Demographics of South America
Population and density
territory with flag
(km²) (per sq mi)
(July 2017 est.)
|Argentina||2,766,890 km2 (1,068,300 sq mi)||44,293,293||16.0/km² (41.4/sq mi)||Buenos Aires|
|Bolivia||1,098,580 km2 (424,160 sq mi)||11,138,234||10.13/km² (26.3/sq mi)||La Paz and Sucre|
|Brazil||8,514,877 km2 (3,287,612 sq mi)||207,353,391||24.35/km² (63.1/sq mi)||Brasília|
|Chile||756,950 km2 (292,260 sq mi)||17,789,267||23.5/km² (60.9/sq mi)||Santiago|
|Colombia||1,138,910 km2 (439,740 sq mi)||47,698,524||41.88/km² (105.9/sq mi)||Bogotá|
|Ecuador||283,560 km2 (109,480 sq mi)||16,290,913||57.45/km² (148.8/sq mi)||Quito|
|Falkland Islands (United Kingdom)||12,173 km2 (4,700 sq mi)||3,198||0.26/km² (0.7/sq mi)||Stanley|
|French Guiana (France)||91,000 km2 (35,000 sq mi)||221,500||2.7/km² (5.4/sq mi)||Cayenne|
|Guyana||214,999 km2 (83,012 sq mi)||737,718||3.43/km² (8.9/sq mi)||Georgetown|
|Paraguay||406,750 km2 (157,050 sq mi)||6,943,739||17.07/km² (44.2/sq mi)||Asunción|
|Peru||1,285,220 km2 (496,230 sq mi)||31,036,656||24.14/km² (62.5/sq mi)||Lima|
| South Georgia and
South Sandwich Islands (United Kingdom)
|3,093 km2 (1,194 sq mi)||30||0/km² (0/sq mi)||Grytviken|
|Suriname||163,270 km2 (63,040 sq mi)||591,919||3.62/km² (9.4/sq mi)||Paramaribo|
|Uruguay||176,220 km2 (68,040 sq mi)||3,360,148||19.06/km² (49.4/sq mi)||Montevideo|
|Venezuela||912,050 km2 (352,140 sq mi)||31,304,016||34.32/km² (88.9/sq mi)||Caracas|
An estimated 90% of South Americans are Christians (82% Roman Catholic, 8% other Christian denominations mainly Traditional Protestants and Evangelicals but also Orthodoxy), accounting for ca. 19% of Christians worldwide.
Both Buenos Aires, Argentina and São Paulo, Brazil figure among the largest Jewish populations by urban area.
Japanese Buddhism and Shinto-derived Japanese New Religions are common in Brazil and Peru. Korean Confucianism is especially found in Brazil while Chinese Buddhism and Chinese Confucianism is spread throughout the continent.
Kardecist Spiritism can be found in several countries.
Part of Religions in South America (2013):
|Countries||Christians||Roman Catholics||Other Christians||No religion (atheists and agnostics)|
|Argentina||88 %||77 %||11 %||11 %|
|Bolivia||96 %||74 %||22 %||4 %|
|Brazil||86 %||64 %||22 %||9 %|
|Chile||70 %||57 %||13 %||25 %|
|Colombia||92 %||80 %||12 %||7 %|
|Paraguay||95 %||85 %||10 %||2 %|
|Peru||94 %||81 %||13 %||3 %|
|Suriname||51 %||29 %||22 %||5 %|
|Uruguay||58 %||47 %||11 %||41 %|
|Venezuela||88 %||71 %||17 %||8 %|
In terms of race, the demographics of South America shows a mixture of Europeans, Anusim or Marranos, Arabs, Romanis, Amerindians, Africans and to a smaller extent East Asians. A mixture of Amerindian and European ancestry is often referred to as mestizo or caboclo/mameluco. Castizos are people whose DNA is mostly European with Indigenous markers assimilation. A mixture of Amerindian and African ancestry is referred to in many South American countries as zambo or cafuzo. A mixture of European and African ancestry is referred to as mulatto. A mix of European and Japanese is referred as ainoko or hafu. Chile administers Easter Island in the South Pacific, which is home to 2,500 Polynesians, the Rapa Nui people.
|Country||Amerindians||White people||Mestizos||Mulatos||Black people||Zambos||Asian people||Other|
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South America is home to 400 million people, of which 180 million is composed of Whites with several different European extractions and other lineages, including 17 million Levantine Arabs, mostly Christians from the Levant region, (found in Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia and Chile), 440 thousand Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews (mostly Argentina and Brazil, with both figuring among the top 10 largest Jewish diasporas) and 1.3 million Crypto-Jews or Anusim.
According to genetic tests, the most prevalent DNA marker in the continent considering Whites and all the mixed peoples are Iberian genes (Portuguese and Spaniard). After Iberian (i.e.Lusitanian, Galician, Castilian and Catalan), the main European ethnicities are Italian, German and Slavic, followed by French and Dutch.
