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Lima, Peru, South America

Founded: Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro founded the city in 1535
Location: On southern bank of the Río Rímac (Rimac River), bounded by the Pacific Ocean on the west and the foot of the Andes Mountains on the east, in the coastal zone of central Peru, South America.
Time Zone: Four hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Daylight Savings Time is observed from January to April.
Ethnic Composition: 15% white, 37% mestizo (Indian-European mix), 45% indigenous people of Peru, and small numbers of Asians and blacks
Elevation: 154 meters (about 500 feet)
Latitude and Longitude: 12°0'S, 77°2'W
Climate: The cool offshore Peru Current (also known as the Humboldt Current) affects the climate of the city all year long. From April to December, a cool air mass off the Pacific shrouds Lima with garúa, a dense sea mist that blots the sun and rusts exposed metal. During the summer months of January through March, Lima gets more sunshine, but humidity becomes unbearable. Humidity is high for most of the year, remaining well above 60 percent.
Temperature: Winter temperature ranges from 60° to 64°F (16° to 18°C); summer temperature ranges from 70° to 80°F (21° to 27°C).
Average Annual Precipitation: About 2 inches (50 mm) per year. Rain is often the result of condensation of the garúa.
Government: Mayor and district council. As the nation's capital, Lima is home to the President of the Republic and Congress.
Weights and Measures: Metric system
Monetary Units: The Nuevo Sol (about 3.5 soles per US dollar in January 2000). Notes come in denominations of 10, 20, 50, and 100 soles. Coins come in denominations of 1, 5, 10, and 50 centimos, and 1 sol. The US dollar is widely accepted and openly traded.
Telephone Area Codes: 51 (country); 14 (city)

1. Introduction

On its worst days, when the misty air hangs thick with fumes from hundreds of thousands of cars, trucks, and buses, Lima easily earns the moniker of La Horrible, as it is called by many of its citizens. Built to rule vast expanses of South America more than 500 years ago, Lima no longer seems capable of even controlling its own destiny. Most of its seven million people live in poverty, barely scratching a living to feed large families. Cholera outbreaks have been common in the past few years, and the city has been the target of political assassinations, bombings, and state-sponsored terrorism.

Dubbed the City of Kings by its founder, the illiterate Francisco Pizarro (c. 14781541), Lima has struggled to maintain its dignity. It is not a pretty city, despite the tremendous amount of wealth that was originally spent to build it in the middle of a barren coastal desert. Even nature seems to have conspired against Lima. Three major earthquakes have leveled large parts of the city. For most of the year, a thick mist known as garúa envelops the city, slowly rusting away all exposed metal. With less than five centimeters (two inches) of rain a year, there are hardly any trees. The same monotonous barren landscape surrounds the city, stretching to the waters of the Pacific on the west and the rising Andes Mountains to the east.

And yet, Limeños, as citizens of this city are known, are generally hospitable and charitable, even friendly to strangers. Hundreds of thousands of them came to Lima with virtually nothing to their names. Here, they built homes and families, and despite long odds, survived and even prospered. Many Peruvians continue to pour into the city looking for those same opportunities. Perhaps sensing that they have something at stake, the city's leaders have finally begun to rebuild old Lima, scrubbing its old buildings and reclaiming its streets.

2. Getting There


The Pan-American Highway crosses through Lima. Buses take about 24 hours to reach both the Ecuadorian and Chilean borders.

Bus and Railroad Service

Regional buses and trains depart from Lima to all corners of the country. The Central Railway of Peru has the highest standard-gauge railway in the world. From Lima, it climbs the Andes to La Oroya. The city is connected to the port of Callao by the oldest railway line (1851) in South America.

