The culture of Peru and its different expressions, such as art, music, architecture and food has always been characterized by the mixture of Hispanic and local South American culture. Thanks to the diversity of Peru, different traditions and customs co-exist.
In almost all cultural elements we can notice an interesting mixture of the native roots of Peru´s culture and language combined with the influences of European elements the Spanish conquistadores brought to Peru.
The primarily spoken language in Peru is Spanish. Second most spoken is Quechua, the language of the ancient Inca and mother language of approximately 3 million indigenous people in the Andes (according to official statistics – however, the number is likely to be bigger).
In the Southern part of Peru, close to the border with Bolivia, many communities also speak Amara. In the Amazon, however, we can find a variety of almost 70 different local languages and dialects.
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Mestizo Style: architecture and art
Before the Spanish conquistadors arrived in Peru, fine pottery was the main element of Peruvian art; also textiles, metalwork and stone craft played an important role in the day to day life of Peruvian people.
After the Spanish colonization, new elements in the art world of Peru’s culture were implemented. An example is the urban planning by the Spanish, building cities with a rectangle structure in the Renaissance and Baroque style. The Spanish style was combined with elements of the pre-conquistador culture in Peru, mixing together to the so called “Mestizo style”.
Most of the buildings that are constructed in the Mestizo style are situated in southern Peru, mostly in Arequipa and Puno. The combination of Indian and Spanish art with European influences also occur in paintings, mainly found in the city of Cusco.
Music is also an important form of cultural expression in Peru. A popular style of Peruvian music is the traditional folklore music. Different instruments are used in Peruvian folkloric music such as the quena and the zampoña.
Another typical Peruvian instrument is the "charango"; this is a small stringed instrument made of the shell from the back of the armadillo. Armadillos are typical South American mammals, they are medium sized with a lathery armour. Today, Andean wind instruments are combined with the European guitar creating a new style of Peruvian music.
Religion in Peru
Today, most of Peru´s population is catholic. Catholicism was brought to Peru by the Spanish Conquistadors and native communities of Peru were forced to accept the Catholic religion. However, many traditional beliefs and customs still remain in Peru today and are expressed in various traditional festivals.
Especially in Cusco, the ancient Inca capital, we can witness numerous events that take us back to Inca times. Probably the most famous example is the Inti Raymi festival in June, where the sun god Inti of the Inca culture is honoured in an impressive procession.
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The Peruvian cuisine is an important element in the culture of Peru and it has even gained international reputation! Today, Peru is famous for its innovative cuisine and excellent restaurants.
Peruvian food is often varied according to the different regions of Peru. There are some delicious dishes which cannot be missed when traveling through Peru. Upon your arrival to Lima on the Peruvian coast, you want to try a well-known plate known as "Ceviche". Very popular with the locals, this seafood plate is typically made from fresh raw fish that is marinated in lemon juice and spicy chilli. You can also try ceviche with ‘camarones’ (shrimps) or ceviche mixto, with fish and seafood of the season.
Famous as well and best tried in the Andes is the roasted guinea pig or cuy, which is served in its entirety including nails and teeth. As the preparation of guinea pig leads back to Incan times, eating cuy is most common in Cusco.
Another well-known Peruvian dish is Lomo Saltado. This plate consists of pieces of fried steak with onions and tomatoes tossed in a juice sauce.
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