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The continent of South America lies entirely in the western hemisphere with a fraction of the continent extending north over the equator where it joins the North American. A large peninsula, the continent lies bordered with the Pacific Ocean on the West, the Atlantic Ocean on the East and the Caribbean Sea toward the upper regions of the continent.


Being the southern part of the single biggest landmass discovered by Amerigo Vespucci in 1507 who was the first to point out correctly, that the land was a new discovery, unknown to Europeans before, the continent gets its name from the explorer. Today South America is a group of countries with heavy and interesting long histories dating back to the arrival of the first people over the Bering Strait from Eurasia. The rich history of South America attracts experts and tourists in great numbers.

Colonized by Spain and Brazil after their 1494 agreement of duopoly on land outside Europe, the South American natives were subject to exploitation since the 1530's. The spread of contagious European diseases like smallpox, measles, typhus and influenza attacked the South American immune system which had never faced the range of diseases before.

The forced labour systems subjected the native South American to decimation. Independence from the Spanish Crown was achieved in the early 19th century years in most regions of the continent. Recent South American history made it a battleground of the Cold War between US and Russia. Some or most of the governments in the region were overthrown by military dictatorships allied with the US. Prevalent Democracy grew through the continent after the 1980's, which was also a period of severe poverty and international debt.

Despite recent elections of the leftist parties in most countries of the continent, a steady progress towards free-market economics has been the trend. Most of the South American countries are believed to have attained the economic status to compete with markets in other affluent countries. It is important to be noted that most of South America faced forced labour systems and till recently were considered to be one the lowest paid working communities.

South America is an attractive destination for many around the globe, especially after the relatively peaceful times. Many South American countries have come a long way in the recent years leaving behind a history of malnourishment and overt poverty. 

The Union of South American Nations, that was formed recently, aims at establishing free movement of citizens between countries, a uniform military policy, opening barriers to free trade, and elimination of taxes.

Geography

South American Geography is one of the most arresting subjects in most international institutes. With marvelous features across the continent, South America is also home to the biggest waterfalls in the world, the largest famous river basin and rainforests, the longest mountain range in the world and the driest desert in the world - Angel Falls (Venezuela), Amazon River Basin, the Andes and the Atacama Desert. South America is also famous for the highest capital city La Paz (Bolivia).

Major mineral ores in South America are copper, silver, gold, iron ore, petroleum and tin. The extent to which these have been exploited in the past for the indigenous people may be a debatable issue owing to extensive subjugation to foreign power. However, fluctuation of prices in the international markets of these products, have affected the South American economy through highs and lows.

The Andes run down the western coastline for about 7000 km spanning 200 to 700km in width, through Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Argentina. On the West of it, lies the Pacific Ocean, certain volcanic islands of which are believed to be the origin of the Andes soil. The northern and central parts of the continent have dense vegetation, constituting the Amazon River Basin around the Amazon River which runs down from the northern areas of the Andes towards the Atlantic Ocean on the East. Home to the most varied range of species, the Amazon forests have always been known as a severely dangerous place for human existence.

The Atacama Desert is a rainless plateau on the coastal area of southern Peru, occupying 105,000 sq. km over a 1,000 km long strip. The oasis in Atacama lies on a 2,000 meters high elevation where sits the village called San Pedro de Atacama, the church of which was built by Spanish settlers in 1577.

History, people and culture:    

The South American culture population is one of the most diverse in North America, mainly owing to the young age of the region, and it being the New World. European colonization that brought in population from the most varied geographies and races of Europe has dotted the South American population with most skin types and colours.

Being a relatively turbulence prone continent, South American art is rich with stories of sufferings, comebacks, love, rebellion, social poverty and freedom. South American Jazz, which is unique owing to an intense indigenous contribution, has seen some of the greatest artists. South American filmmakers are also greatly respected the world over. With diverse cultural traditions, contemporary art in South America has attained its own identity. Christianity was brought into South America by the colonizers. 60 - 80 percent of South American population follows Christianity, depending on the country. The Protestant population is high as well.

Languages spoken apart from Spanish and Portuguese vary from region to region. Aymara, Quechua, Urarina, Hindi Dutch and French are some amongst the other languages in South America.

Tourist attractions and night life:   

South American Incas and early indigenous people left South America to turn out to be one of the most interesting continents in the world. Places of interest can take tourists on a historical trip and deep insights into indigenous South America. The influence of colonization in South American countries like Brazil and Argentina make them great places for architecture, clubbing and dancing with the magical touch of the local beat. Adventures like mountain biking, forest camping, cycling, parasailing, sky-diving and surfing are major attractions. South American football is serious. A visit to one of the tournaments can be a great experience.

  • The Rio Carnival - The famous Brazilian Carnival is an exhilarating experience for every tourist and local citizen. Most Brazilian cities have their own carnival with the samba dance. It serves a great purpose in knowing the cultural roots of the celebrations. The carnival takes place every year during the start of the Lenten season, usually 4 days before Ash Wednesday. The notable thing about the cuisines of the celebrations is that the food of each culture of South America has separate items being offered instead of fusion preparations and the like.
  • Brazilian beaches - Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro is a pristine stretch of white sand beach perfect for relaxation. Resorts around the beach are usually affordable, with nearby facilities for beach and water sports and night parties. Sao Paulo and the surroundings hold the most popular beaches with rainforest density so high, that they encroach on to the beaches.
  • Machu Picchu - Easily rated one of the best tourist destinations in the world, Machu Picchu. Located at 8000 feet above sea level, this was an Inca city built around 1450 AD. The possible ways of constructing this city is still a mystery to historians. The decimation of the city is not linked with colonization, as it is believed that the Incas could not have had knowledge about the foreign settlements.
  • Pampas - Located in the fertile regions of Argentina, holds the essence of Spanish horsemen similar to the American cowboys. These are mainly flat lands extending from the Atlantic coast to the Andes Mountains. With excellent scenic beauty and romanticism, this is the place for the cowboy tourist. Settlement patterns here mainly involve escaping of wild and dangerous animals and taming of horses and cattle from the 1600's as parts of Spanish settlement arrived in the region.
  • Iguazu Falls - The bunch of water-falls around the Iguazu River in Argentina are quite an attraction. Tours to Iguazu Falls take place in various regions of Argentina - beginning with a scenic train-ride and later hiking to get the aerial views of the falls. The areas are facilitated with hotels and bar rooms including casinos. Rafting on the Iguazu River is also a major attraction for the adventurous tourist.
  • Cordillera Real - Standing over 200 km, this mountain range has over 50 peaks with varied terrain and difficulty levels to scale. Akhamani treks in La Paz are popular. Mountain expeditions in Bolivia and are a regular sport with leading organizations conducting expeditions on the most popular peaks.


The South American culture features night parties in a big way. Most of the local music has lots to do with dancing which is famous for its sensuality. Notoriety is a concern in some parts of South America when it comes to drug use and mafia links with party spots, especially beaches. However Jazz, Samba and alcohol is the order of the night.  


Original Authors: Shampa
Edit Update Authors: M.A.Harris
Updated On: 17/11/2009
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