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Southern South America

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Southern South America

Southern Cone
Area 4,944,081 square kilometres (1,908,920 sq mi)
Population 135,707,204 (July 2010 est.)
Density 27.45/km2 (71.1/sq mi)[1]
Countries 3, 4 or 5
Dependencies 18
Demonym South American
Languages Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and many others
São Paulo
Buenos Aires
Santiago de Chile
Porto Alegre

Southern Cone (Spanish: Cono Sur, Portuguese: Cone Sul) is a geographic region composed of the southernmost areas of South America, south of and around the Tropic of Capricorn. Traditionally, it covers Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, bounded on the west by the Pacific Ocean, and south to the junction between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, which is the closest continental area of Antarctica (1000 km). In terms of social and political geography, the Southern Cone comprises Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, Southern Brazil and the Brazilian state of São Paulo.[2]

High life expectancy, the highest Human Development Index of Latin America, high standard of living, significant participation in the global markets and the emerging economy[3] of its members make the Southern Cone the most prosperous macro-region in South America.[2][4][5]

Geography and extent

Satellite images of the Southern Cone month by month
Landforms in the Monte Desert at Ischigualasto, Argentina. Much of the southern cone is covered by the Atacama, Patagonian and Monte deserts.

The climates are mostly temperate, but include humid subtropical, Mediterranean, highland tropical, maritime temperate, sub-Antarctic temperate, highland cold, desert and semi-arid temperate regions. Except for northern regions of Argentina (thermal equator in January), the whole country of Paraguay, the Argentina-Brazil border and the interior of the Atacama desert, the region rarely suffers from heat. In addition to that, the winter presents mostly cool temperatures. Strong and constant wind and high humidity is what brings low temperatures in the winter. The Atacama is the driest place on Earth.

One of the most peculiar plants of the region is the Araucaria tree, which can be found in southern Brazil, Chile and Argentina. The only native group of conifers found in the southern hemisphere had its origin in the Southern Cone. Araucaria angustifolia, once widespread in Southern Brazil, is now a critically endangered species, protected by law. The steppe region of central Argentina, Uruguay and southern Brazil is known as the Pampas.

Central Chile has Mediterranean vegetation and climate, grading southward into oceanic climate. The Atacama, Patagonian and Monte deserts form a diagonal or arid lands separating the woodlands, croplands and pastures of La Plata basin from Central and Southern Chile. Apart from the desert diagonal, the north-south running Andes form a major divide in the Southern Cone and constitute, for most of its part in the southern cone, the political border of Chile. In the east the river systems of the La Plata basin form natural barriers and sea-lanes between Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.


Mate, as shown in the picture, is a typical beverage from the Southern Cone

Besides sharing languages and colonial heritage, the residents of the states of the Southern Cone are avid players and fans of football (US: soccer), with top-notch teams competing in the sport. Argentina and Uruguay have both won the FIFA World Cup twice, and Brazil five times; they are the only national teams outside Europe to have won the cup. Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay have all hosted the World Cup. Additionally, national teams from the region have won several Olympic medals in football. Also, football clubs from the Southern Cone countries have won large numbers of club competitions in South-American competitions, Pan-American competitions, and world-FIFA Club World Cup-level competitions.

The asado barbecue is a culinary tradition typical of the Southern Cone. The asado developed from the horsemen and cattle culture of the region, more specifically from the gauchos of Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay (and southern Chile) and the huasos of Chile. In the Southern Cone, horsemen are considered icons of national identity; they are featured in the epic poem Martín Fierro. Mate is popular throughout the Southern Cone, especially in Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and the state of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil. In Chile mate is popular in the southern regions and south-central rural areas.

In this area, there was extensive European immigration during the 19th- and 20th-centuries, who, with their descendants, have strongly influenced the culture, social life and politics of these countries. They helped organize labor movements and popular movements for democracy but also participated in the dictatorships.


The overwhelming majority, including those of recent immigrant background, speak Spanish (in Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay) or Portuguese in the case of Brazil. The Spanish-speaking countries of the Southern Cone are divided into three main dialects:

  • Paraguayan Spanish, which is highly influenced by the Guarani language that is spoken alongside Rioplatense Spanish;
  • Rioplatense Spanish, spoken in Argentina and Uruguay, where the accent and daily language is heavily influenced by the Italian of 19th-20th century immigrants; and
  • Chilean Spanish.

These dialects share common traits, such as a number of Lunfardo and Quechua words.

