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South America


South America is the southern continent of America, situated in the Western Hemisphere and mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a realtively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere.  It is bordered on the west by the Pacific ocean andon the north and east by the Atlantic Ocean; North America and the Caribbean Sea lie to the northwest.

America was named in 1507 by cartographers martin Waldseemuller and Matthias Ringmann after Amerigo Vespucci, who was the first European to suggest the lands newly discovered by Europeans were not India, but a New World unknown to Europeans.

South America has an area of 17,840,000 km2, or almost 3.5% of the Earth's surface.  South America ranks fourth in area (after Asia, Africa, and North America) and fifth in population (after Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America).

The continent has a broad ethnic mix.  Descendants of indigenous peoples make up the majority of the populations in Bolivia and Peru, while Amerindians are a large minority that comprises two-fifths of the population in Ecuador.  People of European descendants are approximately 25% of the populations in Colombia and Venezuela, more of a majority in Argentina, Uruguay, and form a large component of the "mixed race" populations of Chile and Brazil.

South America is also home to one of the biggest populations of Africans.  Mestizos (mixed white and Amerindian) are the largest ethnic group in Paraguay, Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador.  East Indians form the largest ethnic groups in Guyana and Suriname.  Brazil followed by Peru also have the biggest Japanese and Chinese communities in South America.

Spanish and Portuguese are the most spoken languages in South America.  Spanish is the official language of most countries, along with with other native languages in some countries.  Spanish is also taught in Brazil, being the most spoken language as a first, second and third language in South America.  Portuguese is the official language in Brazil.

During the last two decades, the countries of this continent have experienced significant economic growth.  However, the economic gap between the rich and poor in most South American countries is considered to be larger than in most other continents.


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