Peru’s rich culture is one of the absolute highlights of traveling to this country. Some cultural aspects are evident while picking up on other practices requires a careful eye and ear for detail. Peruvian culture is rich and colorful. You’ll find both traditional and fresh expressions of Peru’s proud heritage around every corner. The coming together of different creeds, customs, and experiences has created close to 3,000 annual popular festivals in Peru, including patron saint feasts, processions, carnivals, and rituals. Peruvian festivals often have a mystical side to them, the result of a fusion between Catholicism and pre-Hispanic religious traditions. Many celebrations are about rewarding and recognizing the Pachamama (Mother Earth) for her endless generosity. Speaking of natural generosity, Peruvian cuisine is another expression of a national identity that embraces multiple cultures and the bounty of nature. Read on for more fascinating information about Peruvian Culture.
Before the Spanish conquistadors arrived in Peru, fine pottery was the main element of Peruvian art, along with 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 rectangular structure in the Renaissance and Baroque styles. The Spanish style was combined with elements of the pre-conquistador culture in Peru, mixing with 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 occurs in paintings, mainly found in the city of Cusco.
The Quechua are described as the direct descendants of the Incas, but in the present day, they comprise several indigenous groups scattered throughout South America. The Quechua culture is still very prevalent in the music, dance, dress, food, and language of the Andean region in Peru. The vibrant Andean textiles sold in artisan shops in Peru have become a staple souvenir among travelers and play an important economic and cultural role in many Andean communities. Women generally wear skirts and petticoats, while men typically wear multicolored ponchos. To make these textiles, the wool of llamas, alpacas, and sheep is spun, dyed, and woven into beautiful blankets and clothing. These textiles display intricate patterns and designs that communicate symbols and myths that are locally important.
The spiritual beliefs of modern Peruvians have deep roots in Inca mythology. This is especially true of those who are raised in traditional Andean communities. One example is the continuing reverence shown to high mountain peaks, which are considered sacred and believed to be the dwelling places of powerful spirits called apus. Today people make offerings to the apus by gathering food, drink, coca leaves, and other plants as a symbol of gratitude for all that the spirits provide. There are also many ancient rituals around Pachamama or Mother Earth. The rituals are especially prevalent on August 1st, which is Día de la Pachamama. On this day, there are massive ceremonies, offerings, and rituals, following the core Andean practice of ayni, or reciprocity to the earth goddess.
Peruvian culture and its different expressions, such as art, music, architecture, and cuisine have 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.
Peruvians have become experts at experimenting with new flavors, harmonizing aromas, and discovering new ways of cooking. “Peruvian cuisine is another expression of a national identity that embraces multiple cultures and the bounty of nature the diversity of Peru’s agricultural production, microclimates, geography, multiple cultures, and the genius of its chefs have enriched the culinary nature of Peru to the point where it is now recognized as the Gastronomic Capital of The Americas. Andean culture is also reflected in the local cuisine. The appearance of cuy, or guinea pig, on a restaurant menu may come as a shock to unprepared travelers. Guinea pigs are not considered pets in Peru, but rather a delicious food delicacy. Eating cuy is a tradition from Inca times when the rodent was typically eaten by royalty. Today guinea pigs can be ordered grilled, roasted, or deep fried, served whole or chopped into smaller pieces, and the dish is still reserved for special occasions. Mistura is the largest food festival in Latin America. Held in Lima, it brings together the leading chefs and restaurants of Peru, not to mention thousands of food aficionados from around the globe.
Music is also an important form of cultural expression in Peru. A popular style of Peruvian music is traditional folklore music. Different instruments are used in Peruvian folkloric music such as the quena and the zampoña. Music and dance have always played an important role in Peruvian society. Ancient Peruvians used sea shells, reeds, and even animal bones to produce sounds. It is said that the Peruvians of the Nazca culture were the most important pre-Hispanic musicians on the continent. Panpipes or zampoñas, terracotta trumpets, and pututos were some of the most important musical instruments in ancient Peru. 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 leathery shells. Today, Andean wind instruments are combined with the European guitar creating a new style of Peruvian music.
Ancient Peruvians were outstanding handicraft artisans with highly developed technical skills. Pre-Hispanic Peruvian art often takes the pragmatic form of weaving, gourds, wood, stone, gold, silver, pottery, and even mud, which were used for day-to-day living. This ancestral heritage is still seen today in the coastal, mountain, and jungle towns, in a variety of high-quality woven items. Peruvian silver filigree, carved gourds, Ayacuchan altars, Huamanga stone and wood carvings, Chulucanas pottery, and Monsefú ponchos, among others, are highly valued around the world.