41 Things A Peruvian American Wants You To Know About His Country

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I come from Peru, the land perhaps most famous as the origins of the Inca Empire. However, the Incas are not the only element of Peruvian culture that is known to the world.

Before the Spanish Conquest, Peru had carried a proud heritage and culture. Smaller civilizations, with knowledge of astronomy, architecture and medicine, grew, thrived and decayed.

After the Spanish Conquest, Peru, the new administrative district of the Spanish colonies, governed from the capital city Lima, was a cosmopolitan hub where visitors from all over the world came to sight-see, travel and study (we had the first university of the Americas). The streets of Lima were crowded with people speaking French, English, Spanish, Quechua, Dutch, etc. There are plenty of interesting facts I would like to share. Here are just a few of them:

1. Machu Picchu: One Of The Seven Wonders Of The World

Machu Picchu, the remains of the last city of the Incas, was voted as one of the seven New Wonders of the World in an internet poll made in 2007. Built in the 15th century, as the Incas were being conquered by the Spaniards, it became the last sanctuary of the Inca noblemen. Tourists from all over the world come to visit this site, numbering a yearly average of 400, 000. Lately though, it has become a trend among tourists to sightsee the ruins in the nude, and to streak across its fields.

ATTRACTIONS0615-machu-picchuImage Source: Travel and Leisure

2. There Are Over 150 Languages In Peru

Even though Spanish, Quechua and Aymara are the official languages, there are over 150 languages spoken in Peru. The majority of them are used in the Amazonian jungle, in the dozens of Amazonian tribes that had been living there for thousands of years. Popular books like the Bible are even published in those languages.

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3. The Name “Peru” Was Conceived By The Spaniards Due To A Language Misunderstanding

When explorer Vasco Nunez de Balboa visited the region, in the year 1513, his men saw a native fishing by the river. The explorers approached him and asked the native, using sign language, about the name of the region. The native misunderstood them and said his own name, “Beru”. When explorers pointed the river, the native said “Pelu”, which was the meaning of “river” in his language.

Somehow Beru and Pelu got mixed to what is now known as Peru.

4. The Mystery Of The Nazca Lines

The Nazca Lines are located in the desert of Nazca, in southern Peru. The lines are ancient hieroglyphs (or motifs) made of rocks buried on the ground, built by the ancient Nazca culture. There is a collection of hundreds of symbols that include monkeys, spiders, lizards, orcas, human figures, etc.

These motifs are so wide that people passed them by for centuries, unaware of their existence. In 1927, an archaeologist spotted them while hiking through the hills. Since then, many archaeologists have studied these lines. They believe the lines were used for Nazca’s religious practices. After almost a century of research, they still do not know their meaning or purpose.

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5. Under Colonial Rule, Peru Occupied A Vast Territory In South America

After the Spaniards conquered the Inca Empire, the viceroyalty of Peru was established in 1532. At one point, in the year 1770, its jurisdiction included almost the entire South American region, covering areas of what is now Colombia, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador, Uruguay, etc

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Image Source: Acceso

6. Pisco Sour, The Most Popular Cocktail

Pisco Sour is the most popular cocktail in Peru. It is usually made by mixing pisco (peruvian brandy), lemon juice, ice, egg white and syrup. If you ever meet a peruvian, you must say “Pisco sour” to make them smile. Peruvians are very proud of pisco sour.

But what many ignore is that the peruvian cocktail was actually invented by an American in the 1920s. Victor Vaughen Morris, from Utah, emigrated to Peru and worked as a bartender. Working at a bar in Lima, one night he came up with an idea. What if he mixed pisco with lemon juice? He didn’t know his inventions would delight millions of peruvians, along various generations.

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7. Tupac Amaru II Was The First In The Short List Of Peruvian Heroes

Tupac Amaru was a descendant of the Incas. He lived as a nobleman in the Viceroyalty of Peru during the 1750’s. He was widely respected, a man with polished manners and erudition, who mingled with the colonial aristocracy. However, Tupac Amaru soon grew bitter that Spaniards exploited his people, forcing them to work in the mining fields. He led a revolution of the Peruvian indigenous, but failed after a few years. The Spaniards captured him and executed him and all his descendants.

