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Pisco, a seaport town with a population of 77,200 (1990) located about 125 miles south of Lima on the coast of Peru at the mouth of the Pisco River Valley. Founded on the ruins of a village by Spanish invaders in the middle of the seventeenth century, the town lay somewhat to the south of its present location until 1687, when it was leveled by an earthquake. Pisco is the closest major urban center to the famous sites of ancient Peruvian civilizations on the Paracas Peninsula. It was an important stopping point for José de San Martín on his way north in the independence struggle against Spain in 1821. This port town became the railhead of an early railway-building venture of the nineteenth century, linking the wine and cotton center of Ica to a coastal port. Pisco also was the first major target of the invading Chilean army in early 1880, which captured and held the town with relative ease. The Chilean occupation resulted in only minor interference with the local economy, despite the heavy war taxes levied on plantations. Pisco later became a minor tourist attraction for its beach and for a local variant of spicy seafood stew called parihuela. After 1900, the town was a major port of exit for cotton shipped overseas, but as a commercial center it never matched Cañete to the north or Ica to the south. After the cotton export boom settled down, Pisco faded into obscurity as a dusty shipping port for baled raw cotton grown on Pisco Valley cooperatives.

See alsoAguardiente de Pisco; Paracas Peninsular Sites.


Eugene A. Hammel, Power in Ica: The Structural History of a Peruvian Community. Boston: Little, Brown, 1969.

Nicholas P. Cushner, Lords of the Land: Sugar, Wine, and Jesuit Estates of Coastal Peru, 1600–1767. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1980.

Additional Bibliography

Caballero, César Angeles. Peruanidad del Pisco. Cuarta edición. Lima: Banco Latino, 1995.

Engel, Frédéric André; Theresa Nicho N.; Edilberto Gutiérrez Ch. Un desierto en tiempos prehispánicos: Río Pisco, Paracas, Río Ica. Lima: s.n., 1991.

Macera, Pablo. La ciudad y el tiempo: Pisco, Porras, y Valdelomar. Lima: Fondo Editorial del Congreso del Perú, 1999.

Peloso, Vincent C. Peasants on Plantations: Subaltern Strategies of Labor and Resistance in the Pisco Valley, Peru. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999.

                                    Vincent Peloso

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pisco South American (Chilean, Peruvian); brandy made from muscat grapes. A pisco sour is a mixture of pisco with 2 parts lime juice, sweetened to taste.