The history of Peru in a nutshell
Peruvians started to live in towns about 5000 years ago, even before they had pottery: imagine no hotpots, no potties. These towns - a good example is that of Caral 200 kms north of Lima - made it possible for people to specialise, for example in order to make fishing nets or become the master-builders and craftsmen who created great ceremonial and monumental architecture. In Caral you can see flat-topped pyramids (later variants called "ushnus"), circular ceremonial arenas, permanent street patterns, musical instruments, counting and record-keeping devices (khipus). There was a remarkable continuity - for example in the construction of ushnus - and evidence of continuing cultural development right up to the period of invasion by Spaniards aka (La Conquista 1531/2 - 1572). In spite of the literal decimation of the population, Peruvian languages survived long periods of repression. Right up to 1900 most Peruvians still spoke one form of Quechua or another. The campaigns for independence were largely conducted by outsiders and failed to secure essential freedoms for the bulk of Peru´s population.
Further the occupation by Chilean forces 1879-83 (the War of the Pacific / the Nitrate War) revealed the fragility of society and the economy. From the 1530's the failure of newcomer-foreigners to integrate into Peru has created what economists call a "low trust society" with aspects of racism and castism dug well into the brickwork. This has lead to a systematic under-investment in the education and under-appreciation of "fellow citizens". Most have at one time or another been sitting on top of a gold mine - sometimes the gold is oil, copper, guano, nitrates, tin, silver, avocados, cotton. Seldom have they been left wealthy as a consequence. Simple arithmetic suggests that per capita the average Joe in Peru should be the wealthiest in the world. So what went wrong? Who sold off the family silver without telling the cousins? The real (potential) goldmine for Peru continues to be its under-educated population.
However there are indicators suggesting a breakthrough. By 2009 - two years into a global recession and the economy is still growing, just. This follows six years of strong growth. Is this just another mining boom which will go the way of all the others? Not if you look at the social statistics. The boom really is based on a real positive change in society - on what recent Biblioteca Nacional seminars are calling the "chola revolution". The expert, professional and managerial workforce now includes a 20% chunk of the population "whose grandfather's tongue was Quechua, Aymara, Shipibo . . ." or who are women working full-time in the formal sector and the three million Peruvians abroad, some of whom help to export Peruvian products and most of whom send remittances back to their families. On the negative side globalisation has meant that Lima (but not the port and airport of Callao) has become "unnecessary" to the world economy. Put it this way - the rest of the world can get all the precious and industrial minerals, petroleum or gas, agro-industrial produce, fish and fishmeal it needs from Peru without the services of Lima. Lima becomes a "parasite" city . . .