Peru is a country on the western coast of South America that borders Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia and Chile. Captured by Spanish Conquistadors in 1533, Peru was once the seat of several Andean civilizations, including the Inca empire. Peru declared independence in 1821 and now has a democratic government after decades of alternating elections, revolutions and coups, which ended in 1980.
Peru has a population of 30.4 million, as of 2015. Peru's indigenous peoples make up 45 percent of its population, and 37 percent of the population is mixed indigenous and white. Peru's official language is Spanish, which 84 percent of the population speaks, and 81 percent of Peru's population is Roman Catholic. Despite the large presence of indigenous peoples in Peru, those of early Spanish descent still dominate the top of the socioeconomic hierarchy.
Peru's capital, Lima, sits on the coast, where the Andes mountain range pens in much of the country. Peru's mountains greatly affect Peru's climate, and altitude rather than latitude often determines Peru's weather. Over the mountains to the west, many small, almost untouched, indigenous tribes continue to live in the Peruvian rainforests, where tributaries of the Amazon river also originate.
Roads and railway lines cross much of Peru, including hundreds of miles of narrow-gauge rail in the mountains. However, much of the country remains inaccessible to all forms of transportation except by air.