Culture Gram: Lima, Peru
Note: Most culture grams done in the past have been over an entire country. Peru is an incredibly diverse country in climate and people, for this the culture is VASTLY different depending on region. There are three main regions in Peru: the jungle, the highlands, and the coast. The stereotype is that those from the coast, an area that includes Lima, are typical city people, while those from the sierra are quiet and reserved, and those from the jungle are outgoing and loud. Of course with any stereotype, one must be careful as to not over-generalize groups of people. I have chosen to focus on Lima.
Lima is the capital of Peru and a coastal city. It is located along the desert coast, in the valleys of the Chillón, Rímac and Lurín rivers. It sits at the top of the southern half of the country, beside the Pacific.
Lima is made up of 42 districts within its city limits. Each district is governed by a district mayor. There is also a provincial mayor of Lima, and then of course the national government with a president.
Lima is the largest city in Peru and is called home by not only itsnearly 9 million residents in the metropolitan area, but also by the national governmental body, including the President of Peru. Lima has a wide variety of sights and attractions in each of its different district.
Lima was founded by Francisco Pizarro, Spanish conquistador, on January 18, 1535. During the 17th century, Lima flourished as a center for trade. Throughout the century, although the city was at times damaged from earthquakes, it continued to grow and find success in the trade markets at the time. In the 18th century however, there was an economic downturn and Lima suffered. The independence of Peru was proclaimed shortly after in Lima on July 28, 1821. The battles during this time devastated different areas in Peru and some of Lima’s territory suffered a little. Although Peru succeeded in gaining its Independence in 1824, it was not until 1879 that Spain finally recognized Peru as a nation. After independence, Lima became the capital of the Republic of Peru.
Lima had a short period of prosperity in the mid-19th century. But this lasted shortly, until 1879, at the start of the War of the Pacific. During the war, Lima was occupied and looted by Chile. The war caused great devastation to the land in Lima.
In years following the war, Lima began to expand greatly in population as an urban center in Peru and South America.The 40s marked great population growth in the city and was spurred by immigrants from the Andes Mountain regions of Peru. This great population growth, along with a lack in urban planning, created shanty towns, or poor towns along the outskirts of Lima, because the city government was unable to keep up with the city expansion. Presently, Lima is continuing to expand and grow, but no longer at this rate.
The People: As mentioned, the population in Lima is nearly 9 million.There is a complex mix of races within this population. The population is largely made up of Mestizos (Mix of Spanish and Natives of Peru). European Peruvians make up the second largest group (Most are from Spain or Italy, among many other areas in Europe). Other Ethnic groups found in Lima include the Amerindians, mainly Quechua and Aymara Indians. Afro-Peruvians are found in Lima as well, who were original brought to the area as slaves. After the abolition of African slaves, Peru brought over workers from China and Japan and for this, Asians now make up a large percentage of the metropolitan population. In Latin America, Lima contains the largest Chinese population by far.
In regards to religion, Peru is largely a Catholic country, and this is even more evident in the nation’s capital than many other areas of the country. You will find countless Cathedrals, monasteries, and Catholic churches in all areas of the metropolitan. The Peruvian government is closely allied with the Catholic Church. Nearly the entire population of Lima recognizes itself as Catholic, but the extent to which the religion is devoutly practiced seems to differ. Typically, the older generations in Lima practice the religion with greater fervor than the younger generations. The religion affects general attitudes within Lima as well. The political and public opinion leans toward the conservative end of the spectrum.
Customs and Courtesies:
-Eating: Peru is proud of their cuisine, and while visiting, you will soon learn why! The food in Peru is delicious! Peru has fused many Criollo (of Spanish heritage) dishes with food from other regions within Peru and other regions within the world. While in Peru it is a courtesy to try a little bit of everything. The people are very hospitable and enjoy hosting as well as introducing foreigners to new dishes. At the same time, nothing is really too rude while eating, so if you do not like a certain dish or an item in the dish, it is okay to leave that on your plate. The Peruvian hosts will simply appreciate that you are willing to try their plates, and will usually give what is left on the plates to the dogs. Further, it is typically that food and drinks are shared during a meal. When friends or family get together over a meal in Peru, the table will collectively order a few large dishes and will pass them around the table and share them. The same is true when going out to clubs or bars at night with Peruvian friends. It is not customary that each individual orders himself his own drink of choice, rather that the group orders a few bottles of the drink at a time and passes them around.
-Greetings, Gestures, and Visiting: When visiting or staying with a family, it is a nice gesture to bring your hosts a gift. There is a cultural idea of the “Mother Hen” in Lima, and for this, bringing an item that can be used in the kitchen or for future hosting activities would be a great idea. While attending a party or a dinner party in Lima, it is customary to bring a drink or something for the evening, but remember: this drink is not like the American BYOB custom. This is a drink to be shared with the group in attendance. Also, be aware that in Lima, the population is much more comfortable with physical touch than we are in the US. You will greet everyone with a kiss on the cheek; even male-male may greet each other this way. Furthermore, people generally stand a little closer while talking than we might be used to in the US. Lastly, you will see public displays of affection all over the streets, malls, schools-basically everywhere. The people in Lima are much more open towards showing affection to each other.
