1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/South America

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31835321911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 25 — South America

South America. The early physical history of the South American continent as recorded in the rocks has been extensively obliterated or greatly obscured by the events of its later history. The early land areas are supposedDevelopment of the Continent. to be only approximately suggested by the present exposures of granite and gneisses. The largest of these old land areas is along the east of the continent, extending with a few interruptions from the mouth of the Rio de la Plata to within a short distance of the mouth of the Amazon river. North of the present Amazon valley and occupying the present highlands of Guiana, north-east Brazil, and south-east Venezuela was another one of these old land areas—a large island or a group of islands. A chain of islands extended from the Falkland Islands along what is now the entire west side of the continent. Upon these ancient shores were laid down the sedimentary beds of the Cambrian seas. At the close of the Cambrian period the continent was elevated, many of the former islands were joined together, and the continental land area was considerably enlarged. The Silurian seas, however, still covered the basin of the Paraguay, extending from the Serra do Mar on the Brazilian coast to the axis of the Andes on the west, and covering at the same time a considerable part of the basin of the Rio São Francisco, filling the straits between the Andes and the Matto Grosso highlands and opening east through the region now occupied by the lower Amazon valley.

During the Devonian period there was a still further enlargement of the continent through elevation and the joining of islands, and the disappearance of the old Silurian sea in the basin of the Rio São Francisco on the east of the continent. In early Carboniferous times the sea still covered a narrow belt through the lower part of the Amazon valley, and part of what is now the Andes lying south of the equator. During Permian times the basin of the Paraguay and the south-east coast of Brazil was covered with lagoons and swamps in which here and there coal beds were laid down. At the close of this period molten lavas broke through the earth’s crust and flowed over and buried large areas in what is now Paraguay and south Brazil.

There was a general depression of the continent during the Cretaceous period and the ocean covered most of the continent as we now know it. The Serra do Espinhaço along the east coast of Brazil was above water and the coast line between the Rio de la Plata and Cape St Roque was little different from what it is at present. But through the highlands of Brazil from near Pernambuco west there was a broad sound containing many islands extending to the base of the Andes and possibly connecting with the Pacific Ocean. In the extreme north there were also many islands, bays and sounds, while a continental mass occupied the region of the Antilles. To the south the Atlantic Ocean filled most of the lower Paraguay basin and washed the eastern bases of the Andes. There was shallow-water connexion during this period between South America and southern India, through the Antarctic regions, probably by way of Australia.

In Early Tertiary times great changes took place in the geography of South America. The continent rose much higher than its present elevation, the coast-lines were extended oceanward, and the continent was considerably larger than it is at present. The Abrolhos Islands on the east coast of Brazil were then a part of the mainland and the Seashore was some 200 m. further east. The Falkland Islands were also at that time a. part of the continent, and South America had land connexion through the Antarctic regions or through the south Pacific Ocean with New Zealand and Australia, and through the West Indies region with Cuba and North America. Toward the close of Tertiary times the continent sank again beneath the ocean and salt water flowed into the Amazon and Orinoco valleys, turning the Guiana highlands again into an island or group of islands, and again separating the continent from land connexion with other continents. The valleys of Rio Magdalena, Rio Cauca and Lake Maracaibo were bays that covered large areas of adjacent territory.

It was during the Tertiary period that the continent took on its most characteristic features. Volcanic activity culminated; the Andes rose from low ridges and islands near sea-level to be one of the greatest mountain systems of the globe. This elevation was partly due to the uplifting of the continent en masse, partly to faulting and folding of the rocks, and partly to the pouring out of lavas and the accumulations upon the surface about vents of other volcanic ejectments. This volcanic activity was not confined to the main range of the Andes, but extended into Venezuela and the islands along the north coast, to the plains of Patagonia, the highlands of the Paraná basin and as far east as the islands of Fernando de Noronha. In recent times volcanic activity has greatly diminished over the continent and has entirely ceased along its eastern and north-eastern parts. The great elevation and depression of the continent deeply affected the climate over certain large areas. For example, along the east coast, where winds blew on-shore, the rainfall was greatly increased during the elevation, while the later depression brought about a corresponding diminution of the rainfall. In Pleistocene times the south of the continent stood somewhat lower than it does at present, so that the ocean covered the plains of Patagonia and La Plata. During the glacial epoch the south of the continent and as far north as latitude 27° on the west coast was covered with glaciers that flowed down from the high mountain ranges. On the east side of the mountains the glaciers did not extend so far north as they did on the west side. The glaciers through the high Andes were also larger and longer than they are at present; there were no glaciers in the eastern or Brazilian portion of the continent.