Brazil has 31 million Italians and Argentina 20, Uruguay, Venezuela, Peru, Chile, Colombia and Ecuador also have considerable Italian diasporas. Brazil has 15.7 million Germans, Austrians, Luxembourgers and Swiss (second largest German diaspora after US) and Argentina 3.5 million consisting mostly of Russian Volga Germans. Other German groups can be found in Chile, Bolivia (mostly Mennonites), Paraguay (mostly German-Brazilians but including Mennonites), Peru, Uruguay and colonies in Venezuela.
Brazil has the largest Slavic population with the number of Poles  reaching 3 million people, followed by Ukrainians and Russians but comprising many other nationalities. Argentina following with the second largest number of Slavs, comprises a sizeable Croatian population, although Chile’s Croatian community is the largest outside Croatia.
Brazil has the largest Dutch and Scandinavian (mostly Norwegian) populations as well as the largest Lithuanian diaspora outside Baltic states. A small number of Boers or White Afrikaners migrated to South America during the 20th century, heading especially to Argentina and Brazil. And Lithuanian refugees fleeing the Nazi invasion and Soviet annexation in WW2 also formed communities in Colombia and Venezuela. Brazil also comprises the largest Hungarian, Estonian and Finnish diasporas, being followed by Argentina in terms of nationalities of Uralic languages. Argentina has the largest French and Irish populations, respectively 6 million and 1 million, while Argentine Patagonia is home to Welsh and Swedish colonies. Brazil and Chile are also home to considerable French ancestry populations. A great part of the French immigrants in Chile were of Basque descent, with the number of Basques estimated at around 4 million. Chile has 800 thousand British and Irish people. Brazil and Argentina also have sizable British Latin American populations, being the responsible for the introduction of football in the 19th century.
The number of Gypsies or Romani people revolves around 1.120 million, with a possibility of being much higher, being spread all over the continent. Most of the Romanis in Brazil are of Eastern European and Baltic background, while most of the Gypsies in Argentina, Chile and Colombia came from Spain.
South America is also home to 124 million Castizo, Mestizo or Caboclo people (citizens whose DNA is mostly European spanning from 65 to 90% European genes with considerable Indigenous admixture) and 27 million people with pure Indigenous extraction, mostly found in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile and parts of Argentina. Mestizos make the majority in Paraguay, Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador.
Black phenotype and Mulatto population are respectively 18 and 48 million, when combined 66 million. Mulattos have a range of 60 to 80% European genes and are mostly found in Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana where French ancestry Mulattos are the majority. To a much smaller percentage degree they can be found in Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia and Paraguay. The Guianas region where today are the independent states of Guyana and Suriname as well as France overseas department of French Guiana is home to the Maroons (formerly called "Bush Negroes") who are of African descent, with some Amerindian admixture. The Maroons, descendants of escaped African slaves, live primarily along the Maroni River.
Most East Indian (Tamil) Hindus and Muslims live in Guyana and Suriname which is also home to a large Muslim Javanese community. East Indians are the vast majority in Guyana, followed by Blacks and also the majority in Suriname where they are followed by Maroons and Creoles.
Indonesians from the island of Java make 13.7% of Suriname's population which figures as 275 thousand Javanese people. Dutch Surinamese or Boeroes make the minority of the country due to the fact that most of the Dutch emigrated to Brazil or returned to the Netherlands after Suriname's independence.
South America is home to over 5 million Asians, mostly East Asians, with Brazil and Peru having the largest Asian Latin American populations. Peru and Venezuela have greatly numerous 19th century Chinese coolie populations with almost 1.9 million Chinese people combined. Peru itself is home to over 1.4 million Chinese Peruvians, mostly arriving as indentured servants. The Asian-Brazilian population is mostly composed of Japanese descendants and Japanese nationals, but it also comprises over 250 thousand Chinese and 50 thousand Taiwanese recent immigrants. Colombia, Argentina and Ecuador also follow in numbers of Chinese immigrants.
Brazil is home to the largest Japanese and Korean populations in the continent with respectively 1.8 million and 140 thousand people. The Nipponic or Nipponese population in Brazil is the largest Japanese diaspora outside Japan. Koreans can also be found in Argentina, Colombia, Paraguay and Chile. Peru is home to 160 thousand Japanese descendants, and Nipponese populations are also found in Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Chile and Venezuela. Argentina is home to the largest Filipino population with 15 thousand people.
Other Asian nationalities can be found in smaller numbers, such as South Asians or East Indians, Southeast Asians and Central Asians. Brazil has 5 thousand Vietnamese people, 10 thousand East Indians, as well as 5 thousand Afghans, and a small number of Iranians. Chile and Argentina also have small numbers of Southern Asians or East Indians, while being home to most Southeast Asians, mostly Filipino.
Brazil is home to the largest White Latin American population in absolute numbers constituting 98 million people. Uruguay has the largest percentage with 90.7% being Caucasian or over 3 million people. Argentina equally corresponds to the second largest population and percentage with 39 million people, followed by Colombia with 18m, Venezuela 13.1m, Chile 9.5m, Peru 5.8m, Bolivia 2m, Paraguay 1.3m and Ecuador with 980 thousand.