-Appearance: Generally, appearance and dress is about the same as in the US. People dress according to their daily activities. One difference that I have noticed though, is that as the weather started moving from winter to summer, I dressed in shorts and sandals long before the locals did, because the temperatures that I felt were hot, were still relatively chilly to the locals. Because the majority of the population in Lima attends private elementary schools and high schools, these young students all wear uniforms in school. In the university, you will find people in a range of dress, from sweats to suits. If students are giving presentations however, it is customary that they will dress in business professional attire; male students often wear suits while presenting in class.
-Family: The family is of the utmost importance to the people of Lima. They are very family oriented and the majority of the population lives with their family until they are married and ready to start a family of their own. In many cases, extended family and grandparents will live with the family in the same house.
-Housing: In Lima, there are wide varieties of housing options: apartments, houses, etc. If you live within the metropolitan, it is more common to live in an apartment type of housing option, while if you are located in a district further from the downtown center, it is more likely to live in a single-family house.
-Dating and Marriage:Because children often live with their parents until marriage, dating is somewhat different in Lima than in the US. The entire family is involved in a dating relationship throughout the entire relationship, from beginning to end, because most times that you want to hang out with your girlfriend or boyfriend, you will be around his or her family. Marriage is also more of a family-oriented thing. The marriage is not just about the husband and wife coming together, but the two families coming together as well.
-Time: One thing that you will notice while spending time in Lima is that their perception of time is vastly different than ours in the US. Deadlines, start times, end times, and other durations are much more relaxed. Being on time to events (including class and meetings) is often being 15-30 minutes early.
-Diet: In Lima, rice, bread and potatoes are eaten with nearly every meal. The typical meats eaten are chicken and pork. Beef is eaten occasionally, along with alpaca meat, duck and guinea pig. Fruits and vegetables are commonly eaten with most meals as well.
-Recreation: Lima is known for their soccer. It is the most popular sport to watch and play in Lima. You will find small courts with soccer goals within parks and along the beach in all districts of Lima. Also, there are club teams within Lima who play each other in leagues and this is a large spectator sport. My university even cancelled classes on days with the rivalry games so that students and faculty would be able to watch the games.
-Museums and Parks: Lima is also known for its countless museums and parks. You will find parks on nearly every corner of each district within the city. Alongside of this, you can find various museums, many of which are located in the downtown area, in Lima.
-Holidays: Main holidays revolve around the Catholic religion. All Saints day is observed, Santa Rosa de Lima, Lima’s patron saint’s day, is also observed. Another holiday special to Lima and Peru is Señor de los Milagros, a holiday in October which celebrates a miracle performed just outside of Lima in the 17th century. This holiday is second only to Christmas in Peru. Outside of the religious holidays, other holidays are celebrated; for example Peruvian Independence day is celebrated on the 28th of July.
-Government: The governmental structure in Peru is a democracy with three branches. All three branches; legislative, executive, and judicial branches, are housed in Lima. Lima itself is treated more or less like a state within Peru and is divided into 43 districts. The Metropolitan Municipality of Lima is highest body of authority which governs over all of Lima, while each district has its own local government.
-Economy:Lima is the industrial and financial center of Peru. It also stands as a financial center for all of Latin America. The capital makes up over two thirds of Peru's industrial production and almost the nation’s entire service sector. With that said, there is also a great gap in wealth within the population in Lima. This unequal distribution of wealth is noticeable in the nation’s capital, in that the nice areas of Lima are extremely nice, while the impoverished areas in the center of the city and shanty towns around Lima are dangerous and extremely poverty-stricken.
-Transportation: Transportation in Lima is chaotic at best. On all main streets in Lima, you will be hard pressed to find a time of the day when the streets are empty. There is nearly always traffic and the style of driving is anything but orderly. Public transportation is commonly used, and in these forms: combis, micro buses, Lima metro (travels from the south of Lima to the center), and taxis. Each option is relatively cheap, but in many cases these cars are unauthorized, which can be dangerous if used alone at night, or in unsafe areas of town.
-Education:As mentioned earlier, in Lima, the majority of the population attends private schools. The public elementary, high schools, and universities are very poor in quality, and for this, anyone who is able to afford a better education, takes advantage of it. Also, there are countless private schools and universities in all districts in Lima.
-Health:The healthcare system in Lima is similar to that in the United States, but with some differences. One difference is that there are various low-income clinics and medical facilities which are operated free of costs to the patient and provided by the government. Lima has a great deal of poverty within its city limits and for this the government has been working to provide these facilities to uplift the healthcare system in Peru. These facilities, unfortunately, are typically lower quality and overcrowded. On the other hand,the private hospitals, medical facilities, clinics and practices are generally good in Lima. As a tourist or visitor in need of a clinic or hospital, the cost can be high, especially with the English-speaking clinics, but many other clinics and healthcare procedures can be found in Lima at a cost much less than in the United States. Eye care and dentistry for example are two relatively cheap healthcare options in Lima.