Viceroyal Peru


The city of Lima, often called the City of Flowers, was the very heart of the Viceroyalty of Peru, Spain's richest holding in the Americas. The conquered Inca Empire left behind a legacy of silver and gold, and the Spanish conquistadors wasted no time in creating a lovely city financed by those riches. A massive irrigation project led to a desert along the Rimac River becoming a lush city renowned for its olives, its pisco, and its flowers. Spanish architecture took a sunny turn here, with the closed wooden balconies hanging off of the sides of buildings gradually giving way to more open, airy structures. The great Cathedral, despite its use as a center of the Inquisition, was nonetheless a masterpiece. Although the technology, Lima enjoyed a rich culture that was highly civilized. The medical arts and knowledge of nature were both highly developed, and so was liberal thought that eventually led to the rising tide of anti-imperialist sentiment. During the viceroyalty the Spaniards had to cope with those among them who sided with the native Quechua and Incas, whose living conditions were terrible. The remnants of the Inca empire managed to fight a guerrilla war for several years from their hidden cities in the Andes. At the same time, the social stratification of the area intensified as the mestizos and Quechua were relegated to squatter villages outside the beautiful city, and the hidalgos took over the land, building plantations and exploiting the poor. They took refuge in their reminiscences and superstitions, but the magic was gone from Peru, despite all the efforts of the Spaniards to keep the mystique alive.

The Andes are a mountain chain or 'cordillera' that runs north and south along the western side of South America. The mountains separate the Amazon tropical jungle on the east from a very dry desert on the west coast of the continent. Home to several unique animals including the South American camelids (llamas, alpacas, guanacos, vicunas), the Andes have also been a hotbed of cultural development, particularly in the pre-Columbian era, when they were home to cultures such as Chavin and later that of the Incas, which came to dominate the Andes with an iron fist and particularly advanced agricultural, military, and governmental techniques. The Incas were eventually conquered by the Spaniards, who then mostly failed to develop the mountains to the extent to which the natives had done. As a result the descendants of the Incas were able to hide in the mountains and conduct a guerrilla war. Some of the magnificent ruins they left, such as Machu Picchu, were not discovered until the 1930's. To this day the Andes remain gold-rich, a hotbed of guerrilla warfare, and of course a place of magnificent landscapes and rivers.

Related Links

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The ultimate Peru homepage
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A map of the country