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Culture in Peru


Peruvian culture was shaped by the relationship between Hispanic and Amerindian cultures. The ethnic diversity of Peru allowed diverse traditions and customs to coexist. Peru has passed through various intellectual stages – from colonial Hispanic culture to European Romanticism after independence. The early 20th century brought “Indigenismo”, expressed in a new awareness of Indian culture. Since World War II, Peruvian writers, artists and intellectuals such as César Vallejo and José María Arguedas have participated in worldwide intellectual and artistic movements.


Peruvian architecture is a conjunction of European styles exposed to the influence of indigenous imagery. Two of the most well-known examples of the Early Colonial period are the Cathedral and the church of Santa Clara of Cuzco. After this period, the Mestization reached its richer expression in the Baroque. Some examples of this Baroque period are the convent of San Francisco de Lima, the church of the Compañía and the façade of the University of Cuzco and, overall, the churches of San Agustín and Santa Rosa of Arequipa.

The independence war left a creative emptiness that was filled by the Neo-classicism of the French. The 20th century was characterised by the eclectic architecture, which has been in stark opposition to constructive functionalism. Its most considerable example is San Martin Plaza in Lima.


During pre-Columbian times, Peru was one of the major centres of artistic expression in The Americas, where Pre-Inca cultures, such as Chavín, Moche, Paracas, Huari (Wari), Nazca, Chimu and Tiahuanaco developed high-quality pottery, textiles, jewellery and sculpture. Drawing upon earlier cultures, the Incas continued to maintain these crafts but made even more impressive achievements in architecture. The mountain town of Machu Picchu and the buildings at Cuzco are excellent examples of Inca architectural design.

During the colonial period, Spanish baroque fused with the rich Inca tradition to produce Mestizo or Creole art. The Cuzco school of largely anonymous Indian artists followed the Spanish Baroque tradition with influence from the Italian, Flemish and French schools. Painter Francisco Fierro made a distinctive contribution to this school with his portrayals of typical events, manners and customs of mid-19th-century Peru. Francisco Lazo, forerunner of the indigenous school of painters, also achieved fame for his portraits.

In the decade after 1932, the “indigenous school” of painting headed by Jose Sabogal dominated the cultural scene in Peru. A subsequent reaction among Peruvian artists led to the beginning of modern Peruvian painting. Sabogal’s resignation as director of the National School of Arts in 1943 coincided with the return of several Peruvian painters from Europe who revitalised international styles of painting in Peru. During the 1960s, Fernando de Szyszlo, an internationally recognised Peruvian artist, became the main advocate for abstract painting and pushed Peruvian art toward modernism. Peru remains an art-producing centre with painters such as Gerardo Chavez, Alberto Quintanilla, and Jose Carlos Ramos, along with sculptor Victor Delfin, gaining international stature. Young artists continue to develop now that Peru’s economy allows more promotion of the arts.

Pre-Hispanic Peruvian Andean cultures were especially bound to musical artistic expressions. In fact, almost all agricultural communal works were accompanied by music and singing.

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