A southern continental division of the western hemisphere, separating the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and connected with North America by the Isthmus of Panama.
Area: 1,681,420 square miles; length: 4,592 miles; width: 3,230 miles.
Its physical characteristics include the Cordilleras, running parallel to the western coast; the Brazilian plateau; the highlands of Guiana and Venezuela; and the lowlands drained by the Orinoco, Amazon, and Paraguay rivers.
Two-thirds of the surface lie within the tropics.
At the time of its discovery by Europeans in 1498, the natives included the Chibchas, Arawaks, Caribs, Tupi (Guarani), Tapuya, Calchaqueis, etc.
The western and northern regions were colonized by the Spaniards; the eastern by the Portuguese.
To these were added the Africans, imported as slaves.
The states, originally European colonies, include Brazil, Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela; British Guiana, Dutch Guiana, and French Guiana are colonies.
See also patron saints index.
New Catholic Dictionary