South America Destination Guides
The country’s name comes from the Latin word for silver, argentum, and Argentina is indeed a great source of valuable minerals. More important, however, has been Argentina’s production of livestock and cereals, for which it once ranked among the world’s wealthiest nations. Much of this agricultural activity is set in the Pampas, rich grasslands that were once the domain of nomadic Native Americans, followed by rough-riding gauchos, who were in turn forever enshrined in the nation’s romantic literature.
Brazil is the only Latin American nation that derives its language and culture from Portugal. The native inhabitants mostly consisted of the nomadic Tupí-Guaraní Indians. Adm. Pedro Álvares Cabral claimed the territory for Portugal in 1500. The early explorers brought back a wood that produced a red dye, pau-brasil, from which the land received its name. Portugal began colonization in 1532 and made the area a royal colony in 1549.
In 1520 Ferdinand Magellan was the first European to see Chile. In 1540 Pedro de Valdivia a Spanish conquistador came to Chile where he founded several cities, despite resistance from the Araucanians. One of these cities he founded was Santiago, which is now Chile's capital and largest city. In 1553 the Native Americans led several successful revolts against the Spanish conquerors, killing Valdivia and devastating most of the cities he founded. This lead to nearly 100 years of warfare. Eventually, the Spanish dominated, but even then strife and conflicts continued for many more years.