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Monthly Archives: August 2016

5 Adorable Animals You Can See in Peru

Peru is one of the most biodiverse locations in the world, which means that it is home to an incredible number of creatures big and small. We could never hope to go over them all, so instead we’ll focus on a selection of the cutest, cuddliest, most adorable animals you might come across on your trip to Peru.

Andean Mountain Cats

Slightly larger than the average housecat (but just as adorable), the Andean mountain cat is exactly what the name implies – a species of cat that lives in the Andes mountains. All Andean mountain cats all have the same ash-gray colored fur with brown-yellow splotches, two dark brown lines running down their back, white cheeks, and dark rings on their tails. Like other cats, Andean mountain cats are reclusive, which means that we know very little about them. One fact we do know: thanks to habitat destruction and competition from other predators, there are only about 2,500 of these little fellas left in the world, earning them a spot on the endangered species list.

Figure 1 – By Jim Sanderson (work of Jim Sanderson) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Chinchillas

Possibly the cuddliest member of the rodent family, chinchillas are native to a region of the Andes that includes Bolivia, Argentina, and Peru, and take their name from the Chincha tribe that once lived in the area (“chinchilla” translates literally to “little Chincha”). They prefer to live at high elevations – up to 14,000 feet – where they group together in herds. Since before the Incas arrived in the area, chinchilla fur has been a prized commodity, for both its thickness and soft texture. While these days most chinchilla fur comes from farm-raised animals, hunting is still a real threat to the species’ survival; over a period of 15 years, 90% of the global population of chinchillas disappeared.

Spectacled Bears

Also known as the Andean short-faced bear, the spectacled bear is the last surviving short-faced bear species on the planet. Smaller and less aggressive than the typical bear, spectacled bears are almost completely herbivorous, feeding mostly on fruits, nuts, and other plant life. While mothers will attack if they believe their cubs are in danger, don’t let the big claws fool you; spectacled bears are surprisingly docile and calm, preferring to run away or climb a tree rather than get in a fight.

South America Fur Seals

These squishy-looking sea mammals can be found along long stretches of the Pacific coast of South America, including the southern beaches of Peru. Adult males of the species have a dark gray coat that can be accented with tan or light gray splotches, while females and pre-adult males range in color from rust brown to medium gray on their undersides, and gray or tan on their muzzles. Males also grow mains along their head and shoulders, and tend to be much larger than females; adult male fur seals can weigh over 400 pounds.

Vicuña

You’ve heard of llamas and alpacas before, but those aren’t the only furry camelids that call Peru home. Meet the vicuña, the wild ancestor of both the llama and the alpaca, and the national animal of Peru. Even before the founding of the modern state of Peru, vicuñas were an important animal in the region’s culture. Inca royalty would wear garments made from vicuña fur, which had to be painstakingly collected by capturing the animals in the wild and shearing them (to make matters worse, a vicuña only produces enough fur to be sheared every 3 years). Though vicuña were once seriously in danger of becoming extinct (thanks to continuing demand for their precious fur), their numbers have since rebounded.

Want to see these adorable animals in person? Book your trip to Peru through Best Peru Tours today and get great deals on tour packages. Contact us today at 866-788-5647.

5 Interesting Facts About Peru’s Government

The Government Palace was Built in the 1500s

The Government Palace is both the seat of Peru’s executive branch and the official residence of the President. The building has a long history, stretching back all the way to the arrival of Europeans in South America. The building was erected in 1535 by Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro, who used it as his official office, as did the viceroys who ruled Peru in the name of Spain for hundreds of years after his death. Though the palace has served as the headquarters for every leader of the Republic since Peru’s independence, it still bears the name “House of Pizarro,” a reminder of its long and complicated place in Peruvian history.

The Government Palace

Peru Has Had Multiple Constitutions

Like most modern countries, the foundation of law in Peru is the country’s constitution. What’s interesting about Peru’s constitution is how new it is; the Republic of Peru was founded in 1821, but the country’s current constitution has only been in effect since 1993. During the 20th century alone, Peru had 5 different constitutions. When the current constitution was passed, it made several significant changes, such as changing the country’s legislature from a bicameral (two house) assembly to a unicameral one, and instituting universal suffrage for all Peruvian adults over the age of 17.

