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Geographically, a subcontinent of the Americas, South America is also known as Latin America. South America is bordered by the Pacific Ocean on the west, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and east, and the Caribbean Sea and North America in the northwest.

There are twelve recognized countries in South America: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Brazil is the largest country in South America, by land area and population. Also in South America is French Guiana and the Falkland Islands, territories of France and Britain respectively.

The ABC Islands, the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Trinidad and Tobago are sometimes considered to be part of South America but, for the purposes of categorization, we will be listing them as in the Caribbean Islands. Panama is sometimes placed within South America, but we will be categorizing it with Central America.

Most of the population of South America lives along its coasts, leaving the interior and far south sparsely populated. Most of the continent has a tropical climate. Western South America is dominated by the Andes Mountains, while the eastern part of the continent includes highland regions and sizable lowlands, through which the Amazon, Orinoco, and Panama rivers flow.

The four chief regions of South America are Brazil, the Andean States, the Guianas, and the Southern Cone.

The culture of South America is the result of interactions with the continent's indigenous people, European immigrants, and African slaves. The predominant languages of South America are Portuguese and Spanish. Most South American countries have Spanish as the official language. Exceptions include Brazil, which has Portuguese as its official language, Suriname (Dutch), Guyana (English), French Guiana (French). The primary language of the Falkland Islands is English.

A large majority of South Americans are Christians, with Roman Catholicism being dominant. While South American culture is heavily influenced by Europeans, principally Portuguese and Spanish, there are still many places on the continent where indigenous people practice a traditional hunter-gatherer or subsistence farming lifestyle, and there are reportedly still uncontested tribes living in the Amazon rainforest region.

Like North America, South America was inhabited before the first European explorers set foot on the continent. Soldiers accompanying Francisco Pizarro's expedition in the early 1530s described the towns and monuments that were part of the Inca Empire, as well as Incan roads, fortresses, and other constructions. Incan architecture included stone blocks that fit together so well as to have survived for centuries without the use of mortar. The Incan people had developed systems of measures, mathematics, and a calendar. As was the case in North America, shortly after the Europeans arrived, they began taking over by conquest or conversion. Indigenous people in several European colonies were forced into slavery, working in plantations and mines along with imported African slaves.

A long period of decolonization and independence movements began in the early 1800s, in large part taking advantage of Napoleon's invasions of Portugal and Spain. Large in their efforts toward South American independence were Simon Bolivar of Venezuela and Jose de San Martin of Argentina, with Bolivar leading an uprising in the north, while San Martin led his armies across the Andes Mountains to liberate Chile, then organizing a fleet to move on Peru. Dom Pedro I proclaimed independence for Brazil in 1822. As is often the case, the period following independence was ripe with civil and international wars as the newly independent countries began a period of fragmentation.

The history of South America in the 19th century was built on wars. The 20th century saw fewer wars as several South American countries became military dictatorships, particularly following World War II. In recent decades, military dictatorships are giving way to leftist governments, many of which have demonstrated significant instability. Chile is considered to be one of the most stable of the South American nations.
















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