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Peru; (Spanish: Perú); (Quechua: Piruw); (Aymara: Piruw), officially the Kingdom of Peru, is a country in western South America. It is bordered in the south by Chile and Carolina, in the north by Colombia and to the east by Brazil, Equador and Paraguay. Peru is a megadiverse country with habitats ranging from the arid plains, to the eastern lowlands, to the peaks of the Andes mountains and the tropical Amazon Basin rainforest.
The area that is now Peru was home to many ancient civilizations including the Inca empire and the Norte Chico civilization. The countries population is multiethnic including native Amerindians, Mestizos, Europeans, Asians and Africans. Dozens of indigenous languages are spoken in Peru with standardized Peruvian Quechua having co-official status with Spanish and Aymara and Guarani having regional official status in certain provinces.
The Spanish Empire conquered the region in the 16th century and established a viceroyalty that encompassed most of its South American territories, with its capital in Lima. Peru formally proclaimed independence in 1875, and following the Communard invasion of Spain with former viceroy José Mateo Pérez de Avilés declaring Peruvian independence of Spanish authority in Lima.
Conquest of the Inca Empire
The first contact between the Spanish and the Incas happened in 1536 in the town of Tumbes, but it was only in 1531 that the crown of Spain started the process of conquest. From 1531 to 1532, the commander Francisco Pizarro established cordial relations with native tribes living under the incas. Similar strategy to the one used on the conquest of Mexico.
In 1532, a combined spanish-native force stormed Cusco and managed to capture Inca emperor Atahualpa. A year later, Atahualpa was executed. Pizarro installed Manco Inca as a puppet emperor, but after disagreements with the crown, the new monarch rebelled, and established the Neo-Inca State on the highlands. The rebel kingdom managed to survive until 1572, when Spanish forces invaded the capital, Vilcobamba, and captured Tupac Amaru, last inca emperor and one of Manco’s children. Shortly after, the Neo-Inca State collapsed, establishing total Spanish control over the andes.
In 1535, the city of Lima was founded on the coast, and during the totality of colonial rule was the political center of Peru. At its height, the Viceroyalty of Peru claimed every territory in South America west of the Treaty of Tordesillas, with the exception of Venezuela, which was part of New Spain. In 1739, the northern part of Peru was granted self-rule and became the Viceroyalty of New Granada. In 1756, Spain agreed to sell La Plata to Britain in exchange for debt forgiveness.
Economically, the Viceroyalty of Peru was responsible for most of the mineral exports of all Spanish holdings, the mines on the Andes supplied the Spanish Crown demand for gold and silver during centuries. To extract those minerals, natives under tributary labor and imported enslaved individuals, but not on the same scale as other colonies such as Cuba, were used.
Socially, the colonial Peruvian society could be divided into four classes: on the down bottom were the enslaved people, right above, poor Spaniards, freed dark-skinned people, non-noble natives and mestizos. In the middle were the native nobility, middle-class merchants and corregidores (representatives of the justice of towns and districts). On the top of the pyramid were the Oidors (representatives of justice for one audiencia, a type of wider subdivision), rich merchants and the viceroy along his family.
In early 1874, the Spanish court fled Europe to escape the turmoil in the country. The Mainland was almost completely dominated by Communard forces, so to prevent the Spanish monarchy ending up like the French, with an executed king, the government moved its capital to Mexico City temporarily.
While in New Spain, king Ferdinand VII started a series of political reforms which benefit the peninsular class and royal military, rather than the local elites. This move raised tensions on the viceroyalty, and later, the same feeling would reach Peru. In June of 1874, the Independent Council of Peru was formed. Led by viceroy José Mateo Pérez Avilés , it consisted of most of the local elites and non-peninsular military. For about a year, the council discussed the path for independence and the future of the country.
On may 16th of 1875, viceroy Avilés declared Peru independent. The new country would be ruled by the Council until stability was established once again. Cusco was chosen as the country capital. The city was protected by the Andes, and also had cultural and historical relevance to the region.
a month later, most of the inner viceroyalty were under the council control, with colonial forces controlling only the coastlines. The rebel government chose to fight in a guerilla style. With much more knowledge about the andes than the colonial forces, the mountains and the Spanish Royal Path became a natural stronghold.
In 1878, the council government, Equador and the envoys from the Netherlands met in Belém to discuss support for the Peruvian independence. The Dutch already recovered from the defeats on the Wars of Dutch Humiliation (1850-1857) and saw the conflict in South America as the perfect opportunity to help end Spanish presence on the continent. Since this year, the Netherlands supplied the Peruvian rebels through the amazon river.
By 1880, Spain was in a terrible economic situation, the mainland was devastated by war, and adding to this, the feeling of Mexico soon revolting worried the crown. Too exhausted to continue fighting, Spain asked for peace on April 20th 1880, recognizing it officially in February 1881. On March 4th 1881, viceroy Avilés was declared king of Peru.
Wars with Colombia
First Colombian-Peruvian War (1890)
After the Colombian independence from Spain, the Real Audiência of Quito, which was part of the Viceroyalty of New Granada, became a disputed area between Colombia and the Viceroyalty of Peru, Once Peru gained independence, the newly formed Kingdom of Peru kept the claim over the region.
