Chapter 5 – South America

GEOG 101 – World Regional Geography
Professor: Dr. Jean-Paul Rodrigue
Chapter 5 – South America
A – Defining the Realm
B – The Pillars of Latin America
C – Regional Divisions
D – Brazil: The South American Giant
A Defining the Realm
■ Physiography
• Dominated by the Andes mountains and the Amazon basin.
■ Population
• Concentrated along the eastern coast.
■ Cultural pluralism
• Exists in most countries and is expressed regionally.
• A mix of pre-Columbian, African and European cultures.
■ Regional economic interaction
• Been minimal in the past.
• Attributed to colonialism.
Amazonian Basin
Defining the Realm
■ Inca Civilization
• Culture hearth:
• Intermontane basin around Cuzco (1200-1535 AD.)
Most of the population in the Andes mountains (west).
Altiplanos were key to settlement patterns.
20 million subjects at its zenith
A highly centralized state.
Transportation networks and integration efforts.
Collapsed in the early 16th century.
■ Iberian invasion
• Pizzarro overthrew the Inca
empire in 1533.
• Process of land alienation and
forced labor.
• Lima:
• Coastal city.
• Capital of the Viceroyalty of
• Became one of the richest cities
in the world.
• Viceroyalties of La Plana and
New Grenada.
• Urbanization along the coast.
• Portugal took the eastern part of
the Tordesillas line (Brazil).
Defining the Realm
■ Plantations and imported labor
• Portuguese applied a similar plantation system than in Middle
• Notably sugar cane.
• Forcefully imported labor from Africa.
• Mainly along the tropical coast of Brazil:
• Climate and proximity to Africa.
• Brazil has the largest Black population in South America.
• 78 million out of 178 million (44%).
Defining the Realm
■ Independence
• Restrictive colonial trading pattern:
• Limiting the ability to trade with nations other than Spain.
• Spain had been economically eclipsed by the development of Britain,
France, and the Netherlands.
• Deprived the elite of the opportunity to have lucrative trading relationships
with other European powers.
■ Gaining independence
• Major independence movements:
• South American War of Independence in the early 1800s.
• Led by Simon Bolivar (Bolivia).
• Did not produce unity:
• Formation of nine different countries.
• Geographical factors of division (e.g. Andes).
Tropical plantation
Resembles Middle America’s Rimland.
Locations, soils, & tropical climates favor plantation
crops, especially sugar.
Initially relied on African slave labor.
European commercial
The most “Latin” part of South America.
Population of European descent.
Includes the Pampas - temperate grasslands.
Economically most advanced.
Good transportation networks and quality of life.
Amerind subsistence
Correlates with the former Inca Empire.
Feudal socioeconomic structure persists.
Includes some of South America’s poorest areas.
Subsistence agriculture must contend with difficult
environmental challenges (high altitude).
Surrounds the Amerindian-subsistence region.
A zone of mixture, culturally & agriculturally.
Transitional economic connotations.
Sparsely populated.
Isolation and lack of change.
Development of Amazonia may prompt significant
Banana Production, 2003
Millions of tons (2003)
Less than 250,000
250,001 to 1,000,000
1,000,001 to 2,000,000
2,000,001 to 5,000,000
More than 5,000,001
Banana Trade, 2003 (M of tons)
Pillars of Latin American Society
■ Transplanted elites and their descendents
• Main beneficiaries of the poor distribution of wealth and
resources within Latin American societies.
• Reactionary to any challenges to its authority and power.
• Not very innovative economically:
• Particularly in the agricultural sector.
• Thwarting Latin America's development potential.
Pillars of Latin American Society
■ Military
• Plays a vastly different role than in most democratic societies:
• Used to ensure internal control.
• Serves to support the elites and is frequently led by them.
• Serves as a social mobility vehicle.
• Military dictatorships:
• Characterized regional politics since shortly after independence.
• Authoritarian means of governance that has focused on social control.
• Demise of military dictators in Chile (1990), Panama (1989), and
Paraguay (1989).
• The region has at least nominally democratic regimes in place
throughout, Cuba representing an exceptional case.
Pillars of Latin American Society
■ Church
• Arrived with the conquistadores.
• Spent the majority of the centuries since firmly supporting the
status quo.
• One of the largest landholders and wealthiest entities.
• Leadership:
Historically been conservative.
Derived its membership from the upper strata of society.
Contributed to the social control of the masses.
Accepting their poverty and powerlessness.
• Rise of Liberation Theology:
• Grassroots movement involving parish priests at the local level.
• Work most closely with the impoverished masses.
• Worked its way upward through the Church hierarchy.
