“El Convite” (The Invitation) by Felipe Guamán Poma de Ayala (1536 – 1616). Representing a Spaniard character that invited to a priest and two Andean nobles to have a dinner at home.

In 1532, the Spanish conquistadores arrived to Peru. As they began to conquer the country, their culture and influence spread throughout the nation. Not only did their ideology spread, their population did as well. Over the colonial era, hundreds of thousands of Spanish immigrants arrived to Peru. These Spanish-born immigrants had a distinctly higher social rank than the "criollos" even though the only difference was their place of birth (Spain Vs Peru). During the colonial period, the Spanish crown disallowed the immigration of other Europeans to Peru. For this reason, throughout the entire colonial period, up until independence, the European population in Peru was made up solely of Spaniards. Around the time of independence the rate of immigration was low and not many Europeans where entering the country. Spanish immigration did not resume until the 1840s. During this era, immigration from Spain greatly increased and the economy was booming and standard of living was high. This era ended in 1866 with the Chincha Island in which Peru emerged victorious. After the war, immigration decreased and the influx of immigrants remained steady until the 1930s. During the Spanish Civil War, thousands of Spaniards fled Spain to Peru. World War II brought the end of Spanish immigration to Peru.

Both Spain and Peru share similar cultural aspects such as: language and religion. Although most Peruvians have Spanish blood from the colonial period, most of them consider themselves as simply "Peruvian".

To talk about the Peruvian cuisine, we need to first take a look at the Spanish gastronomy. The Spanish cuisine was influenced by many cultures such as the Roman, Jewish and specially Arab cultures. The Arabs' diet was mostly meats, few vegetables and almost not fish. But, since their Empire expanded along a big territory, they started to have contact with Byzantine cuisine and trade exotic products from China and India such as spices, rice, sugar cane, and poultry among others. From this mixture, they inherited the obsession for spices as well as big presentation of the dishes. This was brought to Spain and from there to Peru. The Arabs also brought animals such as cow, pork, goat, rabbits and others. They also brought eggplant, coriander, wheat, grapes, onions, spinach, parsley, beans, chickpeas, lentils, sesame, cumin, oregano, and fruits such as peaches, almonds, oranges, figs, limes, dates, and sugarcane among others. It is important to note that Arabs were great farmers thought Spanish how to cultivate rice. There are written records from the VIII century that shows that Arabs already used ginger, lemon verbena, clove and saffron, considered as on of the most important spices for the Spanish gastronomy. They also used sour orange, rose water or orange blossom essence.

To the dishes the Spanish brought, many local products were added such as potato, sweet potatoes, different varieties o "aji" ("panca", "mirasol", "verde"), corn, etc. They also started to prepare many Moorish dishes like "empanadas" or meat pies to which they added "aji" and therefore gave it a particular taste.

The "anticucho" is another example of the Arab influence in Peruvian cuisine. Although there are many theories about its origin many of them point to the Arab cuisine with references about the Perse origin of "Shis-Ke Bab". Another dish that comes from the mixture of cultures is "escabeche". It arrived to Spain as "iskebeg" where it turned into "escabetx". When arrived to Peru, sweet potatoes and "aji panca" were added. The Peruvian stews and dishes cooked with steam are also part of the Arab influence brought by the Spanish.

Some Peruvian desserts also have Spanish influence. The most important is the "alfajor" which means, "filled". It used to be made with a base of almonds, nuts, toasted bread, different fine herbs and honey. In Lima it is made with two cookies filled with "manjarblanco" or molasses and topped with sugar powder or coconut. There are different kinds of "alfajores": the "mil hojas" is an "alfajor" made with puff pastry filled with "manjarblanco", the "alfajor volador" is filled with marmalades of different fruits. There is also a big version of an "alfajor" known as "King Kong": created in early 20th century in the northern coast of Peru and named after the movie of the big gorilla, which was played at that time on the movies.

The stuffed figs are also desserts that came from the Spaniards. Many houses in Lima used to have a fig tree in their houses and waited for February's yield for this sweet dish. The "mazamorra morada", a jelly made with Peruvian purple corn took from the Spanish Arabs the use of cinnamon and cloves. The Marzipan is one of the most important traditions brought by Arabs. They used to prepare dough with almonds and sugar and then stored it a pot named "manthaban". This dough was considered part of the royal cuisine made exclusive by a group of Greek Catholic nuns who gave them shapes of fruits and painted them with natural colors. This tradition was took to Spain and then brought to Peru. Some convents considered famous for making the best "mazapán" were: La Encarnación, Santa Catalina and Santa Clara. These convents used to prepare "Bola de Oro", a ball-shaped cake filled with apricot marmalade, "manjarblanco" and covered with marzipan. At present, it still exists but is no longer made exclusively in convents. Ice creams or "Saribs" were first consumed in China, then moved to Arab, Perse and then Spain. At first they used to make them with rose essence, fruits and pistachios. In Peru Europeans found an amazing variety of exotic fruits to use for this such as "lucuma" in the coast and "camu-camu" or "aguaje" in the jungle.


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