South America, the fourth largest continent in the world, consists of twelve independent countries and three major territories. Culturally influenced by Spanish and Portuguese explorers and colonial rule, South America has rich traditions of art, literature, and music. This multifaceted continent has a history that dates back over a millennium. Economically, most South American countries have shown progress and growth in the past few of decades. The tourism industry has been an important economic factor in many South American countries.
South America is located mainly in the earth's southern hemisphere. Bound by the South Pacific Ocean to the west, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, South America is connected to North America by the Isthmus of Panama.
Economy of South America
South American countries have recently shown tremendous economic development. Countries like Brazil, Argentina, Columbia, Peru, Chile, and Uruguay have had maximum growth even during the global recession (2008-2009); the South American countries have shown great resilience in comparison to other nations in the world. South America's GDP (PPP) as of 2010 was $3.5 trillion.
Agriculture and manufacturing industries are supporting the economies of many South American countries. Some of the major agricultural products are soybeans, coffee, rice, sugarcane, wheat, and corn. South America's mineral resources have also helped support the rapid growth of economy. Some major natural resources are petroleum, gold, iron ore, silver, and copper. Brazil has the sixth largest economy in the world and the largest economy in South America, but it is growing at a slower pace. Brazil also leads the continent in export of goods.
South America's economy faces some major challenges. In many countries of South America, extreme inequality between the rich and poor is a major concern. In fact the gap between the rich and the poor is highest in South American countries in comparison with other nations of the world.
South American countries have two trade blocs: Mercosur and the Andean Community of Nations. These trade blocks help the participating countries strengthen their economic ties.
|South America Timeline|
|5000-1200BC||Asian hunters cross the frozen Bering Strait on their way from Asia to Alaska and then move south.|
|900-300 BC||Agricultural practices are developed in the highlands of Peru|
|1400-1550||The Inca Empire spreads across Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Northern Argentina, and Ecuador|
|1492||Christopher Columbus discovers the New World (the Americas)|
|1494||Portugal and Spain sign the Treaty of Tordesillas, dividing the land into two sections. Spain controlled the western half, and Portugal controlled the east.|
|1500||Amerigo Vespucci recognizes the New World as a separate continent. He is credited for writing his narratives about the voyage and discoveries with great passion and art. The Americas are named after him.|
|1533||Spanish Army led by Francisco Pizarro captures much of Inca territory|
|1535||Peru and Lima are founded|
|1536||Argentina is established|
|1537||Paraguay is founded|
|1693||Gold is discovered in Brazil|
|1777||Administrative units are established in Venezuela|
|1818||Chile gains independence from Spain|
|1821||Peru gains independence from Spain|
|1822||Brazil gains independence from Portugal|
|1945||Peru holds free election|
|1946||Venezuela holds free election for the first time.|
|1983||First free elections are held in Bolivia|
|2008||Ecuador adopts a new constitution|
South American Polities
The South American continent is comprised of 12 countries and three territories. Several forms of government are found in South America, including federal, parliamentary, democratic, presidential, constitutional, republics, as well as countries under military dictatorship, like Chile. In the last decade the South American countries have shown a growing preference toward left wing political parties, whose leaders consider themselves socialists. Brazil, the largest country of South America, also is one of the largest democracies of the world.
|Quick Facts about South America|
|Official Name||South America|
|Origin of Name||Amerigo Vespucci|
|International Divisions||12 independent countries and three territories|
|Population||387,500,000 (2011 est.)|
|Major Languages||Portuguese, Spanish, English, Dutch, French|
|Major Religion||Christianity (Roman Catholicism)|
|Countries of South America and their capitals|
|French Guiana (France)||Cayenne|
|Falkland Island (UK)||Stanley|
|Galapagos Island (Ecuador)||Puerto Baquerizo Moreno|
Last Updated On : June 10, 2013