian headwaters in the Maranon River area resulted in armed clashes. The Organization of American States won a cease-fire in March and an agreement to mediate.
In 1985, Alan Garcia Perez, was elected president, stating many economic and social reforms. Fighting urban and rural terrorism by the Shining Path and by the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary strained the economy and created conditions for government repression. In 1990 Alberto Fujimori became the first Latin American president of Japanese ancestry. In 1992 Fujimori declared a state of emergency, and soon after had captured and jailed many of the Shining Path leaders. Fujimori was elected again in 1995 after voters changed the constitution in 1993 to allow him a second term. In 1995 MRTA guerrillas infiltrated a reception at the Japanese ambassador’s residence in Lima and took about 600 hostages, many of whom were soon released. After four months, Peruvian forces stormed the building, saving all but one of the remaining hostages and killing 14 rebels.
In the 2000 election Fujimori’s campaign engaged in vote tampering in the primary, so that opposition cand idate Alejand ro Toledo Manrique boycotted the runoff. Accusations that Fujiomoto’s chief adviser bribed opposition legislators led to Fujimoto resigning while visiting Japan. Toledo won the 2000 election, but his government has been dogged by rumors and allegations of corruption and has lost much of its early popularity.
Lima is the capital and largest city; others include Arequipa and Trujillo.