|Area||17,840,000 km2 (6,890,000 sq mi) (4th)|
|Population||434,254,119 (2021; 5th)|
|Population density||21.4/km2 (56.0/sq mi)|
|GDP (PPP)||$7.61 trillion (2022 est; 5th)|
|GDP (nominal)||$3.62 trillion (2022 est; 4th)|
|GDP per capita||$8,340 (2022 est; 5th)|
|Demonym||South American, American|
|Time zones||UTC−02:00 to UTC−05:00|
|UN M49 code|
South America is a continent[g] entirely in the Western Hemisphere[h] and mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere at the northern tip of the continent. It can also be described as the southern subregion of a single continent called America.
South America is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east by the Atlantic Ocean; North America and the Caribbean Sea lie to the northwest. The continent generally includes twelve sovereign states: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela; two dependent territories: the Falkland Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands;[i] and one internal territory: French Guiana.[j] In addition, the ABC islands of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Ascension Island (dependency of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, a British Overseas Territory), Bouvet Island (dependency of Norway), Panama, and Trinidad and Tobago may also be considered parts of South America.
South America has an area of 17,840,000 square kilometers (6,890,000 sq mi). Its population as of 2021[update] has been estimated at more than 434 million.
Most of the population lives near the continent's western or eastern coasts while the interior and the far south are sparsely populated. The geography of western South America is dominated by the Andes mountains; in contrast, the eastern part contains both highland regions and vast lowlands where rivers such as the Amazon, Orinoco and Paraná flow. Most of the continent lies in the tropics, except for a large part of the Southern Cone located in the middle latitudes.
The continent's cultural and ethnic outlook has its origin with the interaction of indigenous peoples with European conquerors and immigrants and, more locally, with African slaves. Given a long history of colonialism, the overwhelming majority of South Americans speak Spanish or Portuguese, and societies and states are rich in Western traditions. Relative to Europe, Asia and Africa, post-1900 South America has been a peaceful continent with few wars.[k]
South America occupies the southern portion of the Americas. The continent is generally delimited on the northwest by the Darién watershed along the Colombia–Panama border, although some may consider the border instead to be the Panama Canal. Geopolitically and geographically, all of Panama – including the segment east of the Panama Canal in the isthmus – is typically included in North America alone and among the countries of Central America. Almost all of mainland South America sits on the South American Plate.
South America is home to the world's highest uninterrupted waterfall, Angel Falls in Venezuela; the highest single drop waterfall Kaieteur Falls in Guyana; the largest river by volume, the Amazon River; the longest mountain range, the Andes (whose highest mountain is Aconcagua at 6,962 m or 22,841 ft); the driest non-polar place on earth, the Atacama Desert; the wettest place on earth, López de Micay in Colombia; the largest rainforest, the Amazon rainforest; the highest capital city, La Paz, Bolivia; the highest commercially navigable lake in the world, Lake Titicaca; and, excluding research stations in Antarctica, the world's southernmost permanently inhabited community, Puerto Toro, Chile.
South America's major mineral resources are gold, silver, copper, iron ore, tin, and petroleum. These resources found in South America have brought high income to its countries especially in times of war or of rapid economic growth by industrialized countries elsewhere. However, the concentration in producing one major export commodity often has hindered the development of diversified economies. The fluctuation in the price of commodities in the international markets has led historically to major highs and lows in the economies of South American states, often causing extreme political instability. This is leading to efforts to diversify production to drive away from staying as economies dedicated to one major export.
Brazil is the largest country in South America, covering a little less than half of the continent's land area and encompassing around half of the continent's population. The remaining countries and territories are divided among four subregions: the Andean states, Caribbean South America, The Guianas, and the Southern Cone.
Physiographically, South America also includes some of the nearby islands. The Dutch ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao), the islands of Trinidad and Tobago (Trinidad Island and Tobago Island etc.), the State of Nueva Esparta, and the Federal Dependencies of Venezuela sit on the northern portion of the South American continental shelf and are sometimes considered parts of the continent. Geopolitically, all the island countries and territories in the Caribbean have generally been grouped as a subregion of North America instead. By contrast, Aves Island (administered by Venezuela) and the Archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina (San Andrés Island, Providencia Island, and Santa Catalina Island etc., which are administered by Colombia) are politically parts of South American countries but physiographically parts of North America.
Other islands often associated with geopolitical South America are the
An isolated volcanic island on the South American Plate, Ascension Island is geologically a part of South America. Administered as a dependency of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, the island is geopolitically a part of Africa.
All of the world's major climate zones are present in South America.
The distribution of the average temperatures in the region presents a constant regularity from the 30° of latitude south, when the isotherms tend, more and more, to be confused with the degrees of latitude.
In temperate latitudes, winters and summers are milder than in North America. This is because the most extensive part of the continent is in the equatorial zone (the region has more areas of equatorial plains than any other region), therefore giving the Southern Cone more oceanic influence, which moderates year round temperatures.
The average annual temperatures in the Amazon basin oscillate around 27 °C (81 °F), with low thermal amplitudes and high
The east-central Brazilian plateau has a humid and warm tropical climate. The northern and eastern parts of the Argentine pampas have a humid subtropical climate with dry winters and humid summers of the Chinese type, while the western and eastern ranges have a subtropical climate of the dinaric type. At the highest points of the Andean region, climates are colder than the ones occurring at the highest point of the Norwegian fjords. In the Andean plateaus, the warm climate prevails, although it is tempered by the altitude, while in the coastal strip, there is an equatorial climate of the Guinean type. From this point until the north of the Chilean coast appear, successively, Mediterranean oceanic climate, temperate of the Breton type and, already in Tierra del Fuego, cold climate of the Siberian type.