Pillars of Latin American Society
■ United States
• Since the late 1800s, upholding the unequal status quo in the
• US commercial interests in the region:
• Involvement of many US-based corporations.
• The US government has seen fit to ensure that a good business climate
exists in the countries where these corporations operate.
• Allied the USA with the other three pillars against popular movements
among the Latin American masses.
Regional Divisions
■ Economic integration
• Mercosur:
• Launched in 1995.
• A southern cone common market.
• Includes brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay.
• Andean community:
• Initially formed in 1969 (Andean pact).
• Restarted in 1995.
• Members are Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia.
• Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA):
• Attempt to create a free trade zone by 2005.
Regional Divisions
■ Urbanization
The movement to and clustering of people in towns and cities.
The percentage of a country’s population living in cities.
79% - continent-wide in South America.
South America's increase based on rate of “natural increase” and
internal migration.
• Fast urbanization:
• Resulted in the creation of vast shantytowns (barrios or favelas).
• Placed stress on South American cities.
% of Urban Population, 1950-2030
Latin America
North America
Why People Move to Urban Areas?
Instability / Disasters /
Wars / Famines
Creation of refugees. Cities as safe heavens.
Expectation of jobs
Higher wages but higher living costs. Large labor
markets. Informal sector dominant.
Deterioration of rural
Demographic growth. Land tenure (landless
peasants). Mechanization (surplus labor).
Increased mobility. Lower costs. Construction of
roads and rails. Access to rural markets.
More and better
Better schools and health services. Access to
water and electricity. Overcrowding and pollution.
Why People Move to Urban Areas?
■ Urbanization and economic survival
• Decision to move to an urban area:
• Part of a complex survival strategy.
• Families minimize risk by placing members in different labor markets.
• Largest labor market maximizing the chances of employment and
• Cities are the largest labor markets.
• Favelas (squatter settlements) of Rio de Janeiro:
• Cannot be understood without reference to the latifundia land system in
rural Brazil.
• Characterized by large landholdings owned by a limited elite.
• Peasants as contract labor with no ownership.
■ Definition
• Dwellings are built by the current or original occupant:
• Rudimentary construction materials.
• Did not receive a construction permit.
• Do not follow norms in terms of housing and sanitation.
• Inhabitants have no legal title to the land:
Most are located in areas being declared inhabitable.
Own by the municipality.
Abandoned private land.
Exploiting a legal vacuum of land ownership.
• Lack of urban services:
• Generally not serviced by public utilities such as tap water, electricity,
roads, public transportation and sewage.
■ Setting
Elite Residential Sector
Zone of Maturity
Zone in Situ Accretion
Zone of peripheral
squatter settlements
• Shantytowns are constructed
over the least desirable land.
• Put the population at risk.
• Caracas, Venezuela, 1999:
• Mudslides killed 50,000
• Created 400,000 homeless.
• 500,000 of the 6 million
inhabitants were considered at
high risk.
Regional Divisions
■ Guyanas
Guyana, Surinam, and French Guyana.
Borders the Caribbean Sea.
Limited population (less than one million each) and development.
Poor agricultural land.
French Guyana is controlled by France and serves as a
launching pad for the Ariane rockets (Aerospatiale).
Regional Divisions
■ Andean group
• Including Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile and
• Derive their name from their shared primary physical feature the Andes Mountains.
• Highest mountain range in the Western Hemisphere
• Many peaks reaching over 20,000 feet in elevation.
• Mainly native population with some European and Asian
• Vast array of mineral resources.
• Large oil reserves:
• Venezuela (world’s 7th largest), Columbia and Ecuador.
• Income used to fund socialist policies.
Regional Divisions
■ Semi-arid coastal plain
• Cities located next to rivers.
• Fisheries very important due to
maritime currents.
■ Altiplano region
• Long corridor linking Peru and
• Plateaus bordered by mountain
• Average 4,000 meters of altitude.
• Highest inhabited region of the
• Several minerals.
■ Front of the Amazon
• Names yungas in Bolivia and
montana in Peru.
• Covered by forests.
Regional Divisions
■ Southern Cone countries
Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.
Important cattle producers and agricultural exports.
Pampa zone for grazing.
Region of rich soils and produces vast amounts of wheat and
other grains, corn, alfalfa, beef, wool, and hides.
One of the major areas of surplus agriculture in the world.
Opposite seasons are a significant advantage to export food to
the northern hemisphere.
95% of the population of white background.
The most European part of Latin America (Buenos Aires and
Brazil: The South American Giant
■ Context
Sub-continent, the fifth largest territorial state on Earth.
50% of the South American territory.
Large agricultural producer.
The sixth most populous country (175 million).
With such size, both physical and cultural diversity abound.