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Image Source: Cultura Miscelaneas

8. According to Legend, the Founders of The Inca Empire Emerged From the Waters Of Titicaca Lake

According to the legend, Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo, the sacred couple who founded the Inca Empire, magically emerged from the deep waters of Titicaca Lake. Manco Capac instructed all the natives in the techniques of agriculture, irrigation and construction. Mama Ocllo instructed the women in household chores, knitting, weaving and cooking. Their knowledge laid the basic foundations of the Inca Empire.

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Image Source: Flickr

9. Peru Had The Finest Volleyball Team In The World

Peru had one of the world’s best volleyball teams in the 1980’s. Even superpower teams like China, Korea, and Russia were very afraid to play against Peru. The Peruvian team obtained the Olympic silver medal, in Seoul 1988, after losing just by one point in the final against the Russians. The greatness of the Peruvian team was due to their coach, a Korean named Man Bok Park. Man Bok was disciplined, stubborn, tough, and trained his team really well. His training sessions would even last for twelve hours a day. Hard work always get rewarded.

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10. Guano (Bird Dung fertilizer) Was Once The Source Of Peruvian Wealth

Guano is the excrement of seabirds. Its high content of nitrogen and phosphate made it a good fertilizer. The Peruvian “Chincha Islands” were sites of rich guano resources.

By the mid 1800, there was a guano boom in the world market. Peru, exploiting those resources, took advantage of it and paid its total foreign debt. By the year 1860, Peru had made incredible profits and suddenly became wealthy. However, corruption and reckless spending (oh, the resource curse theory), quickly made the country bankrupt again.

This was only the beginning of a dark period.

11. Peru and Chile Engaged In A Bloody War Called The War Of The Pacific

By this time, Chile was going through a conflict with Bolivia over the rights of some mining fields. Chile then suddenly declared war on Bolivia. Peru, which had been a longtime ally of Bolivia, tried to mediate the issue. However, Chile surprisingly also declared war on Peru, in 1879. The conflict was known as the War of the Pacific, which lasted 4 years and caused more than 20,000 deaths.

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Colonel Francisco Bolognesi surrounded by Peruvian officers-Image Source: Estudios Historicos

12. In The Naval Campaign, The Chilean Maritime Fleet Easily Defeated The Peruvians

Peru had many disadvantages. The Peruvian military was weak and their equipment very old. Chile, heavily funded by the British, owned a powerful warfare machinery. The Chilean warships easily sunk all the Peruvian ships with the exception of one. This last remaining ship, named the “Huascar”, was able to push the Chilean fleet off Peruvian sea territory for five months.

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The Huascar-Image Source: Wikiwand

13. In The Last Maritime Battle, The Remaining Peruvian Ship Fought Against Six Chilean Ships

The reason why “Huascar”, the last Peruvian ship, remained standing was due to its Admiral, Miguel Grau. Grau was a brilliant and courageous seaman, and an expert in sea warfare tactics. In command of the Huascar, Grau and his crew of 200 men were able to defend the Peruvian sea territory for five months. During this time, this lonely and small ship became legendary.

Unfortunately, in the Battle of Angamos, on 8 October 1879, the Chilean fleet composed by the Blanco Encalada, the Covadonga, Matias Cousiño, the Cochrane, the O’Higgins, and the Loa surrounded the Peruvian ship Huascar. Miguel Grau was left with no other choice but to die fighting. In a titanic battle of almost three hours, Huascar was defeated by the Chilean fleet.

Grau perished in the battle.

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Admiral Miguel Grau and the Huascar-Image Source: La Mula

14. Chile Finally defeated Peru in the Battle of Arica

Chile then sent emissaries demanding the surrender of the Peruvian Army. Colonel Francisco Bolognesi, commander of the last regiment in the Peruvian south, rejected the offer.

Bolognesi preferred to die standing rather than surrendering. He replied to the emissaries: “I have sacred duties to fulfill, and I will fulfill them until I fire the last round” Bolognesi died in the Battle of Arica, which lasted for more than a week. After that, the Chilean army invaded Peru and fought smaller Peruvian resistances along the way.

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The Death of Francisco Bolognesi, Battle of Arica-Image Source: Estudios Historicos

15. Alfonso Ugarte, The Last Peruvian Hero

When Chile defeated Peru in the naval campaign, most of the wealthy Peruvians escaped to Europe for safety. The Peruvian army, broke and hopeless, was abandoned to their fate.