Lima Population Profile

Population: 7,443,000
Area: 3,900 sq km (1,506 sq mi)
Ethnic composition: Approximately 15% white; 37% mestizo (Indian-European mix); 45% indigenous people of Peru; and small numbers of Asians and blacks
World population rank 1: 26
Percentage of national population 2: 29.0%
Average yearly growth rate: 2.2%
Nicknames: The name of the city is a corruption of the Quechua Indian name Rímac, which means "Talker." Many residents informally call the city el pulpo (octopus) for its tremendous size. Its residents are known as Limeños.

  1. The Lima metropolitan area's rank among the world's urban areas.
  2. The percent of Peru's total population living in the Lima metropolitan area.


The Jorge Chávez International Airport is about 13 kilometers (eight miles) from the heart of the city, in the municipal district of Callao. Several airlines, including major U.S. carriers, travel to Lima daily.


Callao, located in the Lima metropolitan area, is home to the nation's most important port. Three floating docks have lifting capacities between 1,724 and 4,082 metric tons (1,900 and 4,500 tons). It also hosts more than 40 workshops for marine and industrial repair work.

3. Getting Around

Bus and Commuter Rail Service

Lima is a megalopolis that is difficult to navigate. The city only has one highway and has not invested in large-scale transportation systems, like underground metro or light rail. There are dozens of bus lines that connect different parts of the city, but buses are often crowded and uncomfortable. Roads are often clogged with traffic.


While in Lima, visitors will want to see the Church and monastery of San Francisco, the Palacio De Gobiernor, San Martin Square, and the Gold Museum of Peru. Other sites rich in Peruvian history and culture include the Rafael Larco Herrera Museum, the National Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology, the National Museum of the Republic, the Museum of Peruvian Culture, and the Museum of the Inquisition. Parque Central is a relaxing out-door spot for visitors in the suburb of Miraflores.

4. People

Race and class define Peruvians. Limeños are deeply divided across class lines. About 15 percent of the nation's citizens are white, 37 percent are mestizo (Indian-European mix), and 45 percent are indigenous people of Peru. There are small numbers of Asians and blacks. One notable Asian is President Alberto Fujimori, of Japanese descent. Lima's racial breakdown resembles national characteristics. Nearly 30 percent of the country's 25 million people live in the Lima metropolitan area, which has a density of 2,614 people per square kilometer. Between 1993 and 1998, the city's population grew by 2.1 percent annually. About 43 percent of the population are under the age of 20, and nearly 50 percent are between the ages of 20 and 60. Infant mortality is among the highest in the Americas at 57.5 deaths per 1,000 live births.

In the last decade, more poor Indian immigrants have poured into the city looking for work. Class is directly tied to race. Most wealthy Limeños are white while some of the poorest people in the city are native Peruvians. Most Limeños are Roman Catholic, and many of the city's most important festivals are tied to religious activities.

Spanish and Quechua, the language of the Incas, are the most widely spoken languages among Limeños. Quechua is mostly spoken throughout the Andes and by some people in Lima; however, Spanish is the dominant language. Some migrants to the city speak Aymara, the second most important indigenous language in Peru.

City Fact Comparison
Indicator Lima Cairo Rome Beijing
(Peru) (Egypt) (Italy) (China)
Population of urban area1 7,443,000 10,772,000 2,688,000 12,033,000
Date the city was founded 1535 AD 969 753 BC 723 BC
Daily costs to visit the city2
Hotel (single occupancy) $125 $193 $172 $129
Meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) $63 $56 $59 $62
Incidentals (laundry, dry cleaning, etc.) $16 $14 $15 $16
Total daily costs $204 $173 $246 $207
Major Newspapers3
Number of newspapers serving the city 37 13 20 11
Largest newspaper La Cronica/La Nueva Cronica Akhbar El Yom/Al Akhbar La Repubblica Renmin Ribao
Circulation of largest newspaper 208,000 1,159,339 754,930 3,000,000
Date largest newspaper was established 1912 1944 1976 1948
1United Nations population estimates for the year 2000.
2The maximum amount the U.S. Government reimburses its employees for business travel. The lodging portion of the allowance is based on the cost for a single room at a moderately-priced hotel. The meal portion is based on the costs of an average breakfast, lunch, and dinner including taxes, service charges, and customary tips. Incidental travel expenses include such things as laundry and dry cleaning.
3David Maddux, ed. Editor&Publisher International Year Book. New York: The Editor&Publisher Company, 1999.