Physical Geography.—The South American continent rises abruptly from the ocean floor along nearly all of its coast, but the steepness of the continental margin is more marked on the western than on the eastern side. From Valparaiso to the Isthmus of Panama, a distance of 3000 m., the great Andes themselves are but the upper or subaerial portions of mountains whose bases are 10,000 ft. below the surface of the Pacific Ocean. South of Valparaiso the 10,000-foot contour Submarine Relief. lies well out from the coast, but opposite the Straits of Magellan it approaches within 150 m. of the coast-line. On the east side of the continent the 1000-foot contour passes to the east of the Falkland Islands showing that this group stands upon a submerged shelf or shoulder of the continent. From the mouth of the Rio de la Plata northward the 1000-foot submarine contour keeps at a distance of from 50 to 150 m. off the shore nearly to Bahia, Brazil; from Bahia northward and around Cape St Roque this same contour is close inshore, and the ocean-floor sinks abruptly to a depth of 5000 ft. North-west of Cape St Roque the continental shelf of shallow waters widens until opposite the mouth of the Amazon the 1000-foot contour is 300 m. off the coast. The broad shelf follows along this part of the coast as far as the island of Trinidad, west of which it narrows, though the islands along the northern shores of Venezuela all stand upon and form parts of this shallow continental shelf.

The striking features of the land relief of South America are: (1) The great Andean mountain chain with its accompanying narrow plain lying between it and the Pacific Ocean. (2) The Brazilian plateau with the Serra do Mar and Serra do Espinhaco near the Atlantic and spreading westward Land Relief. and northward to the heart of the continent. (3) The highlands of Guiana and Venezuela between the Orinoco and the mouth of the Amazon. (4) The lowlands that spread out along the three main lines of continental drainage, namely the Orinoco, the Amazon and the Paraguay basins.

The physical features of the west coast are bold, and, in many parts, extremely picturesque. From Cape Horn, where the peaks of the submerged southern end of the Andes form the islands of Tierra del Fuego to the Isthmus of Panama, the great Cordillera follows the coast-line closely and at an even distance from it. The low coastal belt between the ocean and the mountains has an average width of about 40 m., and on rare occasions, when the weather is favourable, the mountains are visible from the sea nearly all the way from the Straits of Magellan to Panama. South of 41° S. the coast is characterized by a vast system of fjords and islands, probably produced by the recent submergence of a mountain system and the consequent invasion of its steep-sided valleys by the ocean. The many islands along this part of the coast, including Chiloe, Welington and the Tierra del Fuego group itself are but the high portions of these mountains that have remained above water, white Smyth Channel and the other sounds on the west coast and the Straits of Magellan 400 m. long and 4 to 20 m. wide, are the submerged valleys. In Smyth Channel at many places the glaciers flow nearly or quite down to sea-level. Some of the islands are steep-sided, barren and uninhabited peaks rising to an elevation of 4000 ft. above sea-level. North of 41° S. the west coast is but little indented, and there are but few good ports. Along the northern part of the continent from Guayaquil to Panama the coastal belt is covered with tropical vegetation; but from a little south of Guayaquil to 30 S. much of the coast is a sandy, arid and barren alkali desert. Across this arid belt flow the streams that descend from the high mountains, and along these are fertile valleys. Many of the smaller streams, however, do not reach the sea but dry up on their way across the arid coastal plain.

The Cordillera is a broad ridge upon which rise many great isolated peaks. Near its northern end the range divides: one branch, the Western Cordillera, continuing northward near the coast; the Merida branch swings eastward and ends with the northern side of the island of Trinidad, while a third division, the Sierra de Perija, runs northward between the valley of the Magdalena and Lake Maracaibo. The western slope of the main Cordillera is steep, and is scored by narrow steep-sided valleys; the eastern slope is usually more gentle, and the valleys are less precipitous. Upon the Cordilleran ridge rise many of the highest peaks in the world. The following are some of the most noted, with their elevations.[1]

