Masks of Nyarlathotep
Located on the west coast of South America, Peru (officially the Republic of Peru) is the third largest country in the subcontinent, home to just under 5 million people. Its northern point touches the equator and its landmass of around 500,000 square miles (1.25 million square km) is widely varied in terrain and climate. The arid coast gives way inland to warm, wet lowlands (including the Amazon basin), as well as the Andes Mountains and their associated highlands.
Civilization in what is now Peru dates back to at least 2,500 BCE. The wide variety of pre-Columbian civilizations largely gave way to the Incan Empire in the 14th century, which then ruled over most of Peru. The empire proved short-lived, however. The first Spaniards arrived in 1528, followed by the conquistadors, led by Francisco Pizarro, in 1532. Pizarro founded the city of Lima in 1535, where he was later assassinated in 1542. The Incan Empire finally fell in 1572 when Francisco de Toledo executed the last reigning Inca, Túpac Amaru, and the Viceroyalty of Peru was created.
The Viceroyalty lasted until the early 1820s, when General Jose de San Martin invaded with an army of soldiers from Argentina and Chile. This marked the beginning of a series of battles and declarations of independence that finally ended in 1824. There has been some political volatility in the intervening years, but in 1921 the country is largely stable and prosperous.
The population of Peru is made up of a wide range of ethnicities. Around 50% are Amerindian, with the majority of the remainder being mixed race, with white people making up around 15%. There are large populations of Chinese and Japanese immigrants in Lima, with many of them having been brought over to build the railways or mine guano (accumulated seabird droppings used as a rich fertilizer in Europe).
The majority of Peruvians speak Spanish, although there are a number of other linguistic groups who speak aboriginal languages such as Quechua and Aymara. English is not widely spoken, particularly outside the cities. Investigators traveling up to Puno and the Lake Titicaca region are especially likely to encounter Aymara and Quechua speakers.
Traditional dress varies from region to region, although there are certain common features such as hats, ponchos, and brightly colored woolen clothing. In cities like Lima, however, this traditional garb tends to give over to more somber European or North American styles.
The currency in Peru is the sol. There are 10 dineros to one sol, and 10 centavos to one dinero. Throughout 1921, $1 USD is worth approximately 3 soles.
Peru lies in the Southern Hemisphere, so the investigators’ March arrival has them traveling through the country in the late summer. The varied geography of the country makes for an equally varied climate, with a warm, dry coastal area, hot and humid lowlands, and cooler highlands with high levels of rainfall. The two main areas the investigators are likely to visit are Lima, on the coast, and Puno, in the southern highlands. The conditions they can expect to find in March are as follows.
The local temperatures are mild for most of the year, although they can become uncomfortably warm for some foreigners during summer. The average low temperature in March is 18⁰C (65⁰F) and the high is 26⁰C (77⁰F). A high level of humidity makes the temperature feel warmer, however, and investigators may become uncomfortably tired and sweaty when exerting themselves.
Despite the high humidity, the climate in Lima is normally dry with rainfall a rarity, although March comes at the tail end of the local rainy season. Even then, there may be one or two rainy days throughout the month. On the whole, the skies will be blue and clear throughout the investigators’ visit.
The climate in the highland city of Puno is altogether different from that of Lima, and the investigators will need to ensure they have appropriate clothing and supplies to cope with it. The skies are commonly overcast, although the high altitude means that when the skies are clear, visitors who do not cover up and wear hats risk sunburn and sunstroke. Rainfall is frequent, and the lower humidity means that the air feels much fresher than it did down on the coast. Investigators traveling across the highlands can find themselves buffeted by strong winds on a regular basis.
The average low temperature is 4⁰C (40⁰F) and the high is 16⁰C (60⁰F). Once the investigators travel out toward the ruins, the higher elevation and greater exposure may mean that temperatures drop below freezing at night.
After years of decline and hardship, Lima of the 1920s is a city in the process of economic recovery and rapid expansion. The population is currently over 200,000 and growing fast. Sanitation conditions have recently been modernized, and visitors can expect to find all of the amenities of any large Western city.
The city lies on a bay and straddles both banks of the river Rímac. The bay is also home to the neighboring city of Callao, although recent expansion makes it hard to tell where one city ends and the other begins. Between being an international port and its status as capital, Lima sees a lot of international visitors, and the investigators can expect to meet people from all around the world. This cosmopolitan atmosphere changes as they travel to more rural regions.
Getting Around Lima
Transportation in Lima is unlikely to pose much of a problem for the investigators. The main locations outlined in this scenario are all within a 10-minute walk of one another and easy to locate on a city map (easily obtained via their hotel or a vendor).
If the investigators insist on using public transportation, the main option available is the extensive network of electric trams. Investigators may travel around the city easily, using the tramway for a very reasonable fee. The city is also served by buses, although these are far more limited and less reliable than the trams.
Options for accommodation in Lima in 1921 are a little more basic than investigators may expect of a large, international city. Those hoping to find the type of luxury hotels they may have encountered in other capital cities will be disappointed. That said, Larkin has arranged for the investigators (as well as Jesse Hughes/Jackson Elias) to stay at one of the best hotels Lima has to offer: Hotel Maury, located in the center of the city. As well as dozens of well-furnished rooms, the hotel offers a well-appointed banquet room and an extravagantly stocked bar, famous for its Pisco Sours (a cocktail created by American bartender Victor Vaughn Morris).
Larkin and de Mendoza are staying at the Hotel España, which is some 10 minutes’ walk from the Hotel Maury.
Puno is a small city of approximately 20,000 residents, located in the southern Andean highlands. It stretches back from the shores of Lake Titicaca, up into the overlooking hills, with the more prosperous areas located closer to the water. The majority of the buildings are low one- or two-story structures made from stone or brick, and the streets they line become increasingly narrow and more maze-like the farther uphill one goes. The center of the city is dominated by a broad plaza ringed with neat greenery and trees and overlooked by the imposing edifice of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Charles Borromeo.
The countryside surrounding the city is home to a large number of farms, with staples such as maize, potatoes, and quinoa dominating the crops due to their hardiness and ability to grow at high altitudes. Local farmers also raise alpacas and llamas, with large herds being a common sight.
The largest lake in South America, Lake Titicaca is over 100 miles (160 km) long and up to 50 miles (80 km) wide at its broadest point, and lies adjacent to Puno. It straddles the border of Peru and Bolivia, and at over 12,000 feet (3,658 m) above sea level it is considered the highest navigable lake in the world. The waters of the lake are brackish, due to evaporation, and it is home to large fish populations and thick growths of reeds.
The area of the lake nearest to Puno holds dozens of floating islands. These man-made structures are platforms of reeds and mud, large enough to hold several reed huts. These house small settlements of the Uru people, who fish the waters.