Other minor languages and dialects include Portuñol, a hybrid between Uruguayan Rioplatense and Portuguese.

Rioplatense Spanish

Preliminary research has shown that Rioplatense Spanish, has intonation patterns that resemble those of Italian dialects on Naples and that area, and differ markedly from the patterns of other forms of Spanish.[6] Particularly Buenos Aires, Rosario, and Montevideo had a massive influx of Italian immigrant settlers from the mid-19th until mid-20th centuries. The researchers note that the development of this dialect is a relatively recent phenomenon, developing since the beginning of the 20th century and the main wave of Italian immigration.[7]

Native American languages

Some Native American groups, especially in rural areas, continue to speak autochthonous languages, including Mapudungun (also known as Mapuche), Quechua, Aymara, and Guarani. The first is primarily spoken in Araucanía and adjacent areas of Patagonia, in southern Argentina and Chile. Guarani is an official language of Paraguay. It is also spoken in the northeastern Argentine provinces of Corrientes and Misiones, where it is an official language along with Spanish.[8]

Non-Iberian European languages

English is spoken in the Falkland Islands, a British Overseas Territory. Welsh is spoken by descendants of immigrants in the Patagonia region of Argentina. Portuñol (Portunhol in Portuguese), is a pidgin or creole language of Brazilian Portuguese and Spanish that is spoken on the border with Brazil.

Italian (mostly its Northern dialects, such as Venetian), is spoken in rural communities across Argentina and Southern Brazil where immigrants had settled. German in some dialects is mostly spoken in Southern Chile and Southern Brazil. Croatian and other Slavic languages are also spoken in the southernmost areas of Chilean Patagonia, reflecting patterns of immigration and settlement.


The majority of residents are Roman Catholic, but there are Jewish and Protestants as well (mostly in Argentina and Chile), with rapid growth among some Protestant evangelical sects, especially in Brazil. Religions include Islam, Anglican, Lutheran, Eastern Orthodox, Buddhism and Dao. Jewish communities have thrived in cities of Argentina and Uruguay.

A history of Catholicism has left landmarks like the Churches of Chiloé (in picture) in the Southern Cone.

While the Southern Cone has been conservative in some aspects of religion, it has had a tradition of social reform and "liberation theology" has been followed by many in the Catholic Church. Uruguay, where agnosticism and atheism is common, has a policy of strong separation of church and state. It is one of the most secular countries in the Americas.[9] Uruguay, Chile and Argentina, in that order, have the least religious residents in South America, according to their responses about the significance of religion in their lives. According to a Gallup poll, 51% of Uruguayans, 56% of Argentines, and 60% of Chileans think of religion 'as something important in their lives,' contrasting with the higher values given by the residents of countries such as Brazil (87%), Bolivia (89%) and Paraguay (92%). In another social survey, residents rated their countries as 'good places for gay or lesbian people to live;' the following percentages said 'yes' in Uruguay (69%), Argentina (58%) and Chile (52%). By contrast, fewer people in the following countries agreed: Bolivia (24%), Ecuador (31%) and Peru (32%).[10]

Countries and territories

Country or
Population density
(per km²)
Capital or most important city
Argentina 2,780,400 40,091,359 14.42 Buenos Aires
Chile 756,096 17,094,275 22.60 Santiago
São Paulo and Southern Brazil 824,618 68,636,975 83.23 São Paulo
Uruguay 176,215 3,424,595 19.43 Montevideo
Paraguay 406,752 6,460,000 15.88 Asunción
Total 4,944,081 135,707,204 27.45


Population density of the Southern Cone by first level national administrative divisions. Population/km²
View of the Southern Cone at night, where there are population densities in the accumulation of light from cities.

The population of Argentina, Chile and Uruguay is 40, 16.8 and 3.6 million respectively. Buenos Aires is the largest metropolitan area at 13.1 million and Santiago, Chile has 6.4 million. When part of Southeastern Brazil is included, São Paulo is the largest city, with 19.8 million; in the Southern Brazil, the largest metropolitan area is Porto Alegre, with more than 4 million. Uruguay's capital and largest city, Montevideo, has 1.8 million, and it receives many visitors on ferry boats across the Río de la Plata from Buenos Aires, 50 km (31 mi) away. Asunción, Paraguay's capital city has a population of 2.1 million.