Peak. Country. Elevation. Snow-line
ft. ft.
Aconcagua Argentina 23,080 17,500
Mercedario Argentina 22,315
Tupungato Argentina 21,550
Illampu (Sorata) Bolivia 21,500
Illimani Bolivia 21,030
Chimborazo Ecuador 20,545 16,700
Juncal Chile 20,180
Cotopaxi Ecuador 19,613 15,500
Antisana Ecuador 19,335 16,000
Cayambe Ecuador 19,186 15,000
Tolima Colombia 18,300
Misti Peru 17,934
Maipo Argentina 17,670
Sierra de Santa Marta Colombia 16,640
Pichincha Ecuador 15,918

The snow-line of the mountains is generally lower on the east than on the west side. Of the Andean peaks those of Cotopaxi, Tunguragua, Maipo and Sangai are the highest active volcanoes in the world. There are many glaciers in the Andes even beneath the equator itself; and though these glaciers are small and mostly confined to the highest peaks, toward its southern end along Smyth Channel and in the Straits of Magellan, they are large and flow far down the slopes, and at several places enter the sea.

The eastern side of the continent is in strong physical contrast with the western. North of the Strait of Magellan the coast is flat as far as the northern part of Rio Grande do Sul. From latitude 29° 30′ to 19° 30′ the Serra do Mar makes this the most picturesque portion of the east coast of South America. The mountains rise in many places directly from the seashore to an elevation of 2000 ft. In places these form bare granite walls, while in others they are covered from base to summit with the most luxuriant tropical vegetation. On this part of the coast are some of the finest and most beautiful harbours in the world, notably those of Rio de Janeiro, Santos and Victoria, formed by a depression that submerged the coastal valleys.

The range or group of mountain ranges known under the general name of Serra do Mar falls away toward the north and west in a gently sloping plateau commonly called the Brazilian highlands. On this Brazilian plateau the highest points of which the elevations are known are as follows:—

Peak. Brazilian State. Elevation.
Itatiaya Rio de Janeiro 9823
Itajuba or Tembé São Paulo 7800
Organ Mountains Rio de Janeiro 7321
Frade Espirito Santo 6770
Caraça Minas Geraes 6412
Itambé Minas Geraes 5959
Itacolomí Minas Geraes 5748
Pyreneos Goyaz 4536

North of latitude 20° the high mountains swing inland and the

coast is low as far as latitude 17° 25′; north of this the coast is
bordered by a wall of brightly coloured bluffs from 50 to 250 ft.

high which continue with occasional interruptions to the mouth of the Amazon. About Cape St Roque the coast is covered with sand dunes. From the Abrolhos Islands northward to longitude 37° west of Cape St Roque, there are many coral reefs, some of them several miles off shore and many miles in length and breadth, while in other places they follow the coast-line for a hundred miles or more with a few interruptions, now touching the shore, and now standing out two or three miles from the land. Along the parts of the coast where the Coral reefs occur are also reefs of hard sandstone that are often mistaken for coral reefs. These stone reefs stand like artificial walls or breakwaters across the mouths of the smaller rivers and the choked up valleys, and thus form several important ports on the north-east coast: such are the ports of Pernambuco, Natal, Porto Seguro, and others of minor importance. North of the mouth of the Amazon the coast is low, much of it is swampy, and all of it is forest-covered as seen from the ocean. This low coast extends as far north and west as the headland north of the Gulf of Paria where the Merida or Venezuelan branch of the Andes reaches the sea.

In southern Venezuela and Guiana and northern Brazil is a plateau commonly known as the Guiana highlands, above which rise several peaks.

Peaks. Elevation.
Roraima 8740
Ouida 8500
Maraguaca 8230
Turagua 6000

This highland region is mostly forest-covered, but it contains also large areas of open grass-covered plains.

Earthquakes occur throughout the entire length of the Andes; the shocks are sometimes of sufficient violence to do serious damage to cities and towns and to destroy many lives. Such disturbances are almost unknown along the Brazilian side of the continent.

