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PEOPLE AND CULTURE

People and culture in Peru

PEOPLE AND CULTURE

Art prior to Spanish colonization concentrated almost entirely upon the production of fine pottery, metalwork, stonecraft and textiles. The Spanish subsequently introduced their version of urban planning, with cities laid out in a checkerboard fashion, and constructed mansions, churches and monasteries, which mimicked Spanish renaissance or Spanish early baroque. Over time, these European styles increasingly showed signs of a native Indian influence, leading to a style known as mestizo. The best examples of mestizo architecture can be found in the churches around Puno and Arequipa. Painting too mimicked European influences but as local artists grew more confident, a new and distinctive Cusco style developed, in which artists turned their attention away from the visible world, and concentrated instead on fairytale and fable. The influence of these works on artist Paul Gauguin, who spent his childhood in Lima, is noticeable.

Peruvian music is almost entirely folk music, while its literature encompasses everything from independence-inspired polemic to the anarchic individualism of its many poets and the boyhood reveries of the internationally renowned author Mario Vargas Llosa.

The main religion is Roman Catholicism, though the Indians, while outwardly Catholic, often blend Catholicism with traditional beliefs. Spanish is the main language. In the highlands, most Indians are bilingual, but speak Quechua as their mother tongue. There are about 70 other languages, and in remote parts of the Amazon, Spanish is rarely spoken. English is understood in major hotels and tourist areas.

Typical Peruvian dishes are tasty and vary regionally. Seafood is, understandably, best on the coast, while the Inca delicacy - roast guinea pig - can be sampled in the highlands. Other dishes include: lomo saltado (chopped steak fried with onions); cebiche de corvina (white sea bass marinated in lemon, chilli and onions, often served cold with a boiled potato or yam); and sopa a la criolla (a lightly spiced noodle soup with beef, egg, milk and vegetables).

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