However, Alfonso Ugarte, a wealthy man from the southern city of Tarapaca, decided to stay. By this time, he had planned long ago his wedding in Europe. Informed of the Chilean threat, Ugarte canceled his wedding and used all his wealth to purchase weapons, horses and recruit more soldiers. Unsatisfied with this, Ugarte bid farewell to his old mother and sisters, and traveled to Arica to fight alongside Francisco Bolognesi and the last Peruvian troops. He died in the Battle of Arica, in June 1880.

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Alfonso Ugarte-Image Source: Estudios Historicos

16. Peru Has The Finest Cuisine In Latin America

Peruvian cuisine is among the most prestigious cuisines in Latin America. Dishes are characterized by their variety and taste. Food critics affirm that quality of Peruvian dishes is due to the fusion of different culinary traditions. In the Viceroralty of Peru, new Spanish ingredients were added to indigenous recipes.

Furthermore, in both the 18th and 19th century Immigrants from China, and Japan came to Peru and introduced new recipes and styles. This is how current Peruvian cuisine has a background of Spanish, African, indigenous, Creole, Amazonian, Chinese and Japanese ingredients.

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17. Potatoes Grown In Peru Have More Than 2,000 Varieties

In Peru, there is a popular saying that goes: “You can’t be more Peruvian than a potato” This saying originated due to Peru’s well known potato variety. According to official records, about 2,000 potato varieties are grown in Peru.

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Image Source: Mike Jackson

18. “Sapo” Is A Popular Game Among Peruvians

The Sapo (frog) game originated from a Peruvian folktale. According to it, the Inca used to throw gold coins to various frogs swimming inside a lake. If a coin was swallowed by a frog, the amphibian, like a genie in a bottle, would grant a wish to the Inca. After granting the wish, the frog would turn into gold. The Spaniards assimilated the idea and designed a game. More than five hundred years later, the Sapo game is still played by Peruvians.

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Image Source: Tulle e confetti

19. Peru Has German Colonies In the Region Of Pozuzo (Pasco)

A wave of German immigrants settled in the region of Pasco, Peru in 1853. They worked in agriculture, keeping vast fields of coffee, rice, sugar cane and coca leaves. More German and Austrian immigrants arrived in later years, and settled in the neighboring region called Oxapampa. The region now is inhabited by more than 12,000 German-Peruvian residents.

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Peruvian residents of Pozuzo- Image Source: Trajes Tipicos del Peru

20. The Amazonians Are Supposedly The Most Sexually Active Community in Peru

There is a joke in Peru that holds that all Peruvians living in the Amazon are the most sexually active in the nation. This joke originated due to the vast amount of aphrodisiac drinks invented in the region. There are more than 12 herbal drinks that allegedly give you more sexual energy than Viagra.

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The Aphrodisiac Rompe Calzon-Image Source: Peru.com

21. Peru Endured A Genocidal War In The Past Century

In the 1980’s, Peru lived through one of the most catastrophic decades. Terrorists organizations, like the Shining Path and the MRTA, attempted to take over the Peruvian government. Their mission was to install a leftist regime, that would benefit the peasants and poor people of Peru.

Ironically, in order to gain support and intimidate, the terrorists massacred thousands of peasants and wiped out indigenous towns. In 1993, the leader of Shining path, a former university professor named Abimael Guzman, was captured and sent to prison. By then, 69,280 Peruvians had already been killed.

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22. Peru Holds The World Record In Having The Worst Stadium Disaster

In a soccer match between Peru and Argentina on May 24, 1964, a referee decision unintentionally caused more than 300 deaths. Argentina was winning the game 1-0 but, six minutes before the end, Peru scored too. However, the referee disallowed it because he said “there was a foul”.

A riot quickly emerged and the police intervened firing bullets and tear gas. The confrontations continued outside the stadium. In the aftermath, more than 300 fans lost their lives, and 500 more were injured.

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Image Source: 90 min

23. During The 1990’s, The Illegal Cocaine Industry Employed A Total Of 200,000 Peruvians

During the 1990’s, Peru was a narco-state. There are various allegations that then President Alberto Fujimori supported narco operations of Drug trade. Drug lords massively supplied cocaine base to Colombia, where the base was converted to powder and shipped to the US. It was a big industry with millions of dollars involved. In times of poverty, the cocaine industry was able to employ and feed more than 200,000 Peruvians.

