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MessageSujet: History of South America   Mar 23 Jan 2007, 20:58

History of South America
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While perhaps the last continent--except Antarctica to be inhabited by humans, the history of South America spans the full range of human cultural and civilizational forms. While millennia of independent development were interrupted by the Spanish and Portuguese colonization drive of the 16th century and the demographic collapse that followed, the continent's mestizo and indigenous cultures remain quite distinct from those of their colonizers. Through the trans-Atlantic slave trade, South America (especially Brazil) became the home of millions of people in the African diaspora. The tensions between colonial countries in Europe, indigenous peoples and escaped slaves shaped South America from the 16th through the 19th Centuries.

The Spanish colonies won their independence in the first quarter of the 19th century, in the South American Wars of Independence. Simón Bolívar and José de San Martín led their independence struggle. Although Bolivar attempted to keep the Spanish-speaking parts of the continent politically unified, they rapidly became independent of one another as well, and several further wars were fought, such as the War of the Triple Alliance and the War of the Pacific. In the Portuguese colony Dom Pedro I (also Pedro IV of Portugal), son of the Portuguese king Dom João VI, proclaimed the country's independence in 1822 and became Brazil's first Emperor. This was peacefully accepted by the crown in Portugal, upon compensation.

A few countries did not gain independence until the 20th century:

Guyana, from the United Kingdom, in 1966.
Suriname, from the Dutch control, in 1975
Trinidad and Tobago, from the United Kingdom, in 1962
French Guiana remains an overseas département of France.

[edit] Recent history
The continent, like many others, became a battlefield of the Cold War in the late 20th century. The government of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay were overthrown or displaced by U.S.-aligned military dictatorships in the 1960s and 1970s. Their governments detained tens of thousands of political prisoners, many of whom were tortured and/or killed (on inter-state collaboration, see Operation Condor). Economically, they began a transition to neoliberal economic policies. They placed their own actions within the U.S. Cold War doctrine of "National Security" against internal subversion. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Peru suffered from internal conflicts (see Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement and Shining Path). Revolutionary movements and right-wing military dictatorships have been common, but starting in the 1980s a wave of democratization came through the continent, and democratic rule is widespread now. Allegations of corruption remain common, and several nations have seen crises which have forced the resignation of their presidents, although normal civilian succession has continued.

International indebtedness became a notable problem, as most recently illustrated by Argentina's default in the early 21st century.

In recent years South American governments have drifted to the left, with socialist leaders being elected in Chile, Bolivia, Brazil, Venezuela, and a leftist president in Argentina and Uruguay. Despite the move to the left, South America is still largely capitalist.

With the founding of the South American Community of Nations, South America has started down the road of economic integration, with plans for political integration in the European Union style.

Argentina · Bolivia · Brazil · Chile · Colombia · Ecuador · Guyana · Panama · Paraguay · Peru · Suriname · Trinidad and Tobago · Uruguay · Venezuela

Pre-Colombian era

The rise of agriculture and domestication of animals
South America is thought to have been first inhabited by people crossing the Bering Land Bridge from Asia, which is now the Bering Strait. Over the course of millennia, people spread to all parts of the continent.

The first evidence for the existence of agricultural practices in South America dates back to circa 6500 BCE, when potatoes, chilies and beans began to be cultivated for food in the Amazon Basin. Pottery evidence further suggests that manioc, which remains a staple foodstuff today, was being cultivated as early as 2000 BCE[1].

South American cultures began domesticating lamas and alpacas in the highlands of the Andes circa 3500 BCE. These animals were used for both transportation and meat[2]. Guinea pigs were also domesticated as a food source at this time[3].

By 2000 BCE, many agrarian village communities had been settled throughout the Andes and the surrounding regions. Fishing became a widespread practice along the coast which helped to establish fish as a primary source of food. Irrigation systems were also developed at this time, which aided in the rise of an agrarian society[4]. The food crops of this time were quinoa, corn, the lima bean, the common bean, peanuts, manioc, sweet potatoes, regular potatoes oca and squashes[5]. Cotton was also grown and was particularly important as the only major fiber crop[6].

By the first millennium CE, South America was the home of tens of millions of people. [citation needed]

Some groups formed permanent settlements. Among those groups were the Chibchas (or "Muiscas" or "Muyscas") and the Tairona. The Chibchas of Colombia, the Quechuas of Peru and the Aymaras of Bolivia were the 3 most important sedentary Indian groups in South America. In the last two thousand years there may have been contact with Polynesians across the South Pacific Ocean, as shown by the spread of the sweet potato through some areas of the Pacific, but there is no genetic legacy of human contact. [7]

Caral Supe Civilization
The Caral Supe Civilization was the oldest civilization in the Americas, going back to 27th century BCE. See Caral. It is noteworthy for having absolutely no signs of warfare.