The eastern coast of South America has remarkably few islands, and these are mostly small, except Trinidad off the coast of Venezuela and the islands of the Marajó group in the mouth of the Amazon. Trinidad (area 1755 sq. m.) is separated Islands. from the continent by the Gulf of Paria. Along the northern edge of the island is a range of mountains about 3000 ft. high, which are geologically the eastern end of the Cumana range of the Venezuelan mainland. On the south side of this island is the famous pitch lake —the most extensive deposit of asphalt known. West and north of Trinidad, and lying farther off the coast, are several small islands of historical interest and commercial importance: Tobago, Margarita, Blanquilla and the Curacao group. Off Cape St Roque (230 m.) is the small Fernando de Noronha group of volcanic islands. The main island has an area of only 12 sq. m. Though this island is separated from the mainland by a channel 13,000 ft. deep, it really stands upon the submerged corner of the South American continent. The Rocas is a small island 80 m. west of Fernando de Noronha. The Falkland Islands in lat. 51 ° cover an area of 6500 sq. m.; their shores are indented by long tortuous channels that have the appearance of having been made by the depression of a hilly land surface. One of these channels separates the two main islands. Mt Adams, the highest peak on the group, has an elevation of 2300 ft. The group stands upon the submerged edge of the continent, from which it is separated by a shallow sea. Its flora and fauna show that it was formerly a part of the mainland. The Tierra del Fuego group of islands, as well as the many islands both large and small that border the west coast as far north as latitude 42°, are all the higher portions of the continental margin left above water when this part of the continent was depressed. The islands of Juan Fernandez in the same latitude as Valparaiso, and the Galapagos group immediately under the equator are the only others on the west coast worthy of mention.

The Amazon, the Orinoco and the Paraguay or La Plata river systems jointly drain an area of 3,686,400 sq. m. Less imposing Rivers but yet large and important streams are the Magdalena in Colombia, the Essequibo in British Guiana and the Rivers. São Francisco in Brazil. The Amazon (properly the Rio das Amazonas or river of the Amazons) and its tributaries is not only the largest of the South American rivers, but it is the largest in the world. The total navigable length of the main stream from Para to the head of navigation on the Huallaga in Peru is 3000 m.; and this does not include the hundreds of navigable parallel side channels that accompany the main stream from its mouth almost to the mouth of the Javary. Above the falls again these streams are all navigable for long distances. Except at Obidos the Amazon is nowhere confined to a single channel, but it spreads over a vast flood-plain and flows with a sluggish current through thousands of side channels that anastomose with each other, so that one unfamiliar with the stream cannot distinguish the main channel. At several places the river is so wide that one looking across it sees a water horizon as if at sea. Much of the region is more like a great fresh-water sea filled with islands than an ordinary valley with a river running through it. For the most part the land along the stream is low, flat, marshy and at times under water. At a few places, however, notably at Ereré, Obidos, Velha Pobre, Paru, Paraua-quára and Almeirim table-topped hills are visible from the river. The banks of the stream and of its side channels are everywhere covered with a dense forest. The valley, however, is not all forest-covered. From near the Oyapok on the Guyana frontier a series of open grassy campos, interrupted only by the wooded banks of streams, follow along the north side of the Amazon for about 500 m. and extend into British Guiana and the region of the headwaters of Rio Branco. The upper Amazon basin opens broadly northward connecting with the Orinoco drainage across a low watershed, while on the south it is separated by a low divide from the Paraguay basin. The Orinoco rises in the highlands between Venezuela and Brazil, flows westward and northward around this elevated region and then flows eastward into the Atlantic. Along its lower course the banks of the stream are covered with dense forests; in its upper course the mountainous highlands are visible along its right bank, while on its left are vast stretches of flat, treeless, grass-covered plains that extend to the foot-hills of the Cordillera de Merida. The main stream is navigable during a part of the year for a distance of 1000 m. or more.

Under the name of Rio de la Plata may be included the Uruguay and the Paraguay, which enter the ocean through the La Plata estuary, and the Parana which is the most important branch of the Paraguay. It is a noteworthy feature of the streams entering the Paraguay or La Plata basin that many of those flowing from the arid regions on the west are more or less brackish, while those from the rainy forest-covered regions of Brazil are all fresh-water streams. The upper Paraguay is a sluggish stream winding through grass-covered plains dotted over with palm trees. Above rise a few isolated peaks like so many islands in a great lake. The Gran Chaco is a vast plain, almost perfectly flat, covered with rank vegetation and much of it with water, lying along the west side of the Rio Paraguay in northern Argentina and in Paraguay.

The São Francisco, the largest river that lies wholly in Brazil, rises in the highlands of Minas Geraes in latitude 21° and flows north-eastward parallel with the coast until it reaches latitude 9° 30′ where it bends sharply to the right and enters the Atlantic. It flows entirely through a hilly or mountainous country. It is navigable along its lower course nearly to the falls of Paulo Affonso, 140 m. from its mouth, and also above the falls. In Colombia the Magdalena is a crooked muddy stream about 2000 m. long and navigable as far as Honda.

