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South America, Peru

Peru (country), country in west central South America, bounded on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil and Bolivia, on the south by Chile, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean. The area of Peru, including several offshore islands, is 1,285,216 sq km (496,225 sq mi), making it third in size (after Brazil and Argentina) of South American countries. Lima is the country’s capital and chief commercial center.

Peru has a divided society in which the wealthy and mainly European elites have long dominated its more numerous population of indigenous people and mestizos (those of mixed European and indigenous ancestry). The indigenous people are descendants of the Inca, who ruled an extensive South American empire centered in the Peruvian highlands before they were conquered by Spaniards 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. The sharp class and ethnic divisions that developed during the colonial period persist to this day.

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