The distribution of rainfall is related to the regime of winds and air masses. In most of the
Important factors in the determination of climates are sea currents, such as the current Humboldt and
South America is one of the most biodiverse continents on Earth. South America is home to many unique species of animals including the llama, anaconda, piranha, jaguar, vicuña, and tapir. The Amazon rainforests possess high biodiversity, containing a major proportion of Earth's species. 83% of South America's large mammals (megafauna) became extinct at the end of the Pleistocene around 11,000 years ago as part of the Quaternary extinction event, among the highest of any continent, with the casualties including saber-toothed cats, ground sloths, glyptodonts, gomphotheres, the equines Hippidion and Equus neogeus, and all remaining South American native ungulates.
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.
Amongst the oldest evidence for human presence in South America is the Monte Verde II site in Chile, suggested to date to around 14,500 years ago. From around 13,000 years ago, the Fishtail projectile point style became widespread across South America, with its disppearance around 11,000 years ago coincident with the disappearance of South America's megafauna. Maize was present in northern South America by around 6,000 years ago.
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, vicuñas, 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.
The rise of plant growing and the subsequent appearance of permanent human settlements allowed for the multiple and overlapping beginnings of civilizations in South America.
One of the earliest known South American civilizations was at
In the central coast of Peru, around the beginning of the 1st millennium AD,
Around the 7th century, both Tiahuanaco and Wari or Huari Empire (600–1200, Central and northern Peru) expanded its influence to all the Andean region, imposing the Huari urbanism and Tiahuanaco religious iconography.
Other important Pre-Columbian cultures include: the
In 1494, Portugal and Spain, the two great maritime European powers of that time, on the expectation of new lands being discovered in the west, signed the Treaty of Tordesillas, by which they agreed, with the support of the Pope, that all the land outside Europe should be an exclusive duopoly between the two countries.
The treaty established an imaginary line along a north–south
Beginning in the 1530s, the people and natural resources of South America were repeatedly exploited by foreign
European infectious diseases (
The Spaniards were committed to converting their native subjects to
Eventually, the natives and the Spaniards interbred, forming a mestizo class. At the beginning, many mestizos of the Andean region were offspring of Amerindian mothers and Spanish fathers. After independence, most mestizos had native fathers and European or mestizo mothers.
Many native artworks were considered pagan idols and destroyed by Spanish explorers; this included many gold and silver sculptures and other artifacts found in South America, which were melted down before their transport to Spain or Portugal. Spaniards and Portuguese brought the western European architectural style to the continent, and helped to improve infrastructures like bridges, roads, and the sewer system of the cities they discovered or conquered. They also significantly increased economic and trade relations, not just between the old and new world but between the different South American regions and peoples. Finally, with the expansion of the Portuguese and Spanish languages, many cultures that were previously separated became united through that of Latin American.
Guyana was initially colonized by the Dutch before coming under British control, though there was a brief period during the Napoleonic Wars when it was occupied by the French. The region was initially partitioned between the Dutch, French and British before fully coming under the control of Britain.
Slavery in South America
|Part of a series on|
The indigenous peoples of the Americas in various European colonies were forced to work in European plantations and mines; along with enslaved Africans who were also introduced in the proceeding centuries via the slave trade. European colonists were heavily dependent on indigenous labor during the initial phases of settlement to maintain the subsistence economy, and natives were often captured by expeditions. The importation of African slaves began midway through the 16th century, but the enslavement of indigenous peoples continued well into the 17th and 18th centuries. The Atlantic slave trade brought enslaved Africans primarily to South American colonies, beginning with the Portuguese since 1502. The main destinations of this phase were the Caribbean colonies and Brazil, as European nations built up economically slave-dependent colonies in the New World. Nearly 40% of all African slaves trafficked to the Americas went to Brazil. An estimated 4.9 million slaves from Africa came to Brazil during the period from 1501 to 1866.
In contrast to other European colonies in the Americas which mainly used the labor of African slaves, Spanish colonists mainly enslaved indigenous Americans. In 1750, the Portuguese Crown abolished the enslavement of indigenous peoples in colonial Brazil, under the belief that they were unfit for labor and less effective than enslaved Africans. Enslaved Africans were brought to the Americas on slave ships, under inhuman conditions and ill-treatment, and those who survived were sold in slave markets. After independence, all South American countries maintained slavery for some time. The first South American country to abolish slavery was Chile in 1823, Uruguay in 1830, Bolivia in 1831, Colombia and Ecuador in 1851, Argentina in 1853, Peru and Venezuela in 1854, Suriname in 1863, Paraguay in 1869, and in 1888 Brazil was the last South American nation and the last country in western world to abolish slavery.
Independence from Spain and Portugal
Many cities in the Spanish colonies, however, considered themselves equally authorized to appoint local Juntas like those of Spain. This began the
The independence of South America was secured by Simón Bolívar (Venezuela) and José de San Martín (Argentina), the two most important Libertadores. Bolívar led a great uprising in the north, then led his army southward towards Lima, the capital of the Viceroyalty of Peru. Meanwhile, San Martín led an army across the Andes Mountains, along with Chilean expatriates, and liberated Chile. He organized a fleet to reach Peru by sea, and sought the military support of various rebels from the Viceroyalty of Peru. The two armies finally met in Guayaquil, Ecuador, where they cornered the Royal Army of the Spanish Crown and forced its surrender.