As far as ethnicity is concerned, the population of the Southern Cone has been strongly influenced by waves of immigration from Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. People of European descent, make up 80% of the total population of Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Southern Brazil.[12][13][14][15][16] Mestizos make up 15.8% of the population, and are a majority in Paraguay.[17] Native Americans make up 3% of the population, mulattoes (people of European and African ancestry) (0.2%) and Asians (1.0%), mostly in Southern Brazil and Uruguay, the remaining 1.2%.[18]

Genetic and Historical roots

Since interethnic marriages are widespread in Latin America, complex ethnic classifications emerged, including 16 "racial" categories created in 18th century Hispanic America, including terms like castizo, morisco, cambujo and ahí te estás. In Brazil, about 190 "racial" categories were detected by the Census of 1976.[19]

Blacks made up 25% of the population of Buenos Aires in 1810, 1822 and 1838. In 1887, the government decided to cease asking Argentine citizens about their race. According to Laura López, it was a way to "hide" the Black population, not only from the Census, but also from the public opinion.[20] Nowadays, 87% of Argentines are "White".[21] Chile does not ask its citizens about race, but a study from the University of Chile concluded that Mestizo make up the majority, 65% of the Chilean population,[22] while the CIA World Factbook described 95.4% of the population as white and mestizo.[23]

Recent censuses in Brazil are conducted on the basis of self-identification. In the 2000 census, 53% of Brazilians (approximately 93 million people in 2000; around 100 million as of 2006) were white and 39% pardo or multiracial Brazilians. White is applied as a term to people of European descent (including European Jews), and Middle Easterners of all faiths. According to IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics), Pardo is a broad classification that encompasses Brazilians of mixed race ancestry, mulattoes, and assimilated indigenous people ("caboclos"). The geneticist Sérgio Pena criticised foreign scholar Edward Telles for lumping "blacks" and "pardos" in the same category, given the predominant European ancestry of the "pardos" throughout Brazil. According to him, "the autosomal genetic analysis that we have performed in non related individuals from Rio de Janeiro shows that it does not make any sense to put "blacks" and "pardos" in the same category".[24]

A recent autosomal DNA study (2011), with nearly 1000 samples from all over Brazil ("whites", "pardos" and "blacks"), found out a major European contribution, followed by a high African contribution and an important Native American component.[25] "In all regions studied, the European ancestry was predominant, with proportions ranging from 60.6% in the Northeast to 77.7% in the South".[26] The 2011 autosomal study samples came from blood donors (the lowest classes constitute the great majority of blood donors in Brazil[27]), and also public health institutions personnel and health students. The study showed that Brazilians from different regions are more homogenous than previously thought by some based on the census alone. "Brazilian homogeneity is, therefore, a lot greater between Brazilian regions than within Brazilians region".[28]

Region[25] European African Native American
Northern Brazil 68,80% 10,50% 18,50%
Northeast of Brazil 60,10% 29,30% 8,90%
Southeast Brazil 74,20% 17,30% 7,30%
Southern Brazil 79,50% 10,30% 9,40%

Different ethnic groups contributed for the composition of the population of the Southern Cone. The original population, the Amerindians, was in large part exterminated. As in the rest of Latin America, in the first centuries of colonization the region was settled by Spanish and Portuguese colonizers and most of them were men. Soon after their arrival, an intensive mixture between those European men and the local Amerindian women began, producing a new population named Mestizo in Hispanophone countries and Caboclo or Mameluco in Brazil. Amerindian ancestry is widespread in the region, mostly through the maternal line, while European ancestry is mostly found on the paternal line. African ancestry is mostly found in Brazil.

An autosomal DNA study from 2009 found the composition of the Argentine population to be 78,50% European, 17,30% Native American, and 4,20% SSA African.[29]

A DNA study from 2009, published in the American Journal of Human Biology, showed the genetical composition of Uruguay to be mainly European, but with Native American (which varies from 1% to 20% in different parts of the country) and also SSA African (7% to 15% in different parts of the country).[30]

An autosomal DNA study from 2014 found out Chile to be 44.34% (± 3.9%) native American, 51.85% (± 5.44%) European and 3.81% (± 0.45%) African.[31][32]

In the case of Chile,"The use of mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosome" test results show the following: The European component is predominant (91.0%, versus 9.0% of the aboriginal one) in the Chilean upper class,[33] the middle classes, 76.8%-72.3% European component[33][34] and 27.7%-23.2 of mixed aboriginal[33][34] and lower classes at 65%-62.9% European component[33][34] and 37.1%-35% mix of Aboriginal.[33][34] The same study states that 31,6% of the Chilean upper class girls have either green or blue eyes, whilst only 9,6% of girls from the lower classes have light eyes. Also, 21,3% of the upper class girls have natural blonde hair, a percentage that descends to the 2,2% in girls from the Chilean lower classes.

