Around the world: Peru
“There lies Peru with its riches; Here Panama and its poverty. Choose, each man, what best becomes a brave Castilian”, said the Spaniard Francisco Pizarro in 1526, upon drawing a line in the ground with his sword. On one side, due north, the uncertainty of hard times; followed by the road south, to the lands which today form the Republic of Peru. The folkloric episode, chronicled by the historian José Antonio del Busto in Francisco Pizarro, el Marqués Gobernador (1966), could well be the symbolic mark of the nation, birthplace of the Inca civilization and which today encompasses a multi-ethnic population, a great variety of mineral riches and magnifi cent bio-diversity. A place where the meeting of cultures (Andean, Spanish, African) has created a land full of interesting contrasts, which has been experiencing notable economic growth in this millennium.
The force of centuries-old tradition is reflected in the amount of archaeological locations in the country recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage sites – there are 13 (Brazil, whose land mass is almost seven times the size of Peru’s, has 17). The historical centers of the two major cities in the country (the capital Lima and Arequipa) are on the list, as well as the mythical ruins of Machu Picchu and the Inca constructions which remain in Cusco. The Inca legacy spreads itself through the estimated 100,000 archaeological sites officially catalogued across the country. Eighty percent of tourists who arrive in Peru come in search of this cultural legacy; no less than 11% of the economically active population of the country work in tourism.
The (cordial) clash between colonial past and global present is accentuated in the Southeast of Peru, where Cusco is located. The city, which has been called “the Rome of the Americas”, is, according to historians, the oldest urban settlement on the whole continent, having served as the capital of the Inca Empire from the 13th century onwards. It is officially the historic capital of Peru and the biggest tourist destination in the country, receiving more than a million visitors a year. Its architectural heritage, in which pre-Columbian constructions are mixed with colonial-era buildings, is expressive. The city’s cathedral, with its Renaissance-style façade, dates from 1664. The convent and church of La Merced have been there since 1675 (the original construction was destroyed by an earthquake in 1650). The Plaza de Armas, nerve-center of the current city, is surrounded by a concentration of various buildings that have preserved their Spanish-influenced façades and roofs. It is possible to reach the square by Calle Hatun Rumiyuq, the main pedestrian thoroughfare in Cusco, also flanked with buildings with three centuries of history. As the culminating point of the region, the walls of Coricancha, or what is left of the largest Inca sanctuary, stand out. The walls were used by the European colonizers to construct the Convent of Santo Domingo.
In the province of Urubamba, on the outskirts of Cusco, is located the archetypal post-card picture of the country, the ‘Old Mountain’ – literal translation of the Quéchua term Machu Picchu. Constructed from the 15th century on the eastern section of the Andes mountain range, the stone fortress, one of the greatest feats of ingenuity and architectural resources of the Incas, is today considered one of the Seven Modern Wonders of the World. Spread over a total area of around 326 km², the ruins of Machu Picchu carry an aura of mystery, of time stood still. It is as if we can capture a little of the original America, untouched by the Spanish conquistadores. The ‘urban’ area of the fortress has 172 buildings and includes the Temple of the Sun (where it is believed that the body of Emperor Pachacuti was once interred), the royal Inca residence and the so-called ‘sacred zone’, which includes the Main Temple, the largest religious space in the city. The idolatry that the ancient inhabitants devoted to the sun is present in the structure known as Intihuatana, a primitive type of sundial, and is also present in various buildings, oriented by the solstices and the rising and setting of the sun.
