Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/506

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.
488
SOUTH AMERICA


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 Sao 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 compara- tively 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 moun- tains are related generically, but not specifically, to those of the temperate latitudes of North America — a fact understood by biolo- gists to mean that there has been no migration across the inter- mediate 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 abori- ginal peoples have necessarily been profoundly affected by the inva- sion of European races and the importation of African races, but in some localities their descendants still form the bulk of the popula- tion, 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 Portu- guese 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 II % French. In Chile only 2-3% of the popula- tion 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 conti- nent 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 Euro- peans in 1498, when Columbus upon his third voyage touched Discovery. at ^ e moutn °f tne Orinoco. Other navigators shortly followed and sailed along the northern and 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 indepen-


dent. 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-speak- ing 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 Falk- land Islands to Great Britain, and Curacao, 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 miningdistrict 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 Len$6es, 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 manu- facture 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 Sao 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, cacao, coca, ipecac, balsam copaiva, cinchona bark, palm fibre (piassaba), brazil-nuts and Paraguay tea.â„¢]"'* an< ' The bulk of the world's supply of cacao comes f rom A S" c " lture - 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 Sao 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, and manufacturing in the colonies was therefore discouraged, even by