The National Anthem
Once the Protectorate was established after the country's
independence, General Jose de San Martin called a contest to establish
the national anthem as a symbol of sovereignty. The winning piece was
written by Jose Bernardo Alcedo (music) and Jose de la Torre Ugarte
(words). The anthem, considered one of the most beautiful in the world,
was sung for the first time in the Principal Theater of Lima on the
night of September 24, 1821, by Rosa Merino de Arenas, and was adopted
as Peru's National Anthem on April 15, 1822.
in 1820, it is said that the colors of the Peruvian flag, red and
white, occurred to general San Martin during the liberation
campaign, when watching a flight of "parihuanas", a variety
of flamingo with red wings and white breasts, after awaking from
a siesta in the desert of Paracas. The flag comprised a rectangular
linen divided by two diagonals into four fields, white at the top
and bottom and red on the sides. Since this pattern presented some
in March 1922 it was decided to take the form of three horizontal
stripes, the top and bottom ones red and the middle white, but since
flag could be confused with the Spanish one, in May 1922, the
stripes were changed to vertical ones, the two outside ones being
red and the center one white.
of Arms A Congressional law passed by Simon Bolivar in 1825 consecrated
the Coat of Arms of Peru. This comprises
three fields: sky blue to the upper right, with a vicuña looking inwards;
white to the upper left with a chinchona tree and red in the horizontal
lower field, with a golden cornucopia spilling out gold coins. These
symbols represent the natural wealth of Peru. On the top, like a crest,
is a civic crown of oak seen from the side. On both sides the Coat
of Arms has a flag and a standard.
powerful civilization that finally extended in the VXI century from
capital, to the ancient kingdom of Quito
and a great part of what is today Chile and Bolivia. Legend has it
that the Empire was founded by the mythical pair of Inca Manco Capac
and Mama Ocllo, descendents from the supreme god Inti, or Sun.
remained hidden from the world for more than four centuries, the architectural
complex of Machu Picchu -"old
mountain" in Quechua- was discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911.
Situated 112 kilometers from Cusco on the edge of the Urubamba canyon,
at 2,350 meters above sea level, it covers an area of 32,590 kms2.
It is said that the Incas built it as a religious area made up of houses,
places of worship, hydraulic systems and terraces.
South American Camel Family
alpaca, vicuña and the guanaco are mammals
of the Auchenia family. They were used by ancient Peruvians as beasts
of burden, and also to provide wool and meat. Moreover, they were sacrificed
as offerings in religious rites. The vicuña -a very timid animal that
lives on the high, lonely parts of the mountain ranges- offers the
finest and most exquisite fiber in the world, very much in demand in
international markets. Until a decade ago this animal was on the endangered
list, but in 1990 herds amounting to a total of 65,000 were counted
thanks to conservation projects aimed at sustainable exploitation of
these animals with the direct and constant participation of native
These are one of the great manifestations of Incaic engineering.
The Incas divided the slopes of the hills they climbed into enormous steps
from top to bottom. These terraces, separated by pirkas or stone walls,
were filled with fertile earth for planting crops and rain water was used
to irrigate them. These gigantic steps that combine function with beauty
also prevented landslides due to the rains.
The Peruvian Andes occupy the central part of the Andean
region of South America. Divided into the northern Andes and southern
Andes they are geographically indicated by the highlands - or sierra-
inhabited by man in the high valleys from 2,500 to 3,000 meters above
sea level. With more than 1000 mountains over 5,000 meters above sea
level, and dozens over 6,000 meters above sea level., this colossal
geographical formation is the most important articulate hub of Peruvian
culture. The multiple weather varieties go from freezing at the summits
to damp and suffocating heat in the valleys. The first food gathering
socie-ties in these mountains are ten thousand years old, from which
developed civilizations such as Chavin, Tiahuanaco and, later on, the
Kosok of Long Island University, New York, made them well known in
1939 after flying over the Nasca zone and seeing
immense drawings of animals and anthropomorphic figures. These mysterious
signs are also associated with the name of Maria Reiche, a German mathematician
who has studied them closely for more than 40 years. According to her
theory, they form a gigantic agricultural and religious calendar.
