The history of Peru goes back to some 20 000 years B.C. when the territory began to be populated with groups of hunters and gatherers. Theories differ in regard to the true origin of the American man. Is the American culture native, or did it result from an Asian migration? It would seem that the second hypothesis is contrary to many of the anthropological and archaeological tests, as well as an examination of legends and traditions.
In South America, there developed various real civilizations which we call, “Pre-Inca.” The most important were:
On the coast: Chimú, Nazca, Paracas.
In the mountains: Chavín, Tiahuanaco.
For Dr. Julio C.Tello, one of the most preeminent Peruvian archaeologists, the Chavin culture was the most ancient in Peru, existing between 1000 to 250 B.C. Their principal center has been located in Chavin de Huantar, in the Ancash region. From here the people of South America developed a diverse culture, with architectural, economic and religious facets.
Going back to approximately 1200 A.D, the Inca Empire was the strongest in South America, at a similar time as the Maya and Aztec peoples. The principal centre of the Inca culture was the city of Cusco, from where the Incas governed more than 40, 000 kilometers of trails and hundreds of conquered towns.
According to the legend, the Incas emerged as a powerful clan after the migration of their founders from the Tiahuanaco region. Specifically, Manco Cápac and Mama Ocllo had left Lake Titicaca to found the capital of their civilization, at the request of their God, the Sun. Various governors or “Incas” succeeded these founders and made the Inca Empire a great nation.
Historians classify the Incas that governed into two dynasties: the Legendary or Mythical Empire (from 1200 to 1410) and the Historical Empire (from 1438 to 1532). Precisely, when the two last Incas were disputing the throne of the Empire, the Spanish conquistadors made their appearance from Central America, and made their way from Tumbes to Cusco.
The period of the Conquest was traumatic and difficult, as much for the indigenous natives as the new European governors. It signified a radical change the in the composition of the society and the beliefs of the inhabitants of Peru. In this period, the Vice Regency dominated Peru and politically organized the management and the governance, always under the authority of the Spain.
This was the era of the great campaigns of evangelization and doctrinisation which in the end made Peru an authentic Spanish colony. There were several rebellions, with the biggest led by the Indian chief Tupac Amaru II, who brought together people of all races and social classes against the Spanish crown. However, he was finally defeated. Given the crisis within the Vice Regency, one social class, especially the criollos (the children of the Spanish, born in Peru), were the principal managers of the future Independence of Peru.
This period began in 1821, with the Declaration of Independence in the city of Lima under the power of the Argentinean José de San Martín. He had united with the Venezuelan Simon Bolivar, and together they had directed military campaigns, made up by the army and different regions of the Vice Regency. However, two further battles, in Ayacucho y Junín, were necessary in 1824 to seal the Independence of Peru. Following the liberty from Spain, the problem most difficult for the young republics was political organization and creating consensus between the recently formed social groups. How could Peru develop in an independent manner? What group should manage this development? Which group would be the most capable to govern Peru? These were the great questions from the beginning of the Republic, and the lack of resolution brought the country its’ biggest problems. From the first wars between the military leaders to the struggles between the political organizations of recent years, Peru still seems to have not found an appropriate formula to reach its’ goals.