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Lima is the capital and largest city of Peru. It is located in the valleys
of the Chillón, Rímac and Lurín rivers, on a coast overlooking the Pacific
Ocean. It forms a contiguous urban area with the seaport of Callao. Lima is
the 5th–largest city in Latin America, behind São Paulo, Mexico City, Buenos
Aires, and Rio de Janeiro.
Lima was founded by Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro on January 18,
1535, as La Ciudad de los Reyes, or "The City of Kings." It became the most
important city in the Spanish Viceroyalty of Peru and, after the Peruvian
War of Independence, was made the capital of the Republic of Peru. Today
around one-third of the Peruvian population lives in the metropolitan area.
According to early Spanish chronicles the Lima area was once called Ichma,
after its original inhabitants. However, even before the Inca occupation of
the area in the 15th century, a famous oracle in the Rímac valley had come
to be known by visitors as Limaq which means "talker" in coastal Quechua.
This oracle was eventually destroyed by the Spanish and replaced with a
church, but the name persisted in the local language, thus the chronicles
show "Límac" replacing "Ychma" as the common name for the area.
Modern scholars speculate that the word "Lima" originated as the Spanish
pronunciation of the native name Limaq. Linguistic evidence seems to support
this theory as spoken Spanish consistently rejects stop consonants in
word-final position. The city was founded in 1535 under the name City of the
Kings (Spanish: Ciudad de los Reyes) because its foundation was decided on
January 6, date of the feast of the Epiphany. Nevertheless, this name
quickly fell into disuse and Lima became the city's name of choice; on the
oldest Spanish maps of Peru, both Lima and Ciudad de los Reyes can be seen
together as names for the city.
It is worth noting that the river that feeds Lima is called Rímac, and many
people erroneously assume that this is because its original Inca name is
Talking River" (the Incas spoke a highland variety of Quechua where the word
for "talker" was pronounced [ˈrimɑq]). However, the original inhabitants of
the valley were not the Incas, and this name is actually an innovation
arising from an effort by the Cuzco nobility in colonial times to
standardize the toponym so that it would conform to the phonology of Cuzco
Quechua. Later, as the original inhabitants of the valley died out and the
local Quechua became extinct, the Cuzco pronunciation prevailed. In modern
times, Spanish-speaking locals do not see the connection between the name of
their city and the name of the river that runs through it. They often assume
that the valley is named after the river; however, Spanish documents from
the colonial period show the opposite to be true.
In the pre-Columbian era, the location of what is now the city of Lima was
inhabited by several Amerindian groups under the Ychsma polity, which was
incorporated into the Inca Empire in the 15th century. In 1532, a group of
Spanish conquistadors led by Francisco Pizarro defeated the Inca ruler
Atahualpa and took over his Empire. As the Spanish Crown had named Pizarro
governor of the lands he conquered, he chose the Rímac valley to found his
capital on January 18, 1535 as Ciudad de los Reyes (City of the Kings). In
August 1536, the new city was besieged by the troops of Manco Inca, however,
the Spaniards and their native allies defeated the Inca rebels.
Over the next few years, Lima gained prestige as it was designated capital
of the Viceroyalty of Peru and site of a Real Audiencia in 1543. During the
next century Lima flourished as the center of an extensive trade network
which integrated the Viceroyalty with the Americas, Europe and the Far East.
However, the city was not free from dangers; powerful earthquakes destroyed
most of the city in 1687. A second threat was the presence of pirates and
privateers in the Pacific Ocean, which led to the building of the Lima City
Walls between 1684 and 1687. The 1687 earthquake marked a turning point in
the history of Lima as it coincided with a recession in trade and economic
competition by other cities such as Buenos Aires.
In 1746, a powerful earthquake severely damaged Lima and destroyed Callao,
forcing a massive rebuilding effort under Viceroy José Antonio Manso de
Velasco. In the later half of the 18th century, the ideas of the
Enlightenment on public health and social control shaped the development of
the city. During this period, Lima was adversely affected by the Bourbon
Reforms as it lost its monopoly on overseas trade and its control over the
important mining region of Upper Peru. This economic decline made the city's
elite dependent on royal and ecclesiastical appointment and thus, reluctant
to advocate independence.
