You’ve probably heard about the people called the Incas. puma carvingThey were the last and greatest of Perú’s many ‘cultures’. If you’ve looked at my other slide shows, you’ll already have seen pictures of some of the buildings and carvings made by earlier peoples (Chan Chan city of the Moche people, Sechín and Chavín). The Incas created a great empire called Tawantinsuyu which stretched well beyond the limits of present-day Perú. At its peak, it was twice the size of Spain.

Perú is not an easy country to live in. Part of it is desert, part dense jungle but most of it is high mountain. To make matters worse, it suffers regular earthquakes and terrible landslides as well as having a couple of active volcanoes. So how did the people manage to survive here at all?

The Inca state was well organised. They had a system of roads (over 15,000 kilometres of them!) so that messages could be quickly sent through the kingdom using a system of runners. The people built terraces (andenes from which the name ‘Andes’ comes) on the mountainsides to make small strips of flat land which they used to grow crops like potatoes, for Perú is potatoes – ‘papas’ in Perúthe home of the potato. They built acequias – channels to carry water to the crops and to towns. And they also had incredible skills in building with stone. Inca stonemasons carved blocks so that they fitted perfectly into other blocks in the walls of buildings, locking together so tightly that you can’t push a knife-blade between them. I know – I’ve tried! These strong walls helped resist earthquakes and needed no mortar to stick them together. But even more incredible is the size of some of the ‘huaco’ or pot from Perú’s coast. I like the animal handleneatly-fitting stones they used. Some are many times higher than I am as you’ll see. How could they manage all this without modern machines? Nobody knows for sure except that they did!

In my slide show, I visit the great fortress above Cuzco, the Inca capital. The Incas fought a terrible battle here against the Spanish conquistadors (conquerors) – and lost. The Sacred Valley of the Incas is just a few miles to the north. Here there’s some flat land on the valley floor with a great river – the Rio Urubamba – flowing through the middle of it. Further downstream, this river flows far below the famous Machu Picchu ruins. But here in the Sacred Valley, the Incas grew many food crops as people still do today. Perched high above chicha beer is strong stuff for a penguin!this valley at Pisac is a wonderful set of Inca buildings where my friends found a stone bath.

It was here in the Sacred Valley that my friends and I tried some of the local drink called chicha. This is a sort of beer made from fermented maize.

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And that, kids, is that. I didn’t set a very good example there, did I? But me getting tiddly on chicha was also a good way to celebrate the end of my trip. Which means that this is the end of my Perú slide shows. Hope you enjoyed travelling around with me in this wonderful country!

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The conquistadors: the Spanish conquest of America

Question: What happened in 1492?

Everyone knows that, don’t they? The Spanish ‘discovered’ America. Of course, America had been discovered long before by other peoples who had, over thousands of years, built up their own empires and cultures. You probably know aboutthe Incas of Perú, the Aztecs and Mayas of Mexico.

But the Spanish, the first European colonists to reach the Americas, set about conquering all these peoples. They managed this partly because they had horses and guns (which the native people had never seen) and partly because they used every mean trick in the book. The conquistador who conquered the Incas was called Francisco Pizarro. He had with him just 180 soldiers. What they wanted more than anything was gold. It was this greed for gold – which the Incas had in large amounts – which became the driving force behind the brutal war against the Andean peoples. But the conquistadors pretended that their real reason for conquering the native people was to make them follow the Christian religion. The Incas worshipped the Sun god, called Inti. So the conquistadors set about destroying all the Inca temples and built churches on the ruins. The people were forced to abandon their old religion.

Within a few years, the Spanish ruled most of Latin America (though the Portuguese had bagged Brazil). Further north, the British, French and Dutch had done the same with North America – what are now the USA and Canada. The native peoples suffered terribly in every case, losing their lands and, often, their lives. Many died from European diseases like smallpox. And though today, all American countries are independent, the native people often remain poor, second-class citizens.