Skip to main content

Definitions and Limitations II: Physical Borders

Geographically, South America refers to the territory located roughly between 12.5 degrees north and 56 degrees south latitude, and 34.5 east and 81.5 degrees west longitude, corresponding to the nations located southeast of Panama: Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay. Physically it is bordered by the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Internally it is divided by the Andean highlands in the west, the tropical northern lowlands and the Guiana Shield, the Amazon rainforest in the center, and the relatively drier southern cone. The northern Caribbean States of Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and parts of Colombia and Brazil are isolated from the rest of the region by a vast series of wetlands and rainforest while the countries of the more populous western portions of Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Colombia are isolated on the western Pacific coast by the Andes Mountains, the longest and second highest mountain chain in the world. Finally, the territory located south of the Amazon and east of the Andes encompasses some of the most fertile land on the planet and the majority of Brazil's population and all of Paraguay's, Argentina's, and Uruguay's.

On a smaller scale, most countries in the region are further subdivided by bisecting mountain chains, rainforests, or deserts that act as internal barriers to trade and communication. These geographic divisions are often able to transform themselves into internal barriers to economic and political development. Internal political divisions are more pronounced in the Andes due to the distances between the coast and sierra but are also present in other countries due to the vast distances and relatively poor physical integration between urban centers and rural provinces. Manifestations of the effect of this geo-political division include the formation of rival political factions like that of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the historic political rivalries between Guayaquil and Quito, the Peruvian highlands demands for more autonomy and funding from Lima, the Bolivian lowlands ongoing disputes with the central government in the highlands of La Paz, and the poverty and relative underdevelopment of the north western interior of Brazil. These historical disputes over the locus of power and access to state resources have played a very influential role in the resulting power dynamics in each of these nations and continue to influence the direction of the current integration process.[1]

By Nathan Gill - Southern Affairs

[1] Vanden and Prevost (2002): 3-5


Popular posts from this blog

Moving to the Suburbs: Reducciones in Recent Latin American Historiography

In 1503, the Spanish monarchy issued its first decree for the resettlement of indigenous groups in the Caribbean so that they would “live together” and “not remain or wander separated from each other in the backcountry.”[1]

As the European conquest spread to North, Central, and South America, these new settlements – known as reducciones and congregaciones in Spanish and descimentos in Portuguese – became sites of forced labor, evangelism, experimental agricultural, and refuge. Through a series of imperial policies decreed over the next decades and centuries of colonial rule, Spanish and Portuguese officials attempted to reshape the New World, including its human and natural landscapes. How colonial historians explain this process and indigenous peoples’ reactions to it is the focus of this essay.

In a review of the recent historiography of reducciones, several trends emerge that signal a shift in our understanding of the practice. As this paper will show, one common element is that …

"Open" and "Closed" Regionalism Theories

(Apr. 3, 2008) The terms "Open" and "closed" regionalism refer to the degree in which regional blocks allow nonmember nations to access their markets. In this sense, an "open region" is one with few, if any, external trade restrictions while a "closed region" can be defined as one whose external trade policies seek to restrict commerce with nations outside the region.Closed regionalism as practiced in Latin America grew out of the policy suggestions made by UN ECLAC/CEPAL school of dependency theory in the early 1960s. As discussed earlier, proponents of this policy argued that states should form regional alliances with a series of trade barriers against foreign products to foment regional industrialization and assure captive local markets for these manufactured goods. The failure of this system of integration to meet Latin America's economic goals became apparent during the 1980s and was further highlighted by the strong economic performanc…

Greetings From Gringolandia

Bloomberg Businessweek, March 28 — April 3, 2016
Susan Lamy and her husband, Jean Pierre, owned a successful interior design business in Westport, Conn., but they still worried about how they would make ends meet in retirement. “Just paying for the basic necessities was killing us, and we could see that there was no way that we would ever be able to stop working,” says Lamy. 
The search for an affordable retirement spot led the couple to Cuenca, a Unesco World Heritage site in Ecuador’s southern Andes. They settled there in 2013 and now live in a spacious apartment with a terrace overlooking the Yanuncay River. Lamy says she and her husband enjoy a high standard of living in Cuenca for around $2,500 a month, paid for by their Social Security checks: “This seemed to be the best possibility for having a really terrific life on a fixed income.” 
The combination of a subtropical climate, well-preserved colonial architecture, and low cost of living has made Cuenca a magnet for North Ameri…