South American culture
Latin America

South America History, Economy, and Culture



Throughout 1808, the pressures of the French Emperor Napoleon I unleashed a series of events that further worsened the already compromised Spanish situation.

The process of the Spanish-American Wars of Independence began with the La Paz Revolution in 1809 in Upper Peru and culminated in the occupation of the Callao fortresses in 1826. In 1817, the liberating general José de San Martín carried out the Crossing of the Andes and defeated the royalists in Chile. Finally he heads to Lima in order to impact the center of Spanish power.

At the same time, San Martín directed the 6 columns that crossed the mountain range at different points, with the aim of confusing and dispersing the royalist forces that were waiting to confront them. Upon arriving in Chile, the patriot army under the command of San Martín, achieved a key victory in the battle of Chacabuco. The history of South American emancipation was beginning to be written. Later, it would be complemented by the military actions initiated by the liberator Simón Bolívar in the north of the continent, giving his first great blow in the battle of Boyacá, where he achieved a decisive patriot victory.


After its independence, South America suffered in some of its countries various types of dictatorships, however at the end of the 20th century most of the subcontinent managed to become democratically elected rulers, although lasting institutions have not been established in all circumstances. The economic development of Argentina and Uruguay since the beginning of the century would make them become a mecca for immigration, especially from Europe and Asia.

During the First and Second World Wars, the continent was kept safe from the destructive wave that swept through Europe, Asia and Africa and once again became a natural recipient of thousands of refugees. However, between 1941 and 1942the Peruvian-Ecuadorian War developed.

In the 1960s, a series of dictatorial regimes favored by local aristocracies with the support of the United States began when a progressive government was elected in various South American countries: Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, and Bolivia.


The South American economy, characterized in recent decades by low growth and low competitiveness compared to more dynamic emerging markets such as China and India, is marked by immense regional differences and by an irregularity in the distribution of income that stands out at the national level. world. Most of the possessions are concentrated in the hands of a minority of the population, while millions of individuals experience different levels of deprivation, reaching, in extreme cases, absolute poverty.

The South American economy is divided between mineral extrativism in the Amazon region and agriculture present in practically all its states. Industrialization is medium to high in various regions, although the presence of local industries of foreign origin (multinationals) is very strong.

The extraction and export of oil is notable in Venezuela, which owns some of the world’s largest reserves, in Argentina and in the Atlantic Ocean off the Brazilian states of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Bolivia stands out for the production of natural gas, counting on important reserves of this matter.

Only Argentina and Brazil are part of the Group of 20 (industrialized countries), while only Brazil is part of the G8 + 5 (the most powerful and influential nations on the planet).


The region is one of the most diverse in the world. This is the result of the massive immigration of Europeans, the forced bringing of black slaves from Africa, the Amerindian peoples that inhabited the area and the mixture between the three races, originating numerous variants.

Spanish and Portuguese are the main languages of the subcontinent. Portuguese is spoken mainly in Brazil, where it is the official language. Spanish is official in all countries except the aforementioned Brazil and the Guyanas. English is spoken in Guyana and the Falkland Islands (administered by the United Kingdom); in Suriname, the Dutch and in the dependency of French Guiana, the French.

Today, more than 400 indigenous languages belonging to many families are still spoken. (almost half of them are spoken in Brazil). More than 33 large or medium-sized families have been recognized, and there is a high number of isolated languages and even insufficiently documented languages that have not been able to be classified adequately.


The South American culture is marked by the colonial past and the pre-Columbian ancestry, mainly to which, to a different extent, elements brought by later immigrants who arrived in the region were added. Likewise, the growing development of a culture framed in the process of Globalization is seen.

In the first half of the 20th century, tango, a musical style and dance of River Plate origin (Argentine-Uruguayan), had great success in Europe and Colombia. This music was interpreted in Castilian which was not an obstacle for its diffusion abroad. Also some cultural expressions of Brazil have a strong presence worldwide where elements such as Capoeira, bossa nova and samba have universal renown.

Literature is of significant importance in South America and proof of this are its three writers who have been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, Gabriela Mistral, Pablo Neruda and Gabriel García Márquez. Jorge Luis Borges is also a great exponent.

South American culture