5. Neighborhoods

Lima has been shaped and reshaped by major earthquakes that have nearly leveled the city. The city suffered major earthquakes in 1687, 1746, and 1970. Only a few buildings survived the 1746 earthquake. In more modern times, Lima has experienced relentless growth, with neighborhood communities sprouting almost overnight. From 1940 to 1980, more than two million people moved into the city. But there were no homes for them. They built hundreds of thousands of shantytowns around the original city limits. The dwellings were made from just about any scrap material the squatters could find: cardboard, discarded wood, stones; sheets of tin for the roof were held down by old tires, bricks, and the weight of rocks. The shantytowns came to be known as barriadas, and later as pueblos jovenes, the young towns. In time, many of these young towns received basic services like water and electricity. Concrete or brick replaced the cardboard walls, and the shantytowns became established neighborhoods. Yet, thousands of people who live in some of the poorest shanty-towns only have the thin walls of cardboard to protect them from the elements.

The poor neighborhoods stand in stark contrast with the more affluent neighborhoods of Miraflores and other wealthy suburban neighborhoods along the coast south of Lima's central area. Here, visitors could easily believe that nothing is wrong with Peru. Affluent Peruvians drink coffee and chat with friends at sidewalk cafes; the streets are free of trash; and many buildings are new. Mansions, luxury apartment buildings, and small homes with manicured gardens are found throughout the Miraflores area. Stores offer just about anything that could be bought somewhere else in the world. In many ways, it is a segregated world. Here, the rich seek protection from the masses.

As Lima grew, the heart of the city was practically abandoned. At one time, central Lima was a prestigious address, with splendid mansions and imposing government buildings and churches. Colonial Lima was built with Peru's own gold and silver, and no efforts were spared for the "City of Kings." Today, little of that splendor remains. In a slow process, the government is trying to recover the heart of the city and make it more than just a passing point for Limeños.

6. History

The Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro (c.14781541) arrived in what is now Peru under propitious circumstances. The flourishing Inca Empire, which dominated an area that extended from Quito in present-day Ecuador to central Chile (4,023 kilometers/2,500 miles in length and 805 kilometers/500 miles wide) had been weakened by internal conflict. The half-brothers Huáscar and Atahualpa had waged a bitter struggle for the throne. When Pizarro arrived in Peru accompanied by 180 heavily armed men and 30 horses in l531, Atahualpa had gained the upper hand and ruled the empire, one of the most developed in pre-Columbian times in the Americas.

On November 15, 1532, Pizarro arrived in Cajamarca, Atahualpa's summer residence in the northern highlands of Peru. The next day, Pizarro took Atahualpa hostage. The Incas had never seen horses or experienced the wrath of modern weapons. With the element of surprise on their side, the Spanish shattered Inca resistance. While they would continue to resist the Spaniards for many years, the Incas never recovered from that first battle.

After taking Cuzco in southern Peru, Pizarro began to consolidate his empire. In the arid coastal region, where people had been living for thousands of years, he founded the city of Lima on January 6, 1535. Because it was the day of the Epiphany (Christian holiday commemorating both the revealing of Jesus as the Christ to the Gentiles in the persons of the Magi and the baptism of Jesus), he named it the "City of Kings," but the name never stuck. The city was in a convenient place, adjacent to a major river that provided plenty of fresh water and only a few kilometers from the Pacific Coast, where the Spaniards would develop the Port of Callao. The port became a major point of transfer of wealth generated in South America. Pizarro never got to enjoy the wealth he had stolen from the Incas. Nor did he spend much time in his new city. The greedy conquistadors began to fight among themselves. Pizarro and Diego de Almagro (14751538), a former partner in the conquest, went to war. Almagro was captured and executed, and Pizarro was murdered in his Lima palace in 1541.

