Lima (lēˈmə, Span. lēˈmä) [key], city (1990 metropolitan area est. pop. 6,400,000), W Peru, capital and largest city of Peru. Its port is Callao. The Lima urban area is Peru's economic center and the site of oil-refining and diversified manufacturing industries. The city was founded on Jan. 18, 1535, by Francisco Pizarro and is the second oldest capital city in South America. As the center of the viceroyalty of Peru, it was the capital of Spain's New World empire in the 17th and 18th cent. Its cultural supremacy on the continent was contested in colonial times only by Bogotá, Colombia, and in magnificence and political prestige Lima's only rival was Mexico City. It was named the City of Kings by Pizarro. A sharp rise in its population in the 20th cent. has resulted in overcrowding and a wide gap between rich and poor.
Rebuilt several times, Lima reflects the architectural styles prevalent in various periods; much of the city is characterized by modern steel and concrete buildings. Although many streets are narrow and preserve a colonial atmosphere, spacious boulevards traverse the entire metropolitan area. Small squares, statues of national heroes, parks, and gardens are common. The focal point of the city's life is the central square, the Plaza de las Armas. It is dominated by the huge national palace and cathedral. The cathedral, begun by Pizarro and containing what are claimed to be his remains, was almost totally destroyed by earthquakes in 1687 and 1746, along with much of the city.
Besides the palace, the cathedral, and numerous churches, including the monastery of Santa Rosa with the relics of St. Rose of Lima, notable public buildings include the National Library, founded in 1821 by José de San Martín, and the National Univ. of San Marcos, founded in 1551. The library, which once contained priceless documents of the Spanish Conquest and rare European books, was looted by Chilean soldiers during Chile's occupation of Lima (1881–83) in the War of the Pacific. The Pontifical Catholic Univ. of Peru, Univ. of Lima, and many other educational institutions are also there.
Lima has a uniformly cool climate and during the winter is subject to the fogs and heavy mists peculiar to Peru's southern desert coast. It almost never rains. Not far from the city are the pre-Inca ruins at Pachacamac.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.