Superlative South America
A triangular shaped mass of land extending from Panama in Central America to Cape Horn in the south, where the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific come together, South America is the 4th continent in territorial size among the seven on Earth.
A land of profound political, geographic, economic and social contrasts, the continent borders the Caribbean Sea to the north, the South Atlantic to the East and the Pacific to the west. The region fascinates its visitors with its breathtaking beauty and variety, boasting a number of land forms, diverse climates, colorful customs and cultures, and its stunningly rich flora and fauna. Most of all, the hospitality, energy and creativity of South American people exert a strong pull on foreigners, causing many of them to decide to stay and settle down in this special part of the world.
With a population of almost 400m, composed of indigenous peoples, blacks originated from Africa, Europeans, and Asians, the continent is a melting pot, where Portuguese and Spanish are the indisputable dominating languages.
Politically, South America is made up of 12 independent countries and one small colony. These countries are: Brazil, the biggest, occupying almost half of the size of the region and the country with the largest population, composed mostly of Portuguese speaking people. Brazil has borders with Suriname, Guyana (a former British colony), Venezuela, and Colombia to the north. To the East, it borders Peru and Bolivia. And to the southwest, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. Ecuador and Chile do not have borders with Brazil. To the east of Suriname, we have the small colony of French Guiana.
South America is dotted with buzzing modern cities, not very different from the greatest in the developed world, as well as little villages and communities, where people may have never had contact with a TV set and live in pre-historic times.
Geographically, the region is divided into three very distinct parts. The highlands, which include the rugged Andes Cordillera, the longest mountain range in the world, running for 7,000 km from north to south along the western side of the continent, displaying deep gorges, volcanoes and impressive high snow capped peeks, among which, Mount Aconcagua in Argentina, the tallest in the Western Hemisphere; the other two are the Guiana highlands; and the Brazilian highlands.
In addition to the highlands, the geography comprises tree famous river basins: Orinoco in the north, where we can find the breathtaking Angel Falls, the highest uninterrupted waterfall on earth (almost 1000m high) in Venezuela; the Amazon in the middle – whose main river is the largest in the world in water volume; and the Rio de la Plata basin to the south.
The third geographical area of South America comprises the coastal plains along the salty shores of the Pacific ocean to the west.
Among some of the highlight records of the region, beyond the ones already mentioned, we have:
1. The Atacama in Chile: the driest desert on Earth, famous for its production of copper.
2. The Amazon forest: the biggest rainforest of the planet, considered the lungs of the world.
3. The Itaipu Dam in the Rio de la Plata Basin: which produces more hydroelectric power than any other dam in the world.
4. And possibly the richest biodiversity on Earth.
There’s a lot more to say about South America. It is hard to explain in the space of a single post the magic and spell it casts over whoever ventures into this part of the world. However, we promise to come back to this topic in future entries. Watch the space.