A combined expedition of Argentine and Chilean patriots under General José
de San Martín managed to land south of Lima in 1820 but did not attack the
city. Faced with a naval blockade and the action of guerrillas on land,
Viceroy José de la Serna was forced to evacuate the city on July 1821 to
save the Royalist army. Fearing a popular uprising and lacking any means to
impose order, the city council invited San Martín to enter Lima and signed a
Declaration of Independence at his request. However, the war was not over;
in the next two years the city changed hands several times and suffered
exactions from both sides.
After the war of independence, Lima became the capital of the Republic of
Peru but economic stagnation and political turmoil brought urban development
to a halt. This hiatus ended in the 1850s, when increased public and private
revenues from guano exports led to a rapid expansion of the city. However,
the export-led economic expansion also widened the gap between rich and poor
fostering social unrest. During the 1879–1883 War of the Pacific, Chilean
troops occupied Lima, looting public museums, libraries and educational
institutions. At the same time, angry mobs attacked wealthy citizens and the
Asian population; sacking their properties and businesses. After the war,
the city underwent a process of renewal and expansion from the 1890s up to
the 1920s. During this period the urban layout was modified by the
construction of big avenues which crisscrossed the city and connected it
with neighboring towns.
In 1940, an earthquake destroyed most of the city, which at that time was
mostly built out of adobe and quincha. In the 1940s, Lima started a period
of rapid growth spurred by immigration from the Andean regions of Peru.
Population, estimated at 0.6 million in 1940, reached 1.9M by 1960 and 4.8M
by 1980. At the start of this period, the urban area was confined to a
triangular area bounded by the city's historic center, Callao and Chorrillos
in the following decades settlements spread to the north, beyond the Rímac
River, to the east, along the Central Highway, and to the south. Immigrants,
at first confined to slums in downtown Lima, led this expansion through
large-scale land invasions which gave rise to the proliferation of shanty
towns, known as pueblos jóvenes.
The urban area of Lima covers about 800 km2 (310 sq mi). It is located on
mostly flat terrain in the Peruvian coastal plain, within the valleys of the
Chillón, Rímac and Lurín rivers. The city slopes gently from the shores of
the Pacific Ocean into valleys and mountain slopes located as high as 500
metres (1,600 ft) above mean sea level. Within the city exist isolated hills
which are not connected to the surrounding hill chains, such as El Agustino,
San Cosme, El Pino, La Milla, Muleria and Pro hills. The San Cristobal hill
in the Rimac district, which faces directly north of the downtown area, is
the local extreme of an Andean hill outgrowth.
Metropolitan Lima has an area of 2,672.28 km2 (1,031.77 sq mi), of which 825
88 km2 (318.87 sq mi) (31%) comprise the actual city and 1,846.40 km2 (712
90 sq mi) (69%) the city outskirts. The urban area extends around 60 km (37
mi) from north to south and around 30 km (19 mi) from west to east. The city
center is located 15 km (9.3 mi) inland at the shore of the Rimac river, a
vital resource for the city, since it carries what will become drinking
water for its inhabitants and fuels the hydroelectric dams that provide
electricity to the area. While no official administrative definition for the
city exists, it is usually considered to be composed of the central 30 out
of the 43 districts of Lima Province, corresponding to an urban area
centered around the historic Cercado de Lima district. The
city is the core of the Lima Metropolitan Area, one of the ten largest
metropolitan areas in the Americas. Lima is the second largest city in the
world located in a desert, after Cairo, Egypt.