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Image Source: Insight Crime

Related Content: Pablo Escobar Secret CIA Connection In Peru Made Him Billions

24. The Peruvian “Cotahuasi” Canyon Is the Deepest Canyon In The World

The U.S Grand Canyon is popular due to its length, 277 miles, its several ecosystems and its beauty. Nevertheless, in relation to depth, the Grand Canyon doesn’t even come close to Cotahuasi Canyon. Cotahuasi, located in the region of Arequipa, is the deepest canyon in the world, with a depth of 3354 feet (twice the depth of the Grand Canyon). The Cotahuasi river eroded the canyon for millions of years until its current configuration.

cotahuasiImage Source: Peru Paradise Travel
Image Source: Paseo Peru

25. The “Naked or Hairless Dog” Is A Exotic Dog Breed From Peruvian Origin. It Is Also Called The Peruvian Dog

The Peruvian hairless dog had its origins in Peru, bred by various civilizations before the Incas. Under the rule of the Spanish Empire, Peruvians were forbidden to own hairless dogs. The Naked dog was only raised in rural and poor areas. Since the dog came from ancient times, Peruvians still attribute some mystical powers to the dog, and believe it can cure arthritis.

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Image Source: Cuzco eats

26. The Variations Of Spanish Language in Peru Are Quite Interesting (e.g., Eat I will At Seven)

A language can be spoken in different forms in various regions across the territory. These are called dialects. It is estimated that Spanish is spoken by more than a hundred dialects in Peru. The most inventive of them even reject grammar rules, so that the verb goes first, and the pronoun later: fabulous!! Work I am going. XpatNation This is the website of. Eat I will at seven, de la selva su encanto, etc, etc.

27. Guinea Pigs, An Exquisite Delicacy

In the United States, people raise guinea pigs as pets. But Peruvians eat them. Guinea pigs are considered an exquisite delicacy in Peruvian culture. The dish is known as “Picante de Cuy.” The guinea pigs are marinated in a red pepper-based sauce, to be later fried in a pan. Guinea pigs were originally eaten by the Incas, and that tradition has lasted for centuries.

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28. The Oldest Peruvian Civilizations Fabricated Erotic Ceramic Vases

As Kevin Saunders argues in his book “Degradation”, during the classical era, pornography had nothing to do with obcenity or degradation. The Greek and Roman civilizations proudly celebrated sex with none of the shame or guilt commonly held today. Their ceramic art is a testament of this. Peruvian civilizations, such as the Moche, followed the same patterns. Moche ceramic showed that, in regards to love, Peruvians were very liberal and inventive.

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Image Source: The Guardian

29. Juanita Is The Most Popular Mummy In Peru

In 1995, a group of anthropologists discovered a frozen mummy in the mount Ampato in Southern Peru. The mummy was named “Juanita”. Research revealed that Juanita had been killed in a ritual sacrifice to the Inca Gods around the year 1470. The find caused astonishment in the scientific world, and the mummy was exhibited in the headquarters of the National Geographic in 1996. Time magazine also included Juanita in its list of the top ten discoveries.

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Image Source: Portal Andina

30. Otto, a Peruvian Dog, Is Now Included In The Guiness’ World Record Book

Otto, a peruvian dog from Lima, recently broke the world record of passing 30 sets of legs rolling on a skateboard.

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Otto the skateboarding bulldog - Guinness World Records

31. Peru Has Two World Renowned Literary Giants

Peru has two great world renowned literary figures. Cesar Vallejo was a little known poet, who emigrated to Europe, and lived in Paris in extreme poverty. Some figures of the Peruvian literary establishment even despised him back then. He died forgotten, sick and lonely. Now his poetry is studied by serious academics. Nobel prize poets such as Pablo Neruda considered him a master. The other literary figure is novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, who received the Nobel Prize in 2010.

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32. Peru Is Also Home Of One Of The Tallest Men Living In South America

Margarito Machaguay , a Peruvian citizen, is currently the second tallest man living in South America, with a height of 7 feet and six inches (228 centimeters). He was subjected to various medical surgeries so that he may stop growing. Now Margarito lives happily married with his wife Olga Ramos.