Sacred bird of the Incas, the Vultur gryphus can live
50 years, stands 1.30 meters tall with a wing expansion of more than
three meters, which permits it to fly, almost without moving its wings,
from its nest in the heights of the Andes (5,000 meters a.s.l.) down
to the beaches where it feeds on dead sea lions. Ancestral carrion
bird, it has no song and the male only emits squawks with his tongue
when courting the female. They are monogamous, with black plumage with
white splashes at the end at the extremities and a white collar. The
head and neck have no feathers. The male has a great crest and numerous
skin folds which give him a majestic aspect, although not very friendly.
Hunting the condor is forbidden but in certain traditional Andean festivals
he is tied to the back of a bull, representing the conflict between
conquered and conqueror.
The Coca Leaf
On October 12, 1492, when Columbus landed on the Isle of
Guanahani, the Indians offered a handful of dried leaves. It is thought
these may have been coca leaves. What is true is that coca had already
been a traditional crop for 6,500 years. The sacred plant of the Incas,
this leaf has an important place in Andean culture, in which context it
is believed to induce wisdom and knowledge. It is used in multiple ways
medicinally, as well as a palliative for fatigue and hunger. The use made
of it by the narcotic traffic has had a very negative influence on the
image of a plant which has high symbolic and cultural worth.
Gold and Silver
metals had a socio-religious sense in ancient Peru. They were used
as cult objects and as ornaments indicating the
rank of chiefs and priests. The most ancient evidence of worked precious
metals dates back to 1500 BC, according to some sheets of gold found
in Waywaka (Andahuaylas). But it was during the Inca Empire that
the gold and silver work reached its highest point. Used in a natural
just like silver and other minerals, gold was found in the sand of
rivers and open face mines. Peru is the seventh mining country in
the world and the second gold producer in Latin America. In the last
years gold production has triplicated and continues to grow.
The Lady of Ampato
affectionately "Juanita" and
then renamed the Lady of Ampato, this mummy of a young Inca girl about
14 years old,
was found in 1995 in a perfectly conserved condition at 6,310 meters
a.s.l., on the top of the snow peak Amparo in the department
of Arequipa by archaeologists
from the Catholic University of Arequipa. It is believed that about
500 years ago she was sacrificed to the apus, mountains that
the Incas considered
as protective gods of the cities. Recently exhibited in Washington
D.C. by the National Geographic Society, studies will show more
the characteristics and customs of ancient people in the Inca Empire.
The Lord of Sipán
A tomb found in 1987 in Huaca Rajada
(Lambayeque) by Walter Alva and other archaeologists of the Brunning
Museum, was then considered to be the most important archaeological
discovery in the last 25 years. The funerary grave, on a platform
connected to two monumental pyramids, contained a fantastic sarcophagus
ornamented in gold, silver and copper, symboli-zing the personage's
religious and military standing. Some 1700 years old, it testifies
to the high degree of artistic perfection of the Moche civilization
(centuries I and IV) that formed regional domains even after the
arrival of the conquistadors. They were the first to make irrigation
systems on a large scale and invented most pre-Hispanic metallurgical
in La Libertad (Trujillo), Chan-Chan or "Sun-Sun" was
the capital of the vast Chimu empire. This largest mud city in the
world, declared by UNESCO to be a Cultural Heritage of Humanity,
was built in the XII and XIII centuries. It covers 20 kms2 of land
with dispersed remains of palaces, popular areas, cemeteries, gardens
and platforms for religious ceremonies, surrounded by walls up to
13 meters high. The adobe walls are adorned by high relief cuts of
exquisite geometrical designs and animals. The clay in Chan-Chan
attains singular artistic features and the category of a complex
language, associated with the liturgy and customs of the dominant
The Amazon River
largest river in the world. Francisco
de Orellana discovered it in 1542, although some affirm that it was
Juan Vicente Yañez Pinzon, commander of "La
Niña", one of Columbus' caravels, who navigated it for the first
time in 1500. It has 1,000 tributaries and its basin rises in
Cusco and covers the territory of several South American countries,
up to seven million square metres (two-thirds the
Europe). With a wandering and twisting course, the Amazon has a median
volume of 150,000m3/per second -the largest on the planet- and annually
launches some 6.6 billion m3 of water into the Atlantic Ocean.