The kingdom of Spain designated Lima the Viceroyalty of Peru in 1542, but several years would go by before it could reassert its authority. From here, the Spaniards ruled vast areas of South America. For the next three centuries, Lima boomed as the center of government, commerce, and culture. It was the seat of the audiencia, the high court, and the headquarters for the Inquisition. The monarchs, through their delegates, and the Catholic Church were firmly in control. For most of its colonial history, Lima was a small and conservative town, confined within its protective walls. An earthquake devastated Lima in 1746. Yet, with the wealth generated by thousands of indigenous people who mined for silver and gold under horrible work conditions, the Spanish rebuilt the city with more exquisite architecture.

By the early 1800s, Lima was losing its influence. As other regions grew in importance, their residents began to resent Spain's rule and rigid trade regulations, which forced all trade to go through the port of Callao. Goods from Buenos Aires traveled over vast distances by land to get to Lima, where they were shipped to Panama, and then transferred to ships going to Spain. Santiago, in present-day Chile, and Buenos Aires were developing societies quite distinct from Lima. It was only a matter of time before they would seek their independence.

When Napoleon Bonaparte's (17691821; French general) forces invaded Spain in 1808, the Spanish colonies in the Americas took advantage of the favorable political turn and sought independence. Conservative Lima remained loyal to Spain, but its subordinate regions did not. Unlike other parts of South America, insurrection in Peru did not come from within its borders. In 1821, the Argentinean General Jóse de San Martín invaded Lima and forced the city's royalist troops to retreat into the mountains. The other great South American liberator, Simón Bolívar, moved in from the north to finish the job. Peru became the last mainland colony to declare its independence in July 1821. Lima later became the capital city of Peru. While it would continue to grow, it never attained the power and wealth it enjoyed during its colonial era. In the War of the Pacific (187983), Limeños endured another invasion, this time by Chilean soldiers who occupied the city for two years. The Peruvian government was forced into the highlands and was allowed to return only after signing a treaty favorable to Chile.

Like many other cities, the development of modern Lima is traced to the construction of railroads and roads that made it easier for people to move around the growing capital. The first train line between Lima and Callao was built in 1851. Other lines going south followed, allowing the more wealthy Limeños to move along the coast. Here, they built the wealthier communities of Miraflores and Barranco. The new roads also made it easier for people from the highlands to move to the city for work. After World War II (193945), thousands of Peruvians were moving into the city each year, leading to the construction of shantytowns throughout the city. By the 1980s, Lima mirrored the nation's massive social problems. Crushing poverty, and injustice opened the way to several leftist guerrilla movements, chief among them Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), and Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA). While most guerilla activity took place well beyond Lima, the city was the target of assassinations, bombings, and state-sponsored violence. In 1996, the MRTA shocked the world by taking over the Japanese ambassador's residence, along with 72 hostages. Government troops liberated the hostages and killed all the guerrilla members in April 1997. While Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori has declared victory against the guerrillas, he has done little for the country's poor. Lima has become the center of constant protests against the government.

7. Government

The provinces of Lima and Callao, each with its own government, make up the Lima metropolitan area. There are 45 municipal districts, including the capital district of Lima, within the metropolitan area. Each district is administratively autonomous, with a mayor and city council. Each district generates revenues, such as property taxes, to provide services to its citizens. The arrangement has created huge inequalities in the metropolitan area. Wealthy neighborhoods like Miraflores provide relatively good services to its citizens. But some of the pueblos jovenes (young towns) cannot even raise enough revenue to provide bare necessities, like paved roads and water.