Most of the lakes of South America are mountain lakes in the Andes or along its base. Lake Titicaca in Bolivia is, in respect of elevation and position, the most remarkable of its size in the world. Its surface is 12,545 ft. above sea-level, Lakes. it has an area of nearly 5000 sq. m. and a maximum depth of 700 ft., and never freezes over. This lake discharges into a marsh that is supposed to have no outlet. Lake Junin or Chinchaicocha on the plateau east of Lima has an altitude of 13,380 ft., and covers an area of 200 sq. m. Along the eastern base of the Andes in southern Argentina is a series of lakes whose basins were probably made by the glaciers that formerly flowed down from the mountains on the west. There are many lakes, both large and small, scattered over the flood-plains of the great rivers of South America, but these are mostly phases of river development. Along the coast-lines there are also occasional lakes of brackish water produced by the depression of the coast and the closing of the open mouths of estuaries thus formed, or by sand barrier beaches thrown up by the sea. Such is Lagoa dos Patos in southern Brazil and many smaller ones on the Brazilian coast. Lake Maracaibo on the coast of Venezuela is a large narrow-necked bay like those of Rio de Janeiro and Bahia, rather than a true lake.

Flora.—The warm, wet, tropical portions of South America are especially favourable to the development of plant life. This continent has therefore furnished an unusually large number of the world’s useful plants. Among these are several valuable woods, rubber-producing plants, cotton, potato, tomato, mandioca, pineapple, maize, cinchona, ipecac, vegetable ivory, coca, the chocolate plant and Paraguayan tea. Other tropical and sub-tropical plants such as coffee, sugar-cane, oranges and bananas have been introduced and are extensively cultivated. The flora of the continent embraces a large number of peculiar types that originated either in the highlands of Brazil or in the Andes.

The flora of the Amazon valley may be taken as the type of that of the moist tropical valleys. The forests are so dense, rank and matted with undergrowth as to be almost impenetrable. Palms are the most characteristic and beautiful trees, and reach their greatest development in the Amazon region. They take on a great variety of forms: some have trunks 100 ft. and more in height while others have no trunks at all, but spring like tufts from the ground; some are two feet or more in diameter, while others are as slender as a lead pencil. Bamboos grow to an enormous size and form dense thickets along certain streams. The shaded portions of the forests frequently abound in beautiful ferns, some of which are so small as to be almost microscopic, while others reach the dimensions of trees. For the most part the plants of the open campos have a stunted appearance and the grasses are wiry and tough.

A noteworthy feature of these tropical forests is that they are seldom made up of trees of a single species or of but few species. In the high table-lands of southern Brazil, however, the araucarian pine grows in beautiful forests as far north as Barbacena in the highlands near the headwaters of Rio São Francisco. In the north-west of the continent the western slopes of the Andes are covered with a dense tropical vegetation, while on the east the slopes are comparatively bare. In the high mountains the flora is scanty and bears a general resemblance to that of the temperate regions; 60% of the genera are like those of the temperate zones, but the species are peculiar to the Andes. In the south of the continent plant life is necessarily less tropical.

Fauna.—The fauna of South America includes a large number of species but relatively a small number of individuals. With local exceptions this seems to be true of all the forms of life within the tropical portions of that continent. The land mammals are nearly all small; the tapir is the largest of them, and is found only in the northern two-thirds of the continent. There are many species of monkeys, all of them arboreal in their habits. The only reptiles that are at all abundant are lizards, and in some places alligators. The alligators do not extend south of the La Plata region. Of snakes only the boa constrictor and the water boa are large, and these, like all other kinds, are not abundant. Certain ruminants having long woolly hair are found only in the high Andes; these are the llamas, alpacas and vicunas. The llama has been domesticated and is used for carrying small burdens. The condor, the largest living bird of flight, inhabits the lofty Andes. The insects of the highest mountains are related generically, but not specifically, to those of the temperate latitudes of North America—a fact understood by biologists to mean that there has been no migration across the intermediate region since the glacial epoch. Owing to temperature and climatic conditions the life forms of the high Andes, whether animal or plant, are more nearly related to those of the lower regions to the south than to those of the lower regions to the north.

The fresh-water fish fauna of the Amazon region is the richest in the world. The distribution of species shows that there has long been direct communication between the drainage of the three great river systems, namely, the Orinoco, the Amazon and the Paraguay.

