Culture of South America

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Gaucho from Argentina.

The Cultures of South America draw on diverse cultural traditions. These include the native cultures of the peoples that inhabited the continents prior to the arrival of the Europeans; European cultures, brought mainly by the Spanish, the Portuguese and the French; African cultures, whose presence derives from a long history of New World slavery; and the United States, particularly via mass culture such as cinema and TV.


Roman Catholicism is the dominant religion (over 80% in Hispanic countries, some 65%-70% in Brazil). French Guiana also has a large number of Protestants. Guyana and Suriname are exceptions, with three major religions: Christianity in general, Hinduism, and Islam. In lowland South America, as well as the Andes, animism and shamanism are common, as noted among the Urarina of Peruvian Amazonia.

Urarina shaman, 1988


Portuguese and Spanish are the primary languages of the continent. The majority of South Americans (more than 50%) speak Portuguese. However, most South American countries are Spanish-speaking, and nearly all of the continent's lusophones reside in Brazil. Among other languages used by many South Americans are:


South American nations have a rich variety of music. Some of the most famous genres include samba from Brazil, tango from Argentina & Uruguay, and cumbia from Colombia.


Beyond the rich tradition of indigenous art, the development of South American visual art owed much to the influence of Spanish, Portuguese and French Baroque painting, which in turn often followed the trends of the Italian Masters. In general, this artistic Eurocentrism began to fade in the early twentieth century, as South Americans began to acknowledge the uniqueness of their condition and started to follow their own path.


Because of South America's ethnic mix, South American cuisine takes on African, American Indian, and European influences. Bahia, Brazil, is especially well known for its West African-influenced cuisine. Perú is especially well known for its ethnic mix influences like African, American Indian, European, Chinese, Japanese, and others.

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