South America is a continent with an area of 17,840,000 square kilometers, and a population of more than 442 million. Brazil is by far the most populous South American country, with almost half of the continent’s population, followed by Colombia, Argentina, Venezuela and Peru. In recent decades, Brazil has also generated half of the continent’s GDP and has become the continent’s first regional power.

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.

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