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South America

Galápagos Islands, Isthmus of Panama, tropic of Capricorn, Ponta, Islas Malvinas

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South America, fourth largest of the Earth's seven continents (after Asia, Africa, and North America), occupying 17,820,900 sq km (6,880,700 sq mi), or 12 percent of the Earth's land surface. It lies astride the equator and tropic of Capricorn and is joined by the Isthmus of Panama, on the north, to Central and North America. The continent extends 7,400 km (4,600 mi) from the Caribbean Sea on the north to Cape Horn on the south, and its maximum width, between Ponta do Seixas, on Brazil's Atlantic coast, and Punta Pariñas, on Peru's Pacific coast, is 5,160 km (3,210 mi).

South America has a 2008 estimated population of 384 million, or 6 percent of the world's people. The continent comprises 12 nations. Ten of the countries are Latin: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Two of the nations are former dependencies: Guyana, of the United Kingdom, and Suriname, of The Netherlands. South America also includes French Guiana, an overseas department of France. Located at great distances from the continent in the Pacific Ocean are several territories of South American republics: the Juan Fernández Islands and Easter Island (Chile) and the Galápagos Islands (Ecuador). Nearer the coast, in the Atlantic Ocean, is the Fernando de Noronha Archipelago, which is a Brazilian territory, and, farther south, the British dependency of the Falkland Islands, which is claimed by Argentina as the Islas Malvinas. The coastline of South America is relatively regular except in the extreme south and southwest, where it is indented by numerous fjords.


Fernandez, Jose B. Jose de San Martin: Latin America's Quiet Hero. Millbrook, 1994. For readers in grades 3 to 6.

Porter, Frank W., and Theresa De Angelis. Native Americans and the Spanish. Chelsea House, 1997. For middle school readers.

Sayre, April Pulley. South America. Twenty-First Century, 1999. An overview of the continent for readers in grades 4 to 6.

Burkholder, Johnson A. Colonial Latin America. 4th ed. Oxford University Press, 2000. Comprehensive study of European exploration and colonization in Latin America.

Chasteen, John Charles. Born in Blood and Fire: A Concise History of Latin America. Norton, 2000. An introduction to the complexities of an immense continent.

Crow, John A. The Epic of Latin America. 4th ed. University of California Press, 1992. Vivid history of Latin American civilizations, from pre-Columbian to contemporary.

Galeano, Eduardo. Memory of Fire. 3 vols. Pantheon, 1985-1988. Presents Latin American history in anecdotal format.

Hanke, Lewis, and Jane Rausch, eds. People and Issues in Latin American History. 2 vols. 2nd ed. Wiener, 2000. Brief essays on influential people and events from the colonial era to the present.

Keen, Benjamin, and Keith Haynes. A History of Latin America. 6th ed. Houghton Mifflin, 1999. A primer on Latin American history.

Macdonald, Scott B. Fast Forward: Latin America on the Edge of the 21st Century. Transaction, 1997. A study of Latin America's current economy and potential development.

O'Brien, Thomas F. The Revolutionary Mission: American Enterprise in Latin America, 1900-1945. Cambridge University Press, 1996. How U.S. corporate culture changed Latin America during the first half of the 20th century.

Skidmore, Thomas E., and Peter H. Smith. Modern Latin America. 5th ed. Oxford University Press, 2000. Historical survey.

Tenenbaum, Barbara A., ed. Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture. 5 vols. Scribner, 1996. More than 5,000 entries.

Williamson, Edwin. The Penguin History of Latin America. Penguin, 1992. Synthesis of Latin American history for general readers.

Early, Edwin. A History Atlas of South America. Macmillan, 1998. A well-illustrated and informative atlas on all aspects of South American history.

Goodman, Edward J. The Explorers of South America. University of Oklahoma Press, 1992. A narrative overview of explorers and their exploits.

Lavallee, Daniele. The First South Americans: The Peopling of a Continent from the Earliest Evidence to High Culture. Trans. Paul G. Bahn. University of Utah Press, 2000. A lucid account of current evidence and claims regarding early presence of humans on the South American continent.

Salomon, Frank, and Stuart Schwartz, eds. Cambridge History of the Native Peoples of the Americas: Volume III: South America. Cambridge University Press, 1999. A major survey of the indigenous cultures of South America.

South American Handbook. Prentice, 1923- . An annual volume giving excellent coverage of all countries; includes travel information, history, cities, hotels, etc.

Davis, Wade. One River: Explorations and Discoveries in the Amazon Rain Forest. Touchstone, 1997. A botanist's account of his expeditions on the Amazon.

Goulding, Michael, and others. Floods of Fortune: Ecology and Economy Along the Amazon. Columbia University Press, 1995. A comprehensive overview of the Amazon Basin's ecology and of the economic development that threatens to destroy it.

Pollard, Michael. The Amazon. Benchmark, 1997. For younger readers, from a series called Great Rivers.

Willow, Diane, and Laura Jacques. At Home in the Rain Forest. Charlesbridge, 1991. For younger readers.

