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Facts about North and South America

Good evening guys! In this article, I want to talk to you about some of the most important things to consider before going to the America. Since I have already talked about the territory, I will now talk about the population, the economy, the mining, energy and transport industry and finally communications.

Population

Most of the North American citizens are actually descendants of former European settlers. Despite some having originated from Spanish colonists (Florida and California) and some French (Quebec, Louisiana and Mississippi), most of the colonists were English so the majority of the population are English speaking. Black slaves were the first that constituted an important minority.

After the colonisation came the immigrants. During the 19th century, many Irish, German, Scandinavian, Baltic, Russian, Italian and Greeks arrived. After, immigration mesures expanded even more to other continents so Latin Americans, Asians and to a lesser extent, Africans came to North America in search for a better life.

Today, North America has a population of around 280 million people, 80% white, 10% black and the rest of other minorities. They include nationalities that were there before the European colonisation; Eskimos in the extreme north of Canada and Alaska, and the Indians that occupied the Canadian Northwest Territories and several reserves scattered across the US.

75% of the the North American territory is urbanised; it is marked by its high mobility and uneven distribution. As for religion, 60% is protestant, 23% catholic, 3% Jewish and 2% Orthodox; there are also Muslims and Buddhists.

Long before Columbus reached the New World, Central and South America were already home to some major civilizations such as the Olmec, the Teotihuacan, Mayan, Aztec or Inca.

Some of the indigenous people still exist today such as the Arawak Indians and the Caribs who live in the northern coastal regions, and the pure Amerindians, who live in Colombia and the highlands of Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador.

Another ethnic group, which is much larger, is the mestizo, a descendant of Amerindians and Spanish. Finally, there are the Creoles that come from European descent but the majority are Spanish who born on the continent.

Central and South America has a population of 448 million people. The density population is higher than North America but the same in the sense that the distribution is very uneven. Despite the Latin America being very rural, there is also lots of big cities in the continent, but they are not so urbanised and the quality of life is very low which had lead to a number of social problems. Also, many Latin Americans emigrate to countries in the first world (mostly the USA and Europe), although settling there and living there permanently is becoming increasingly difficult.

Most people are Catholic, but there is a growing number of Protestant churches and sects. The political control by the European colonised descendants was jeopardised by many different migrants in the 90s (Japanese, Arabic).

Whites, who still constitute most of the ruling classes, even in more native societies (Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador), have had to develop programs where most of the population is of indigenous culture (Central America or Andean) or black (Caribbean and Brazil). You can say that Latin America is a world of contrasts: between European, Mestizo and Andean cultures, between the important natural resources of some countries and the scarce resources of others, or between social classes.

Another factor that has influenced Latin American populations has been the political conflicts and civil wars that have troubled the continent for years, the most recent examples were those in Nicaragua and El Salvador in the seventies and eighties. Fortunately, it seems that these smaller countries have started to move towards democracy and peace. In conclusion, we can say that Latin America does not form a homogeneous and compact block, but a very distinct society that is undergoing numerous mutations and dimensions.

Economy

There is a clear difference in the developed North America and the poorer South America. But this isn't always the case. In the north, there are also large pockets of poverty, while in the south, there is an emergence of a strong middle class, in places such as Chile and Colombia.

The wide latitudinal scale makes allows North America to grow both moderate temperate products as well as subtropical plants. The USA and Canada are the main suppliers of wheat and corn; they also export cotton, barley, rice and meat products. The agriculture industry is declining in regard to the number of workers, but production did not stop increasing until the end of the eighties. This decline is due to the invention of certain machines and technology has improved the production of crops hugely. However, in the years following 1991, grain production in the US has decreased by 27% as a result of the reduction cultivation programs.

Fishing is an important part of the North American economy. Fishing fleets are very well trained and territorial waters are rich in different fish species. The most important catch is undoubtedly the cod.

Agriculture is the most important activity to Latin America's economy. In Central America, most of the fields are still fully dedicated to subsistence farming and the farmers are mostly indigenous. The main products are corn and beans, while there is commercial agriculture in some regions which produces coffee, bananas, sugar cane and cotton. Forests have been systematically exploited and their sizes have reduced dramatically. Woods like mahogany and cedar and pine are deforested in multitudes. Fisheries are underdeveloped. The best fleets are in Mexico, which catch tuna, sardines and shellfish.

In South America agriculture was very affected by the colonization. After independence, the immediate changes were slow coming into effect and commercial agriculture remained focused on overseas markets. In Brazil, they started to grow coffee on a large scale, the same as the traditional cultivation of the sugar cane.

