About Peru

making the "God difference" in people's lives



Peru is located in western South America. Bordered by the Pacific Ocean on the west, Ecuador and Columbia on the north, Brazil and Bolivia on the east, and Chile on the south.


Total Population: 30,135,875 (2012 estimate); Lima Population (metro): 8,472,935 (2012)-second largest city in the world situated in a desert (after Cairo, Egypt); Urbanization: 77% of Peruvians live in cities; Median Age: 26.5 years; Life expectancy at birth: 72.7 years


Constitutional Republic


Spanish and Quechua (official), Aymara and many Amazonian tribal languages


45% Amerindian; 47% mestizo (mixed); 5% white; 3% black, Japanese, Chinese and others.


Varies widely-from tropical in the east, to dry desert along the Pacific Coast, and temperate to frigid in the Andes.


Coffee, cotton, sugarcane, rice, potatoes, corn, plantain, grapes, oranges, Coca, poultry, beef, dairy products, fish


The contrast between rich and poor continues to be one of the largest of all Latin America, though the overall poverty rate in Peru has been reduced significantly in the last ten years. According to the national government about thirty percent of Peruvians live in poverty, 56 percent in rural areas and 18 percent in urban areas. The Peruvian states with the highest rates of poverty are Apurimac, Cajamarca, Huancavelica, Huanuco and Ayacucho.


Copper, silver, gold, petroleum, timber, fish, iron ore, and coal


For about 500 years Roman Catholicism has dominated the culture and everyday life in Peru as it has elsewhere in Latin America. Over the last few decades, the number of evangelical Christians has burgeoned from less than 5% in 1990 to an estimated 15% of the population today. There are about 4 million evangelicals in Peru and their numbers continue to increase every year.

Until very recently Peru was a bastion of Roman Catholicism. In fact, the shrines and images of Catholicism are virtually everywhere - from the huge Madonna and child greeting travelers at the international airport in Lima, to images in public parks, police stations, post offices, cabs, bus stations, valleys, hills and mountainsides.

It is estimated that roughly 80% of Peruvians are nominally Catholic. Of these, a large majority are "inactive" - seldom, if ever, attending mass . In fact, the number of practicing Catholics is probably about the same as the number of active evangelicals, though there are no reliable statistics.

Mormons missionaries and Jehovah's Witnesses are active throughout Peru. These groups, added together with other non-Catholic cults represent less than 5% of the population.


LAND AREA 496,226 square miles (1,285,220 km). Slightly smaller than the State of Alaska or twice the size of France. It is the 19th largest country in the world.

COASTLINE 1,500 miles (2,414 km)

HIGHEST ELEVATION 22,205 feet (6,768m) at Nevado Huascaran

MAJOR RIVERS Amazon, Ucayali, Marañon, and Madre de Dios


1. The potato is originally from Peru, and there are over 3,000 different varieties. Proud Peruvians use the phrase "Soy mas Peruano que la papa" ("I am more Peruvian than the potato").

2. Peru grows more than 55 varieties of corn, and you can just about find it in any color including yellow, purple, white and black.

3. Cuy or Guinea Pig is a traditional dish eaten in Peru

4. In Chincha on Peru's southern coast it is quite acceptable to eat cat!

5. Two-thirds of Peru is covered by the Amazon Rain Forest.

6. Peru's capital Lima was once the most powerful city in South America.

7. Lake Titicaca in Southern Peru is the world's highest navigable lake, and South America's largest lake.

8. In Peru, it is tradition to give friends and family yellow underpants on New Year's Eve.

9. Cusco in Peru was the most important city in the whole of the Inca Empire, and governed as far north as Quito in Ecuador and as far south as Santiago in Chile.

10. Peru is home to the highest sand dune in the world. Cerro Blanco located near the Nazca Lines measures 3,860 feet (2,078 meters) from the base to the summit.

11. The Colca Canyon in southern Peru is nearly twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in Arizona and is nearly two miles deep in some places.

12. The strong ocean current that runs along the Peruvian coast (the Humboldt current) extends from the frigid Antarctic to near the Peru-Ecuador border before curving into the central Pacific. Though Peru is near the equator, the coastal waters remain relatively chilly throughout the year.

13. El Niño - a warming of the waters off the coast of Peru that occurs every 3 to 7 years - affects weather patterns and climate in much of the world.

14. There are more than 1,000 peaks in the Peruvian Andes over 5,000 meters (16,400 feet) and dozens over 6000 meters (about 20,000 feet)

There are three major geographic regions of Peru:

La Costa,

is the narrow coastal strip that stretches 1,500 mile along the Pacific Ocean. Except for the extreme north, where El Niño-related rain occurs periodically, la costa is an extremely arid desert featuring sand dunes, rocky wasteland, and barren hills. The desolate terrain along the coast is punctuated by many small rivers that run from the slopes of the Andes Mountains to the Pacific. Precipitation is so scant along the coast that is unable to sustain desert vegetation in most areas. A mist, called garua, blows in from the Pacific and covers la costa for most of the winter months (June through September). The garua sometimes dampens the ground and produces the only measurable precipitation in la costa, though it amounts to less than 1" a year. Lima and several other large population centers are located in la costa.