is a slender, spiky vegetable reed that grows in boglike wetlands,
and when harvested the stalks must be left to dry
for a month, until they are ready to be used as raw material for making
unique balsa rafts called "totora seahorses", serving fishermen
since pre-Inca times (men of the Vicus civilization used them first)
to go out to sea. These reeds grow in th district of Huanchaco in Trujillo,
North of Lima, and it is the best place to see them and to practise
fishing on this thousand year old boat.
ten cereals existing in the vegetable world, four are native to Peru:
quinua, kiwicha, corn and cañihua, all of them invaluable
sources of nutrition. Kiwicha and Quinua have been considered by NASA
as the ideal food for astronauts. The Andean region's varied geography
permitted ancient Peruvians to cultivate and develop an incredible
variety of species and even to study them deeply. The tubercle known
as "mashua" for
example, is said to have aphrodisiac properties, and many turn to a
certain corn as the equivalent of the world famous Korean ginseng.
miracle of the fertile Peruvian desert and a mixture of Indian and
Spanish, is a grape alcohol in which the
culture of the vine, the quality of the land, the climate and the
casks in which it lies play a part. It is stored in half buried,
large conic cooked mud receptacles. The name in Quechua means "bird" and
alludes to an ancient coastal civilization -the Piscos- devoted to
the production of these vessels. Made from the distillation of warm
must, the production of Pisco is a Peruvian tradition since shortly
after the introduction of the vine in the middle of the XVI century.
With Pisco, one makes Pisco Sour, a Peruvian cocktail which has won
a name for itself in the best bars in the world.
84 of the 104 known life zones on the planet, Peru ranks among the
in the world in biodiversity. It is the first in
birds, with 1,701 species, second in primates with 34 species, third
in mammals with 361, fifth in reptiles with 297 and fifth in amphibians
with 251. The Manu National Park and the Tambopata-Candamo National
Reserve on the southern Amazon, are a paradise of megadiversity.
In just one
tree "shihuahuaco" (Asterix) of Madre de Dios, entomologists
found 5,000 specimens of insects, 80% of them new to science. A first
Peruvian genetic catalogue of 3,000 plants has classified 90 of ornamental
value, 100 useful for making tools, 110 for dyes and tints, 35 for
drinks, 36 for essential oils and waxes, 334 toxics for use as organic
401 timber yielding, 524 edibles and 213 for medicinal use.
Cultural DiversityFew countries can boast a larger cultural diversity than Peru, a melting pot of races, languages, and cultures that have adapted to an extremely diverse and complex geography. A well-known theory holds Peruvian millenial civilization finds its roots in ancient Amazon cultures whose peoples migrated from Eastern Anedean valleys to the High Andes and then to the Pacific coastal plains. Spanish, Quechua, Aymara and more than 40 Amazon languages are spoken in modern Peru, a country where bloods mix and is characterized by a delicate geographical, space and natural resource balance. Precision and creativity at work, and a strong indian presence with powerful values and traditional beliefs are all part of a largely (70%) urban society that is cosmopolitan, integrated and modern.
Peruvian Paso Horses
the Peruvian paso horse walks is unique and it is perhaps the most
comfortable way to ride. Unlike trotting horses
that interchange the movement of the feet on both sides of the body,
those of the Peruvian paso amble, that is, sway from side to side,
using the feet on one side and then the other, with singular grace.
It is a work animal that is born with its unusual gait. The one riding
it is called a "chalan", and tradition calls for a straw
hat with a wide brim and a white poncho, preferably of linen. Under
the horse' saddle, a San Pedro fleece covering is used, a centuries
old handicrafts gem.
One of the most valuable legacies of ancient Peruvians
to Humanity is the potato, a tubercle of excellent food properties that
has saved millions of human beings from hunger and malnutrition, and
of which there exist hundreds of genetic varieties in Peru. The Incas
had religious respect for it and it was a basic element of their diet.
It must have been Sir Francis Drake who brought the first seeds back
to Europe, after landing on the Peruvian coast.