In Argentina, they primarily used the land for raising cattle and sheep, before it was used for growing large grain and cotton plantations. Chile and Peru produced guano, and soon began to export wool. Chile also started to export meat. Other countries suffered, and still suffer today, since they rely heavily on one or two products, which makes them very susceptible to price fluctuations in international markets.

Mineral resources, energy sources and industrialization

North America is rich in minerals. However, this does not preclude that the US is both an importer and exporter of the same product, such as oil. The mineral wealth of the subcontinent is so rich that you could say that the only minerals that are lacking are tin and bauxite.

Energy sources are also varied. There is an abundance of coal, oil, natural gas and there are lots of renewable energy systems such as waterfalls being used for hydroelectric power. They also rely on nuclear energy, which has dozens of reactors in service, and plays an important role in their energy supply.

The North american industry is highly developed and extensive. It covers all sectors and is well distributed throughout the country, although of course there are regions that are more industrialised than others. US is the largest producer of manufactured goods in the world in almost all sectors, although Japan's has moved ahead in some industries, such as car and robotic productions.

Since the collapse of the USSR in 1991, the United States has improved its trade relations with its neighbours, Canada and Mexico. The adoption of the 1993 free trade agreement between the US, Mexico and Canada created the largest free trade area in the world, although it faced the difficulty of uniting such diverse cultures unlike their European counterparts. Despite its turbulent history, the United States still remains the number one economic power in the world.

Mexico is the country that extracts the most miracles in Central America; including silver, lead, copper, zinc, coal, oil and natural gas. Small amounts of copper, lead, antimony, silver and gold are also extracted in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras. Guatemala has lead, zinc and nickel.

In Trinidad, Pitch Lake, the largest natural deposit of asphalt in the world. Oil is also important there. In Brazil, some of the mineral riches include bauxite, iron, manganese, aluminium and gold, among others. Chile is rich in copper and nitrates and Bolivia boasts a large tin industry. The oil is spread out over Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru and Colombia.

Industrial development in Latin America has been stimulated by the exploitation of oil resources, natural gas and hydroelectric power. The main industrial power of Central America is Mexico, followed by El Salvador. There is an emerging industry in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico and Trinidad. In South America the most industrialized countries are Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Peru.

The country which has the largest industrial diversification is Brazil and its foreign investment, which was previously mostly British, is today primarily American. But since the late eighties, it has been focused on developing and strengthening a process of interstate economic agreements: the NAFTA comprising of the US, Canada and Mexico; Mercosur, formed of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay; the Mexico-Chile pact and the MCCA.

These economic agreements will, in turn, work on resolving political, social and border issues. Thus, the Contadora group (Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela and Panama), the Group of Eight (the above plus Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Uruguay) and the so-called Rio group (composed of twelve countries) have been created.

The question remains whether these organisations will succeed in solving the major problems that Latin America is faced with; their poor economies and their problems with drug trafficking. The volume of money generated by drug traficking is constantly increasing and corruption Popping political and military scandals.

In the Andes, coca cultivation is abundant and efforts for trying to introduce an alternative crop, which is partly subsidized by developed nations, is simply not enough. The economic outlook for Latin America, after the severe recession of the eighties, are more promising: the economy is growing steadily, whilst foreign debt and inflation are relatively controlled, but the social costs of adjustment policies, recommended by international organizations, have increased and social inequalities remain very marked.

Transport and communication

The first route into Norrth America, which were used when the settlers came from the east, were the rivers, which are still an important part of transportation today. The main ones include the San Lorenzo River, the Great Lakes and the Mississippi-Missouri system. The railway was first developed in 1830. Today, the train has suffered from competition from other means of transport and its importance is declining. The road network, however, is highly developed, especially in eastern and central North America. Finally, planes connect all the major US cities and international traffic is very busy.

Central America was conquered and colonized from colonists that arrived in boats, and much of their trade and their internal connections are still shipping routes. In addition, the complicated spelling of the land prevented the construction of a good quality transport system and, even today, land transport is very underdeveloped. Only Mexico has a good rail network.

Roads, meanwhile, only conjoin major cities. These land constraints have led Central America to increasingly rely on aviation as a means of transport, which has subsequently helped the country's tourism industry.

These on-land transport barriers are greater in South America than anywhere else in the world, and they have prevented the creation of a sufficient transport network. In the Andes, they still use ancient Indian roads for transportation purposes. Roads and railways were constructed very quickly in countries with expanding economies, such as Argentina, Brazil and Chile. But the lack of planning meant that many of these roads became very busy very quickly, resulting in very limited transport access to the rest of the country, meaning travelling between different states was very difficult.

Today, the road and railway lines are inadequate and South Americans really rely on their aviation industry, which has developed massively, the same as in Central America.

Facts about North and South America


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