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
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