What is the origin and history of Peru and its people?What is the origin and history of Peru and its people?


What is the origin and history of Peru and its people?

History of Peru.
In the collective imagination of many, the image of the Inca empire is the emblem of the History of Peru. If it is true that this culture strongly marked the current Peru, it is necessary to know that the Incas reigned only 100 years and that this territory saw the development of very numerous other cultures before them. The first important is the Chavín culture, east of Huaraz. For the first time, artistic and cultural exchanges are developed, giving a certain unity to the region. Weaving, pottery, methods of agriculture, techniques of architecture, work of the precious metals (gold, silver, copper), the knowledge spreads and a relatively homogeneous space is created. Shortly after, we can mention the Mochicas cultures or Chimu near Trujillo or Nazca on the south coast. Then, the Huari, between 600 and 1100 AD reached a much more advanced unification in the Andes, politically and administratively. It is in this context of mosaic of cultures and rivalries that will see the Inca expansion and the empire of Tahuantinsuyo (empire of the 4 directions).

The Inca domination lasted in reality only a short time: from 1438 to 1532. A dazzling expansion from Cusco was quickly followed by a great organization of all the annexed territories, from the north of Chile and Argentina to Ecuador and the south of Colombia; it was at this time that the famous Machu Picchu was built (for more details on the Inca history, see the page dedicated to him) But the integration of the different peoples to the empire in a brutal and fast way could not be done without some rebellions of the other peoples; and that, doubled by political instabilities, favored the Spanish conquest.

In 1534, Fransisco Pizarro arrived in Cusco. The Inca being politically unstable, frightened by rumors and bad omens that were circulating, Pizarro took control of the empire with his 137 men, imprisoned and executed Atahualpa, and seized the Inca lands and wealth. A period of massacres and massive slavery of the local populations followed. Eight million people died of cold, hunger, diseases brought from Europe (smallpox, typhus, etc.), and of forced labor, for which thousands of African or Indian slaves died, of accident or fatigue. The Spanish colonists appropriated all the land, using the local population to work it and leaving them only the bare minimum to ensure their survival. In parallel to the military and colonial exploitation, the arrival of Christian missionaries completes the decapitation of the order and of the Inca culture. The tyranny of the priests tightens its claws on the life of the Indians, who are obliged to attend the mass, cannot celebrate anything without the authorization of the priest, and are constantly supervised to maintain the good morals, the order and the morals; begins then an intensive brainwashing to a population already exhausted and asphyxiated by the exploitation of the colonists. The social disorganization is coupled with a loss of identity, of beliefs, of coherence of conception of the world. 

Quickly, Pizarro founds the City of the Kings, the actual Lima, because Cusco was too much in the heart of the Andes for the Spanish naval domination. Lima became one of the first two ports in Latin America (the only two allowed by Spain in order to maintain strict control), and the Viceroyalty of Peru became incredibly powerful. Spaniards from Spain held the reins, with the descendants of native-born Spaniards (Creoles) not holding positions of high responsibility. The mestizos were often relegated to unimportant jobs and the Amerindians were only slaves or merchandise for the rest of society (the land was sold with the Indians who lived there as "free" labor). In this extremely hierarchical and feudal society, the descendant of the Inca royalty took the name of his ancestor, Tupac Amaru, and led in 1781 the first serious rebellion attempt, which was crushed in a bloodbath on the public square of Cusco.

The independence will not come from these movements fighting against the injustice made to the natives, but from the Creole population, dissatisfied with the Spanish control over their affairs, and of their impossibility to reach the really key posts for the country. In 1821, the two great liberators of Latin America met in Peru: José de San Martin arrived in Lima and pronounced his independence, and Bolivar then took over by winning the battles of Junin and Ayacucho in 1824, making this independence real from 1826 with the complete and definitive departure of the Spanish. Afterwards, there was a period of regional instability, with wars against neighboring countries to gain territories rich in natural resources, such as the one against Chile between 1870 and 1883, which is still the subject of strong historical resentments. 

