History of Peru
In our collective psyches, the representation of the Inca Empire is the very emblem of History of Peru. Even if it’s true that this culture considerably marked the actual Peru, we need to know that the Incas ruled only 100 years and that this territory saw the development many other culture before them. The first important is Chavin culture at the east of Huaraz. For the first time, we can see develop artistic and cultural exchanges, giving a kind of unit to the region. Weaving, potteries, agricultural methods; architectural technics, precious metal working (gold, silver, copper), knowledges are expanding and a relative homogenous space is created. A few time after, we can talk about the Mochicas or Chimus cultures, near to Trujillo or Nazca and Paracas on the South coast or Tiwanaco on the Altiplano. Then, the Huari, between 600 and 1100 after JC achieved a unification much more advanced than in the Andes, politically and administratively. It is in this context of cultures mosaics and rivalries that will take place the Inca expansion and Tahuantisuyo Empire (Empire of the 4 directions).
The Inca domination only stand a few time: from 1438 to 1532. An amazing expansion from Cusco has quickly been pursued by a big organization of all the annexed territories, from the North of Chili and Argentine to Ecuador and South of Colombia. This is at this period that Machu Picchu have been built (for more information of the Inca History, see the page intended for it). But the integration of different people of the Empire in a violent way couldn’t do it without some rebellions from other peoples, and this, doubled with political instability, encouraged the Spanish conquest.
In 1534, Francisco Pizarro arrived to Cusco. The Inca was politically unstable, afraid by rumors and bad omens that circulated, Pizarro took the control of the empire with his 137 men, imprisoned and executed Atahualpa and took the Inca lands and richness. Eight millions of people died of cold, hunger, diseases brought from Europe (smallpox, typhus, etc.) and forced work, for what thousands of African or Indian slaves died, of accident or tiredness. The Spanish colons took all the lands, using the local population to work without giving the bare minimum to their survival. Simultaneously to military and colonial exploitation, the arrival of Christian missionaries ended the beheading of order and Inca culture. The priest tyranny exerted pressure under Indian’s lives who were in the obligation to assist to the mass, they couldn’t celebrate anything without priest authorization and they were constantly supervised to maintain standards behaviors, order and moral. Thus started an intensive brainwashing to a population already tired and suffocated by the colon’s exploitation. The social disorder is coupled with a cultural and believes loss and a loss of coherence of conception of the world.
Quickly, Pizarro found the City of the Kings, the actual Lima, because Cusco was too much in the Andes for the Spanish naval domination. Lima changed into one of the first of two ports in Latin America (the only two ports authorized by Spain to maintain strict vigilance) and the Viceroyalty of Peru became incredibly powerful.
It were the Spanish came from Spain who ruled; the Spanish descendants born in America (the Creoles) because they haven’t a post of high responsibility. The mestizos often dedicated to tasks without importance and the Amerindians were, at this period, just slaves or commodity for the rest of the society (the land was sold with Indians who lived as a “free” labor. Within the framework of this extremely hierarchical and feudal society, the descendant of the Inca royalty take his ancestor’s name, Tupac Amaru and lead in 1781 the first tentative of serious rebellion that will be crushed in a bloodbath on the public place of Cusco.
The independence won’t come from this movement fighting against injustice made to the natives but against the Creole population, unhappy of the Spanish monopoly on their affairs and their impossibility to reach key positions for their country. In 1821, the two greatest deliverers of Latin American were in Peru; José de San Martin arrived to Lima and pronounce its independence, and Bolivar continued wining Junin and Arequipa battles in 1824, making real this independence from 1826 with the entire and definitive departure of the Spanish. Then, it was a period of regional instability, with wars against surrounding countries to win territories rich in natural resources, like the one against Chili between 1870 and 1883 that already is the object of real historic resentments.
History of the 20th century in Peru is written by large landowners and militaries. At the beginning of the century, a corrupted dictatorship took the part of personal enrichment and heavy oligarchy in the country. To react to this, Haya de la Torre founded the APRA in 1912; the first political party of Peru, Marxist, and he wanted to begin a clear and open war to fight the injustices made by this oligarch and dictatorial government, which led to his prohibition and blackout between 1930 and 1945. The APRA will won the elections of 1962 but a coup came to stop his accession to power (that jeopardized possessions and power of the oligarchy). In 1969, Velasco arrived to the power forcibly; he will established some APRA ideas with massive nationalizations, repossessions of foreign possessions, strict control on prices and agrarian reform urgently necessary but misconceived and even more poorly applied. Moreover, hit by the oil crisis of 1973, the country economy deep into an abyss. The social dissatisfactions and the repeated manifestations lead to a new coup.
This is in this socio-political disorder that born the terrorist movement which will mark the years 1980 to 2000. Beside the Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Amaru (from the rebel’s name of 1781), the Sendero Luminoso (the Shining Path), movement guerilla Maoist/Marxist, is founded by Abimaël Guzman. There were the students and the Amerindians during an open war against the Peruvian Government with kidnappings and targeted attacks. With follow a bloody repression of the army; famers, terrorized and forced to choose between collaborate with the army or with the terrorists, taken between the hammer and the anvil, were those who suffered the most of this civil war.
The assumption to power of Alberto Fujimori in 1990 marked an important stage for Peru. To redress the terrifying economic situation, he used a brutal and drastic liberalization of the economy; privatizations, mass layoffs, price liberalization, opening of foreign assets… Resulted an inflation worse than ever but at long-range, a kind of stabilization. He also took drastic measures to deal with terrorism. Strong of his “victories” and of his popularity, he did an auto-coup, dissolving the Congress and replacing the Constitution at his advantage. After other disgraces like the forced sterilization of 400 000 Amerindians, the time of his governments ends with a major corruption scandal involving his close collaborator Montesinos but also with an electoral fraud, a huge embezzlement, a drug traffic, homicides… and escape to Japan
President of the return of democracy, Alejandro Toledo is also the first mestizo/Amerindian president who don’t come from the white elite of Lima. This is the beginning of an economic growth and an unmatched stability in the history of Peru. During many years, the Truth and Reconciliation commission made an amazing work to shed light on those dark years Peru just passed, between terrorism and “fujimorism”. In 2006, Alan Garcia is elected, representing the whole neo-liberal trend of APRA where he is candidate; politic turned to outside sources, limitation of labor rights, problems in the exploitation of natural resources and indigenous people’s rights… Despite this, the stability and the economic growth is incomparable: the development is real and the standard of living is improving.
In 2011, there were new presidential elections, tensions around issues of this election are important because the social injustice aren’t nor resolved nor treated. The second tour opposed Keiko Fujimori (yes, Mr Fujimori’s daughter, which shows that his populism disappeared) and Ollanta Humala : etnocacerista, populist military, he claim to be leftist, indigenist and nationalist for a “social and educative revolution”. He frightened, raising the specter of the extreme left Latino American like Chavez (who gave to him his support in 2006): promises of nationalizations, redistribution of incomes, limitations of foreign investments, strong Central State…
In reality, far from this left-wing, now, he seems to purse a guideline closer to his predecessors. Pressure of the Limenian oligarchy (from Lima), heritage from the colony, which never let go of power, achieved to knee him? Or it only is charming politic ploy that know how to manipulate frustration of its citizens? This is the panorama that continues to reign in Peru today, between total capitalism and a Chavez-style socialism, with high corruption in the state and in political groups. What can be done to get out of this historical constant?