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Margarito, orgullo del Peru :)-Image Source: Foros Peru

33. Peru Is The Second World Producer Of Asparagus

Who can beat China nowadays? Peru is currently the top second world producer of asparagus behind China. After Fujimori’s dictatorship fell, Peruvian government, assisted by the United States, persuaded coca leaves farmers to grow asparagus instead. The cheap labor, good climate, cheap water and high yields soon made Peru a world exporter.

34. Huayno, The Traditional Music Of Peru

Huayno is a popular Andean music of the Indians of Peru. It is interpreted by musical instruments such as the flute, violin, guitar and accordion. Its lyrics usually have sad and nostalgic lyrics. It is mostly played in Andean towns, and most indigenous festivals.

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Related Content: Huayno: How Important Is The Old Inca Music To Peru’s History

35. Amazonians Also Have An Exotic Cuisine: They Eat Worms and Crocodile Meat

An exotic cuisine is also part of the Peruvian Amazonian culture. Traditional Amazonian recipes are pretty popular in Lima, the capital of Peru. However, there are also a few exotic dishes that have not really assimilated. They are: crocodile meat, fried ants (sikisapa) and grilled worms.

36. The Peruvian Shanty Towns

There is over a hundred shanty towns in Lima. A wave of Andean immigrants began settling in the deserts of Lima, in the 1950’s. Due to poverty and hunger, Andean residents came to Lima looking for jobs. Over the decades the immigration wave increased and, for lack of space, they began occupying the mountains surrounding Central Lima.

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Cerro San Cristobal-Image Source: Destinosa 1

37. Only Inca Noblemen Were Allowed To Consume Coca Leaves 

The consume of coca leaves was only allowed for Inca noblemen. In the Inca Empire, consuming coca was a sign of status and prestige. Noblemen were given coca leaves in their manhood initiation rites. It was also used by priests in state ceremonies. Incas loved it to the point that, when their noblemen were buried, a supply of coca leaves were left inside their tombs.

38. Ayahuasca, A Marvelous Psychedelic That Will Unveil The Truth Before Your Eyes

The Peruvian Amazon tribes consume a powerful psychedelic known as Ayahuasca, that is made from an extract of the Banisteriopsis caapi vine and other roots. It is mainly used by divination and medicinal purposes. Ayahuasca contains dimethyltriptamine, a powerful psychedelic compound, that some claim may transport you to other magical realms.

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Related Content: The 10 Most Peculiar Drinks In Latin America

39. The Inti Raymi Is A Religious Ceremony Offered To The Sun, An Inca God. It Is Still Celebrated Today

The Incas worshipped the Sun, and held an annual celebration called Inti Raymi (Festival of the Sun). The festivities were held in the city of Cusco for nine days. Inti Raymi included parades and choreographed dances. Inti Raymi was celebrated every year from 1412 until the end of the Inca empire in 1535. Fortunately, in 1944, the tradition revived and has been annually staged in the city of Cusco ever since.

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Inti Raymi-Image Source: Pirwa hotel

40. Chincha Is One Of The Most Popular Afro Peruvian Cities

More than 95,000 people of African descent were brought to Peru during Spanish Rule. They were forced into slavery, often as servants or cooks. In 1856, Peruvian President Ramon Castilla abolished the institution of slavery.

However, segregation and racism, sadly, still continue in Peru. Most Afro-Peruvian communities live in rural farming areas. According to most Peruvians, the most popular city of Afro-Peruvians is Chincha, site of the Afro-Peruvian cultural heritage.

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The Afro-Peruvian Band “Peru Negro”-Image Source: CTMD

41. Couples Engaging In Long French Kisses In Public Is A Common Practice In Peru

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Image Source: Diario 16

Some tourists believe it is very peculiar. But a common sight in public Peruvian parks, and anywhere on the street for that matter, is to see couples engaging in long french kisses. Love in public view. Love Peruvian people.

Love Peru!

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Image Source: Ruth Zapa

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XpatNation is a Social News and Lifestyle magazine, focusing on the insights and experiences on ex-patriots living in The United States. XpatNation brings together the voices, thoughts, perceptions and experiences of the people of the world who have made the USA their home. Using their insight and unique understanding of the global world we live in to discuss culture, lifestyle, Geo politics and the day to day on-goings of this proud and powerful nation.

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