The history of the XX° century in Peru is written by the big landowners and the military. At the beginning of the century, a corrupt dictatorship took the side of the personal enrichment and the heavy oligarchy of the country. In reaction to this, Haya de la Torre founded the APRA in 1921: the first political party of Peru, Marxist, wants to engage in a clear and open war against the injustices induced by this oligarchic and dictatorial government, which will make him be banned and censored between 1930 and 1945. APRA won the 1962 elections, but a coup d'état prevented its accession to power (which endangered the possessions and power of the oligarchy). In 1969, Velasco came to power by force: he implemented the APRA's policies, with massive nationalizations, seizures of foreign possessions, strict price controls, and an urgently needed, but very poorly conceived and even more poorly implemented, land reform. Moreover, hit by the oil crisis of 1973, the country's economy sank into an abyss. Social discontent and repeated demonstrations led to a new coup d'état.

It was in this socio-political disorder that the terrorist movement that would mark the years 1980 to 2000 was born. In addition to the Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Amaru (named after the rebel of 1781), the Sendero Luminoso (Luminous Path), a Maoist/Marxist guerrilla movement, is founded by Abimaël Guzman: it is the students and the Amerindians in an open war against the Peruvian State with kidnappings and targeted attacks. A bloody repression of the army will follow; the peasants, terrorized, forced to choose between collaborating with the army or with the terrorists, caught between the hammer and the anvil, are those who suffered the most from this civil war.

The arrival to power of Alberto Fujimori in 1990 marks an important stage for the country. To rectify the terrifying economic situation, he resorted to a brutal and drastic liberalization of the economy: privatizations, massive layoffs, liberalization of prices, opening to foreign capital... This had for effect a worse inflation than ever, but in the long term, a certain stabilization. He also took drastic measures against terrorism, with human rights violations and bloodshed. But terrorism was defeated, decapitated by the arrest of its highest officials. On the strength of these "victories" and his popularity gained through populist policies, he proceeded to a self-coup, dissolved the Congress, and had the Constitution replaced to his advantage. After other scandals such as the forced sterilization of 400,000 Amerindians, his time in government ended with a major corruption scandal involving his close collaborator Montesinos, but also electoral fraud, embezzlement, drug trafficking, homicides... He ended up fleeing to Japan.

President of the return to democracy, Alejandro Toledo is also the first Metis/Native American president, not from the white elite of Lima. It was the beginning of an economic growth and stability without equal in the history of the country. During these years, the Commission of Truth and Reconciliation makes a remarkable work to make the light on the dark years that Peru has just crossed, between terrorism and fujimorism. In 2006, Alan Garcia is elected, representing all the neoliberal drift of the APRA of which he is the candidate: policy turned towards the external investment, limitation of the rights of the work, problems in the exploitation of the natural resources and the rights of the indigenous people... In spite of everything, the stability and the economic growth is incomparable: the development is real, the standard of living improves...

In 2011, new presidential elections: the tensions around the stakes of this election are strong, because social injustices are neither resolved nor even treated. The second round saw Keiko Fujimori (yes, the daughter of Mr. Fujimori father, which shows how much his populism has not disappeared) and Ollanta Humala (the current president) oppose each other: etnocacerista, populist military, he claims to be (claimed to be?) left-wing, indigenous and nationalist for a "social and educational revolution. He was scary, waving the spectre of the Latin American extreme left like Chavez (who had openly given him his support in 2006): promises of nationalizations, income redistribution, limitation of foreign investments, strong central state... In reality, far from this leftist electoral discourse, he seems to be following a course of action extremely close to that of his predecessors. Has the pressure of the Limenian oligarchy inherited from the colony, which has never let go of power, succeeded in making him bend, or is he just a fine political strategist who knows how to manipulate the frustrations of his fellow citizens?

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