The unwieldy arrangement makes regional planning difficult. Any action requires negotiated decisions among districts. A Metropolitan Council for Greater Lima, made up of district mayors, was supposed to facilitate regional cooperation. But local districts do not want to give up their autonomy. Leaders have called for greater intervention from the national government, but that is unlikely.

8. Public Safety

Violent crimes that include carjackings, assault, and armed robbery are common in Lima. Sometimes, people are kidnapped and forced to withdraw money from automatic teller machines before they are released. Thieves posing as taxi drivers prey on passengers, often in stolen vehicles. To curb crime, the government authorized military court trials for kidnappers and armed gang members in 1998. Tourists are particularly vulnerable. The theft of luggage and travel documents, including passports, is common at the international airport.

Peru's human rights record has improved, with a sharp decrease in the numbers of political disappearances and extra-judicial killings by government forces. Yet, international human rights groups continue to monitor the delicate political situation in Peru. The U.S. government remained concerned about reports of torture, arbitrary detentions, lack of due process, and Peru's reluctance to punish government and military officials accused of abuses. In June of 1999, members of the U.S. House of Representatives said they were concerned at the "erosion of democracy and the rule of law" in Peru.

9. Economy

Lima is the leading industrial, financial, and retail center in the nation. With nearly 30 percent of the country's population, the city dictates the national economy and accounts for more than two-thirds of the nation's gross domestic product (GDP). Most of the country's imports and exports pass through the port of Callao. Almost all of the country's heavy industry is located in and around Lima. Despite its economic importance, Lima is not flushed with jobs. The national government has been a traditional leading employer, but the privatization of state companies left thousands of people out of work during the mid-1990s. The city suffers from severe unemployment and underemployment, and many people who work just barely manage to feed their families. Lima's economy grew rapidly during the mid 1990s, but a severe two-year recession that started in 1997 left one out of two Peruvians living in poverty.

10. Environment

Lima is a grimy, noisy, and polluted city. The garúa doesn't help. The mist and low clouds trap pollution, and Limeños often can taste the fumes in the air. The city's infrastructure has been overwhelmed by the rapid growth. Hundreds of thousands of people don't have access to basic services like electricity, water, and adequate sanitation. Wastewater goes straight into the Pacific without treatment. Cholera epidemics have been common in Lima for several years. While the government has identified pollution as one of its national priorities, it lacks the money for any major fixes in the foreseeable future.

11. Shopping

Lima is not known for its shopping scene. The city's wealthier neighborhoods and districts have the same types of stores found in the United States, including modern shopping malls.

12. Education

Most children attend school in Lima, but illiteracy rates have remained high. About 52 percent of students are in primary schools, and 33 percent attend secondary schools. Lima is home to some fine universities, including the National University of San Marcos, the oldest university in the Americas (1551), La Molina National Agrarian University, and the National Engineering University. The city has several private universities. Among them are the University of Lima, Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, Ricardo Palma University, University of San Martín de Porres, Women's University of the Sacred Heart, and University of the Pacific. A university degree remains out of reach for most young Limeños.

13. Health Care

Health is a matter of class. Wealth-ier residents can afford good health care, and many of them often travel abroad for treatment. Millions of Limeños have little access to health care. There are 119 hospitals in the metropolitan area, with 2.7 physicians per 1,000 residents. Unhealthy conditions have led to cholera outbreaks. Tuberculosis is common among the poorest Limeños.

14. Media

Under the Fujimori regime, freedom of the press has been curtailed. The U.S. State Department in 1999 concluded the Peruvian government infringed on press freedom by harassing and intimidating journalists. Several international journalism organizations have condemned Fujimori's systematic attacks on the press.