Throughout the 19th century, Colombia tried many times to be recognized as the owner of Quito, all the previous attempts were made through diplomatic channels, but none of them resulted in a satisfactory result, so the dispute went on to the end of the century, when, in 1890, war broke out between Peru and Colombia over the acquisition of the area under litigation.
The war was mostly a political move from the Colombian Conservative Party, which used a skirmish on the border, a fairly common occurrence, since Peruvian and Colombian forces built outposts in the region on a regular basis. But this time, the encounter ended up with two Colombian soldiers dead. To gain support in the coming 1889 election, the conservatives engaged in patriotic electoral propaganda, promising avenge the two men deaths. The results were satisfactory to the party, as they won the presidential election and most of the parliament. In January 1890, the war was declared.
The war came in a bad moment for Peru. The country recently waged war with Paraguay and Spain, so the armed forces weren’t in the best shape. Operations were poorly coordinated and executed due to disagreement among the Peruvian generals. Due to the lack of resources, the Peruvian army regularly faced shortages of guns, ammo, and artillery, which made Colombia have a decisive victory. The war lasted until November 1890. Peru suffered a humiliating defeat, but didn’t stop claiming Quito until years later.
Second Colombian-Peruvian War (1917-1919)
In 1915, South America suffered a drop in European investments, this move was responsible for a rapid increase of unemployment rate, business closure and overproduction of certain products, which decreased the value of the exports and devaluation of the currency. Falling in facing this economic issue, the Peruvian government's popularity and morale fell in a vertiginous drop. To Raise its acceptance among the people, the country started to use patriotism, and bring back the territorial dispute over Quito.
It was believed among the political class that a victory over Colombia would solve their problems, and rise their popularity, but it was known that waging war alone could result in a similar way as the first war with the northern neighbor, so Peruvian officials, in secret talks with Equador, decided to put in practice a joint invasion of Colombia.
On July 10, 1917, Colombia suffered a surprise attack from Peruvian-Equadorian forces. Due to the nature of the conflict, Colombia wasn’t capable of having a quick response, so lost territory rapidly to the advancing Peruvian and Equadorian forces. By the end of 1917, most of Quito was under control of Peru. Equador occupied areas along upper Rio Negro.
By 1918, the tides started to change on Colombia’s behalf. Britain started to support the Colombian army, and after the initial shock, Colombian forces stopped losing ground, and started to advance over occupied territory. In the fall of 1918, Chileans started a revolt in southern Peru. Britain and Colombia soon began to aid the rebels, thus making the unrest last longer, and forcing Peru to wage a two front war.
By the end of the year, Peru fully retreated from Quito, so the conflict became more stationary, with little advance from both sides. In May 1919, Equador sued for peace. In July, Peru signed an armistice, ending the combat in the north. Although peace was reestablished in the Amazon, Chile and the Chaco were still under disarray.
On November 5, 1919, the Treaty of Leonabelle was signed. In the treaty, Peru was obligated to recognize Quito as part of Colombia, and give Chile independence. Once again, Peru suffered a defeat, but this time, it was even more humiliating, and the country fell into a heavy economic and political crisis.
Peruvian Civil War (1944-1963)
Peruvian post-war economic hardships
After the Treaty of Leonabelle, Peru entered a spiral of economic and political issues. The British embargo crippleled the economy, the government was in disarray after another lost war, the population lost trust in their rulers, and the popularity of the monarchy was going down each day.
The 1922 economic crisis in Europe made the situation even harder for the country, the exportation of raw materials fell immensely, the plantations of rubber trees, one of the country's most important exports, began suffering from overproduction, devaluing the prices. Other sectors also suffered strongly, starting a new period of recession of the Peruvian Economy. The period from 1929 to 1935, Peru, alongside most of the continent, saw a brief period of prosperity, but the Great War (1935-1939) brought back economic hardships.
Since Europe was responsible for most of the industrial goods in the raw materials based economy of most countries, the reduction in production for exportation due the war affected the South American economies.
The Lima-Belém Conspiracy
Since the end of the Great War, communardism presence decreased in South America, and the continent saw the rise of National Republicanism ideology. In Peru and Equador, part of the military started to discuss in secret talks the installation of a National Republican government in both countries, as a way to restore the prosperity of the countries. From 1940 to 1943, generals from both nations worked together to convince most of the forces to join the cause. In Peru, the head of the nationalist conspirators was the former army general Pedro Velasco.
1944 Nationalist Revolution
On September 25th 1944, a joint revolt in the military forces took place in Peru. Many major cities declared independence as the Peruvian National Republic. The revolutionaries led by Velasco declared the city of Lima as the capital of the new country. Already in the first day of the revolution, fighting between revolutionaries and the royal forces were already happening in Lima, but due the loyalist forces being outnumbered by great numbers, and the surprise factor of the fight, the revolutionaries quickly took control of the city. The same happened in other major city centers such as La Paz, Sucre and Potosí.