Inhabitants.—At the time of the discovery of the South American continent by Europeans, the races inhabiting it differed greatly among themselves in customs, languages and civilization. They had then generally developed the arts of spinning, weaving and the manufacture of pottery, and locally were skilled in certain kinds of metallurgy, sculpture, architecture and agriculture. These aboriginal peoples have necessarily been profoundly affected by the invasion of European races and the importation of African races, but in some localities their descendants still form the bulk of the population, and the native American languages are still spoken

Immediately after the discovery of South America the western and northern portions of the continent and the region of the Rio de la Plata began to be colonized by Spaniards, while the eastern portion was colonized by the Portuguese. To these races were added Africans, for many years imported as slaves, especially into Portuguese territory. Of late there has also been a large immigration of Italians into Argentina and southern Brazil. In Argentina about 18% of the population is foreign-born, and of these 56% are Italian, 22% Spanish and 11% French. In Chile only 2·3% of the population is of foreign birth.

Spanish is the language of the country from the eastern end of Venezuela through all the northern and western parts of the continent and over a large part of the Paraguay basin. Throughout Brazil, which covers little less than half of the entire continent, the language is Portuguese. South America is therefore pre-eminently a Latin continent; its few British, Dutch and German colonies count for less in the great ensemble of its population than do the depleted aboriginal races themselves.

Political Geography.—The continent was first visited by Europeans in 1498, when Columbus upon his third voyage touched at the moutn of the Orinoco. Other navigators shortly followed and sailed along the northern and Discovery. eastern coasts, and by 1509 the coast had been visited as far south as the Rio de la Plata. In 1513 Balboa discovered the Pacific Ocean in the Gulf of Panama, and in 1520 Magellan (properly Magalhaes) passed through the straits of Magellan and crossed the Pacific Ocean. Inland the earliest explorations followed the Amazon river, but aside from the discovery of the size, course, and character of the river and its immediate shores, they were of but little importance. Great impulse to exploration and development was given by the silver mines of Peru and later by the discovery of gold and diamonds in the highlands of Brazil.

The early settlement of South America by Europeans began shortly after the discovery of the continent. These settlements were originally colonies under the control of Spain and of Portugal, and they remained for some time dependencies of the mother countries. Eventually, however, they became independent. For many years most of these countries were more or less disturbed by internal dissensions and revolutions, but in process of time, and as industries and commerce have become better established, the governments have become more stable.

The political divisions of the continent are best seen upon an ordinary map, and verbal descriptions of them are therefore omitted. Brazil is the largest and most important single country. The bulk of the remainder is divided into several Spanish-speaking republics that border the continent from Venezuela on the north to Patagonia on the south, while between Venezuela and the Brazilian frontier on the north-east are three comparatively small countries known as British Guiana, Dutch Guiana and French Guiana. These Guianas are the only places at which colonies under European control are established on the mainland of South America. There are, however, a few islands that belong to European countries, such as Trinidad, Tobago and the Falkland Islands to Great Britain, and Curaçáo, Buen Ayre and Oruba to Holland.

Industries and Commerce.—The industry that gave the first great impetus to the settlement of South America by Europeans was mining. The silver deposits of the Andes awakened the cupidity of adventurers shortly after the discovery Mining. of the continent, and large numbers of Spaniards poured into that region. The mining of silver that had begun in that part of the world in prehistoric times has continued down to the present day. The Potosi mines of Bolivia are supposed to have yielded in all over a billion and five hundred million dollars’ worth of silver. The guano of the coast of Peru and the nitre beds of Chile are now, and have long been, among the most important and valuable natural deposits of the kind in the world. In the world’s production of borax Chile ranks third; in the production of tin Bolivia ranks third.

In 1693 gold was found in the highlands of Brazil, and within a few years Minas Geraes (“General Mines”), as the mining district was called, came to be the leading gold-producing region of the world. The mines reached their greatest productiveness between 1752 and 1761, when the annual yield was worth about six million dollars. During the early period most of the gold came from placer washings. Many mines in the hard rocks have been opened, some have been worked out and exhausted, and some are still in operation. The total gold production of all South America for the year 1895 was estimated at about $13,000,000.

