Once the heart of the Inca Empire, before the Spanish conquest in the 16th century, Peru lies on the Pacific coast of South America, just south of the equator.

 Geography: Coastal plain rises to Andes Mountains. Uplands, dissected by fertile valleys, lie east of the Andes. Tropical forest in extreme east.

 Climate: Coast is mainly arid. Middle slopes of the Andes are temperate; higher peaks are snow-covered. East is hot, humid, and very wet.

 People and Society: Though most people are Amerindians or mixed-race mestizos, society is dominated by a small group of Spanish descendants. Amerindians, and the small black community, suffer discrimination in towns, but access to information and political power are growing; the first Amerindian president was elected in 2001–2006. Clashes with left-wing militants killed almost 70,000 people between 1980 and 2000.

 The Economy: Abundant mineral resources: notably copper and gold. Rich Pacific fish stocks. Illegal cocaine producer.

Insight: Lake Titicaca is the world’s highest navigable lake


 Official Name: Republic of Peru

 Date of Formation: 1824

 Capital: Lima

 Population: 29.2 million

 Total Area: 496,223 sq. miles (1,285,200 sq. km)

 Density: 59 people per sq. mile

 Languages: Spanish*, Quechua*, Aymara

 Religions: Roman Catholic 95%, other 5%

 Ethnic Mix: Amerindian 50%, Mestizo 40%, White 7%, other 3%

 Government: Presidential system

 Currency: New sol = 100 céntimos

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