South America is a continent located in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. It can also be considered as a subcontinent of the Americas.
It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east by the Atlantic Ocean; North America and the Caribbean Sea lie to the northwest. It includes twelve sovereign states – Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela – and two non-sovereign areas – French Guiana, an overseas department of France, and the Falkland Islands, a British Overseas Territory (though disputed by Argentina). In addition to this, the ABC islands of the Netherlands may also be considered part of South America.
South America has an area of 17,840,000 square kilometers (6,890,000 sq mi). Its population as of 2005 has been estimated at more than 371,090,000. South America ranks fourth in area (after Asia, Africa, and North America) and fifth in population (after Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America).
Most of the population lives near the western or eastern coasts of the continent while the interior and the far south are sparsely populated. The geography of western South America is dominated by the Andes mountains; in contrast, the eastern part contains both highland regions and large lowlands where rivers such as the Amazon, Paraná and Orinoco flow. Most of the continent lies in the tropics.
In terms of culture, ethnic groups and races the continent is diverse but shows some elements of homogeneity (e.g. official languages, religion). It hosts cultures originated at traditions of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas as well as immigrants from mostly Europe, Africa and Asia, as well as its own innovations and cultural contact with its neighbor North America. Given a history of colonialism, most South Americans speak Portuguese or Spanish, and societies and states commonly reflect Western traditions.