Nation-building and fragmentation
The newly independent nations began a process of fragmentation, with several civil and international wars. However, it was not as strong as in Central America. Some countries created from provinces of larger countries stayed as such up to modern times (such as Paraguay or Uruguay), while others were reconquered and reincorporated into their former countries (such as the Republic of Entre Ríos and the Riograndense Republic).
The first separatist attempt was in 1820 by the Argentine province of Entre Ríos, led by a caudillo. In spite of the "Republic" in its title, General Ramírez, its caudillo, never really intended to declare an independent Entre Rios. Rather, he was making a political statement in opposition to the monarchist and centralist ideas that back then permeated Buenos Aires politics. The "country" was reincorporated at the United Provinces in 1821.
In 1825 the
Later in 1836, while Brazil was experiencing the chaos of the regency, Rio Grande do Sul proclaimed its independence motivated by a tax crisis. With the anticipation of the coronation of Pedro II to the throne of Brazil, the country could stabilize and fight the separatists, which the province of Santa Catarina had joined in 1839. The Conflict came to an end by a process of compromise by which both Riograndense Republic and Juliana Republic were reincorporated as provinces in 1845.
The Peru–Bolivian Confederation, a short-lived union of Peru and Bolivia, was blocked by Chile in the War of the Confederation (1836–1839) and again during the War of the Pacific (1879–1883). Paraguay was virtually destroyed by Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay in the Paraguayan War.
Wars and conflicts
In 1825 the proclamation of independence of Cisplatina led to the Cisplatine War between historical rivals the Empire of Brazil and the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata, Argentina's predecessor. The result was a stalemate, ending with the British government arranging for the independence of Uruguay. Soon after, another Brazilian province proclaimed its independence leading to the Ragamuffin War which Brazil won.
Between 1836 and 1839 the
Peace lasted only a short time: in 1864 the Uruguayan factions faced each other again in the Uruguayan War. The Blancos supported by Paraguay started to attack Brazilian and Argentine farmers near the borders. The Empire made an initial attempt to settle the dispute between Blancos and Colorados without success. In 1864, after a Brazilian ultimatum was refused, the imperial government declared that Brazil's military would begin reprisals. Brazil declined to acknowledge a formal state of war, and, for most of its duration, the Uruguayan–Brazilian armed conflict was an undeclared war which led to the deposition of the Blancos and the rise of the pro-Brazilian Colorados to power again. This angered the Paraguayan government, which even before the end of the war invaded Brazil, beginning the biggest and deadliest war in both South American and Latin American histories: the Paraguayan War.
The Paraguayan War began when the Paraguayan dictator Francisco Solano López ordered the invasion of the Brazilian provinces of Mato Grosso and Rio Grande do Sul. His attempt to cross Argentinian territory without Argentinian approval led the pro-Brazilian Argentine government into the war. The pro-Brazilian Uruguayan government showed its support by sending troops. In 1865 the three countries signed the Treaty of the Triple Alliance against Paraguay. At the beginning of the war, the Paraguayans took the lead with several victories, until the Triple Alliance organized to repel the invaders and fight effectively. This was the second total war experience in the world after the American Civil War. It was deemed the greatest war effort in the history of all participating countries, taking almost 6 years and ending with the complete devastation of Paraguay. The country lost 40% of its territory to Brazil and Argentina and lost 60% of its population, including 90% of the men. The dictator Lopez was killed in battle and a new government was instituted in alliance with Brazil, which maintained occupation forces in the country until 1876.
The last South American war in the 19th century was the War of the Pacific with Bolivia and Peru on one side and Chile on the other. In 1879 the war began with Chilean troops occupying Bolivian ports, followed by Bolivia declaring war on Chile which activated an alliance treaty with Peru. The Bolivians were completely defeated in 1880 and Lima was occupied in 1881. Peace was signed with Peru in 1883 while a truce was signed with Bolivia in 1884. Chile annexed territories of both countries leaving Bolivia landlocked.
In the new century, as wars became less violent and less frequent, Brazil entered into a small conflict with Bolivia for the possession of the Acre, which was acquired by Brazil in 1902. In 1917 Brazil declared war on the
Also in this period, the first major naval battle of
A brief war was fought between Argentina and the UK in 1982, following an Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands, which ended with an Argentine defeat. The last international war to be fought on South American soil was the 1995 Cenepa War between Ecuador and the Peru along their mutual border.
Rise and fall of military dictatorships
Wars became less frequent in the 20th century, with Bolivia-Paraguay and Peru-Ecuador fighting the last inter-state wars. Early in the 20th century, the three wealthiest South American countries engaged in a vastly expensive naval arms race which began after the introduction of a new warship type, the "dreadnought". At one point, the Argentine government was spending a fifth of its entire yearly budget for just two dreadnoughts, a price that did not include later in-service costs, which for the Brazilian dreadnoughts was sixty percent of the initial purchase.
The continent became a battlefield of the
In 1982, Argentina invaded the
Colombia has had an ongoing, though diminished internal conflict, which started in 1964 with the creation of Marxist guerrillas (FARC-EP) and then involved several illegal armed groups of leftist-leaning ideology as well as the private armies of powerful drug lords. Many of these are now defunct, and only a small portion of the ELN remains, along with the stronger, though also greatly reduced, FARC.