Due to its peculair geography, Peru is one of the
countries in the world with the largest variety of orchids. Although
only 1,800 are classified, some 3,000 are said to grow on the Eastern
Andean slopes, in particular in the High Amazon. They make up 10%
of all the species in the world. The most important varieties in
international markets are the butterfly, wasp, spider, shoe, ballerina,
queen, swan and classic orchids. Exports of orchids have become increasingly
significant as foreign currency earners.
to extended hypotheses, this word comes from the ancient Moche language,
although there also exists a similar
name and dish in Arab cuisine. The dish was born of the necessity
to conserve meet and fish by marinating it. Although ancient Peruvian
man did not know the lemon, he did know of other acid fruits such
as the "churuba", the "camu-camu" and the passion
fruit, whose acid juice permitted adequate conservation. Later, when
generalized in popular menus on the coast, new components were added
such as red onions, hot peppers and garlic and lettu-ce, until with
Andean migrations it ended up as a dish incorporating boiled sweet
potatoes and corn on the cob.
item of pre-Hispanic origin, its name derived from the Quechua word "wayna" meaning
young, it is said that it is the oldest dance for young couples in
Peru. It varies
insofar as rhythm and melody are concerned, according to region,
there being pieces of deep romanticism or sadness, to celebrations
of collective joy. The Huayno is accompanied mainly by the quena,
a Peruvian musical ins-trument, par excellence, made of mud, cane
or wood, although it has also been found in silver, gold and bone
in pre-Hispanic archaeological remains. Profoundly sentimental, its
length does not exceed 30 cms. and it is mainly pentatonic.
Abelard Gamarra, "The Rascal" who
baptized as Marinera this mestizo dance of reminiscences and Spanish
and black ancestors and even the natives. It is a dance of courtship,
of love where the man insists despite his partner's coquettish feminine
wiles. Elegant and complex, it is one of the rare dances where the
woman marks the rhythm and leads her partner. Instruments associated
with it are the Spanish guitar, the Creole box and the African jawbone
of an ass.
With 1,701 species, Peru is the country with most
bird species in the world. The Tambopata Reserve and the Manu National
Park in Madre de Dios are the privileged places in our jungle insofar
as ecological heritage and avifauna are concerned. In each of them
there have been registered more than 500 species of birds and their
forests many more, still unclassified. Exalted by some ornithologists
as the national bird of Peru, the Gallito de las Rocas, Rupicola
Peruviana, native of the jungle and on the endangered list, is one
of the most surprising birds. Orange and intense blue in color, the
males carry out their mating rites in bands, dancing in front of
the females, which have brown plumage, until they choose their mate.
More churches were built in Peru during Colonial times
than anywhere else in Latin America. To put a final seal on the defeat
of indian gods and idolatry, the temples were built over pre-Columbian
sanctuaries and accompanied by an aggressive policy to establish Catholic
rituals like Corpus Christi, celebrated on the same day as the Inti Raymi
or festivity of the Sun.
Shamans and Ayahuasca
medicine, one of Peru's oldest cultural traditions, is practiced by
shamans or healers whose powers of foresight and ancestral
knowledge make them interpreters of their cultureÕs religions. "Fright" or "harm" resulting
from another man's hate are the most common disease cured by shamans.
Sensory knowledge of the world does not suffice in Andean culture. Ingestion
of substances like "Sampedro," a cactus extract, or "Ayahuasca," distilled
from an Amazonian vine, builds a bridge to the past and helps reconstruct
painful experiences treated by healers.
The Sea of Grau
The Peruvian sea, with 300 kilometers of tropical beaches
and a coast some 2,300 kilometers long, going about 200 miles out to
sea, is the third fishing producer in the world and the one with the
greatest biological diversity on the planet. It is host to more than
thirty species of mammals, 700 species of fish and a 17 million mettons
is a species that has multiple variations of shape, size, color and
potent spiciness in Peru. There are red, purple, yellow
and green ones, some as long and pointed as carrots, or
as small and round as a cherry. Dried aji is left to mature in
is perhaps more aromatic and tasty, and frequently even
hotter. Ground and dried, aji can be used also as a full bodied pepper.
vegetable with straight and edible stalks, green or
white asparagus is a non traditional product for export that has
most successful on the international market. In Peru
there are crops year round, thanks to competitive advantages offered
by the geography
and climate of the costal valleys.