Despite government pressure, several newspapers in Lima continue to report government misdeeds. The city is home to the nation's most influential newspapers, including El Comercio, La República, and Gestion. Twenty-five newspapers, including ten dailies, are published in Lima. El Comercio is considered one of the best newspapers in Latin America and has often taken a critical view of the Fujimori regime. The city also has a lively, but untrustworthy, tabloid press that caters to lower-income residents. Caretas, a weekly newsmagazine, is widely respected and read. El Peruano is the official newspaper of record. Lima has eight non-cable television channels, including the government-owned channel seven, and cable television, which is out of the reach of most poor Limeños. Prices for cable television are comparable to those in the United States. Radio remains an important medium of communication.

15. Sports

Soccer (futból) is by far the most popular sport in Lima. Professional teams are closely followed by Limeños, especially the home teams of Alianza Lima and Universitaria. The game transcends class, and neighborhood matches are found in just about any available open space.

16. Parks and Recreation

Lima is not conducive to outdoor activities. While the suburb of Miraflores does host Parque Central, Lima generally has few parks or open spaces. The beaches off the coast are very popular and often crowded, but the coastline is heavily polluted by untreated sewage that flows untreated from the large megalopolis. Despite health warnings, many people still surf and play in the water.

17. Performing Arts

The symphony plays at the Lima's municipal theater, which also hosts ballet, opera, and theater performances. The city also has many peñas, nightclubs that feature folk music.

18. Libraries and Museums

The library of the church and monastery of San Francisco is renowned for its collection of historical documents, including antique texts that date to the time of the Spanish conquest of Peru. The city has many museums. Among them is the Gold Museum of Peru, which has a large collection of pre-Columbian gold pieces. The Rafael Larco Herrera Museum has a large collection of pre-Columbian pottery, textiles, gold pieces, and many other items of historical importance. The National Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology traces the pre-history of the country through the arrival of the Spaniards. The city has several art and history museums. They include the National Museum of the Republic, the Museum of Peruvian Culture, and the Museum of the Inquisition.

19. Tourism

While Peru's social problems have hampered tourism, thousands of people still come to this fascinating South American country. Lima is an important port of call. In 1998, 819,530 visitors from other nations came to Peru, and about 483,000 of them stopped in Lima. The average visitor to Peru stays 13.5 days, and spends about $1,100. In 1998, tourists spent more than $900 million.

20. Holidays and Festivals

New Year's Day

Independence Day

Lord of the Earthquakes

21. Famous Citizens

Saint Martin de Porres (15791639), Peruvian Dominican friar, canonized in 1962 by Pope John XXIII.

Saint Rose of Lima (15861617), Roman Catholic nun, canonized by Pope Clement X in 1671, the first native-born saint of the Americas.

Javier Pérez de Cuellar (b. 1920), Peruvian diplomat and fifth secretary general of the United Nations (19821991), negotiated an end to the Iran-Iraq war (198088) and ran unsuccessfully for the presidency of Peru in 1995.

Alberto Fujimori (b. 1938), of Japanese descent, became President of Peru in 1990.

Francisco Pizarro (14761541), Spaniard who defeated the Incas and founded Lima.

Meredith Monk (b. 1942), born in Lima, raised in Connecticut, she is known for her pioneering multimedia performance pieces.

Isabel Allende (b. 1942), born in Lima, the daughter of a diplomat, she is one of the most successful female Latin American writers, renowned worldwide.

22. For Further Study


University of Texas' Latin American Network Information Center. [Online] Available (accessed February 1, 2000).

Peru's Chamber of Commerce. [Online] Available (accessed February 1, 2000).

Peru's National Institute of Statistics and Information. [Online] Available (accessed February 1, 2000).

Government Offices

Peruvian Embassy
1700 Massachusetts Ave. NW.
Washington D.C. 20008

Tourist and Convention Bureaus

Camara Nacional del Turismo
Santander 170, Lima 18, Peru
[Online] Available (accessed February 1, 2000).


La Republica. [Online] Available (accessed February 1, 2000).

El Comercio. [Online] Available (accessed February 1, 2000).

Gestion. [Online] Available (accessed February 1, 2000).


