Countries of South America
Where is South America?
South America, a continent in the Western Hemisphere and primarily in the Southern Hemisphere, is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the north and east, the Pacific Ocean on the west, and North America and the Caribbean Sea on the northwest. A small portion of South America is in the Northern Hemisphere since it lies north of the equator.
How many countries are in South America?
South America consists of 12 countries, an overseas region of France, and a self-governing overseas territory of the United Kingdom. The 12 South American countries are
The overseas region of France is French Guiana, located on the mainland of South America.The self-governing body of the United Kingdom is the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), located 290 miles (460 kilometers) from the mainland.
My discussion of mainland South America will be followed by a South American Capitals Cities quiz. Please note that the names of the 13 capital cities are not mentioned in the material I will be covering.
Argentina (Argentine Republic)
Argentina is the eighth largest country in the world by area. In 1502, Amerigo Vespucci became the first European to travel to the Argentine region. Juan Díaz de Solís, in 1516, was the first European to explore the Rio de la Plata.
The president of Argentina from 2003 to 2007, Nestor Fernandez, did not run for reelection. Instead, he supported the candidacy of his wife, Cristina Elisabet Fernández de Kirchner. Cristina Kirchner was successful in her bid for the presidency in 2007 and in her reelection campaign in 2011.
Bolivia (Plurinational State of Bolivia)
Bolivia, a landlocked country, shares borders with five other countries—Brazil on the north and east, Peru on the west, Paraguay and Argentina on the south, and Chile on the southwest.
The official name of the country had been the Republic of Bolivia until 2009. In that year, a new constitution changed the country's name to the unusual-sounding Plurinational State of Bolivia. The change was made as a means of recognizing the facts that the country is multi-ethnic and there are 38 official languages.
The primary languages spoken in Bolivia are Spanish, Aymara, Guarani, and Quechua. The other 34 official languages are spoken by indigenous peoples.
Pre-Incan Uros Woman on Lake Titicaca, Bolivia
Brazil (Federative Republic of Brazil)
Brazil is the largest country in South America and the fifth largest in the world, both in area and population. With the exception of Ecuador and Chile, every country in mainland South America—and French Guiana—shares a border with Brazil.
Pedro Álvares Cabral claimed what is now known as Brazil for Portugal in 1500. The region remained a Portuguese colony until 1815. Brazil is the only country in South America with a Portuguese, rather than a Spanish, culture.
Iguazu Falls / Cataratas do Iguaçu / Cataratas del Iguazú, BrazilClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Girl from Ipanema (1964)
Chile (Republic of Chile)
Chile is a long, narrow country located between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. It is 2700 miles (4300 kilometers) long and an average of 109 miles (175 kilometers) wide.
The Atacama Desert in northern Chile is the driest area on earth. The average annual rainfall is 0.04 inches (1 millimeter). Some weather stations have never reported any rain. I spent a night in the Atacama Desert several years ago as part of a scientific expedition. The landscape reminds me of the recent images I have seen of the planet Mars.
Colombia (Republic of Colombia)
The Primate (Primary) Cathedral of Bogotá—pictured below—was built between 1807 and 1823. It is the seat of the Archbishop of Bogotá, Cardinal Mon. Pedro Rubiano Saenz.
Due to the problems with the drug cartels in Colombia, and the robberies and kidnappings of tourists and related violence, the governments of both the United States and the United Kingdom advise against all travel to some areas of Colombia and against all but essential travel to other areas. With recommendations such as those, it is best to avoid Colombia completely until the situation improves.
Primate Cathedral of Bogotá
Ecuador (Republic of Ecuador)
Ingapirca is an Incan archeological site just outside the town of the same name in Cañar Province, Ecuador. The temple of the sun—pictured below—was positioned in such a way that sunlight would strike a specific area at the top of the temple on the occasion of the two solstices in the year—the days on which the sun was at its highest and lowest altitudes above the horizon.
The temple was built without mortar between the stones. This was a typical Inca method of construction, achieved by careful chiseling and carving of the stones.
Ingapirca Inca Ruins
French Guiana (Guyane) — Overseas Region of France
French Guiana, an overseas region (department) of France, is part of the European Union (EU). An island group, the Salvation Islands (Îles du Salut), is located off the coast of French Guiana. One of the three islands in the group, Devil’s Island (Île du Diable), housed a penal colony from 1852 to 1953. Henri Charrière, a convicted murderer and the author of the book Papillon, a fictionalized memoire, was housed on Devil’s Island for nine years. The book was made into a movie starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman in 1973.
Town Hall in Cayenne, French Guiana
Cayenne, French Guiana
Guyana (Co-operative Republic of Guyana)
Guyana has been both a Dutch and British colony. It’s the only country on mainland South America with English as the official language. It is also the only country in South America which is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations—formerly known as the British Commonwealth. Guyana gained independence from Britain in 1966.
Jim Jones, the leader of the Peoples Temple cult, was responsible for 900 people committing suicide at the cult’s Jonestown, Guyana compound in 1978.
Georgetown, Guyana City Hall
Paraguay (Republic of Paraguay)
A landlocked country, Paraguay shares borders with Brazil on the east and northeast, Argentina on the south and southwest, and Bolivia on the northwest. The Itapu Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam, is located on the Paraná River between Brazil and Paraguay. National Geographic has produced an excellent program about what went into building this massive dam. If you have an opportunity to view the program, please do so.
Cathedral in Asunción, Paraguay
Peru (Republic of Peru)
Machu Picchu, an ancient Inca city located at 8000 feet (2430 meters) above sea level in the Andes Mountains in Peru, is among the most spectacular sets of ruins found anywhere in the world.
Machu Picchu and the Andes MountainsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Suriname (Republic of Suriname)
Suriname (Surinam), the former colony of Dutch Guiana, is the smallest country in South America. It received its independence from the Netherlands in 1975.The official language of the country is Dutch, and more than 27% of the population is Hindu. Since most of the country is a rainforest, the population of less than 450,000 people is primarily found along the coast.
Church in Aurora, Suriname
Uruguay (Oriental Republic of Uruguay)
Although Spanish explorers arrived in the Uruguay area in 1516, the first permanent settlement wasn’t founded until 1624. Spain, Brazil, and Argentina were fighting for control of Uruguay—88% of the population of which is of European descent—for many years. The country succeeded in winning its independence during the period 1811 to 1828.
Uruguay River in Bella Unión, Uruguay
Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela)
A federal presidential constitutional republic, with Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías winning reelection to another six-year term as president in October 2012, Venezuela is one the leading exporters of oil in the world.
Municipal Building in Caracas, Venezuela
South American Capital Cities
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