On the September 28th, revolutionaris broke through the defense forces around Cusco, this move made the Peruvian royal family, along most of the parliament, leave the city in a rush. The monarchist government of Peru took refuge in the northern city of Cajamarca.
By the early stages of the conflict, nationalist forces took control of most of the Peruvian Andes. Receiving direct supplies from guns and ammo to food from Russia and its sister republics, the nationalist managed to establish a relatively stable regime on one third of Peru. At its peak, the Peruvian National Republic stretched from Huaraz in the north to Arica in the south. After the initial shock, the Loyalists secured their positions by the end of September. Receiving heavy support from Colombia, the monarchy forces slowly started to push back the Nationalists through the Andes.
The national republic government declared martial law, a curfew during night time was established to the whole occupied area and declared rationing of power. These decisions, were supposed to be revoked once peace was restored. The non-aligned press started to be persecuted as well.
Equadorian occupation of the Amazon
In late October 1944, Equadorian forces crossed the border with Peru in the Amazon. In the span of a month, Equador managed to take control of most of the Amazon Territory. With a population smaller than 500k people, the territory was composed mostly of small to medium size towns near the main rivers. The reason for the invasion was to secure a pathway of supplies to the Peruvian Nationalists through the waterways.
Creation of the Quito Coalition
On September 30th 1944, the leaders of Colombia, Carolina and Brasil met in Quito to discuss the creation of a joint force to support the fight against the nationalists in Peru, as well a network to prevent the spread of the ideology across lesser developed South American countries. After five more meetings, the countries established the Quito Coalition on November 2nd. The three countries agreed to create a supply line of guns, ammunition, food and medicines to the Kingdom of Peru.
The nationalists started their expansion over Peru beginning in urban centers in the southern half of the country. Small towns and villages refused to show resistance to the revolutionaries, making the control of the Peruvian National Republic reach its peak around mid-1946. The territories held by Velasco rule at their most extense size controlled most of the central Andes and the southern half of the coastline. Most of the Peruvian Amazon and the eastern lowlands were held by foreign forces until the end of the conflict.
Stagnation period (1946-1958)
After the rapid development of the Nationalist stronghold in the Andes, during the majority of the conflict, the control of the Peruvian National Republic became mostly stable, adopting a more defensive approach, little to no advance happened on all fronts.
The Nationalist government was heavily dependent on Russian supplies. From warfare to basic human necessities, tons of imports arrived through the port of Lima and by air through Equador. The Loyalists also didn’t make large advances in retaking the former territory of the kingdom. With terrible road infrastructure and hard terrain in most areas, the deployment and advance of troops became too difficult. Economically, the situation of the Loyalist held territory was also harsh. As the kingdom economy collapsed, it became constantly supplied by the countries of the Quito Coalition and other western nations when it came to industrialized goods.
Nationalis decline (1958-1963)
After more than twenty years holding on, the Nationalist started to enter in decline due to a series of factors. The first one being the death of Pedro Velasco from debilitated health on May 5th of 1958. After the loss of the general’s centralizing figure for the Nationalist cause, internal struggles shattered the republic into several warlord states. Since 1960, Russian discredit in the success of a National Republican government in Peru motivated the country to decrease the support for the nation. The shattered republic wasn’t seen with good eyes by Moscow, which chose to focus its support on other regions. Russian support reached its lowest point during the war with Persia . Popular insurgencies also had a key role in the process. Unpleased with the Nationalist government, many revolts happened in cities and in the countryside.
This troublesome situation opened the opportunity for the Loyalist forces to finally start to advance over the Nationalist territory. In a process of five years, most of the former National Republic was reconquered.
Post-war Peru and the abolishment of the monarchy (1963-1965)
1963 was marked as the year in which the Peruvian Civil War reached its end. With the majority of the country back to monarchy control, with the exception of small pockets of Nationalist resistance scattered across the mountains, the country was considerably pacified. Although, full stability was far from a reality. As most of the population faced extreme poverty, the infrastructure was destroyed or compromised across the nation and a ruined economy, Peru was considered by far the least developed country in South America.
Social unrest demanding a reform of the country's political system soon started to pop up.
In 1964, the Holy Thursday Referendum was passed by the Peruvian Parliament, which gave the choice to either turn Peru into a representative monarchy or a liberal republic. With 50,8% of votes, the liberal republic ended up victorious. The transition period took two years to be fully accomplished.
Government and politics
Since 1965, Peru has been a unitary parliamentary republic. The country has a Head of State and a Head of Government, who take the role as chief of the executive branch. Both figures are elected by popular vote every four years, and have the right to be re-elected once. The parliament, on the other hand, is renewed by popular vote every five years, with no possibility of re-election. Peru is also contemplated with a Supreme Court composed of ten ministers appointed by the Head of Government. The term in the Supreme Court lasts until retirement age.
Since the establishment of the Peruvian Republic, the country has been organized in 3 specially administered cities - Lima, Cusco and La Paz - and 29 provinces. Peruvian provinces have a reduced autonomy due to the unitary status of the country. The chief of the executive in the provinces and the specially administered cities is the City Governor and Provincial Governor, respectively. Both elected by popular vote every four years, they are subjects to the national government in Cusco.