Peru is the third largest country in South America, covering an area of 1.28 million sq km (496,225 sq mi) and is approximately three times the size of California. Peru is located in western South America, bordering the south Pacific Ocean, between Chile and Ecuador. Peru shares control of Lago Titicaca, the world's highest navigable lake, with Bolivia. The capital city is Lima ; other cities include Arequipa, Chiclayo, Cuzco, Huancayo, Ica, Trujillo, Ayacucho, Piura, Iquitos, and Chimbote.
Peru is a constitutional republic, declaring its independence July 28, 1821. The principal language is Spanish, while other languages such as Quechua and Aymara also hold official status. Most Peruvians are Roman Catholic (90%).
During pre-Columbian times, Peru was one of the major centers of artistic expression in America, where pre-Inca cultures, such as Chavin, Paracas, Wari, Nazca, Chimu, and Tiahuanaco developed high-quality pottery, textiles, jewelry, 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.
Alan Garcia Perez has been the president of Peru since July 28, 2006; the president is both the chief of state and head of government.
The terrain consists of western arid coastal plains, central rugged Andean mountains, and eastern lowlands with tropical forests that are part of the Amazon basin. Abundant mineral resources are found in the mountainous areas, and Peru's coastal waters provide excellent fishing grounds. The climate varies from tropical in east to dry desert in west and temperate to frigid in the Andes mountains. Natural hazards include earthquakes, tsunamis, flooding, landslides, and mild volcanic activity. A magnitude 6.2 earthquake hit southern Peru early on Tuesday July 8, 2008, in the country's second-largest city, Arequipa (in the Andes mountain range). The earthquake was centered about 445 miles (715 km) southeast of the capital, Lima, and the depth was recorded at more than 40 miles underground.
U. S. Department of State Background Notes, CIA World Factbook, USGS Earthquake Center, 3/2008, 6/2008, 7/2008