The Chibcha linguistic communities were the most numerous, the most territorially extended and the most socio-economically developed of the Pre-Hispanic Colombian cultures. By the 3rd century CE, the Chibchas had established their civilization in the northern Andes. At one point, the Chibchas occupied part of what is now Panama, and the high plains of the Eastern Sierra of Colombia. The areas that they occupied were the Departments of Santander (North and South), Boyacá and Cundinamarca, which were also the areas where the first farms and first industries were developed, and where the independence movement originated. They are currently the richest areas in Colombia. They represented the most populous zone between the Mexican and Inca empires. Next to the Quechua of Peru and the Aymara in Bolivia, the Chibchas of the eastern and north-eastern Highlands of Colombia were the most striking of the sedentary indigenous peoples in South America.

In the Oriental Andes, the Chibchas were composed of several tribes, who spoke the same language (Chibchan). Among them: Muiscas, Guanes, Laches and Chitareros.

Some 5 to 7 million people lived in the Amazon region, divided between comparatively dense coastal settlements and more nomadic inland dwellers. The latter lived on a complex combination of swiddlen agriculture, alteration of the forest ecosystem, and hunting and gathering.[8]

Norte Chico
On the north-central coast of present-day Peru, Caral (also known as Norte Chico) was a cluster of large-scale urban settlements emerged around 3000 BCE, contemporary with urbanism's rise in Mesopotamia.

The Chavín, a South American preliterate civilization, established a trade network and developed agriculture by 900 BCE, according to some estimates and archeological finds. Artifacts were found at a site called Chavín in modern Peru at an elevation of 3,177 meters. Chavín civilization spanned 900 to 300 BCE.

The Moche thrived on the north coast of Peru 2000-1500 years ago. The heritage of the Moche comes down to us through their elaborate burials, recently excavated by UCLA's Christopher Donnan in association with the National Geographic Society. Skilled artisans, the Moche were a technologically advanced people who traded with faraway peoples, like the Maya. Almost everything we know about the Moche comes from their ceramic pottery with carvings of their daily lives. We know from these records that they practiced human sacrifice, had blood-drinking rituals, and that their religion incorporated non-procreative sexual practices (such as fellatio).

Holding their capital at the great puma-shaped city of Cusco, the Inca civilization dominated the Andes region from 1438 to 1533. Known as Tawantin suyu, or "the land of the four regions," in Quechua, the Inca civilization was highly distinct and developed. Inca rule extended to nearly a hundred linguistic or ethnic communities, some 9 to 14 million people connected by a 25,000 kilometer road system. Cities were built with precise, unmatched stonework, constructed over many levels of mountain terrain. Terrace farming was a useful form of agriculture. There is evidence of excellent metalwork and even successful brain surgery in Inca civilization.

European colonization
Main article: European colonization of the Americas
Before the arrival of Europeans, an estimated 30 million people lived in South America.

In 1494, Portugal and Spain, the two great maritime powers of that time, on the expectation of new lands being discovered in the west, signed the Treaty of Tordesilhas, by which they agreed that all the land outside Europe should be an exclusive duopoly between the two countries. The Treaty established an imaginary line along a north-south meridian 370 leagues west of Cape Verde Islands, roughly 46° 37' W. In terms of the treaty, all land to the west of the line (which is now known to include most of the South American soil), would belong to Spain, and all land to the east, to Portugal. As accurate measurements of longitude were impossible by that time, the line was not strictly enforced, resulting in a Portuguese expansion of Brazil across the meridian.

Beginning in the 1530s, the people and natural resources of South America were repeatedly exploited by foreign conquistadors, first from Spain and later from Portugal. These competing colonial nations claimed the land and resources as their own and divided it into colonies.

European diseases (smallpox, influenza, measles and typhus) to which the native populations had no resistance and cruel systems of forced labor (such as the infamous encomiendas and mining industry's mita) decimated the American population under Spanish control. Following this, African slaves, who had developed immunity to these diseases, were quickly brought in to replace them.

The Spaniards were committed to converting their American subjects to Christianity and were quick to purge any native cultural practices that hindered this end. However, most initial attempts at this were only partially successful, as American groups simply blended Catholicism with their traditional beliefs. The Spaniards did not impose their language to the degree they did their religion. In fact, the missionary work of the Roman Catholic Church in Quechua, Nahuatl, and Guarani actually contributed to the expansion of these American languages, equipping them with writing systems.

Eventually the natives and the Spaniards interbred, forming a Mestizo class. Mestizos and the native Americans were often forced to pay unfair taxes to the Spanish government and were punished harshly for disobeying their laws. Many native artworks were considered pagan idols and destroyed by Spanish explorers. This included a great number gold and silver sculptures, which were melted down before transport to Europe.
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