Revolutionary movements and right-wing military dictatorships became common after World War II, but since the 1980s, a wave of democratization passed through the continent, and democratic rule is widespread now. Nonetheless, allegations of corruption are still very common, and several countries have developed crises which have forced the resignation of their governments, although, on most occasions, regular civilian succession has continued.
South America's political geography since the 1990s has been characterized by a desire to reduce foreign influence. The nationalization of industries, by which the state controls entire economic sectors (as opposed of private companies doing it), has become a prominent political issues in the region. Some South American nations have nationalized their electricity industries.
Countries and territories
|Flag||Country / Territory||Area[l]||Population
|Capital||Name(s) in official language(s)|
(1,068,300 sq mi)
(424,160 sq mi)
(3,287,612 sq mi)
(292,260 sq mi)
(440,831 sq mi)
(109,480 sq mi)
(4,700 sq mi)
(35,000 sq mi)
(83,012 sq mi)
(157,050 sq mi)
(496,230 sq mi)
|South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
(1,194 sq mi)
|King Edward Point||South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands|
(63,040 sq mi)
(68,040 sq mi)
(353,841 sq mi)
(6,882,083 sq mi)
Government and politics
Historically, the Hispanic countries were founded as Republican dictatorships led by caudillos. Brazil was the only exception, being a constitutional monarchy for its first 67 years of independence, until a coup d'état proclaimed a republic. In the late 19th century, the most democratic countries were Brazil, Chile, Argentina and Uruguay.
All South American countries are
Recently, an intergovernmental entity has been formed which aims to merge the two existing customs unions: Mercosur and the Andean Community, thus forming the third-largest trade bloc in the world. This new political organization, known as Union of South American Nations, seeks to establish free movement of people, economic development, a common defense policy and the elimination of tariffs.
South America has a population of over 428 million people. They are distributed as to form a "hollow continent" with most of the population concentrated around the margins of the continent.
Spanish and Portuguese are the most spoken languages in South America, with approximately 200 million speakers each. Spanish is the official language of most countries, along with other native languages in some countries. Portuguese is the official language of Brazil. Dutch is the official language of Suriname; English is the official language of Guyana, although there are at least twelve other languages spoken in the country, including Portuguese, Chinese, Hindustani and several native languages. English is also spoken in the Falkland Islands. French is the official language of French Guiana and the second language in Amapá, Brazil.
Other languages found in South America include
An estimated 90% of South Americans are
Both Buenos Aires, Argentina and São Paulo, Brazil figure among the largest
Part of Religions in South America (2013):
|Countries||Christians||Roman Catholics||Other Christians||No religion (atheists and agnostics)|
This section possibly contains original research. Table seem to be original research (OR). Section seem plagued by OR and inconsistencies. (May 2020)
Genetic admixture occurs at very high levels in South America. In Argentina, the European influence accounts for 65–79% of the genetic background, Amerindian for 17–31% and sub-Saharan African for 2–4%. In Colombia, the sub-Saharan African genetic background varied from 1% to 89%, while the European genetic background varied from 20% to 79%, depending on the region. In Peru, European ancestries ranged from 1% to 31%, while the African contribution was only 1% to 3%. The Genographic Project determined the average Peruvian from Lima had about 25% European ancestry, 68% Native American, 3% Southwest Asian ancestry and 2% sub-Saharan African.
People who identify as of primarily or totally
South America is also home to one of the largest populations of
Brazil followed by Peru have the largest Japanese, Korean and Chinese communities in South America, Lima has the largest ethnic Chinese community in Latin America. Guyana and Suriname have the largest ethnic East Indian community.
|White people||Mestizos / Pardos||
|Black people||Zambos||Asian people|
|Suriname||3.8%||1%||13.4%* noted in Suriname as mixed, regardless of race combination||*see Pardo||37.4%||*see Pardo||48.3%|
|Guyana||10.5%||0.36%||19.9%* noted in Guyana as mixed regardless of race combination||*see Pardo||29.2%||*see Pardo||39.98%|
In many places indigenous people still practice a traditional lifestyle based on subsistence agriculture or as hunter-gatherers. There are still some
- Aymara – live in the Altiplano of Bolivia, Chile and Peru. Their language is co-official in Bolivia and Peru. Traditional lifestyle includes llama herding.
- Guaraní – live in Paraguay where the Guarani languageis co-official with Spanish. The ethnic group is also found in Bolivia.
- Quechuas – make up a large part of the population of Peru and Bolivia. Are diverse as an ethnic group. The Incas spoke Southern Quechua.
- Shuar (see Jívaro).
The most populous country in South America is Brazil with 214.3 million people. The second largest country is Colombia with a population of 51,516,562. Argentina is the third most populous country with 45,276,780.
While Brazil, Argentina, and Colombia maintain the largest populations, large city populations are not restricted to those nations. The largest cities in South America, by far, are São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Lima, and Bogotá. These cities are the only cities on the continent whose metropolitan areas' population exceed eight million. Next in size are Caracas, Belo Horizonte, and Medellin.
Five of the top ten metropolitan areas are in Brazil. These metropolitan areas all have a population of above 4 million and include the São Paulo metropolitan area, Rio de Janeiro metropolitan area, and Belo Horizonte metropolitan area. Whilst the majority of the largest metropolitan areas are within Brazil, Argentina is host to the second largest metropolitan area by population in South America: the Buenos Aires metropolitan region is above 13 million inhabitants.