Plag Perú

Peru Has a President and a Prime Minister

In addition to having a democratically elected President, who serves as head of government and state, Peru also has a Prime Minister, whose full title is President of the Council of Ministers of Peru. Unlike the President and members of Congress, the Prime Minister isn’t elected; instead, Prime Ministers are appointed by the President and approved by the Congress. Once their appointment has been ratified, Prime Ministers serve as the head of the Council of Ministers, aka the Cabinet. Unless the President is present, the Prime Minister is responsible for presiding over and directing official meetings between government Ministers.

Escudo Nacional del Perú

Elections are Strictly Policed

In the U.S., election days aren’t all that different from any other. In Peru, however, there are a number of prohibitions that go into effect when the country votes. The sale of alcohol is suspended, and carrying a firearm during an election period is illegal, except for members of the police and armed forces. Public gatherings are prohibited during voting hours, including religious ceremonies. In fact, members of the clergy, no matter their religion, are not allowed to participate in election activities while wearing official religious garb.

 There are Dozens of Political Parties

Peru’s Congress is elected via a system of proportional legislation, which means that it is rare for one party to win a controlling number of seats on their own. As a result, Peru’s governments tend to be made up of coalitions of multiple parties, who form alliances necessary to secure majority control of the congress. Nearly 30 distinct political parties participated in the 2006 election, some of which have since ceased to exist or been replaced by newer parties.

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4 Important Peruvian Historical Figures

Like every country, Peru’s history and culture have been shaped by a number of extraordinary individuals who helped set the course the country and its people would take for generations to come. Though you may not have heard of these 4 great Peruvians before, the impact each of them made can still be felt in the country to this day.

José de San Martín

One of the most important people in Peruvian history, José de San Martín (full name: José Francisco de San Martín y Matorras), was not actually from Peru. Born in Argentina, Martin was one of the main leaders, along with Simón Bolívar, of the independence movement that led to the end of Spanish rule in Argentina, Peru, Chile, Columbia, and other future free South American states. Though he only became involved in Peru’s affairs as part of a larger quest to rid the continent of European rule, it was Martín who declared Peruvian independence on July 28, 1821, and who served as “Protector of Peru” during the earliest days of the Republic. After just over a year as leader of Peru’s government and military, Martín suddenly resigned all his official positions and retired to France, voluntarily excluding himself from the country’s political affairs.

José de San Martin

Ramón Castilla

Ramón Castilla y Marquesado was a soldier in the wars for independence that led to the creation of the independent state of Peru, and would serve as the country’s president on 4 separate occasions. Castilla first came to power during a time of war and civil unrest, which he helped to bring to a close. Though he first became leader of Peru as part of a coup with fellow general Domingo Nieto in 1944 (Castilla assumed the position after Nieto’s death), Castilla stepped down less than a year into his first term by restoring the constitutionally appointed president. He would become the first President elected by direct election the following year, during which he fought for the abolition of slavery and helped institute a new constitution, which would stay in effect until 1920.

Ramon Castilla

Túpac Amaru II

José Gabriel Túpac Amaru, aka Túpac Amaru II, was one of the most important leaders of indigenous Peruvians during the period of Spanish rule. Though Amaru was educated in Europe and held several positions within the Spanish-led government, he was also a descendant of the last Inca ruler, also named Túpac Amaru, and used his position as Marquis of Oropesa and governor of a province to campaign for greater rights for Peru’s native peoples. When his attempts at reform fell on deaf ears, he organized and led the first major native uprising against the colonial government in 1780, for which he and his family would be executed. Although Amaru’s rebellion was unsuccessful, it helped galvanize the native and mestizo populations of Peru and served as an inspiration for the eventual wars of liberation that would finally unseat Peru’s Spanish rulers.

Tupac Amaru II

Saint Martin de Porres

Born in 1579, Juan Martin de Porres Velázquez was the illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman and a freed slave. Born into an era when people of mixed race had few rights and were often treated as pariahs, de Porres would leave an extraordinary legacy that belied his social status and eventually see him canonized as the official Catholic saint of racial harmony. Despite laws that prevented people of African and Indian descent from becoming full members of religious orders, de Porres received permission to take the vows of a member of the Dominican order, after which he devoted his life to taking care of the sick, even going so far as to transport victims of an epidemic to his convent against the orders of his superiors. He also founded a home for orphaned and abandoned children, and collected vast sums of money for the indigent by regularly begging for alms. Even before his death, de Porres had gained such a reputation that people around Peru regarded him as a saint, though he wouldn’t officially be canonized until 1962.

San Martin de Porres

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