Brazil: The South American Giant
■ An Agricultural Giant
• World's largest exporter of beef, chickens, orange juice, sugar,
coffee and tobacco.
• Large amounts of cheap land.
• Development of a tropical agricultural technology.
• Well-drained tropical savanna (cerrado):
• Traditionally considered as low fertility.
• Application of small quantities of fertilizers increase significantly
• Economies of scale unparalleled in the world.
• Intense diversification of agricultural production.
• Growing exports to China.
Major Coffee Exporters (Green Beans), 1990-2002
Costa Rica
Côte d'Ivoire
Viet Nam
1,000,000 1,200,000 1,400,000 1,600,000
World Coffee Production and Trade, 2003
Coffee Production (M tons)
Less than 300,000
300,001 to 600,000
More than 600,000
Coffee Trade
Brazil: The South American Giant
■ People
• Considered by some to be the most diverse population on Earth.
• Relative harmony, though with vast inequalities.
• Indigenous groups:
• Many of whom are still unassimilated.
• Primarily in Amazonia, many who earlier were incorporated into various
mixed races through intermarriage with other groups.
• Blacks:
• Slaves in the mid-16th century to work on the sugar plantations in the
• Slavery was not abolished in Brazil until the 1880s.
• Many aspects of African culture have been preserved much more in
• African influences can be found in Brazilian music, food, and religion.
Brazil: The South American Giant
• Europeans:
• Mostly from Portugal during the colonial period.
• Following independence in 1822, more diverse European origins were
• Between 1822 and World War II, Italy (34%), Portugal (30%), Spain
(12%), and Germany (3%) were the primary sources.
• Japanese:
• Brazil also counts more than 750,000 Japanese, most of whom are
Brazilian born.
Mato Grosso
Brazil: The South American Giant
■ Northeast
• Historic core and colonial hearth of the country.
• Early destination of most immigrants, including the majority of
the slaves.
• Contains a third of the population.
• Plantation economy.
• Greatest poverty, excess rural population, and emigration.
• Subject to frequent droughts, that devastates the economy.
• Intense migration to coastal cities of the southeast.
Brazil: The South American Giant
■ Southeast
• Contains Rio de Janeiro, the historic capital, and Sâo Paulo, its
manufacturing and business center.
• Two of the world's largest cities and both are growing rapidly.
• Provided the major source of domestic capital for investment in
Brazilian industry.
• Most of this capital was invested in the Southeast, resulting in
agglomeration to the detriment of most of the rest of Brazil.
• Focus of the country's transport system, due to its higher level of
• Major coffee and citrus plantations; world leading producer.
Brazil: The South American Giant
■ South
• Most temperate region, climate-wise.
• Recipient of a large share of the European immigrants, following
the Southeast.
• Soybeans:
• Become an important export crop in the south.
• Brazil is challenging the USA as a major world source of that crop.
Brazil: The South American Giant
■ Mato-Grosso or West-Central region
• Includes much of the near interior of the country.
• Brazil's fastest growing region, the recipient of much of the
recent infrastructure development.
• Brasilia:
Capital of Brazil; population close to 2 million.
Constructed between 1956 and 1960.
A symbol of Brazil’s development.
Located in the interior.
Moving development away from the coast.
Part of a national plan to stimulate the development of the interior.
Viewed as Brazil's future, and to re-orient its historic focus away from the
Brazil: The South American Giant
■ Amazonia
• Least populated region but highly urbanized.
• Remote and inaccessible region.
• Brazil's frontier, the source of much development activity:
• 200,000 new settlers per year.
• Construction of roads:
• Followed by a flow of people from other parts of the country, especially
the nearby Northeast.
• Highly correlated with deforestation, which is proceeding at rapid rates.
• Much of the clearing of forests has been to open up land for farming or
animal grazing.
Brazil: The South American Giant
• Tropical soils – latosols:
• Most of the forest are poorly suited for agricultural development.
• Heavy rains leach the soils of its nutrients downward beyond the reach of
most plant root systems.
• Soils loose their nutrition quickly, resulting in the need for farmers to move
on after a few years, clearing ever more of the forest away.
• Minerals are being exploited as part of Amazonia's development,
as is the region's hydrologic potential.
Brazil: The South American Giant
■ Inequalities
• Brazil is the least equal society on Earth.
• The poorest distribution of wealth.
• Yields a society of extreme contrasts: fabulous wealth, grinding
• Contains the potential for instability.
• GNP per capita-$7,300; Largest income gap in the realm
• Wealthiest 10% of the population:
• Own 2/3 of the land.
• Control over 50% of the country’s wealth.
• Poverty has increased by 50% since 1980

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