Lima's climate is quite mild, despite being located in the tropics and in a
desert. Lima has a subtropical and desert climate, yet the microclimate also
makes the atmosphere very humid throughout the year. Despite featuring a
desert climate, temperatures vary from mild to warm. It's neither cold nor
very hot, which is very unusual for a desert climate. The average daily
temperatures in winter range from 12 °C (54 °F) to 20 °C (68 °F). Winter
days usually come accompanied by continuous overcast skies, fog, and mist,
but Lima sees no significant rainfall from this. In the
summer, the daily maximum temperature averages around 29 °C (84 °F) with a
daily minimum temperature around 19 °C (66 °F). During El Niño events, the
climate of Lima gets severely disrupted, the water temperatures along the
coast which usually average around 17–19 °C (63–66 °F) get much warmer (as
in 1998 when the water temperature reached 26 °C (79 °F)), which causes the
high and low temperatures to rise by several degrees. Such was the case when
Lima hit its all-time record high of 34 °C (93 °F).
Relative humidity is always very high particularly in the mornings, and
produces brief morning fog from June to December and persistent low clouds
from May to November. Sunny, less humid, and warm summers last from December
to April and are followed by cloudy, humid, and mild winters (lasting from
June to October). The all-time record low in the metropolitan area is 9 °C
(48 °F). Lima has only 1284 hours of sunshine a year, 28.6 hours in July and
179.1 hours in January, exceptionally low values for the latitude.
Rainfall is very low. The severely low rainfall impacts on water supply in
the city. Inland locations receive anywhere between 1 to 6 cm (2.4 in) of
rainfall, which accumulates mainly during the winter months. Summer rain
occurs in the form of isolated light and brief afternoon or evening events,
leftover from afternoon storms that generate over the Andes. The peak of the
'rainy season,' which does not produce "rain" in the true sense of the word,
occurs during winter when late-night/morning drizzle events (locally called
garúa','llovizna' or 'camanchacas') become frequent, leaving a light coating
of dampness on the ground. All these climatic phenomena arise from the
combination of semi-permanent coastal upwelling and the presence of the cold
Humboldt Current just offshore.
With a municipal population of 7,605,743, and 8,472,935 for the metropolitan
area and a population density of 3,008.8 inhabitants per square kilometre (7
793 /sq mi) as of 2007, Lima ranks as the 18th most populous city in the
world. Its population features a very complex mix of racial and ethnic
groups. Traditionally, Mestizos of mixed Amerindian and European (mostly
Spanish) and descent are the largest contingent. The second group are White
Caucasians, mainly Spanish and Italians, followed by French, British, German
Croatian and other Eastern Europeans. The third group is composed by
Amerindian (mostly aymaras and quechuas) and there is a large number of Jews
and Middle Easterners. Asians make up a large number of the metropolitan
population, especially of Chinese (Cantonese) and Japanese descent.
Afro-Peruvians, whose African ancestors were initially brought to the region
as slaves, are yet another part of the city's ethnic quilt. Lima has by far
the largest Chinese community in Latin America.
A great number of Chinese immigrants, and a lesser amount of Japanese, came
to Lima and established themselves in the Barrios Altos neighborhood near
downtown Lima. Lima residents refer to their Chinatown as "Calle Capon," and
the city's ubiquitous Chifa restaurants – a small, sit-down, usually
Chinese-run restaurant serving the Peruvian spin on Chinese cuisine – can be
found by the dozen in this Chinese enclave.
Lima is the industrial and financial center of Peru, home to many national
companies. It accounts for more than two thirds of Peru's industrial
production and most of its tertiary sector.
The Metropolitan area, with around 7000 factories, spearheads the industrial
development of the country, thanks to the quantity and quality of the
available workforce, cheap infrastructure and the mostly developed routes
and highways in the city. The most relevant industrial sectors are textiles,
clothing and food. Chemicals, fish, leather and oil derivatives are also
manufactured and/or processed in Lima. The financial district is located in
the district of San Isidro, while much of the industrial activity takes
place in the area stretching west of Downtown Lima to the airport in Callao.
Industrialization began to take hold in Lima in 1930s and by 1950s, through
import substitution policies, by 1950 manufacturing made up 14% of the GNP.
In the late 1950s, up to 70% of consumer goods were manufactured in Peruvian
and primarily Limean, factories.
