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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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