The second article of our series “The Americas from Colombia”. Our guest is Peru. It is also in solidarity with the victims of the earthquake this month in our brother country.
Cuzco: The First Capital of South America
Children of El Cuzco with llamas and dogs. Pictures by chö.
The afternoon of August 15, 2007 would pass to history is one of the most dramatics for Peru. The country was punished by an earthquake, magnitude 8.0 and duration of 210 seconds, almost 2 minutes at 18:40:57. The destructive phenomenon caused the dead of more than 500 persons, more than 1800 persons wounded and 17 houses were destroyed with a population of 80 thousand persons affected. It was one of the most violent earthquakes in South America in the last times and it put in alert the coasts of Chile, Ecuador, Colombia and Costa Rica in alert due to a Tsunami treat. When Peru trembles, South America trembles and there are many reasons for that. What is Peru in the continent? Someone that has much to say.
By Albeiro Rodas
The importance of Peru in South America is nothing new. It can be traced from a long history when at the womb of its Andes was developed a huge Empire. Peru is something like the “Egypt of South America” which capital, the first continental capital, was Cuzco. As it were a little to say, in Peru is located the rests of the first ancient city of the Americas, Caral, so old as any of the oldest cities of Asia, Africa and Europe. Centuries before it was created projects as Mercosur or CAN, Peru lived the first continental experience of unity through a territory that lasted from the south of Colombia to Chile and Argentina.
From the Incas to the Spaniards
Cathedral of Lima by Destino Perú.
Even if the Inca Empire was defeated by the Spaniard conquers at the beginning of the 16th Century, Peru did not lost its center during the Colonial times. Lima was literally the capital of all South America which territory went from Panama to Fireland in what was called the Viceroyalty of Peru. The exception was Venezuela that was in the beginning under the Royal Audience of Santo Domingo. Lima was the “Madrid” of the continent and this fact would give some characteristics to what Peru would be in the centuries to come. When Spain divided the Viceroyalty of South America and three (Viceroyalty of New Granada at the north and Viceroyalty of Rio de la Plata at the south), the seat of Peru kept its importance among the Spaniard colonies. If you see attentive the history of the independence of the colonies, Peru received it lately and coming from the north and from the south. It can be explained in the fact that Lima was the first city in South America for the Spaniards and therefore, it was one of the less willing colonies to be independent. The Argentinean general José de San Martín leaded the first independence act in 1821 and general Simon Bolivar conducted the definitive defeat of the Spaniard forces in Peru in 1824. In this way was created the Republic of Peru, a new nation with a strong legacy of one of the first civilization of the Americas.
However, that history would be also difficult for the Republican era. Conflicts with its brother neighbors will be also a characteristic of Peru. Among them, the one to underline was the war against Chile in 1879 where Bolivia was involved and the war against Colombia in 1930 for the possession of the Amazon forest and where Colombia lost part of its territory being reduced until the Putumayo River.
How near are Colombia and Peru
The three borders: Peru, Colombia and Brazil by Edhi.
To an external observer, both countries are closed to each other due to a long border of 1626 km. The border was defined in the Lozano-Salomón Agreement in 1922 and it crosses the Amazon forest. Due to the little development of the border region, the lack of appropriate roads and the little population, there is a mutual feeling that both countries are really far. If you want to go by land from Bogotá to Lima, you have to cross Ecuador, at least to want to have a real adventure through the forest. However, it is thinking in a connection between the two capitals, because actually the region is well visited by tourist in fascinating tours by the rivers, especially the Amazon River in a route that starts from the Brazilian Atlantic coasts to Colombia, Peru and Bolivia. No doubt the border region is also a center of smuggling, illegal crops and other well-known situations. Those who follow such activities know very well the border and join the two countries more than we can imagine.