La Sierra,

is the highland region of Peru that includes the Andes Mountains, the colossal geological formation that is second highest mountain range in the world. La sierra covers about 30% of the country's land area and includes high valleys that are rich agricultural areas as well altiplano meadows that provide the natural habitat for llama and alpaca. Several of the world's highest mountains are in la sierra, the tallest being Nevado Huascaran which is over four miles high. The city of Cerro de Pasco, in the central Andes, is said to be the highest city in the world at nearly 14,000 feet (4,259 m). In the southern Andes, at the border with Bolivia, is the world's highest navigable lake, Lake Titicaca. La sierra was the cradle of several ancient Peruvian civilizations, including the Incas. Many of the valleys and highland areas are inhabited and several important Peruvian cities, such as Cuzco, are located in la sierra.

La Selva,

is the jungle (tropical rainforest) area located to the east of the Andes. About 1/2 of Peru's land area is covered by rainforest, including the heavily forested eastern slopes of the Andes, which are part of la selva. From these slopes, the jungle stretches into a vast tropical plain toward the border with Brazil. All of the major rivers of Peru - the Amazon, the Ucayali and the Marañon -are located in la selva. Several hundred indigenous tribes live in remote villages throughout the region. Though there are a few large cities, such as Iquitos and Pucallpa, the region is mostly uninhabited. The tropical rainforest of la selva is the third largest in the world and is rich in biodiversity.


Ancient Peru was the cradle of several prominent pre-Columbian civilizations. The last of and most powerful of these civilizations, the Incas, ruled an area that extended from present-day Ecuador to central Chile. Incan rule endured about 300 years until the Spanish conquistador, Francisco Pizarro, seized control of the empire in 1533 with a force of 180 men, after deceiving and cruelly murdering the Incan king.

In 1535 Pizarro founded the City of the Kings, which is the present-day city of Lima. In 1542 the Spanish established the viceroyalty of Peru, headquartered in Lima which was the seat Spanish colonial domination of South America and Panama (excepting Venezuela) for two hundred years.

Two notable uprisings against the Spanish occurred in Peru during the colonial period. The first, in 1780, involved a force of 60,000 Indians, led by Jose Gabriel Condorcanqui, who adopted the name of an Incan ancestor Tupac Amaru . Although initially successful, the uprising was crushed in 1781. Another revolt was similarly put down in 1814.

Peruvian independence came at the hands of leaders from outside the country, however. The famous Argentine patriot, Jose de San Martin, was instrumental during the initial phase of the struggle in 1820 and 1821. As a result of the forces under his charge Peruvian independence was proclaimed on July 28, 1821. It wasn't until 1824, however, that army led by the Venezuelan revolutionary hero, Simon Bolivar, completed the task of routing the Spanish military from Peru.

Following independence from Spain, Peru went through a chaotic period lasting many decades. A war with Chile, called the War of the Pacific, was fought between 1879 and 1883, which depleted Peru's treasury and ended in defeat. Peru went through a succession of military dictators over the next twenty-five years.

Following World War II, Peru went experienced about 30 years of instability in which there were brief periods of liberal reforms, followed by military dictatorship, and socialist rule. After a dozen years under the military, Peru was returned to democratic leadership in 1980, but the country entered a period of economic decline and rising guerilla activity.

Peru was severely tested during the 1980's and 1990's when the forces of the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) and Tupac Amaru guerrillas brought terrorism to both the countryside and cities. The back of the guerrilla movement was broken by the late 1990's but remnant forces still pose a menace from time to time, primarily in remote jungle areas and also where coca production and cocaine drug traffic continue to thrive.

Peru has experienced a period of relative political stability and an improving economy during the last five years. Though a stark contrast exists in the standard of living in Lima when compared with the provinces, the push for decentralization and increased investment in the outlying regions has widespread support and is a trend that is virtually unstoppable.

The Peruvian Flag

The red and white colors of the three vertical bands Peru's flag were chosen by the revolutionary hero Jose de San Martin who is said to have been inspired by a flight of "parihuanas", a variety of flamingo with red wings and white breast, after awaking from a siesta in the coastal desert of Paracas. The coat of arms in the center features a shield containing a vicuña (a llama-like animal), cinchona tree (the national tree and source of quinine, an anti-malarial drug), and a cornucopia spilling gold coins, all of which represent the natural wealth of Peru. The shield is surrounded by a green laurel wreath and branches with red berries and ribbons.