Peru is a country in western South America. It is bordered on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil, on the southeast by Bolivia, on the south by Chile, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean. Peruvian territory was home to ancient cultures such as the Inca Empire, which was one of the greatest and oldest civilizations.
Agriculture employs 35% of the workforce and major food crops include beans, maize, potatoes and rice. Coffee, cotton and sugar are the chief cash crops. Peru is one of the world's main producers of copper, silver and zinc. Iron ore, lead and oil are also produced, while gold is mined in the highlands. Most manufacturing is small-scale.
Although a large store of natural resources and agricultural land offers promise for a successful national economy, the legacy of colonization, armed conflict, and corruption has contributed to a situation in which millions are still mired in poverty. As might be expected, the situation in rural areas is significantly worse than for the urban population, although inequalities are higher within cities.
Lima, on the coastal plain, has an arid climate. In the Andes, temperatures are moderated by the altitude and many mountains are snow-capped. The East lowlands are hot and humid.
The most severe variation in Peruvian weather patterns occurs irregularly, at intervals of about a decade or so. This change, usually called El Niño (“The Christ Child,” because it usually begins around Christmas time), is but a small part of what is known as the Southern Oscillation, a pan-Pacific reversal of atmospheric and sea conditions. Although the causes of this phenomenon are not completely understood, the effects in Peru are quite clear: (1) warm water replaces the cold water of the Peru Current; (2) heavy rains fall in the coastal desert; and (3) drought occurs in the southern highlands.
About 45% of Peru’s inhabitants are Indians, some of whom are descended from the INCA who established a great civilization in the region by the 15th century; some 37% of the country’s people are mestizos, persons of mixed white (mainly Spanish) and Indian background; About 15% of Peruvians are of unmixed white descent, and many of the remainder are of black African extraction. Some 100,000 Peruvians are of Japanese ancestry. About three-fourths of the people live in urban areas.
Spanish is the official language of Peru, spoken by about 84.1% of the population. Other languages spoken, and the percentage of the population that speak them, are: Quechua (also considered an official language) 13%, Aymara 1.7%, Ashaninka 0.3%, other native languages (includes a large number of minor Amazonian languages) 0.7%, other 0.2% (2007 Census).
The Peruvian Government actively seeks to attract both foreign and domestic investment in all sectors of the economy. Peru’s Central Bank estimates that the stock of foreign direct investment (FDI) amounted to $41.8 billion at the end of 2010, while the U.S. Department of Commerce reported that U.S. investment in Peru on a historical-cost basis reached $7.9 billion in 2010, making the United States Peru’s largest foreign investor.
Education is nominally free and compulsory for children ages 7 to 16. For the year 2000, the adult illiteracy rate was estimated at 10.1% (males, 5.3%; females, 14.6%).
The constitution guarantees religious freedom, but it also recognizes the Roman Catholic Church as an important element in the historical, cultural, and moral development of the country. 88.9% of the population is Roman Catholic but Catholicism and Peru is imbued with Amerindian elements. About 7.3% are non-Catholic Christians.
The most popular sports are soccer, baseball, basketball and bullfighting.As part of a government program to encourage foreign tourism, citizens of Western European and Latin American countries, Canada, the US and Japan do not need visas for visits of up to 60 days.