Twin countries in many cases
Although the apparent distance, the modern history of both countries keeps similitude. For example, the country of the Incas did pass by a dark social crisis during the last decades of the 20th Century with the protagonist role of the guerrillas like Sendero Luminoso and the Revolucionary Movement Tupac Amarú. While the guerrillas were weakening the national infrastructures and using terror as a war weapon, the country came into one of the worst economic crisis during the first government of Mr. Alan García Pérez. Inflation reached the incredible number of 7.649% in 1990. But the history of the country would change radically when Mr. Alberto Fujimori, a descendant of Japanese migrants, came to power. One of his first actions was to close the Congress and apply a politic of economic shock. The new regime captured the leaders of the guerrillas and reduced their actions, but although this, his government was soon accused of corruption with the name of Vladimiro Montesinos, then the chief of the National Intelligence, at the center of economic scandals. Fujimori let important economic reforms in Peru, especially after his reelection in 1995, but he could not stop the economic collapse and he had to resign to the presidency during a visit to Japan. The turn was for Alejandro Toledo Manrique who followed the same economic model and that was also inherited by the actual president, the second period of Alán García Pérez. With García, the economic has been positive and a it has a good growing nowadays, but according with the last research of Ipsos Apoyo of June 2007, Alán García has a law popularity in his country with only 32% of Peruvians at his side becoming the less popular president of Latin America today. Even if the level of poverty was reduced three points in regions like Lima and the coasts of the country, it is also certain that poverty rose in regions like Apurimac and Ayacúcho, according with The Economist reports.
According with the International Finances Institute, Peru is the third fastest economy of Latin America after Argentina and Venezuela. The statistics are as follow:
Argentina 7.2% as the best of the region.
Venezuela 7.0%, the second.
Colombia 5.4%, practically the same like Peru.
For 2008 it is predicted a reduction of those percents in all Latin America due to normal consequences of shock economies.
Even if both countries seem to be distant, Colombia and Peru have been together in history when it is the time to face the world. The best case is the current negotiation with the countries of the Free Trade European Association (FTEA) like Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. But that is only a bottom: Colombia and Peru are members of the Andean Community (CAN), key element in a possible future Latin American integration, even if CAN (the abbreviation in Spanish of the Andean Community made by Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Peru), has had a not easy history. Peru is also negotiating the Free Trade Agreement with USA and with CAN it has relations with Mercosur.
The earthquake of Peru activated the South American alerts not only for the danger of a continental Tsunami that could wash the Pacific shores of our countries, but also the alarms of solidarity with a nation that belongs entirely to what is Latin America. The land of the glorious Inca Empire, which light still candles the history of our continent like the Egyptian dynasties. Maybe, in the ancient treasures of the Peruvians, there are precious keys to build the future of Latin America.
* 17 mil casas destruidas y 80 mil damnificados por el terremoto de Perú. EFE. elmundo.es vienres, 17 de agosto de 2007.
* That elusive feel-good factor, The Economist. June 26th, 2007.
* Perú tendría tercer mayor crecimiento. http://www.peru21.com, 19 de marzo de 2007.
* TLC Colombia/Perú – EFTA. Ministerio de Comercio, Industria y Turismo de Colombia.
* En profundidad: Tratados de libre comercio. Choike.org.
* Los acuerdos comerciales de Colombia, Perú y Ecuador con Estados Unidos, efectos sobre el comercio, la producción y el bienestar. Revista de la Cepal. Abril 2007.
* Bákula: el Perú tiene 100 mil restos arqueológicos, 22 de febrero de 2007. RPP Noticias.
* ¿Latinoamerica Vs. Suramérica? Un sinsentido. UGARTECHE, Oscar. América Latina en movimiento (analista peruano).
* Perú en breve. Boletín Embajada de Perú en Alemania (pdf). Año I, No. 2
* Perú, Economic Data. The Economist. July 23th, 2007.
Meier, a Llanero from Peru
Chistian Meier is a Peruvian and one of the most popular Latin American actors of the moment. He became famous in Colombia especially for “La Tormenta” (The Storm) a lovestory softopera where he is the protagonist besides the beautiful Venezuelan actriz Natalia Streignard. His character was Santos Torrealba, a man from the Colombian or Venezolan “Llanos Orientales” (East Plains). The history was shooted completely in Colombia.