The Callao seaport is one of the main fishing and commerce ports in South
America, with 75% of the country's imports and 25% of its exports using it
as their entry/departure point. The main export goods leaving the country
through Callao are oil, steel, silver, zinc, cotton, sugar and coffee.
Lima is the capital city of the Republic of Peru and the department of Lima.
As such, it is home to the three branches of the Government of Peru. The
executive branch is headquartered in the Government Palace, located in the
Plaza Mayor. The legislative branch is headquartered in the Legislative
Palace and is home to the Congress of Peru. The Judicial branch is
headquartered in the Palace of Justice and is home to the Supreme Court of
Lima's architecture is characterized by a mix in styles as reflected from
shifts between trends throughout various time periods of the city's history.
Examples of early colonial architecture include such structures as the
Monastery of San Francisco, the Cathedral of Lima and the Torre Tagle Palace
These constructions are generally influenced by the Spanish baroque,
Spanish Neoclassicism, and Spanish Colonial styles. After independence, a
gradual shift towards the neoclassical and Art Nouveau styles took place.
Many of these constructions were greatly influenced by French architectural
styles. Many government buildings as well as major cultural institutions
were contracted in this architectural time period. During 1960s,
constructions utilizing the brutalist style began appearing in Lima due to
the military government of Juan Velasco. Examples of this architecture
include the Museum of the Nation and the Ministry of Defense. The 21st
century has seen the appearance of glass skyscrapers, particularly around
the city's financial district. Also there are several new architectural and
real state projects. Lima's urban setting is characterized by lime
green-lined streets as well as the abundance of plazas throughout the city.
More important streets usually contain wider green areas and plaza's usually
contain monuments or statues of historical figures of importance to Peruvian
Strongly influenced by European, Andean, and Asian culture, Lima is a
melting pot of cultures due to colonization, immigration, and indigenous
influences. Like many other world capitals, Lima is home to prestigious
museums many of which are world renowned. The Historic Center of Lima was
declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. Limean gastronomy is known to
be among the best in the world and the city is known as the Gastronomical
Capital of the Americas. Lima's gastronomy is a mix of Spanish, Andean, and
Asian culinary traditions.
Known as Peruvian Coastal Spanish, Lima's Spanish is characterized by the
lack of strong innotations as found in many other regions of the
Spanish-speaking world. It is heavily influenced by the Spanish spoken in
Castile as throughout the colonial era, the colonial Spanish nobility was
based in Lima, of which most originated from Castile. Limean Spanish is also
characterized by the lack of voseo, a trait present in the dialects of many
other Latin American countries. This is due to the fact that voseo was
primarily utilized by the lower socioeconomic classes of Spain, a social
group that did not begin to appear in Lima until the late colonial era.
Limean Spanish is often distinguished by its relative clarity in comparison
to other Latin American dialects. Limean Spanish has been influenced by a
number of immigrant groups including Italians, Andalusians, Chinese and
Japanese. It also has been influenced by anglicisms as a result of
globalization as well as by Andean Spanish due to recent immigration from
the Andean highlands to Lima.
The Historic Center of Lima, made up of the districts of Lima and Rimac, was
declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988 due to its importance
during the colonial era leaving a testimony to architectural achievement.
Some examples of this historical colonial architecture include the Monastery
of San Francisco, the Plaza Mayor, the Cathedral, Covenant of Santo Domingo,
the Palace of Torre Tagle, and much more.
Lima is served by the Jorge Chavez International Airport, located in Callao
(LIM). It is the largest airport of the country with the largest amount of
domestic and international air traffic. It also serves as a major hub in the
Latin American air network. Additionally, Lima possesses five other
airports: the Las Palmas Air Force Base, Collique Airport, and runways in
Santa María del Mar, San Bartolo and Chilca.
Taxis in the city are relatively cheap. There are no meters so drivers are
told the desired destination and the fare is agreed upon before the
passenger enters the taxi. Taxis vary in sizes from small four door compacts
to large vans. They are virtually everywhere, accounting for a large part of
the car stock. In many cases they are just a private car with a taxi sticker
on the windshield. Additionally, there are several companies that provide
taxi service on-call.