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South America is the world's fourth largest continent on Earth, and the fifth most populous. With a history that spans over a thousand years, South America has been culturally influenced by Spanish, Portuguese, Asian, and African cultures.
South America is bound by the Caribbean Sea in the north, the North Atlantic Ocean in the east and northeast and by the South Atlantic Ocean in the southeast. The South Pacific Ocean borders the continent in the west. In the northwest, the Isthmus of Panama joins South America with North America. South America is also home to a stunning variety of landscapes from desert to rainforest, and from plains to hills.
South America has a long history, dating back to human migration across the Bering Land Bridge. By about 1200 BC hunters traveled from Asia to Alaska, crossing the Bering Strait and drifted gradually south. From 1400 to 1550, the indigenous people of the Inca Empire spread across South America to regions in modern-day Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Northern Argentina, and Peru.
In 1492, Christopher Columbus discovered the "New World", and the number of Spanish explorers increased between 1496 and 1526. In 1533, the Spanish Army led by Francisco Pizarro had captured much of Inca territory. In the period between 1535 and 1537, Argentina, Peru, and Bolivia were founded, and by the eighteenth century the Spanish colonies in South America started to make a serious bid for independence. While fighting wars against France on the European mainland, Spain began to lose control of its South American colonies, and by the end of the war in 1814, countries like Argentina and Venezuela gained their independence from Spain, and other nations followed suit. In the twentieth century, several South American countries, including Peru and Venezuela, had held elections for the first time after their independence.
The manufacturing industries, agriculture, and trade primarily support the economy of South America. The economies of many South American countries are based on export of goods, primarily the export of agricultural products. Brazil and Argentina lead in the export of goods to other nations. Some of the major agricultural products include sugarcane, corn, wheat, soybean, and coffee. South America's mineral resources also contribute substantially to the economy. Some major mineral resources found in South America are petroleum, gold, iron ore, silver, and copper.
South American countries have shown remarkable economic development in the past two decades. Countries like Brazil, Argentina, Columbia, Peru, Chile, and Uruguay have had maximum growth, even during the global recession of 2008 and 2009. South American countries have shown resilience as compared to other nations around the world. The major challenge that South America's economy faces is the high levels of inequality between the rich and the poor in many countries. The gap between the rich and the poor in South America is highest in the world. In response, many South American countries are trying to come together with the help of two trade blocs, the Mercosur, which includes countries like Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela, and Paraguay; and the Andean Community of Nations, which includes countries such as Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Columbia, Venezuela, and Chile. These trade blocs help the countries strengthen their economic ties and improve their economies.
Travel and Tourism
Tourism is another important industry in South America that not only enhances the GDP of each country, but also ensures greater job opportunities. The historical sites, architectural marvels, and the natural landscapes of the continent attract millions of tourists every year from all across the globe.
South America is a land of diversity. The Amazon Rainforest and Amazon River, the Atacama Desert, Lake Titicaca, and Angel Falls of Venezuela are some of the major natural attractions of South America. South America has diverse climates from dry and arid to tropical.
Last Updated On : January 18, 2013
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