America. Second largest continent in the world, after Asia. It occupies a large part of the western hemisphere of the Earth. It extends from the Arctic Ocean in the north to Cape Horn in the south, at the confluence of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans that delimit the continent in the east and west, respectively.
On August 3, 1492, Columbus departed from Puerto de Palos (Spain) and on October 12 of that year the crew disembarked for the first time on Guanahani Island, renamed San Salvador. The phrase "discovery of America" does not at all describe what really happened. America and its inhabitants existed before it was "discovered". With the arrival of the Spaniards, the introduction of new diseases such as smallpox, produced a demographic catastrophe that some researchers estimate even in the death of 93% of the population. Within this framework, some European empires conquered and colonized a part of the continent occupied by already established cultures and civilizations. Spain defeated the great Aztec and Inca civilizations and established its Empire along the entire Pacific coast and the Rio de la Plata basin, while Portugal would colonize the coastal strip of what is now Brazil. France established some colonies on the Atlantic coastal strip from present-day Canada to northern Brazil. The United Kingdom established itself on the eastern coast of North America and in some sectors of the Caribbean coast. Holland and Denmark established colonies on small islands in the Caribbean and Russia finally conquered the area of Alaska.
After three centuries of colonial rule, the American peoples began to declare their independence by claiming their right to organize themselves as nation states, militarily confronting the European powers, thus opening the world process of decolonization. In 1775 the colonists living on the Atlantic coast of North America rebelled against the English metropolis. Relations between the colonies and the metropolis became increasingly tense, with frequent violent incidents. In May 1775 the Second Continental Congress took place. George Washington, considered the wealthiest American colonist, was elected Commander of the American forces, while Thomas Jefferson (slave owner) drafted the Declaration of Independence, which was approved on July 4, 1776. In 1804 the slaves of African origin in Haiti rose up against the French colonists, declaring the independence of this country and making the first social revolution of the continent, because the Thirteen Colonies had abolished slavery
From 1809 onwards, the peoples under Spanish domination carried out a Spanish-American War of Independence, of continental scope, which led, after complex processes, to the emergence of several nations: Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. In 1844 and 1898 the process was completed with the independence of the Dominican Republic and Cuba, respectively, the latter mediated by the intervention of the United States. In 1816, a huge independent South American state was formed, called Gran Colombia, which covered the territories of what is now Panama, Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador. The Republic was dissolved in 1830. In 1822 Brazil was organized as an independent monarchy, the Empire of Brazil, when the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarve were dissolved, until 1889 when the monarchy was abolished to establish a republic. In 1867, the United States and Great Britain negotiated an independence process with restrictions for Canada, which was consolidated during the 20th century. In the second half of the 20th century, due to the pressure of the decolonization process promoted by the United Nations, several Caribbean peoples obtained their independence from Great Britain: Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago. Simultaneously, Suriname became independent from the Netherlands and Guyana from the United Kingdom. Today, there are still several peoples and territories under British, French and Dutch colonial rule.
Among the most important political events in contemporary American history are the Mexican Revolution (1910-1917), and the Cuban Revolution (1959). There were also a number of dictatorships, some of them very bloody, in Latin American countries with the support of the United States. Current events in Latin America and the Caribbean indicate that the peoples of this part of the world have embarked on a course of independence and social justice through institutional paths inspired and supported by a revolution in Cuba that has been able to resist and demonstrate the feasibility of such achievements despite the hostility of the United States of America. Although Imperialism had found a way to contain the processes of rebellion of the peoples by intensifying the methods of repression and combat with resources overwhelmingly greater than those available to the armed struggle of the revolutionaries of the continent on the scale of isolated countries, the peoples had not had the last word. In Venezuela, Commander Hugo Chávez Frías failed in an armed uprising in 1992 against one of the governments of the IV Republic, but then he tried his political strategy and, sustaining in his proselytizing campaign a program of unprecedented social projections, he obtained, against all odds, the presidential election in December 1998. Then came the victories of candidates not backed by the classic political machinery representing the oligarchies or by the United States embassies in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Honduras, Panama, Chile, Haiti, Peru, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Guatemala. The 21st century of America is called to become that of its second and definitive independence, and the region is called to become one of the great poles of economic and social power on the planet. Since the end of the 19th century, under American hegemony, the countries of the Americas created institutions such as the Organization of American States (OAS) in 1948. On the other hand, since the end of the 20th century, the countries of the Americas have intensified their efforts to integrate themselves sub-regionally in various bodies such as Mercosur (Southern Common Market), the Andean Community of Nations (CAN), the Central American Integration System (SICA), Caricom (Caribbean Community) and the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), which is the most advanced.
America corresponds to the second largest land mass on the planet, after Asia. It has an approximate extension of 42,437,680 km² and extends from north to south from Cape Columbia (58ºN, Canada) in the Arctic Ocean to the Diego Ramirez Islands (56ºS, Chile), located in the Drake Passage that separates the American continent from Antarctica. Its easternmost point corresponds to Cape Branco in Brazil (34°47'W) while its westernmost point corresponds to Attu Island in the Aleutian Islands (173°11'E), next to the Bering Strait that separates Alaska from the Asian continent.
In the American territory the plates of the terrestrial crust (North American, of the Caribbean and South American) in their displacement from the center of the Atlantic towards the west, form the mountainous cord of the western edge of America product of the process of subduction of the plate of the Pacific. It is basically composed of a series of high mountain ranges on the western coast (mainly the Rocky Mountains, the Sierra Madre Occidental and the Andes, all part of the Ring of Fire) as a result of the collision of the continental plates with the oceanic and plains in the eastern areas. The coast, although largely regular, presents sections dismembered mainly in their ends giving rise to the islands of the Canadian Arctic and Greenland in the north, and Chile and Tierra del Fuego in the southern zone. Other important groups of islands correspond to the Aleutian Islands in the northwestern end, the Antilles in the Caribbean Sea, the Galapagos Islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic.
It is the fourth most populated continent after Asia, Africa and Europe and is also one of the least densely populated, due to its large area. Three quarters of the population lives in cities. The American continent is composed of 36 countries, 23 colonial dependencies, three French departments, and the so-called free associated state of Puerto Rico considered a colony of the United States by the UN decolonization committee.