Peru <> is the third largest country in South America. Only Brazil and Argentina are larger. Peru lies in western South America along the Pacific Ocean. Ecuador and Colombia are to the north, and Chile is to the south. Brazil lies to the east of Peru.
Peru has many different kinds of land and many different kinds of weather. The long, narrow coast is a desert. It is even drier than the Sahara.The towering, snow-capped Andes Mountains stretch north and south down the whole length of the country. The Andes region has high grasslands, clear air, and sunshine. Thick rain forests and jungles cover most of the hot, wet area east of the Andes.
Peru lies within the tropics, the warm region near the equator, an imaginary line around the middle of Earth. The coast is cooler than other tropical areas, but very little rain falls there.
More American Indians live in Peru than anywhere else in South America. About half of the country’s people are Indians. The rest of Peru’s people are mainly mestizos. They came from mixed Indian and European families. White people of European background make up only a small part of Peru’s population.
Spanish is the main language of most Peruvians. The rest speak mainly an Indian language. Quechua is the most common Indian language. Many Peruvians speak both Spanish and an Indian language. Peru’s people can be divided into groups based on the kind of family they come from, the kind of work they do, their level of education, and how much money they have. These groups are called social classes. Peru has an upper, a middle, and a lower class. Nearly all the people in the small upper class are white. They control much of Peru’s money.Most of these people live in rich sections of the large cities.
The middle class is made up mostly of mestizos and whites. Some middle-class people are office workers, doctors, lawyers, business owners, and army officers.
Most Peruvians—most Indians and mestizos and a few whites—belong to the lower class. Most of these people work for little money or do not have jobs at all. These Peruvians live mainly in the mountains and on the coast. A much smaller number live in the rain forests. Most mountain Indians live by farming, and few of them go to school. The Indians of the rain forests live in scattered villages, wear little clothing, and hunt and fish for most of their food.
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Farming is Peru’s chief occupation. Many farmers own a small plot of land and grow barely enough food to feed their families. Others work on large farms where the workers own and run the farm as a group. Coffee, fruit, and vegetables are the main crops sold to other countries. Cotton and sugar cane are other important crops. Peru is one of the world’s largest producers of copper, silver, and zinc. It is also a leading fishing country.
The ancestors of Peru’s Indians include the Inca people. The Inca built a great empire, or large kingdom, in Peru from the 1200′s to the 1500′s. The first Europeans reached the country in the 1520′s, led by the Spanish explorer Francisco Pizarro. In the 1530′s, the Spanish fought the Inca and won. The Spanish then made Peru a Spanish colony.Peru announced its independence from Spain in 1821.
Since it became independent, Peru has had many different governments and a number of constitutions. A constitution is a group of laws for governing a country. Although each constitution has called for a government elected by the people, powerful individuals have seized control of Peru many times. During the 1800′s and 1900′s, military leaders often ruled the nation. Since 1995, Peru has had elected civilian (nonmilitary) governments.
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