Ethnic groups in South America

South America has an estimated population of 385 million (as of 2005) and a rate of population growth of about 0.6% per year.

Population and density

Country or
territory with flag
(km²)[1] (per sq mi)
(July 2009 est.)[1]
Population density
per km²
 Argentina 2,766,890 km2 (1,068,300 sq mi) 40,482,000 14.3/km² (37/sq mi) Buenos Aires
 Bolivia 1,098,580 km2 (424,160 sq mi) 9,863,000 8.4/km² (21.8/sq mi) La Paz and Sucre[2]
 Brazil 8,514,877 km2 (3,287,612 sq mi) 191,241,714 22.0/km² (57/sq mi) Brasília
 Chile[3]   756,950 km2 (292,260 sq mi) 16,928,873 22/km² (57/sq mi) Santiago
 Colombia 1,138,910 km2 (439,740 sq mi) 45,928,970 40/km² (103.6/sq mi) Bogotá
 Ecuador   283,560 km2 (109,480 sq mi) 14,573,101 53.8/km² (139.3/sq mi) Quito
 Falkland Islands (United Kingdom)[4]    12,173 km2 (4,700 sq mi) 3,140[5] 0.26/km² (0.7/sq mi) Port Stanley
 French Guiana (France)    91,000 km2 (35,000 sq mi) 221,500[6] 2.7/km² (5.4/sq mi) Cayenne
 Guyana   214,999 km2 (83,012 sq mi) 772,298 3.5/km² (9.1/sq mi) Georgetown
 Paraguay   406,750 km2 (157,050 sq mi) 6,831,306 15.6/km² (40.4/sq mi) Asunción
 Peru 1,285,220 km2 (496,230 sq mi) 29,132,013 22/km² (57/sq mi) Lima
South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Georgia and
South Sandwich Islands
(United Kingdom)
    3,093 km2 (1,194 sq mi) 20 0/km² (0/sq mi) Grytviken
 Suriname   163,270 km2 (63,040 sq mi) 472,000 3/km² (7.8/sq mi) Paramaribo
 Uruguay   176,220 km2 (68,040 sq mi) 3,477,780 19.4/km² (50.2/sq mi) Montevideo
 Venezuela   912,050 km2 (352,140 sq mi) 26,814,843 30.2/km² (72/sq mi) Caracas
Total 17,824,513 385,742,554 21.5/km²


An estimated 90% of South Americans are Christians (82% Roman Catholic, 9% other Christian denominations), accounting for ca. 19% of Christians worldwide.


In terms of ethnicity, the demographics of South America shows a mixture of Europeans, Amerindians, and Africans. A mixture of Amerindian and European ancestry is often referred to as mestizo. A mixture of Amerindian and African ancestry is referred to in many South American countries as zambo. A mixture of European and African ancestry is referred to as mulatto.

Indigenous peoples

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 subsistense 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.[8] 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.[9] Including both of these categories, and children under 15, some 66.4% of Bolivia's population was registered as indigenous in the 2001 Census.[10] 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.[11][12] Indigenous peoples are found in the entire territory of Brazil, although the majority of them live in Indian reservations 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.[13]


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.[14] 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.[15][16] 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 descendents 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 30%. 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.[17]


See also

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