Andrien, Kenneth J. Crisis and Decline: The Vice-royalty of Peru in the Seventeenth Century. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1985.

Cameron, Ian. The Kingdom of the Sun God: A History of the Andes and Their People. New York: Facts on File, 1990.

Dietz, Henry A. Poverty and Problem-Solving under Military Rule: The Urban Poor in Lima, Peru. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1980.

Lobo, Susan. A House of My Own: Social Organization in the Squatter Settlements of Lima, Peru. Tempe: University of Arizona Press, 1982.

Starn, Orin, Robin Kirk, & Carlos I. Degregori (eds). The Peru Reader. Duke University Press, 1995.

Stern, Steve J . Peru's Indian Peoples and the Challenge of Spanish Conquest. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1999.

Wachtel, Nathan. The Vision of the Vanquished: The Spanish Conquest of Peru Through Indian Eyes. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1977.

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LIMA. Lima, the capital city of the Viceroyalty of Peru in early modern times, lies on the southern bank of the Rímac River, west of the Andes Mountains, and eight miles inland from the western coast of South America. Conquistador Francisco Pizarro founded the city on 18 January 1535 following the Spanish defeat of the native Incan empire. Possibly to account for Lima's title as "The City of the Kings," some scholars claim that the founding date was 6 January 1535, the Catholic celebration of Epiphany, when the Magi are believed to have visited the Christ child. Pizarro chose Lima, a Spanish misunderstanding for the native word Rímac, over the Incan capital of Cuzco, which was further inland and nestled in the Andean highlands, because Lima had a milder climate and was better located in terms of ocean access and defense.

Symbolic of Spanish dominance and bureaucratic opulence, the city quickly became the crown's administrative, ecclesiastical, and economic hub in South America. The crown-appointed viceroy, whose short tenure was designed to preserve Spanish control from across the ocean, sat atop a highly structured and hierarchical regional government. Like other Spanish American cities, Lima was laid out in a grid design of east-west and north-south streets organized around a central plaza, a form later codified in the Laws of the Indies. As the capital city of Spanish holdings in South America, Lima was the first American city in which the Inquisition was established and the region's principal treasury office. Lima was also the conduit, via the nearby port city of Callao, for all incoming and outgoing trade with Europe. Most important were the precious metals that were mined and produced by Spanish-controlled Indian labor in the viceroyaltymost notably the silver mines at Potosí. Peru's silver mines were central to the European economy until the ore became depleted and a fiscal crisis seized Europe and Spanish America in the late seventeenth century. Lima did not recover from this decline until the eighteenth century, when Spain's new Bourbon rulers sought to streamline government and improve the colony's and the crown's economic positions. Despite Bourbon reforms, Lima's importance outside of Peru waned after this period.

The city's population increased only slowly, restrained in part by frequent and recurring earthquakes (most notably those in 1687 and 1746). Whereas in 1613 there were a little over 25,000 inhabitants, it took almost two centuries for that to double to almost 53,000 people (1796). As with other Spanish colonies, Lima's population at the time of the conquest was composed of a few Spaniards and numerous natives. Over time the populace became increasingly mixed as more Spaniards and other Europeans arrived, the indigenous population declined, and slaves were brought in from Africa. At least in theory, Lima's social structure was as ordered as the city's administration, with legal and geographical divisions among classes and ethnicities. Nevertheless, cultural and sexual exchange among the city's residents, the steady influx of exotic goods, and the continual influence of people and ideas arriving on visiting ships ensured that Lima would become a culturally diverse center for the viceroyalty.

See also Pizarro Brothers ; Spanish Colonies: Peru .


Andrien, Kenneth J. Crisis and Decline: The Viceroyalty of Peru in the Seventeenth Century. Albuquerque, N.M., 1985.

Bromley, Juan. La Fundacion de la Ciudad de los Reyes. Lima, 1935.

Dobyns, Henry F., and Paul L. Doughty. Peru: A Cultural History. Latin American Histories. New York, 1976.

