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South America

People

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South America's overall population has been increasing rapidly, especially in the developing tropical countries, and urban populations have increased greatly in all parts of the continent. Immigration to South America has been minimal since 1930. Internal migration has been of great significance, however, increasing the concentration of people living on the continent's periphery, while vast areas of the interior remain sparsely populated. The overall population density is 22 persons per sq km (57 per sq mi), but more than half the continent has a population density of fewer than 2 persons per sq km (5 per sq mi).

Languages

Spanish is the official language of 9 of the 13 political entities on the continent. Portuguese is the official language of Brazil; English, of Guyana; Dutch, of Suriname; and French, of French Guiana. Among the scores of Native American languages, Quechua, Aymara, and Guaraní are spoken by the largest numbers of people. The speakers of Quechua (7.6 million in 1998) are primarily in the central Andean highlands, and the speakers of Aymara (2.1 million in 1998) in the highlands of Bolivia, Chile, and Peru. Guaraní is an official language of Paraguay, along with Spanish.

Religion

South America is unusual among the continents for its religious homogeneity. About 90 percent of the population is Roman Catholic. Most of the Protestants are in Brazil and Chile; the remainder are widely distributed, primarily in urban centers. The Jews of South America also tend to be urban dwellers and are widely distributed; about three-fourths are in Argentina and Brazil, and more than 10 percent are in Uruguay and Chile. Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists are concentrated in Guyana and Suriname. The Roman Catholic faith was brought to the continent by the Spaniards and Portuguese during the Spanish conquest. Protestantism is a reflection of later European immigration and of missionary activity begun in the 19th century. North American evangelical groups were particularly active in the 20th century.

 
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