South America

By | January 8, 2023

South America, the fourth largest continent; 17.8 million km2, 350 million residents (2001). According to ABBREVIATIONFINDER, South America forms the southern part of the American Continent; geographically, the boundary between north and south is most often set at the narrowest point in Central America: the Panama Canal. In practice, the border between Colombia and Panama separates the two continents.

The nature of South America holds great contrasts, from tropical rainforest and subtropical desert in the north to icy winds to the south. As a whole, South America is sparsely populated and characterized by economic and social inequalities, both internally within and between countries. A common feature of all the states is an ethnic and cultural diversity and mix as well as the great importance of the Catholic Church.

Most countries became independent in the 1800’s, but colonial dependence has been partially replaced by a strong economic connection to the United States and Western Europe. Regarding cultural conditions etc., see also Latin America.

A table of South American countries, capitals, population and area can be found in the following or on Countryaah – Countries in South America.

Country Capital city Population in thousands (2001) Area in km2
Argentina Buenos Aires 37,385 2,780,000
Bolivia La Paz 8153 1,100,000
Brazil Brasilia 174,469 8,510,000
Chile Santiago 15,328 736,900
Colombia Bogotá 40,349 1,140,000
Ecuador Quito 13,184 272,000
Guyana Georgetown 697 215,000
Paraguay Asuncion 5586 406,750
Peru Lima 27,013 1,285,220
Suriname Paramaribo 431 163,820
Uruguay Montevideo 3334 176,220
Venezuela Caracas 23,543 th most common 916,490
Non-autonomous areas
Falkland Islands (UK) Stanley 2 12,000
French Guiana Cayenne 163 83,533

South America – geography

South America contains landscapes with mountains, rainforest, river plains and low plateaus.

The native Native American population is still found in the rainforest, but otherwise the population of the South American countries is culturally very mixed due to immigration from all over the world, beginning with the Spanish and Portuguese colonization in the 1500’s.

In some of the countries, there are striking social differences that stem from dealing with the economic crisis of the 1980’s. Today, the countries’ economies are generally under control. Most of the South American countries are middle-income countries, but there are also stronger and weaker economies in between.


Two landscape elements dominate large parts of South America: the 7,000 km long Andes mountain range that stretches along the west coast, and the vast rainforest area of ​​the Amazon. East of the Andes, the landscape consists of river plains and low plateaus, interrupted by the highlands of Guyana, Mato Grosso and the highlands of Brazil. These landscapes are very old, developed in areas that have been geologically stable for a very long time. Farthest south is the flat and windswept Patagonia.


The Spanish and Portuguese colonization from the 1500’s. had catastrophic consequences for the indigenous population, which succumbed to wars, forced labor, and foreign diseases.

The Indians were pushed away from the most fertile areas, had to give up their original way of life and now tempt in many places a miserable existence in high mountain areas. In Patagonia and on Tierra del Fuego, they were completely exterminated.

For the past 500 years, the peoples of other continents have invaded the continent. Colonization and importation of labor has created a culturally very mixed society. The Spaniards and especially the Portuguese set up plantations and introduced slaves from Africa.

On the north coast, Dutch, French, and English established smaller colonies in the 1600’s. In the 1800’s. continued European immigration of Germans and Italians, while Asians, especially Japanese and Chinese, flocked to in the early 1900’s.

The various peoples have in many places established themselves in collective areas, and here you can still see the culture of the homeland preserved in architecture, business culture and food selection; German “colonies” in southern Brazil and Paraguay, English and Welsh in Argentina and Chile, Hindu communities in Guyana and Japanese communities in Brazil. Across South America, Arab minorities have a significant position in trade. See also Argentina – Danish immigration).

Native American groups can still be found in the Amazon rainforest, but whites and blacks have often mingled with the Indians and with each other. In all countries, there is legal equality before the law, but racial discrimination is widespread. In general, economic and political influence and social status can be read by skin color: the lightest are in power, and dark skin color often indicates poor education, unemployment, and poverty.

The population is very unevenly distributed. Large parts of the rainforest, the driest parts of the Andes and Patagonia are largely uninhabited, while large concentrations are found along the coasts. The continent is characterized by skewed land distribution, and in the second half of the 1900-t. large sections of the rural population left their residence to seek happiness in the big cities.

In 2000, 28 cities had over 1 million. residents, including some of the world’s largest metropolises (São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires), and vast slums are found in most.