Similar to the rest of Latin America, the genetic ancestry of the population of the Southern Cone reflects the History of the continent: the Iberian colonizers were mostly men who arrived without women. In consequence, they had children with the local Indian women or with African female slaves. A European immigration to this part of the World in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (massive in Argentina, Uruguay, and Southern Brazil, modest in Central Brazil, Chile, Paraguay.)[35][36] [37] brought more European components to the local population (mainly Spaniards in Chile, Italians and Spanish in Argentina and Uruguay, while Italians and Germans in Southern Brazil.[38] European immigration was encouraged by local governments, among other reasons, to "whiten" the local population, which reflected the scientific racism that considered the Amerindian and African elements "inferior", while the European element was seen as "superior".[39] As a consequence, the White phenotype came to dominate these areas that received larger numbers of European immigrants. But the predominantly non-White majority before the mass European immigration did not disappear, of course, but was largely assimilated into the White population.

Education and standards of living

The other conspicuous characteristic of the Southern Cone is its relatively high standard of living and quality of life. Chile's, Argentina’s, and Uruguay's HDIs—(0.819), (0.811), and (0.792)—are the highest in Latin America, similar to those of the richest countries in Eastern Europe, such as Slovenia, Poland or Hungary.[40] Uruguay, where illiteracy technically does not exist, reaches the same level in this area, even considering that it faces restrictions to its industrial and economic growth. The Southern Cone is the most prosperous macro-region in Latin America. It has high life expectancy, access to health care and education.[41] From an economic and liberal point of view the region has been praised for its significant participation in the global markets, and its "emerging economy" profile.[41] More troubling are high levels of income inequality.[42]

Summary of socio-economic performance indicators for Latin American countries
Country GDP per
(2012 estimates)


Gini index

HPI-1 %
(2011 estimates)

of life[47]


EPI !! FSI[50]
2011 !! CPI[51]
2010 !! IEF[52]
2011 !! GPI[53]
2011 !! DI[54]
Southern Cone 18,303 44.6 3.3 0.807 (VH) 6.766 7.6 82.5 42.6 5.7 69.7 1.694 7.54
Mexico 15,931 48.3 5.9 0.775 (H) 6.542 5.4 79.8 75.1 3.1 67.8 2.362 6.93
Northern South America 10,184 51.6 9.1 0.715 (H) 6.000 6.0 79.4 77.3 2.9 55.7 2.190 6.19
Central America 8,760 50.7 12.6 0.674 (M) 5.897 3.8 79.3 70.6 3.4 63.3 2.077 6.53

Southern Cone = Uruguay

Mexico = Mexico

Northern South America = Bolivia

Central America = Guatemala


During the second half of 20th century, these countries were in some periods ruled by right-wing juntas, military nationalistic dictatorships. Around the 1970s, these regimes collaborated in Plan Cóndor against leftist opposition, including urban guerrillas.[55] However, by the early 1980s Argentina and Uruguay restored their democracies; Chile followed suit in 1990.



Usage of the term

When entire countries are considered, generally only Argentina, Uruguay and Chile are included in the Southern Cone. If the term is applied to countries under military dictatorship during the middle of 20th century, Brazil is included, although most of its territory is geographically outside the Southern Cone. The southernmost states of Brazil (the states of São Paulo, Paraná, Santa Catarina, Rio Grande do Sul) and less often, Rio de Janeiro, are generally included because they share the same characteristics as Uruguay, Argentina and Chile: above-average standard of living, mild climate, high level of industrialization, and strong European immigration.