South America has also been witness to the growth of
The top ten largest South American metropolitan areas by population as of 2015, based on national census numbers from each country:
|São Paulo||21,090,792||7,947 km2 (3,068 sq mi)||Brazil|
|Buenos Aires||13,693,657||3,830 km2 (1,480 sq mi)||Argentina|
|Rio de Janeiro||13,131,431||6,744 km2 (2,604 sq mi)||Brazil|
|Lima||9,904,727||2,819 km2 (1,088 sq mi)||Peru|
|Bogotá||9,800,225||4,200 km2 (1,600 sq mi)||Colombia|
|Santiago||6,683,852||15,403 km2 (5,947 sq mi)||Chile|
|Belo Horizonte||5,829,923||9,467 km2 (3,655 sq mi)||Brazil|
|5,322,310||4,715 km2 (1,820 sq mi)||Venezuela|
|Porto Alegre||4,258,926||10,232 km2 (3,951 sq mi)||Brazil|
|Brasilia||4,201,737||56,433 km2 (21,789 sq mi)||Brazil|
2015 Census figures.
This section needs to be updated.(March 2017)
South America relies less on the export of both manufactured goods and natural resources than the world average; merchandise exports from the continent were 16% of GDP on an
Since 1930, the continent has experienced remarkable growth and diversification in most economic sectors. Most agricultural and livestock products are destined for the domestic market and local consumption. However, the export of agricultural products is essential for the balance of trade in most countries.
The main agrarian crops are export crops, such as
Only Brazil and Argentina are part of the G20 (industrial countries), while only Brazil is part of the G8+5 (the most powerful and influential nations in the world). In the tourism sector, a series of negotiations began in 2005 to promote tourism and increase air connections within the region. Punta del Este, Florianópolis and Mar del Plata are among the most important resorts in South America.
The most industrialized countries in South America are Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Venezuela and Uruguay respectively. These countries alone account for more than 75 percent of the region's economy and add up to a GDP of more than US$3.0 trillion. Industries in South America began to take on the economies of the region from the 1930s when the Great Depression in the United States and other countries of the world boosted industrial production in the continent. From that period the region left the agricultural side behind and began to achieve high rates of economic growth that remained until the early 1990s when they slowed due to political instabilities, economic crises and neoliberal policies.
Since the end of the economic crisis in Brazil and Argentina that occurred in the period from 1998 to 2002, which has led to
The main industries are: electronics, textiles, food, automotive, metallurgy, aviation, naval, clothing, beverage, steel, tobacco, timber, chemical, among others. Exports reach almost US$400 billion annually, with Brazil accounting for half of this.
The economic gap between the rich and poor in most South American nations is larger than on most other continents. The richest 10% receive over 40% of the nation's income in Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Paraguay, while the poorest 20% receive 4% or less in Bolivia, Brazil, and Colombia. This wide gap can be seen in many large South American cities where makeshift shacks and slums lie in the vicinity of skyscrapers and upper-class luxury apartments; nearly one in nine South Americans live on less than $2 per day (on a purchasing power parity basis).
in 2017 (in millions of dollars)
in 2017 (in millions of dollars)
|Percent with |
per day
|Falkland Islands (UK)||206.4||206.4||70,800||0.26|
|French Guiana (France)||4,456||4,456||19,728||1.3|
Economically largest cities as of 2014
|Rank||City||Country||GDP in Int$ bn||Population (mil)||GDP per capita|
|4||Rio de Janeiro||Brazil||$176||12,460,200||$14,176|
- Brazil is the world's largest producer of
- Argentina is the world's largest producer of
- Chile is one of the 5 largest world producers of cherry and cranberry, and one of the 10 largest world producers of grape, apple, kiwi, peach, plum and hazelnut, focusing on exporting high-value fruits;
- Colombia is one of the 5 largest producers in the world of coffee, avocado and palm oil, and one of the 10 largest producers in the world of sugarcane, banana, pineapple and cocoa;
- Peru is the world's largest producer of quinoa; is one of the 5 largest producers of avocado, blueberry, artichoke and asparagus; one of the 10 largest producers in the world of coffee and cocoa; one of the 15 largest producers in the world of potato and pineapple, and also has a considerable production of grape, sugarcane, rice, banana, maize and cassava; its agriculture is considerably diversified;
In 2018, Argentina was the 4th largest producer of beef in the world, with a production of 3 million tonnes (behind only the United States, Brazil and China). Uruguay is also a major meat producer. In 2018, it produced 589 thousand tonnes of beef.
The World Bank annually lists the top manufacturing countries by total manufacturing value. According to the 2019 list, Brazil has the thirteenth most valuable industry in the world (US$173.6 billion), Venezuela the thirtieth largest (US$58.2 billion, however, it depends on oil to obtain this value), Argentina the 31st largest (US$57.7 billion), Colombia the 46th largest (US$35.4 billion), Peru the 50th largest (US$28.7 billion) and Chile the 51st largest (US$28.3 billion).
Mining is one of the most important economic sectors in South America, especially for Chile, Peru and Bolivia, whose economies are highly dependent on this sector. The continent has large productions of gold (mainly in Peru, Brazil and Argentina); silver (mainly in Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Argentina); copper (mainly in Chile, Peru and Brazil); iron ore (Brazil, Peru and Chile); zinc (Peru, Bolivia and Brazil); molybdenum (Chile and Peru); lithium (Chile, Argentina and Brazil); lead (Peru and Bolivia); bauxite (Brazil); tin (Peru, Bolivia and Brazil); manganese (Brazil); antimony (Bolivia and Ecuador); nickel (Brazil); niobium (Brazil); rhenium (Chile); iodine (Chile), among others.