Roughly 14% of the population in French Guiana is of European ancestry, numbering at 35 thousand people. The vast majority of these are of French heritage, though there are also people of Dutch, British, Spanish and Portuguese ancestry. Countries that make part of South America but do not have Romance languages as their official national languages are Guyana, Suriname and the Falkland Islands.
Suriname has 2% of Caucasians or 12 thousand people, including Lebanese and Jews. Most Boeroes or Dutch Surinamese left after independence in 1975. There are less than 3 thousand Whites in Guyana where 0.5% of the population is counted as "others". The Falkland Islands have a low population density.
According to the 2012 census, the average daily population of the Falklands was 2,932, excluding military personnel serving in the archipelago and their dependents. The Falklands are a homogeneous society, with the majority of inhabitants descended from Scottish and Welsh immigrants who settled the territory in 1833. Other groups are English, French, Gibraltarian, Scandinavian, Saint Helenian, Chilean and Argentine.
Indigenous people make up about half of the population of Peru and Bolivia. In many places indigenous people still practice a traditional lifestyle based on subsistence agriculture or as hunter-gatherers. There are still some uncontacted tribes residing in the Amazon Rainforest.
Argentina's indigenous population in 2005 was about 600,329 (1.6% of total population); this figure includes 457,363 people who self-identified as belonging to an indigenous ethnic group, and the remaining 142,966 who recognized themselves as first-generation descendants of an Amerindian people. The ten most populous indigenous peoples are the Mapuche (113,680 people), the Kolla (70,505), the Toba (69,452) and the Guaraní (68,454).
In Bolivia, a 62% majority of residents over the age of 15 self-identify as belonging to an indigenous people, while another 3.7% grew up with an indigenous mother tongue yet do not self-identify as indigenous. Including both of these categories, and children under 15, some 66.4% of Bolivia's population was registered as indigenous in the 2001 Census. The largest indigenous ethnic groups are: Quechua (about 2,500,000 people), Aymara (2,000,000), Chiquitano (181.000), Guaraní (126.000) and Mojeño (69,000).
The Amerindians make up 0.4% of Brazil's population, or about 700,000 people. Indigenous peoples are found in the entire territory of Brazil, although the majority of them live in indigenous territories in the North and Centre-Western part of the country. On 18 January 2007, FUNAI reported that it had confirmed the presence of 67 different uncontacted tribes in Brazil, up from 40 in 2005. With this addition Brazil has now overtaken the island of New Guinea as the country having the largest number of uncontacted tribes.
According to the 2002 Census, 4.6% of the Chilean population (including the Rapanui of Easter Island) 692,000 persons was self-identified of indigenous origins. Many are descendants of the Mapuche, and live in Santiago, Araucanía and the lake district. Other groups include the Aimara who live mainly in Arica-Parinacota and Tarapacá Region and has the mayority of their alikes living in Bolivia and Peru and the Alacalufe survivors who now reside mainly in Puerto Edén.
Colombia's indigenous peoples nonetheless encompass at least 85 distinct cultures and more than 1,378,884 people. A variety of collective rights for indigenous peoples are recognized in the 1991 Constitution. One of these is the Muisca culture, a subset of the larger Chibcha ethnic group, famous for their use of gold, which led to the legend of El Dorado.
At the present the 25% of Ecuador's population is of indigenous heritage. Approximately 96.4% of Ecuador's Indigenous population are Highland Quichuas living in the valleys of the Sierra region. Primarily consisting of the descendants of Incans, they are Kichwa speakers and include the Caranqui, the Otavaleños, the Cayambi, the Quitu-Caras, the Panzaleo, the Chimbuelo, the Salasacan, the Tugua, the Puruhá, the Cañari, and the Saraguro.
Indigenous population in Peru make up around 34%. Native Peruvian traditions and customs have shaped the way Peruvians live and see themselves today. Cultural citizenship—or what Renato Rosaldo has called, "the right to be different and to belong, in a democratic, participatory sense" (1996:243)—is not yet very well developed in Peru. This is perhaps no more apparent than in the country's Amazonian regions where indigenous societies continue to struggle against state-sponsored economic abuses, cultural discrimination, and pervasive violence.
- Land areas and population estimates are taken from The 2008 World Factbook which currently uses August 2007 data, unless otherwise noted.
- "The World Factbook — Central Intelligence Agency". www.cia.gov. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
- La Paz is the administrative capital of Bolivia;
- Includes Easter Island in the Pacific Ocean, a Chilean territory frequently reckoned in Oceania. Santiago is the administrative capital of Chile; Valparaíso is the site of legislative meetings.
- Claimed by Argentina.
- "The World Factbook — Central Intelligence Agency". www.cia.gov. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
- (Jan. 2009) INSEE, Government of France. "Population des régions au 1er janvier" (in French). Retrieved 20 January 2009.
- Claimed by Argentina; the South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands in the South Atlantic Ocean are commonly associated with Antarctica (due to proximity) and have no permanent population, only hosting a periodic contingent of about 100 researchers and visitors.
- Christians – Pew Research Center
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