  1. ^ This North American density figure is based on a total land area of 4,944,081sq km
  2. ^ a b Steven, F. (2001). "Regional Integration and Democratic Consolidation in the Southern Cone of Latin America". Democratization (Routledge) 14: 75–100. ISBN . Retrieved 12 May 2009. 
  3. ^ Cómo hacer pesar las diferencias del Cono Sur
  4. ^
  5. ^ Encyclopedia of world environmental history. p. 1142. 
  6. ^ "Convergence and intonation: historical evidence from Argentine Spanish",
  7. ^ "Buenos Aires residents speak with an intonation most closely resembling Neapolitan language"
  8. ^ "Official languages include indigenous", IPS News
  9. ^ Latin American Area Studies: Uruguay, University of Minnesota
  10. ^ WorldView, Gallup
  11. ^ a b Land areas and population estimates are taken from The 2008 World Factbook which currently uses July 2008 data, unless otherwise noted.
  12. ^ Fernández, Francisco Lizcano (2007). Composición Étnica de las Tres Áreas Culturales del Continente Americano al Comienzo del Siglo XXI (in Spanish). ISBN . 
  13. ^ SOCIAL IDENTITY Marta Fierro Social Psychologist.
  14. ^ (Spanish) massive immigration of European Argentina Uruguay Chile Brazil
  15. ^ Latinoamerica.
  16. ^ "Chile". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2012-09-15. "Chile's ethnic makeup is largely a product of Spanish colonization. 80% of Chileans are of white European (mainly Spanish) descent". 
  17. ^ (Spanish) Hoy en día la población paraguaya es mestiza prácticamente en su totalidad.
  18. ^ Historia de las repúblicas de la Plata, Manuel González Llana
  19. ^ Interethnic variability and admixture in Latin America - social implications
  20. ^ Negros en el país: censan cuántos hay y cómo viven
  21. ^ Argentina
  22. ^ "5.2.6. Estructura racial". La Universidad de Chile. Retrieved 2007-08-26.  (Main page)
  23. ^ World Fact Book Chile
  24. ^ [1]
  25. ^ a b
  26. ^
  27. ^ Profile of the Brazilian blood donor
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^ a b c d e "El estrato socioeconómico alto se constituye mayoritariamente por una población caucásica y el estrato bajo por una mezcla de población caucásica 65% y amerindia 35% Revista médica de Chile". 
  34. ^ a b c d Acuña, M.; Jorquera, H.; Cifuentes, L.; Armanet, L. (2002). "Frequency of the hypervariable DNA loci D18S849, D3S1744, D12S1090 and D1S80 in a mixed ancestry population of Chilean blood donors". Genetics and molecular research : GMR 1 (2): 139–46. PMID 14963840. 
  35. ^ Juan Bialet Massé en su informe sobre "El estado de las clases obreras en el interior del país"
  36. ^ SOCIAL IDENTITY Marta Fierro Social Psychologist.
  37. ^ Etnicidad y ciudadanía en América Latina.
  38. ^ A Imigração Alemã no Brasil
  39. ^ RIBEIRO, Darcy. O Povo Brasileiro, Companhia de Bolso, fourth reprint, 2008 (2008).
  40. ^ [2]
  41. ^ a b HIRU
  42. ^ Leandro, "Inequality and Poverty in Latin America: A Long-Run Exploration"
  43. ^ GDP (PPP) per capita for 2012, World Economic Outlook Database, April 2012, International Monetary Fund, accessed on September 29, 2012.
  44. ^ Human Development Report, UNDP
  45. ^ UNDP Human Development Report 2008 Update. "Table 3: Human poverty index: developing countries" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-06-21.  page 13-16
  46. ^ UNDP Human Development Report 2011 Update. "Table 1: Human Development Index Trends" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-05-01.  page 25–26
  47. ^ The Economist Pocket World in Figures 2008. "Quality-of-life index The World in 2005" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-03-13. 
  48. ^ GDP annual growth for 2010, World Economic Outlook Database, September 2011, International Monetary Fund, accessed on November 26, 2011.
  49. ^ Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy / Center for International Earth Science Information Network at Columbia University. "Environmental Performance Index 2008". Retrieved 2008-03-13. 
  50. ^ "Failed States Index Scores 2011". The Fund for Peace. 2011-06-21. Retrieved 2011-11-26. 
  51. ^
  52. ^ "Country rankings for trade, business, fiscal, monetary, financial, labor and investment freedoms". Retrieved 2011-11-26. 
  53. ^ "Rankings & Results « Vision of Humanity". Retrieved 2011-11-26. 
  54. ^ "Democracy Index 2010" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-01-07. 
  55. ^ Victor Flores Olea. "Editoriales - El Universal - 10 de abril 2006 : Operacion Condor" (in Español). El Universal (Mexico). Retrieved 2009-03-24. 

External links

Media related to at Wikimedia Commons

  • Pictures of the capital cities of the countries that compose the Southern Cone

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