PIURA, the northernmost maritime department of Peru, bounded north by the Gulf of Guayaquil, N.E. by Ecuador, S. by the departments of Cajarnarca and Lambayeque, and W. by the Pacific. Area, 14,849 sq. m.; pop. (1906, estimate), 154,080 both totals exclusive of the province of Tumbes, or Tumbez (area, about 1980 sq. m.; pop., in 1906, about 8000), which has been administratively separated from the department for military reasons. The department belongs partly to the arid coastal plain that extends from the Gulf of Guayaquil southward nearly to Valparaiso, and partly to a broken mountainous region belonging to the Western Cordilleras. The coastal zone is traversed by the Tumbes, Chira and Piura rivers, which have their sources in the melting snows of the higher Andes and flow westward across the desert to the coast. The valleys of the Chira and Piura are irrigated and maintain large populations. Rough cotton, called " vegetable wool," and tobacco are the principal products, and are also produced in the valley of the Tumbes and in some of the elevated mountain districts. On the upland pastures cattle have long been raised, and goatbreeding has been added in modern times. Mules also are reared. Petroleum is an important product, and there are wells at a number of places along the coast, from Tumbes to Sechura, the most productive being those of Talara and Zorritos. There are sulphur deposits in the Sechura desert, and salt is manufactured at some places on the southern coast. The making of Panama hats from the fibre of the " toquilla " palm is a household industry. The capital is Piura (est. pop. 9100 in 1906), on the Piura river, about 35 m. (direct) E.S.E. of Paita, and 164 ft. above sea-level. It was founded by Pizarro in 1531 under the name of San Miguel, at a place called Tangarara, nearer Paita, but the present site was afterwards adopted. A railway (60 m. long) by way of Sullana connects with the port of Paita, and an extension of 6 m. runs S.S.E. to Catacaos. Other towns of the department, with their estimated populations in 1906, are: Tumbes, or Tumbez (2300), the most northern port of Peru, on the Gulf of Guayaquil, celebrated as the place where Pizarro landed in 1531; Paita; Sechura (6450), on Sechura Bay in the southern part of the department, with exports of salt and sulphur; Sullana (5300), an inland town with railway connexions in the fertile Chira valley; Morropon (3800) on the upper Piura; Huancabamba, the centre of a tobacco district in the mountains; and Tambo Grande (6100) and Chulucanas (4600), both in the fertile Piura valley above the capital.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)