In 1729 or possibly a little earlier diamonds were also discovered in the gold districts of Brazil, and a fresh impetus was given to European immigration and to the importation of African slaves to work the mines. From that time down to the discovery of diamonds in South Africa Brazil was the leading producer of diamonds in the world. The diamonds are found in three widely separate districts: in the state of Minas Geraes in the vicinity of Diamantina, in the state of Bahia in the vicinity of Lençóes, and on the headwaters of the Paraguay river in the state of Matto Grosso. The Bahia region also produces carbonados, or the black diamonds used in the manufacture of diamond drills. The best estimate possible places the market value of the diamond production of Brazil from 1729 to 1885 at $100,000,000. Of late years Brazil has led the world in the production of monazite, which occurs on the coast of Bahia in the form of beach sands. In 1905 the output of manganese by Brazil was second only to that of Russia. There are enormous deposits of iron ore in Minas and São Paulo, though but little developed at present. The agates of southern Brazil are famous.

The forest industries are chiefly such as depend upon the natural products of tropical forests. They include the gathering of rubber, cacáo, coca, ipecac, balsam copaiva, cinchona bark, palm fibre (piassába), brazil-nuts and Paraguay tea The bulk of the world’s supply of cacáo comes from Forests and agriculture. Ecuador, Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia. There is much wood suited for fine cabinet work, but the facilities for supplying such woods are limited. The agricultural industries are chiefly those suited to tropical countries. Those that have reached the greatest development are the growing of sugar cane and the manufacture of sugar, and the growing and preparation for market of cotton, coffee and tobacco. Sugar is made mostly near the sea-coast from near Rio de Janeiro northward along the eastern side of the continent. Cotton is grown in the interior from Bahia northward, while the chief coffee-producing region is in the Brazilian states of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Minas, Espirito Santo and Bahia. Wheat is one of the chief agricultural products of the Argentine Republic. The .most important pastoral industries are in the region about the Rio de la Plata, where wool growing and stock-raising have reached a marvellous development.

The manufacturing industries are necessarily not so well developed as those of older countries. In the early history of the South American colonies the home countries were interested in the building up of an export trade, andManufactures manufacturing in the colonies was therefore discouraged, even by direct legislation, while trade with other than the parent countries was prohibited. For some time after the independence of the new countries, facilities for manufacture and transport were poor, while the lack of established commercial relations and facilities retarded their growth. The development of manufacturing industries has been more marked of late years, though internal development is still retarded by the lack of highways.

The exterior commercial relations of South America were at first naturally and necessarily with Spain and Portugal. In time other Foreign Commerce. European countries established relations with the rising South American cities, the relative importance of Spain and Portugal in South American commerce has greatly diminished, and the bulk of trade is now with other countries.

Exports and Imports of Three South American Countries
(In millions sterling, annually c. 1906–1910.)
Imports from Exports to
Argentina United Kingdom 20 United Kingdom 15
Germany 9 Belgium 8
United States 9 Germany 8
Chile United Kingdom 6 United Kingdom 11
Germany 5 Germany 5
United States 2 United States 3
Uruguay United Kingdom 2 France 1·5
Germany 1·1 Argentina 1·4
France 1 Germany 1
Chief Exports of Three American Countries
(In millions sterling.)
Argentina Animals and products 48
Agricultural products 23
Brazil Coffee 33
Rubber 19
Chile Nitrates 17
Copper 2

Settlement.—The continent as a whole is but sparsely settled. The total population in 1905 was reckoned to be 38,482,000. About half of it, including all the most inaccessible portions, had a population probably not much exceeding what it had at the period of the discovery. It averaged five persons to the square mile, while in North America it was 13 and in Europe 104 to the square mile. The most thickly populated parts are on and near the sea-coast. On the east seaboard a more densely populated narrow belt follows the coast from near Natal just south of Cape St Roque to and south of Buenos Aires. About the cities of Perrambuco, Bahia, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Rio Grande do Sul, Montevideo and Buenos Aires the areas of greater density widen, and, in some instances (notably near Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Buenos Aires) extend inland for several hundred miles. The considerably populated belt begins on the west coast about latitude 42° and follows northward and eastward to the island of Trinidad on the Venezuelan coast, though there are stretches of coast almost entirely uninhabited. Several of the largest cities of South America compare favourably with the finest cities of Europe. The best streets of Rio de Janeiro, Montevideo, Buenos Aires and Valparaiso are among the most attractive in any part of the world. The large cities are all well supplied with water, lighted with electricity, possess facilities for transport and are supplied with public libraries, museums of science and arts and educational institutions.

