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The Wars Before Peruvian Independence
During the European Peninsular War of 1807 to 1814, the Spanish Empire began to lose control of its foreign colonies. Napoleon and France had created a crisis for the Spanish; protecting domestic borders was paramount for Spain, which meant a temporary lapse in colonial control. For Spain’s American colonies, this was an opportunity to wrest control from the royalists and push for independence.
In 1813, two of America’s greatest liberators, José de San Martín and Simón Bolívar, were at opposite ends of the South American continent. San Martín was in Argentina, leading the patriots against the royalist forces. Bolívar, meanwhile, was in Venezuela, heading the struggle for independence in the north. The two generals began to take control of their respective territories, claiming independence from Spain.
By the start of the 1820s, the two liberators were converging on Peru. Peru, and particularly Lima, was a stronghold for royalists and one of the last Spanish-ruled territories in South America to declare its independence (Upper Peru, now known as Bolivia, gained its independence a few years after Peru).
Despite royalist opposition, José de San Martín occupied Lima on July 12, 1821. In front of a massed crowd in Lima’s Plaza de Armas, San Martín proclaimed Peru’s independence on July 28, 1821. The royalists were not defeated, however, and the newly independent nation still had to deal with notable pockets of Spanish resistance.
The final act of the war of independence, for both Peru and South America, took place at the Battle of Ayacucho in 1824. Antonio José de Sucre, one of Bolívar's finest lieutenants, led a combined force, including Peruvians, Chileans, Colombians, and Argentines, against the royalist army. Sucre won the day on the high plateau outside Ayacucho, securing a lasting independence for Peru and all but ending the Spanish American wars of independenceContinue to 2 of 2 below.
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Fiestas Patrias in Peru
Peru’s Independence Day celebrations, known as the Fiestas Patrias, take place over two days, both of which are national holidays in Peru. Throughout July, the Peruvian flag is flown outside both public and private buildings.
July 28 is the actual day of independence. The day begins with a 21 cannon salute in Lima, followed by a Te Deum mass by the Archbishop of Lima. The President of Peru attends the mass, after which he gives his official address to the nation.
The sense of national pride is certainly not limited to the Peruvian capital. Across the country, from the smallest villages to the nation’s major cities, the streets and main squares come alive with parades, fairs and a general spirit of celebration. The party atmosphere really takes hold as night falls, with no shortage of fireworks and beer.
July 29, meanwhile, is set aside in honor of the Armed Forces and National Police of Peru. The Gran Parada Militar del Perú (the Great Military Parade) takes place in Lima, attended by the President. Further military parades occur throughout the rest of the country.
Traveling During Peru’s Independence Day Celebrations
Independence Day is a good time to be in Peru. The sense of national pride is admirable and the Fiestas Patrias are an interesting mix of formal ceremony and unrestrained celebration.
Bear in mind, however, that both days are national holidays. In an effort to increase internal tourism, the Peruvian government may also declare an extra holiday day before or after the Fiestas Patrias (in 2012, for example, July 27 was declared a día no laborable, or non-working day).
Shops shut and many services are unavailable (although large supermarkets and pharmacies often open for at least half a day). Bus travel and domestic flights are largely unaffected, but ticket prices can rise and seats fill up quickly due to Peruvians taking the opportunity to travel. Advanced hotel and transport reservations may be necessary depending on your destination.