POPULATION OF NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA.
Quantity and Density of Population. The total population of America amounts to over 400,000,000, of, which over 260,000,000 inhabit North America and the West Indies and 140,000,000 South America. Though America is almost as large as Asia, it has only one-fourth as many people.
The average density of population is 9 persons to the square kilometre, North America having the densest population.
Very thinly populated are Greenland and the other Arctic islands of North America, some being almost uninhabited.
Other thinly populated regions are the tundra and taiga in the north of the continent and the arid highlands in the west. In South America the interior of the Amazon lowland and Brazilian highland regions and the deserts of the south are very thinly populated.
More densely populated is the eastern part of North America between the Atlantic Ocean, the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico, certain parts of Central America and the West Indies, parts of the Atlantic coast in South America and parts of the Andes.
Fig. 174. A North American Indian wearing the old tribal dress
Ethnic Structure. America is inhabited by many different peoples.
The original inhabitants of America are the Indians (also called red Indians) with yellowish-brown, reddish-tinted skins (Fig. 174). During the 400 years that followed the discovery of America they were deprived of their lands and either enslaved or destroyed. There are very few Indians left today, especially in North America, where some remain in the tundras and taigas of the north and on the arid plateaus of the west. They are more numerous in Central and South America, where they inhabit the Andes region, the Amazon Lowlands and the western part of the Brazilian Highlands (Fig. 175).
The Eskimoes are also natives of North America. Few in number, they inhabit the coast of the Arctic Ocean and the southern coast of Greenland and hunt the seal and walrus.
Fig. 175. An Indian from the upper reaches of the Amazon.
There are many Negroes in America, descendants of former slaves brought from Africa to work on American plantations. Negroes are supposed to be free today, but their rights are greatly limited. They live mainly in the south-eastern states of the USA, in the West Indies and along the north-eastern coast of South America. They work as farm-labourers on cotton, tobacco or sugar-cane plantations. Some are metayers, called sharecroppers in America, who pay the landowners a share of their crops for the use of the land. The greater part of the present-day population of America are descendants of settlers from different countries of Europe.
There are many people in America, besides, of mixed European and Indian or Negro descent. The offspring of a European and Indian is called a half-breed, or metis; of a European and Negro — a mulatto.
North America differs greatly from South America in ethnic structure. In North America, the majority of the inhabitants are descendants of settlers from Northern, Western and Central Europe: Englishmen, Irishmen, Frenchmen, Germans, Jews, Poles and Ukrainians (the latter emigrated here before the October Revolution). English is the common language, except along the lower course of the St. Lawrence River, where French is spoken. There are very few Indians and half-breeds in North America.
Starting from the Mexican Plateau and the West Indies in the south of North America and throughout South America the ethnic structure changes entirely. .These lands were conquered by the Spaniards and Portuguese. Later came settlers from Italy, Germany and other countries. The spoken language is Spanish, and in the Brazilian Highlands and Amazon Lowlands—Portuguese. There are many half-breeds and Indians among the population. This part of America is called Latin America, as both the Spanish and Portuguese languages are descendants of Latin, the language of the Romans.
Questions and Assignments.
- Where are there more people, in America or Europe?
- Compare the population and zonal maps of North and South
America and point out the zones that are especially thinly populated.
- Mark on the outline map the places in America where the spoken languages are either English or French, Spanish or Portuguese.