Baudez, Claude F. Maya Sculpture of Copan: The Iconography. University of Oklahoma Press, 1994. Highly detailed and well-illustrated study of Classic Maya sculptural programs.

Benson, Elizabeth P., and others, eds. Olmec Art of Ancient Mexico. Abrams, 1996. Catalog of a comprehensive exhibition of Olmec art.

Bercht, Fatima, and Estrellita Brodsky, eds. Taino: Pre-Columbian Art and Culture from the Caribbean. Monacelli, 1997. Catalog of a landmark exhibition held at El Museo del Barrio in New York City.

Berrin, Kathleen, and Esther Pasztory, eds. Teotihuacan: Art from the City of the Gods. Thames & Hudson, 1993. Beautifully illustrated catalog of more than 200 objects from the ancient city-state.

Burger, Richard L. Chavin and the Origins of Andean Civilization. Thames & Hudson, 1992. Scholarly investigations into an early Peruvian art tradition.

Carrasco, David, and Eduardo Matos Moctezuma. Moctezuma's Mexico: Visions of the Aztec World. University Press of Colorado, 1992. Beautifully illustrated overview of Aztec art.

Covarrubias, Miguel. Indian Art of Mexico and Central America. Knopf, 1957. Superbly illustrated description of pre-Hispanic art.

Gasparini, Graziano, and Luise Margolies. Inca Architecture. University of Indiana Press, 1980. Illustrated survey of urban settlements, homes, and religious buildings.

Kubler, George. The Art and Architecture of Ancient America. 3rd ed. Penguin, 1992. Mexican, Maya, Inca, Central American, Colombian, and Ecuadorian art.

Markman, Peter T., and Roberta H. Markman. Masks of the Spirit: Image and Metaphor in Mesoamerica. University of California Press, 1989, 1994. Thorough study of Mexican ritual masks.

Miller, Mary Ellen. The Art of Mesoamerica: From Olmec to Aztec. Rev. ed. Thames & Hudson, 1996. Well-illustrated survey.

Moseley, Michael Edward. The Incas and their Ancestors: The Archaeology of Peru. Thames & Hudson, 1992. An archaeological investigation into ancient Peruvian cultures.

Schele, Linda, and Mary Ellen Miller. The Blood of Kings: Dynasty and Ritual in Maya Art. Kimbell Art Museum, 1986. Braziller, 1992. Illustrated examination of Maya art and society.

Stone-Miller, Rebecca. Art of the Andes: From Chavin to Inca. Thames & Hudson, 1996. Thorough review of Andean cultures.

Agosin, Marjorie, ed. A Dream of Light & Shadow: Portraits of Latin American Women Writers. University of New Mexico Press, 1995. Essays on several contemporary authors.

Gonzalez Echevarria, Roberto, and Enrique Pupo-Walker. The Cambridge History of Latin American Literature. 3 vols. Cambridge University Press, 1996. From pre-Columbian times to the present, including writing in the United States.

Jackson, Richard L. Black Writers and the Hispanic Canon. Twayne, 1997. Extends the scope of Latin American literary history.

Smith, Verity, ed. Concise Encyclopedia of Latin American Literature. Fitzroy Dearborn, 1997, 2000. Broad coverage of individual writers and topics.

Sole, Carlos, and Maria Abreu, eds. Latin American Writers. 3 vols. Macmillan, 1989. A reference guide to biographical information on writers, includes a bibliography of writings and criticism.

Valestuk, Lorraine, ed. Latin American Literature and Its Times: Profiles of Notable Literary Works and the Historical Events That Influenced Them. Gale, 2000. Analysis of 50 works, for high school readers.

Williams, Raymond L. The Modern Latin American Novel. Macmillan, 1998. Examines the works of modern and post-modern novelists.

Baden, Nancy T. Muffled Cries: The Writer and Literature in Authoritarian Brazil, 1964-1985. University Press of America, 1999. A disturbing study of cultural repression.

Bell, Aubrey. Portuguese Literature. Oxford University Press, 1922, 2001. Classic treatment of the life and works of writers from 1185 to 1910.

Chabal, Patrick, and others. The Post-Colonial Literature of Lusophone Africa. Northwestern University Press, 1996. Collection surveying the contemporary literature of Portuguese-speaking Africa.

Echevarria, Roberto Gonzalez, and Enrique Pupo-Walker, eds. The Cambridge History of Latin American Literature. 3 Vols. Cambridge, 1996. Vol. 3 - Brazilian literature, including its history from earliest writing to modern Portuguese language traditions.

Perrone, Charles. Seven Faces: Brazilian Poetry Since Modernism. Duke University Press, 1996. Poetry and lyric writing of 1950 - 1990.

Tamen, Miguel, and Helena C. Buescu, eds. A Revisionary History of Portuguese Literature. Garland, 1998. Traces the evolution of Portuguese literature from medieval times to the present.


Robinson, David J., B.A., Ph.D. Dellplain Professor of Latin American Geography, Syracuse University. Director of Latin American Studies Program, Global Affairs Institute, Maxwell School, Syracuse University. Editor of Migration in Colonial Latin America and other books.

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Article key phrases:

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