South America Travel

South America History

South America has a complex history, which encompasses a wide range of civilizations. From the ancient Inca and Maya empires, to the Spanish conquest, its colonial reign, and finally its independence, the influence of these different societies can be seen in their own distinct layers. South America is also unique because of its thriving indigenous tribes. In some countries the native populations are still working the land much like their pre-Colombian ancestors.

Before the arrival of Europeans, South America was believed to have been inhabited by 30 million people. Among the most prominent were the Incas, the Mayans, and the Moche. The Inca Empire was highly developed and distinct in its art and culture. We are now left with intricate stone mazes that lead up to temples that stand majestically from mountainous cloud forests. Other tribes formed permanent settlements all over the continent and had advanced trade and agriculture systems.

The fifteenth century brought the conquests of Spain and Portugal, who claimed the land and its resources as its own and divided the land into colonies. This development proved to be devastating to the indigenous population who were susceptible to European diseases such as smallpox and influenza. They were also subjected to forced labor and were forced to give up their religion and traditions. Eventually the two cultures interbred, resulting in a population of mestizos.

The Spanish colonies finally won their independence in the 19th century after the South American Wars of Independence, which were led by Simon Bolivar and Jose de San Martin. Other wars were fought, such as the War of the Triple Alliance and the War of the Pacific, and resulted in more independent colonies. In 1822 Brazil gained independence from Portugal and Dom Pedro I, the son of the Portuguese king Dom Joao VI, became Brazil's first emperor.

Some countries only recently gained independence. Guyana became independent of the UK in 1966, Suriname from Dutch control in 1975, and Trinidad and Tobago from the UK in 1962. French Guiana still remains under French control.

Recent developments in South America have been international indebtedness, which Argentina battled with during their default in the early 21st century. Revolutions and military dictatorships have also been common developments in some regions.

Further South America Travel Information:
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