Chile contributes about a third of the world copper production. In addition to copper, Chile was, in 2019, the world's largest producer of iodine and rhenium, the second largest producer of lithium and molybdenum, the sixth largest producer of silver, the seventh largest producer of salt, the eighth largest producer of potash, the thirteenth producer of sulfur and the thirteenth producer of iron ore in the world.
In 2019, Peru was the 2nd largest world producer of copper and silver, 8th largest world producer of gold, 3rd largest world producer of lead, 2nd largest world producer of zinc, 4th largest world producer of tin, 5th largest world producer of boron and 4th largest world producer of molybdenum.
In 2019, Bolivia was the 8th largest world producer of silver; 4th largest world producer of boron; 5th largest world producer of antimony; 5th largest world producer of tin; 6th largest world producer of tungsten; 7th largest producer of zinc, and the 8th largest producer of lead.
In 2019, Argentina was the 4th largest world producer of lithium, the 9th largest world producer of silver, the 17th largest world producer of gold and the 7th largest world producer of boron.
In the production of oil, Brazil was the 10th largest oil producer in the world in 2019, with 2.8 million barrels / day. Venezuela was the 21st largest, with 877 thousand barrels / day, Colombia in 22nd with 886 thousand barrels / day, Ecuador in 28th with 531 thousand barrels / day and Argentina 29th with 507 thousand barrels / day. As Venezuela and Ecuador consume little oil and export most of their production, they are part of OPEC. Venezuela had a big drop in production after 2015 (where it produced 2.5 million barrels / day), falling in 2016 to 2.2 million, in 2017 to 2 million, in 2018 to 1.4 million and in 2019 to 877 thousand, due to lack of investments.
In the beginning of 2020, in the production of
Grape plantation in Argentina. Argentina and Chile are among the 10 largest grape and wine producers in the world and Brazil among the 20 largest.
Maize in Dourados. Brazil and Argentina are among the 5 largest world producers.
Salmon farming in Chile. One third of all salmon sold in the world comes from the country.
Neugebauer Chocolate Factory in Arroio do Meio. South America specializes in food processing.
Klabin industrial complex, in Ortigueira. Brazil is the second largest pulp producer and the eighth largest paper producer in the world.
Portico of the Democrata men's shoe factory, in Franca. Brazil is the fourth largest shoe manufacturer in the world.
Hering, in Santa Catarina, Brazil. The country has one of the 5 largest textile industries in the world.
Mercedes-Benz plant in São Paulo. Brazil is among the 10 largest vehicle manufacturers in the world and Argentina among the 30 largest.
Copper mine in Chile. Latin America produces more than half of the world's copper.
Colombian emerald. The country is the largest producer of emeralds in the world, and Brazil is one of the largest producers.
Copacabana Palace, the best hotel in South America, in Rio de Janeiro. Tourism brings important currencies to the continent.
Honey production in Argentina. The country is the third largest producer of honey in the world.
Sunflower plantation in Argentina. The country is the world's third largest producer of sunflower seed.
Chilean cherries. Chile is one of the top 5 producers of sweet cherries in the world.
Chilean kiwi. The country is one of the 10 largest kiwi producers in the world.
Palm plantation in Magdalena. Colombia is one of the top 5 palm oil producers in the world.
Pineapple in Brazil. The country is the 3rd largest producer in the world. South America produces close to 20% of the world's pineapple.
Oil refinery in Amuay. Venezuela is one of the largest oil producers in the world.
Historical relics, architectural and natural wonders, a diverse range of foods and culture, vibrant and colorful cities, and stunning landscapes attract millions of tourists every year to South America. Some of the most visited places in the region are
South Americans are culturally influenced by their indigenous peoples, the historic connection with the Iberian Peninsula and Africa, and waves of immigrants from around the globe.
South American nations have a rich variety of
People on the Peruvian coast created the fine
Food and drink
Because of South America's broad ethnic mix,
The artist Oswaldo Guayasamín (1919–1999) from Ecuador, represented with his painting style the feeling of the peoples of Latin America highlighting social injustices in various parts of the world. The Colombian Fernando Botero (1932–2023) was one of the greatest exponents of painting and sculpture was able to develop a recognizable style of his own. For his part, the Venezuelan Carlos Cruz-Diez has contributed significantly to contemporary art, with the presence of works around the world.
Currently several emerging South American artists are recognized by international art critics: Guillermo Lorca – Chilean painter, Teddy Cobeña – Ecuadorian sculptor and recipient of international sculpture award in France) and Argentine artist Adrián Villar Rojas – winner of the Zurich Museum Art Award among many others.
Other sports include
South America shares with Europe supremacy over the sport of football as all winners in FIFA World Cup history and all winning teams in the FIFA Club World Cup have come from these two continents. Brazil holds the record for most times winning the FIFA World Cup with five titles. Argentina has three titles and Uruguay two. So far five South American nations have hosted the tournament including the first edition in Uruguay (1930). Two were from Brazil (1950, 2014), Chile (1962), and Argentina (1978).
South America is home to the longest-running international football tournament, the Copa América, which has been contested since 1916. Argentina and Uruguay have won the Copa América 15 times each, the most among all countries.
