Lima began as the relatively quiet home of various pre-Hispanic cultures on the banks of the Rio Rimac. With the great Inca expansion of the 15th century, it soon became the residence of affluent members of society. Though the center the empire was far away in Cusco, Lima did house large quantities of gold and silver and some architectural masterpieces. When the Spanish conquered the area, they recognized its strategic potential as a prime coastal location, stripping it of its gold and destroying most of the Inca buildings. Francisco Pizarro established the new colonial capital here in 1534.
Following an earthquake in 1746, Lima was forced to re-create itself. The result was the elaborate buildings and immense plazas now present in Lima Centro, fashioned in an ornate style leaders hoped would mirror that of European cities. In 1821, Lima became the capital of the newly independent nation of Peru, and the destruction of the old city walls in 1872 helped to join all the suburbs to Lima Centro. Lima prospered during the 19th century as Peru’s main port, but the good times couldn’t last forever. In the last half of the 20th century, Lima suffered from political and economic crises, rising poverty, and overly rapid urbanization.
However, with the new millennium settling in, Lima’s fortunes are again on the rise. The restoration of the historic center, a renewed emphasis on job training and education, and plans to build an aquarium and more beachside hotels indicate that Peru is looking to the future with Lima leading the way.