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The People


Although South America's population has a diverse ethnic heritage, its principal elements are the Native Americans and the descendants of Spaniards, Portuguese, and African blacks. The racial spectrum produced by mixing the various groups is broad. Most evident in South America are the mestizos, people of Iberian and Native American ancestry; people of mixed Iberian and black ancestry are less numerous, and the number of people of mixed Native American and black ancestry is smaller yet. The Native Americans are most numerous in the highlands of the central Andean republics. People of Spanish descent are relatively more numerous in Argentina and Uruguay than elsewhere. In Brazil, the Portuguese are the predominant Iberian element, and the black and mulatto groups are more numerous than in any other South American country. In the Guianas and coastal Colombia and Ecuador, the number of blacks is also large.

The steady but relatively modest flow of Iberians into South America during the colonial era and in the century and a half since independence was augmented between the late 19th century and 1930 by the entry of several million Italians, chiefly into Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. Smaller numbers of Germans, Poles, and other European nationals also arrived. Although many of the new European immigrants were engaged in rural labor and tenant farming in Argentina and Brazil, many Germans and Italians and fewer other Europeans established agricultural colonies. German colonists, for example, settled in south central Chile. Other new immigrants gravitated toward the cities, where they contributed substantially to the workforce and entrepreneurial sectors. Several non-European groups, such as Syrians and Lebanese, settled in large numbers also. The greatest numbers of Asian immigrants during the late 19th century came from India, Indonesia, and China; most of these entered British Guiana and Dutch Guiana as indentured laborers after the abolition of slavery. Particularly since 1900, however, appreciable numbers of Japanese have settled in southeastern Brazil. Japanese settlements also exist in Paraguay, Bolivia, and northern and northeastern Brazil.

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