Communications.—The commercial relations of South America with the outside world are maintained by a large number of regular and well-equipped lines of steamers running between its ports and European ports. There is also a large freight business done by steamers sailing at irregular periods, and by sailing vessels. Connexions with the interior of the continent were for a long time confined to navigation along the principal streams and to tedious overland travel on horseback along almost impassable trails. Since 1858, however, when the first 30-m. section of the Dom Pedro II railway from Rio de Janeiro to Queimados was opened, railways have extended far inland and even across the Andes. The boring of the tunnel completing railway connexion between Buenos Aires and Valparaiso was completed in November 1909. Railway building has been especially active in Brazil and in the Argentine Republic. From Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo lines now penetrate the highlands of Minas Geraes, while from Buenos Aires they cover the most productive portions of the Argentine Republic, and bring some portions of the interiors of these countries into close communication with all parts of the world. In the meanwhile river and coastwise navigation has greatly developed.

The railway mileage of the various countries was approximately as follows in 1906:—

Miles of Railway.
Argentine Republic 11,460
Bolivia 700
Brazil 10,408
Chile 2,800
Colombia 411
Ecuador 125
Paraguay 156
Peru 1,146
Uruguay 1,210
Venezuela 529

Bibliography.—Anonymous, The History of South America from its Discovery to the Present Time . . . By an American. Translated from the Spanish by Adnah D. Jones (London, 1899); A. H. Keane, Central and South America, i. 611, ill.; ii. 410–478 (London, 1901), vol. ii. relates chiefly to Central America, but Trinidad and the Guianas are included in this volume); Hugh Robert Mill, The International Geography, “South America,” pp. 813–888 (New York, 1900); E. Reclus, Nouvelle géographie universelle. Amerique du Sud. (Paris, 1893), a monumental work; Wilhelm Sievers, Süd und Mittelamerika, 2te Aufl. (Leipzig and Vienna, 1903), this work contains a valuable bibliography at the end of the volume; Robert Grant Watson, Spanish and Portuguese South America during the Colonial Period (London, 1884). Travels.—Frank G. Carpenter, South America; Social, Industrial and Political (New York, 1900); Francis de Castelnau, Expedition dans les parties centrales de l’Amérique du Sud, de Rio de Janeiro à Lima, et de Lima au Pará (1843- 1847); Histoire du voyage (Paris, 1 850–1851); G. Earl Church, “South America: An Outline of its Physical Geography,” The Geographical Journal, xvii. 333–409 (London, 1901). Sir Martin Conway, Aconcagua and Tierra del Fuego (London, 1902). William E. Curtis, Between the Andes and the Ocean . . . from the Isthmus of Panama to the Straits of Magellan (Chicago, 1900); Charles Darwin, Journal of Researches into the Natural History, &c. of the Countries Visited during the Voyage of H. M.S. Beagle (New York, 1878; other editions); A. Gallenga, South America (London, 1880; a good general description of conditions at the time). William Hadfield, Brazil, the River Plate, and the Falkland Islands, &c. (London, 1854); Captain Basil Hall, Extracts from a Journal Written on the Coasts of Chile, Peru, and Mexico, in the years 1820–1822 (Edinburgh, 1824); Alexander Humboldt and Aimé Bonpland, Personal Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent During the Years 1799–1804 (3rd ed., London, 1819–1829); C. B. Mansfield, Paraguay, Brazil and the Plate. Letters written in 1852–1853 (Cambridge, 1856); Edward D. Mathews, Up the Amazon and Madeira Rivers, Through Bolivia and Peru (London, 1879); Alcide d’Orbigny, Voyage dans l’Amérique méridionale (le Brésil, la République orientate de l’Uruguay &c.) executé pendant les années 1826–1833 (Paris, 1835–1849); James Orton, The Andes and the Amazon, or Across the Continent of South America (3rd ed., New York, 1876); Charles M. Pepper, Panama to Patagonia (Chicago, 1906); W. Reiss und A. Stubel, Reisen in Sudamerika (Berlin, 1889); W. Smyth and F. Lowe, Narrative of a Journey from Lima to Pará, &c. (London, 1836); G. Steinmann, “Sketch of the Geology of South America,” in Amer. Nat. xxv. 855 (1891); J. J. von Tschudi, Reisen durch Südamerika (Leipzig, 1866–1869); Frank Vincent, Around and About South America (5th ed., New York, 1895). See further Amazon, Andes, and the articles on the separate countries.  (J. C. Br.) 

  1. Various authorities differ in their estimates of these elevations.