Due to the diversity of topography and pluviometric precipitation conditions, the region's water resources vary enormously in different areas. In the Andes, navigation possibilities are limited, except for the Magdalena River, Lake Titicaca and the lakes of the southern regions of Chile and Argentina. Irrigation is an important factor for agriculture from northwestern Peru to Patagonia. Less than 10% of the known electrical potential of the Andes had been used until the mid-1960s.
The Brazilian Highlands have a much higher hydroelectric potential than the Andean region and its possibilities of exploitation are greater due to the existence of several large rivers with high margins and the occurrence of great differences forming huge cataracts, such as those of Paulo Afonso, Iguaçu and others. The Amazon River system has about 13,000 km of waterways, but its possibilities for hydroelectric use are still unknown.
Most of the continent's energy is generated through
The Brazilian government has undertaken an ambitious program to reduce dependence on imported petroleum. Imports previously accounted for more than 70% of the country's oil needs but Brazil became self-sufficient in oil in 2006–2007. Brazil was the 10th largest oil producer in the world in 2019, with 2.8 million barrels / day. Production manages to supply the country's demand. In the beginning of 2020, in the production of oil and natural gas, the country exceeded 4 million barrels of oil equivalent per day, for the first time. In January this year, 3.168 million barrels of oil per day and 138.753 million cubic meters of natural gas were extracted.
Brazil is one of the main world producers of hydroelectric power. In 2019, Brazil had 217 hydroelectric plants in operation, with an installed capacity of 98,581 MW, 60.16% of the country's energy generation. In the total generation of electricity, in 2019 Brazil reached 170,000 megawatts of installed capacity, more than 75% from renewable sources (the majority, hydroelectric).
In 2013, the Southeast Region used about 50% of the load of the National Integrated System (SIN), being the main energy consuming region in the country. The region's installed electricity generation capacity totaled almost 42,500 MW, which represented about a third of Brazil's generation capacity. The hydroelectric generation represented 58% of the region's installed capacity, with the remaining 42% corresponding basically to the thermoelectric generation. São Paulo accounted for 40% of this capacity; Minas Gerais by about 25%; Rio de Janeiro by 13.3%; and Espírito Santo accounted for the rest. The South Region owns the Itaipu Dam, which was the largest hydroelectric plant in the world for several years, until the inauguration of Three Gorges Dam in China. It remains the second largest operating hydroelectric in the world. Brazil is the co-owner of the Itaipu Plant with Paraguay: the dam is located on the Paraná River, located on the border between countries. It has an installed generation capacity of 14 GW for 20 generating units of 700 MW each. North Region has large hydroelectric plants, such as Belo Monte Dam and Tucuruí Dam, which produce much of the national energy. Brazil's hydroelectric potential has not yet been fully exploited, so the country still has the capacity to build several renewable energy plants in its territory.
As of July 2022,[ref] according to ONS, total installed capacity of wind power was 22 GW, with average capacity factor of 58%. While the world average wind production capacity factors is 24.7%, there are areas in Northern Brazil, specially in Bahia State, where some wind farms record with average capacity factors over 60%; the average capacity factor in the Northeast Region is 45% in the coast and 49% in the interior. In 2019, wind energy represented 9% of the energy generated in the country. In 2019, it was estimated that the country had an estimated wind power generation potential of around 522 GW (this, only onshore), enough energy to meet three times the country's current demand. In 2021 Brazil was the 7th country in the world in terms of installed wind power (21 GW), and the 4th largest producer of wind energy in the world (72 TWh), behind only China, United States and Germany.
Nuclear energy accounts for about 4% of Brazil's electricity.
As of October 2022,[ref] according to ONS, total installed capacity of
After Brazil, Colombia is the country in South America that most stands out in energy production. In 2020, the country was the 20th largest petroleum producer in the world, and in 2015 it was the 19th largest exporter. In natural gas, the country was, in 2015, the 40th largest producer in the world. Colombia's biggest highlight is in coal, where the country was, in 2018, the world's 12th largest producer and the 5th largest exporter. In renewable energies, in 2020, the country ranked 45th in the world in terms of installed wind energy (0.5 GW), 76th in the world in terms of installed solar energy (0.1 GW) and 20th in the world in terms of installed hydroelectric power (12.6 GW). Venezuela, which was one of the world's largest oil producers (about 2.5 million barrels/day in 2015) and one of the largest exporters, due to its political problems, has had its production drastically reduced in recent years: in 2016, it dropped to 2.2 million, in 2017 to 2 million, in 2018 to 1.4 million and in 2019 to 877 thousand, reaching only 300,000 barrels/day at a given point. The country also stands out in hydroelectricity, where it was the 14th country in the world in terms of installed capacity in 2020 (16,5 GW). Argentina was, in 2017, the 18th largest producer in the world, and the largest producer in Latin America, of natural gas, in addition to being the 28th largest oil producer; although the country has the Vaca Muerta field, which holds close to 16 billion barrels of technically recoverable shale oil, and is the second largest shale natural gas deposit in the world, the country lacks the capacity to exploit the deposit: it is necessary capital, technology and knowledge that can only come from offshore energy companies, who view Argentina and its erratic economic policies with considerable suspicion, not wanting to invest in the country. In renewable energies, in 2020, the country ranked 27th in the world in terms of installed wind energy (2.6 GW), 42nd in the world in terms of installed solar energy (0.7 GW) and 21st in the world in terms of installed hydroelectric power (11.3 GW). The country has great future potential for the production of wind energy in the Patagonia region. Chile, although currently not a major energy producer, has great future potential for solar energy production in the Atacama Desert region. Paraguay stands out today in hydroelectric production thanks to the Itaipu Power Plant. Bolivia stand out in the production of natural gas, where it was the 31st largest in the world in 2015. Ecuador, because it consumes little energy, is part of OPEC and was the 27th largest oil producer in the world in 2020, being the 22nd largest exporter in 2014.
