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Peru, country in west central South America, bordering the Pacific Ocean. Peru is a land of sharp contrasts, of barren deserts and green oases, snowcapped mountains, high bleak plateaus, and deep valleys. The Andes mountains cross the country from northwest to southeast. Beyond the Andes, in the interior of the country, is a thinly settled area covered with dense tropical forests. Lima, situated along the Pacific coast, is the country’s capital and chief commercial center.
Peru was once the center of an extensive South American empire ruled by the Inca. This empire fell to conquerors from Spain in the 16th century. Attracted by the gold and silver mines of the Andes, the Spaniards quickly converted Peru into the seat of their wealth and power in South America. Peru remained a Spanish colony until the early 19th century.
Mining has remained the basis of Peru’s wealth, although agriculture, fishing, and tourism also contribute. Many tourists visit Peru to see the remains of the Inca empire, especially the Inca stronghold at Machu Picchu high in the Andes.
Many of Peru’s people are descended from the Inca or other Native American groups. Quechua, the language of the Inca, and Aymara, a related Indian language, rank with Spanish as official languages of the country. However, sharp class and ethnic divisions that developed during the colonial period persist to this day. In this divided society a wealthy elite of largely Spanish descent has long dominated Peru’s larger population of Native Americans and mestizos—people of mixed European and Native American ancestry.
For younger readers
Corona, Laurel. Peru. Lucent, 2001. For readers in grades 5 to 8.
Falconer, Kieran. Peru. Marshall Cavendish, 1995. For readers in grades 4 to 7.
Lepthien, Emilie U. Peru. Children's Press, 1992. For readers in grades 5 to 8.
Martell, Hazel Mary. Civilizations of Peru: Before 1535. Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 1999. For readers in grades 5 to 7.
Morrison, Marion. Peru. Children's Press, 2000. For readers in grades 4 to 7.
Bridges, Marilyn. Planet Peru: An Aerial Journey Through a Timeless Land. Aperture, 1991. Starkly dramatic photographs capture the beauty of Peru's ancient Inca cities.
Kirk, Robin. The Monkey's Paw: New Chronicles from Peru. University of Massachusetts Press, 1997. The author's experiences in Peru during the Shining Path insurgencies of the 1980s and 1990s.
Meyerson, Julia. Tambo: Life in an Andean Village. University of Texas Press, 1990. The social life and customs of the Quechua community of the Peruvian Andes.
Prescott, William H. History of the Conquest of Peru. Random House, 1998.
Seligmann, Linda. Between Reform and Revolution: Political Struggles in the Peruvian Andes, 1969-1991. Stanford University Press, 1995. Provides a contextual background to the peasants' call for land reforms and the rise of the Shining Path.
Stern, Steve J., ed. Shining and Other Paths: War and Society in Peru, 1980-1995. Duke University Press, 1998. Provides a clear and accessible study of The Shining Path's effort to bring communism to Peru.
Strong, Simon. Shining Path: Terror and Revolution in Peru. Times, 1992. An account of the growth and development of the Peruvian revolutionary movement and its leader, Abimael Guzman.
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