Klarén, Peter Flindell. Peru: Society and Nationhood in the Andes. Latin American Histories. New York, 2000.

Lockhart, James. Spanish Peru, 15321560: A Colonial Society. Madison, Wis., 1968.

Montero, Maria Antonia Durán. Lima en el Siglo XVII: Arquitectura, Urbanismo y vida Cotidiana. Sección Historia "Nuestra América" 1. Seville, 1994.

Oliver-Smith, Anthony. "Lima, Peru: Underdevelopment and Vulnerability to Hazards in the City of the Kings." In Crucibles of Hazard: Mega-Cities and Disasters in Transition. Edited by James K. Mitchell. Tokyo, 1999.

Jamie Stephenson

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Lima (city, Peru)

Lima (lē´mə, Span. lē´mä), city (1990 metropolitan area est. pop. 6,400,000), W Peru, capital and largest city of Peru. Its port is Callao. The Lima urban area is Peru's economic center and the site of oil-refining and diversified manufacturing industries. The city was founded on Jan. 18, 1535, by Francisco Pizarro and is the second oldest capital city in South America. As the center of the viceroyalty of Peru, it was the capital of Spain's New World empire in the 17th and 18th cent. Its cultural supremacy on the continent was contested in colonial times only by Bogotá, Colombia, and in magnificence and political prestige Lima's only rival was Mexico City. It was named the City of Kings by Pizarro. A sharp rise in its population in the 20th cent. has resulted in overcrowding and a wide gap between rich and poor.

Rebuilt several times, Lima reflects the architectural styles prevalent in various periods; much of the city is characterized by modern steel and concrete buildings. Although many streets are narrow and preserve a colonial atmosphere, spacious boulevards traverse the entire metropolitan area. Small squares, statues of national heroes, parks, and gardens are common. The focal point of the city's life is the central square, the Plaza de las Armas. It is dominated by the huge national palace and cathedral. The cathedral, begun by Pizarro and containing what are claimed to be his remains, was almost totally destroyed by earthquakes in 1687 and 1746, along with much of the city.

Besides the palace, the cathedral, and numerous churches, including the monastery of Santa Rosa with the relics of St. Rose of Lima, notable public buildings include the National Library, founded in 1821 by José de San Martín, and the National Univ. of San Marcos, founded in 1551. The library, which once contained priceless documents of the Spanish Conquest and rare European books, was looted by Chilean soldiers during Chile's occupation of Lima (1881–83) in the War of the Pacific. The Pontifical Catholic Univ. of Peru, Univ. of Lima, and many other educational institutions are also there.

Lima has a uniformly cool climate and during the winter is subject to the fogs and heavy mists peculiar to Peru's southern desert coast. It almost never rains. Not far from the city are the pre-Inca ruins at Pachacamac.

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Lima Capital and largest city of Peru, on the River Rímac at the foot of the Cerro San Cristóbal. Francisco Pizarro founded Lima in 1535. It functioned as the capital of Spain's New World colonies until the 19th century. Chilean forces occupied Lima during the War of the Pacific (1881–83). It is the commercial and cultural centre of Peru. With the oil-refining port of Callao, the Lima metropolitan area forms the third-largest city of South America, and handles more than 75% of all Peru's manufacturing. Lima has the oldest university (1551) in the Western Hemisphere. Pop. (2000) 7,497,000.

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Lima (city, United States)

Lima (lī´mə), city (1990 pop. 45,549), seat of Allen co., NW Ohio; settled 1831, inc. 1842. Located in a fertile farm area, it is a processing and marketing center for grain, dairy, and meat products. Auto engines, school buses, electric signs and motors, cranes and power shovels, petroleum products, steel castings, machine tools, plastics, chemicals, and fertilizers are produced in the city. Lima, formerly a large oil producer (1885–1910), houses a symphony orchestra and a branch of Ohio State Univ.

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