Transport in South America is basically carried out using the road mode, the most developed in the region. There is also a considerable infrastructure of ports and airports. The railway and fluvial sector, although it has potential, is usually treated in a secondary way.
Brazil has more than 1.7 million km of
Due to the
There are more than 2,000 airports in Brazil. The country has the second largest number of airports in the world, behind only the United States.
About ports, Brazil has some of the busiest ports in South America, such as
The Brazilian railway network has an extension of about 30,000 kilometers. It's basically used for transporting ores. The Argentine rail network, with 47,000 km of tracks, was one of the largest in the world and continues to be the most extensive in Latin America. It came to have about 100,000 km of rails, but the lifting of tracks and the emphasis placed on motor transport gradually reduced it. It has four different trails and international connections with Paraguay, Bolivia, Chile, Brazil and Uruguay. Chile has almost 7,000 km of railways, with connections to Argentina, Bolivia and Peru. Colombia has only about 3,500 km of railways.
Among the main Brazilian waterways, two stand out: Hidrovia Tietê-Paraná (which has a length of 2,400 km, 1,600 on the Paraná River and 800 km on the Tietê River, draining agricultural production from the states of Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Goiás and part of Rondônia, Tocantins and Minas Gerais) and Hidrovia do Solimões-Amazonas (it has two sections: Solimões, which extends from Tabatinga to Manaus, with approximately 1600 km, and Amazonas, which extends from Manaus to Belém, with 1650 km. Almost entirely passenger transport from the Amazon plain is done by this waterway, in addition to practically all cargo transportation that is directed to the major regional centers of Belém and Manaus). In Brazil, this transport is still underused: the most important waterway stretches, from an economic point of view, are found in the Southeast and South of the country. Its full use still depends on the construction of locks, major dredging works and, mainly, of ports that allow intermodal integration. In Argentina, the waterway network is made up of the La Plata, Paraná, Paraguay and Uruguay rivers. The main river ports are Zárate and Campana. The port of Buenos Aires is historically the first in individual importance, but the area known as Up-River, which stretches along 67 km of the Santa Fé portion of the Paraná River, brings together 17 ports that concentrate 50% of the total exports of the country.
Only two railroads are continental: the Transandina, which connects Buenos Aires, in Argentina to Valparaíso, in Chile, and the Brazil–Bolivia Railroad, which makes it the connection between the port of Santos in Brazil and the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, in Bolivia. In addition, there is the Pan-American Highway, which crosses Argentina and the Andean countries from north to south, although some stretches are unfinished.
Two areas of greater density occur in the railway sector: the platinum network, which develops around the Platine region, largely belonging to Argentina, with more than 45,000 km in length; And the Southeast Brazil network, which mainly serves the state of São Paulo, state of Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais. Brazil and Argentina also stand out in the road sector. In addition to the modern roads that extend through northern Argentina and south-east and south of Brazil, a vast road complex aims to link Brasília, the federal capital, to the South, Southeast, Northeast and Northern regions of Brazil.
South America has one of the largest bays of navigable inland waterways in the world, represented mainly by the Amazon basin, the Platine basin, the São Francisco and the Orinoco basins, Brazil having about 54,000 km navigable, while Argentina has 6,500 km and Venezuela, 1,200 km.
The two main merchant fleets also belong to Brazil and Argentina. The following are those of Chile, Venezuela, Peru and Colombia. The largest ports in commercial movement are those of Buenos Aires, Santos, Rio de Janeiro, Bahía Blanca, Rosario, Valparaíso, Recife, Salvador, Montevideo, Paranaguá, Rio Grande, Fortaleza, Belém and Maracaibo.
In South America,
The main public transport in major cities is the bus. Many cities also have a diverse system of metro and subway trains, the first of which was the Buenos Aires subte, opened 1913. The Santiago subway is the largest network in South America, with 103 km, while the São Paulo subway is the largest in transportation, with more than 4.6 million passengers per day and was voted the best in the Americas. Rio de Janeiro installed the first railroad of the continent in 1854. Today the city has a vast and diversified system of metropolitan trains, integrated with buses and subway. Recently it was also inaugurated in the city a Light Rail System called VLT, a small electrical trams at low speed, while São Paulo inaugurated its monorail, the first of South America. In Brazil, an express bus system called Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), which operates in several cities, has also been developed. Mi Teleférico, also known as Teleférico La Paz–El Alto (La Paz–El Alto Cable Car), is an aerial cable car urban transit system serving the La Paz–El Alto metropolitan area in Bolivia.
- Flags of South America
- List of World Heritage Sites in South America
- Outline of South America – Hierarchical outline list of articles related to South America
- South American Games
- Sometimes included. Physiographically a part of South America, but geopolitically a part of North America.
- Sometimes included. Physiographically a part of South America, but geopolitically a part of North America. Aruba is a member nation of ODESUR.
- Occasionally included. An isolated volcanic island on the South American Plate, Ascension Island is geologically a part of South America, but geopolitically a part of Africa.
- In some parts of the world, for example, Latin America, Latin Europe, and Iran, South America is viewed as a subcontinent of the Americas (a single continent named America). In most of the countries with English as an official language, however, it is considered a continent; see Americas (terminology).
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