The capital, Lima, is one of the largest metropolitan areas in Latin America, with 7.6 million inhabitants. Amidst the urban din, however, hides a wellpreserved portion of Spanish colonial America, duly recognized as a World Heritage site in 1991. For almost 20 years, Lima has been maintaining a program of restoration and protection of its historical constructions. The most evident examples are balcones (balconies), a type of veranda typical of the buildings influenced by Spanish architecture and which were introduced to the city in the 16th century. Today, there remain around 1,800 balcones intact, which are maintained thanks to sponsorship deals between Lima City Hall and large businesses. Preserved in the same way is Plaza Mayor, scene of some of the most significant events in Peruvian history: it was there that Pizarro installed himself to found the city, and it was also where Peru’s independence from Spanish dominance was declared, in 1831. The Catholic faith brought by the Spanish conquistadores is reflected in the Convent of San Francisco (the first of the colonial buildings to be protected by UNESCO, in 1988) and in Lima Cathedral (dating from 1622). Not far from there, shines the Casona de San Marcos – the cultural center of the University of San Marcos, which comprises museums (the Lima Museum of Art and the Lima Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology), the Spanish Library of the Arts and various university institutions, all situated in historic buildings. At the same time in which it seeks to preserve its history, Lima exhibits one of the most exuberant modernization processes on the continent. Founded in January, 1553, the capital of Peru is the 27th most densely populated city in the world. Its metropolitan area comprises 57% of the country’s industrial base and 46 universities (including the aforementioned San Marcos, the oldest in Latin America, inaugurated in 1511). Districts such as Miraflores and San Isidro are as bustling and cosmopolitan as any neighborhood in São Paulo or Manhattan.
Pizarro’s prediction, which guaranteed riches to those who accompanied him to Peru, has seemed to make more sense in the last few years. During almost 180 years of independence, the country has faced political and economic turbulence: from an (unsuccessful) war with Chile between 1879 and 1883 to military coup d’états in the twentieth century. In the 1980s, the nation suffered from uncontrollable infl ation and an increase in drug-traffi cking. Yet, with the consolidation of democracy, Peru has been experiencing economic stability (it has one of the lowest infl ation rates in the world) and a notable growth in production since the turn of the century: the increase in GDP in 2008 reached 9%, a comparable level to that of China.
The fourth most populated country in South America (around 28.3 million inhabitants), Peru grew with the miscegenation between the native people and the Spanish colonizers. The nation also received a large influx of Africans, immigrants from other European countries (Germany, Great Britain, Italy and France) and from the Far East (Japan and China).
There is evidence that the region where the city of Cusco now stands was already inhabited in the year 3000 B.C. Yet the importance of the city grew when the seat of government of the Incas was installed there, turning Cusco into the most important religious and administrative center in Latin America. A large part of the population belonged to the Inca aristocracy. Francisco Pizarro named it “Cuzco, great and noble city.”
Talara, the X of the issue
Petrobras Energía Perú, Inc. – the official name of the company that operates in Brazil’s neighboring country – started its activities in 1996. In 2010, it invested US$ 235 million in prospecting and exploration projects. Today, the company extracts 15,300 barrels of oil from its principal operation in Peru: Plot X in Bacia de Talara, in the Northeast of the nation, in which Petrobras retains 100% of the participation. The company also has 100% control over Plot 58 in Bacia Madre de Dios (close to the largest natural gas reserves in the country, in the eastern region of the Andes). Research on the volume of hydrocarbons available in the area will confi rm the viability of the drilling of a third well (Taini) in the region. Prospects for exploration in Madre de Dios are high, with the development of the Integrated Project for the Development of Natural Gas. In Plot 57, in which Petrobras has 46.16% participation, favorable results in the evaluation of resources found have allowed the planning of another well in the Ucayali region (Mid-East of the country). Still in the phase of pre-exploration is Plot 117 (Marañon), where Petrobras has 50% participation. The company also develops and supports diverse initiatives geared towards the improvement of infrastructure, the preservation of the environment, the employment generation and the education in Peru. An example is supporting the project Agua y Alcantarillado, conceived to improve access to quality drinking water for the population of the El Alto district, in Talara.
HOW TO GET THERE
Jorge Chávez International Airport, in Lima, is the main access point to the country. There are regular flights from the airport to Peru’s main cities. The Peruvian Airports and Commercial Aviation Corporation provides travelers with the telephone number (51) 1-574-5829 should they have any doubts they need clarifying. Tourist information can be found on the site.
The oldest civilization in the Americas, the Caral people occupied the current territory of Peru around 2100 B.C. In 1542, the name “Peru” was used for the first time to designate the region which was home to the seat of the Inca Empire. The Viceroyalty of Peru comprised the greater part of the Spanish dominions on the continent. The country declared its independence in July 28, 1821.