Area: 17,840,000 square km.
Population: 385,742,554 (2011, 5th)
Pop. Density: 21.4/km2 (56.0/sq mi)
With most of its area being in Southern Hemisphere, the continent of South America is situated between the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean. The continent comprises of 12 independent states including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, Colombia, Venezuela and the overseas department of French Guiana. South America is ranked fourth in area and fifth in population.
Its geographical location has often been subjected to controversies. A good amount of people from various non-English speaking countries doesn't accept the idea of it being a continent in true sense of the term. They regard North, Central and South America as subcontinents. The great Amazon River that surrounds a vast area of Amazon forests is located in South America. Being extensively deep, the river is also termed as The River Sea. Before the construction of roads and other means of transport, the Amazon waterways used to be the prime routes to access the interior areas of Brazil and some Northern areas of South America. Andes, the second largest mountain range in the world after Himalayas also run down the western edge of South America. Andes also have active and dormant volcanic peaks. The largest salt lake in the world is located in Bolivia that is one of the independent South American countries.
Portuguese and Spanish are the major languages of South America while Christianity, Islam and Hinduism remain the most practiced religion in South American land. High interest rates, unemployment and low investment are the significant features of its economy. A considerable gap between rich and poor is quite evident in South America. The richest countries like Venezuela, Brazil and Paraguay might own 60 % of the total nation's wealth while the poorest may own just less than 5 %.
The continent is rich in music and literature. The famous musician Gabriel Gracia Marquezis a Nobel Prize winner from South America. The mainly Portuguese speaking country is largely known for its Great Amazon forests, large mountain ranges and tropical forests.
South America is believed to have been joined with Africa from the late Paleozoic Era to the early Mesozoic Era, until the supercontinent Pangaea began to rift and break apart about 225 million years ago. Therefore, South America and Africa share similar fossils and rock layers.
South America is thought to have been first inhabited by humans when people were crossing the Bering Land Bridge (now the Bering Strait) at least 15,000 years ago from the territory that is present-day Russia. They migrated south through North America, and eventually reached South America through the Isthmus of Panama.
The first evidence for the existence of the human race in South America dates back to about 9000 BC, when squashes, chili peppers and beans began to be cultivated for food in the highlands of the Amazon Basin. Pottery evidence further suggests that manioc, which remains a staple food today, was being cultivated as early as 2000 BC.
By 2000 BC, many agrarian communities had been settled throughout the Andes and the surrounding regions. Fishing became a widespread practice along the coast, helping establish fish as a primary source of food. Irrigation systems were also developed at this time, which aided in the rise of an agrarian society.
South American cultures began domesticating llamas, guanacos, and alpacas in the highlands of the Andes circa 3500 BC. Besides their use as sources of meat and wool, these animals were used for transportation of goods.
Largest Countries of South America
The continent of South America comprise of 12 independent countries and an overseas land, French Guiana. Brazil, the undisputed giant, is the largest country in this continent that covers nearly half of the continents total area. Its total area is calculated to be 8,514,877 square km.
Argentina is the second largest country in South America with an estimated area of 2,780,400 square kilometers. Major cities of Argentina include Buenos Aires, Cordoba, Rosario and Mandoza. Buenos Aires is also the capital city of Argentina.
Peru is the third largest country of South America after Argentina. The total area of Peru is 496,222 square mile. Mining, steel, petroleum, fishing, textile and tourism include the major industries of Peru. Its capital is Lima that has a population of 8.4 million.
The economically dominant countries in South America
Talking in economic terms, the country has shown rapid development over the years. Countries like Venezuela, Brazil, Peru and Colombia have made valuable contributions in boasting its economy. Initially, the scarcity of coal was a major impediment to its economic and industrial development which was overcome by using the petroleum reservoirs present in the continent.
Brazil's economy remained stable despite recession and it continues to expand its presence in the global market. Brazil's economy is largely characterized by its well-developed agriculture, mining and manufacturing sectors. It's GDP in terms of purchasing power parity is $2.362 trillion.
Argentina stands right next to Brazil in terms of economy. Argentina derives extensive benefit from its rich natural resources and highly developed agricultural sector. Its major exports include soybeans, petroleum, gas, vehicles and corn. Its GDP in terms of PPP is calculated to be $ 746.9 billion.
Countries undergoing massive economic growth are Venezuela and Peru. Major industries in South America include agriculture, fishing, and mining. Trade is also a crucial feature in its economy.
Famous tourist spots
South America is a mash up of magnificent landscapes with snow covered mountains year around, thick forests, mesmerizing waterfalls and one of the world's spectacular mountain ranges. When it comes to adventure, South America is never disappointing. It provides a complete opportunity to the adventure addicts to get wild and yell their hearts out!
Peru has become the darling of a travelling community due to the presence of world's oldest ruins, Machu Pichu. It's one of the mystical and ancient cities that remained a secret for ages. The sight of sun rise at Machu Pichu provides a unique feeling of harmony and serenity which provides one with a true spiritual experience. It is the most famous tourist spot in South America.
Angela falls kissing the Venezuela's Canaima National Park are the highest waterfalls in the world. Witnessing the falls pouring down from a height of around 980 meters offers a breath taking scenery. The falls are known as the pride of Venezuela. They represent the natural wealth and heritage of South America.
Other places of tourist interest include Rio de Janeiro that has some of the world's beautiful beaches. Santiago, Bogota, Lima, Buzios and Salvador are also among the most frequently visited sites in South America.
Landmarks are what earn countries global recognition. It is primarily due to the noticeable physical and historical features they carry. They play an essential role in attracting tourists from all around the world. Like various other continents, South America is rich in landmarks. Undoubtedly, South America is one of the most spectacular continents in the world. Let's bring into consideration some of the major landmarks in South American region.
Cristo Redentor in Rio de Janeiro is one of the most phenomenal landmarks in the world. It is a statue of Jesus that stands 130 feet tall. It is known to be the fifth largest statue of Jesus in the world.
The statue holds the symbol of Brazilian Christianity and earns the place of an icon for Rio de Janeiro. This enormous structure is mainly composed of concrete and soapstone.
Machu Pichu popularity is more warranted than most of the other land marks as it is one of the most beautiful, mystical and adventurous places in the world. It's one of the must-see natural wonders in the world.
Among a wide range of sports played in South America, soccer is the pick of all of them. South American countries have produced incredible football players like Maradona, Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Kaka that continue to rule the world of Football. The fame and recognition of athletes from the Latin American countries have brought them to the forefront. Brazil has won the FIFA world cup 5 times while Uruguay and Argentina have both won twice.
Baseball is the second favorite to Latin Americans after football. The game is gradually rising in popularity. Most of American international team players are Americans or descendants of Latin Americans. Polo is also famous in some parts of Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay.