Between 12,500 and 70,000 years ago, people migrated from Asia to Alaska using a land bridge across the Bering Strait and wandered towards the south. Between 5000 BC and 2500 BC, agriculture was developed in South America and emerging societies turned into major civilizations. One of which is considered the most sophisticated of them all, the Inca Empire.
In the early 16th century, the Spanish invasion came, ruling over people from Ecuador to Chile and Argentina. They arrived in the continent in 1492 when Christopher Columbus, who found an alternative route to the spice islands of Asia, saw the Caribbean Islands. A Portuguese by the name Vasco de Gama also founded the new sea route to Asia, brewing the rivalry of Spain and Portugal in claiming newly discovered lands.
Representatives from Spain and Portugal met in 1494 and drew a line about 48-degrees west of Greenwich, giving Asia and Africa to Portugal and the New World to Spain. This treaty put Brazil’s coast to the Portuguese giving them access to this new continent.
The explorations made by Spain intensified in 1496 and 1526 because of rumors of a golden kingdom in Southern Panama, convincing authorities from Spain to finance a 200-men expedition. This expedition was headed by Francisco Pizarro, who saw the Inca Empire. His small force of Spaniard soldiers terrorized the place and used his deadliest weapon that killed the empire’s ruler Huayna Capac. This weapon is an infectious disease known today as smallpox.
The seat of power in Spanish South America founded by Lima in 1535 became the base for their explorations and conquests. Spaniards defeated two Inca rulers Manco Inca and Tupac Amaru in 1572 and strengthened Spain’s claim over the continent.
In the 18th century, Spanish colonies began a movement for independence. Spaniards brought its troops to the war against France and lost control of its colonies. By the end of the war in 1814, Argentina and Venezuela declared independence from Spain. Other Spanish colonies followed suit in the next seven years. In 1807, Brazil became autonomous and already declared independence in 1822.
Over the last twenty years, a stronger force was used towards regional integration with the support of South American institutions like the Andean Community, Mercosur, and Unasur. With Hugo Chávez’s 1998 election in Venezuela, the region experienced what has been referred to as the pink tide, with several leftist and center-left administrations being elected to most countries except for the Guianas and Colombia.
As of today, South America’s tourism is booming and considered a significant income source for most of its countries. Its historical relics, natural wonders, colorful tastes of food and culture, vibrant cities and picturesque landscapes and sceneries attract millions of travelers yearly.
Some of the places worth noting and visiting include the Iguazu Falls, Machu Picchu, Amazon rainforest, Rio de Janeiro, São Luís, Buenos Aires, Angel Falls, Nazca Lines, Belo Horizonte, Lake Titicaca, Salar de Uyuni, Jesuit Missions of Chiquitos, Los Roques archipelago, Gran Sabana, Patagonia, Tayrona National Natural Park, Santa Marta, Cartagena, Perito Moreno Glacier, and the Galápagos Islands.