The Americas (also collectively called America; French: Amérique, Spanish/Portuguese: América) comprise the totality of the continents of North and South America. Together, they make up most of the land in Earth's western hemisphere and comprise the New World.
Along with their associated islands, they cover 8% of Earth's total surface area and 28.4% of its land area. The topography is dominated by the American Cordillera, a long chain of mountains that runs the length of the west coast. The flatter eastern side of the Americas is dominated by large river basins, such as the Amazon, St. Lawrence River / Great Lakes basin, Mississippi, and La Plata. Since the Americas extend 14,000 km (8,700 mi) from north to south, the climate and ecology vary widely, from the arctic tundra of Northern Canada, Greenland, and Alaska, to the tropical rain forests in Central America and South America.
Humans first settled the Americas from Asia between 42,000 and 17,000 years ago. A second migration of Na-Dene speakers followed later from Asia. The subsequent migration of the Inuit into the neoarctic around 3500 BCE completed what is generally regarded as the settlement by the indigenous peoples of the Americas.
The first known European settlement in the Americas was by the Norse explorer Leif Erikson. However, the colonization never became permanent and was later abandoned. The Spanish voyages of Christopher Columbus from 1492 to 1502 resulted in permanent contact with European (and subsequently, other Old World) powers, which led to the Columbian exchange and inaugurated a period of exploration, conquest, and colonization whose effects and consequences persist to the present.
Diseases introduced from Europe and West Africa devastated the indigenous peoples, and the European powers colonized the Americas. Mass emigration from Europe, including large numbers of indentured servants, and importation of African slaves largely replaced the indigenous peoples.
Decolonization of the Americas began with the American Revolution in the 1770s and largely ended with the Spanish–American War in the late 1890s. Currently, almost all of the population of the Americas resides in independent countries; however, the legacy of the colonization and settlement by Europeans is that the Americas share many common cultural traits, most notably Christianity and the use of Indo-European languages: primarily Spanish, English, Portuguese, French, and to a lesser extent Dutch.
The Americas are home to over a billion inhabitants, two-thirds of which reside in the United States, Brazil, or Mexico. It is home to eight megacities (metropolitan areas with ten million inhabitants or more): New York City (23.9 million), Mexico City (21.2 million), São Paulo (21.2 million), Los Angeles (18.8 million), Buenos Aires (13.8 million), Rio de Janeiro (13.0 million), Bogotá (10.4 million), and Lima (10.1 million).
(16,428,000 sq mi)
|Population||1,001,559,000 (2016 estimate)|
|Population density||23.53896/km2 (60.9656/sq mi)|
|GDP (nominal)||$24.6 trillion (2016 estimate)|
|GDP per capita||$25,229 (2015)|
|Demonym||American, New Worlder (see usage)|
|Languages||Spanish, English, Portuguese, French, Haitian Creole, Quechua, Guaraní, Aymara, Nahuatl, Dutch and many others|
|Time zones||UTC−10:00 to UTC|
|Largest cities||Largest metropolitan areas|
|UN M.49 code|
The name America was first recorded in 1507. Christie's auction house says a two-dimensional globe created by Martin Waldseemüller was the earliest recorded use of the term. The name was also used (together with the related term Amerigen) in the Cosmographiae Introductio, apparently written by Matthias Ringmann, in reference to South America. It was applied to both North and South America by Gerardus Mercator in 1538. America derives from Americus, the Latin version of Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci's first name. The feminine form America accorded with the feminine names of Asia, Africa, and Europa.
In modern English, North and South America are generally considered separate continents, and taken together are called America or the Americas in the plural. When conceived as a unitary continent, the form is generally the continent of America in the singular. However, without a clarifying context, singular America in English commonly refers to the United States of America.
Historically, in the English-speaking world, the term America used to refer to a single continent until the 1950s (as in Van Loon's Geography of 1937): According to historians Kären Wigen and Martin W. Lewis,
While it might seem surprising to find North and South America still joined into a single continent in a book published in the United States in 1937, such a notion remained fairly common until World War II. [...] By the 1950s, however, virtually all American geographers had come to insist that the visually distinct landmasses of North and South America deserved separate designations.
This shift did not seem to happen in Romance-speaking countries (including France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Romania, and the Romance-speaking countries of Latin America and Africa), where America is still considered a continent encompassing the North America and South America subcontinents, as well as Central America.
The first inhabitants migrated into the Americas from Asia. Habitation sites are known in Alaska and the Yukon from at least 20,000 years ago, with suggested ages of up to 40,000 years. Beyond that, the specifics of the Paleo-Indian migration to and throughout the Americas, including the dates and routes traveled, are subject to ongoing research and discussion. Widespread habitation of the Americas occurred during the late glacial maximum, from 16,000 to 13,000 years ago.
The traditional theory has been that these early migrants moved into the Beringia land bridge between eastern Siberia and present-day Alaska around 40,000–17,000 years ago, when sea levels were significantly lowered during the Quaternary glaciation. These people are believed to have followed herds of now-extinct pleistocene megafauna along ice-free corridors that stretched between the Laurentide and Cordilleran ice sheets. Another route proposed is that, either on foot or using primitive boats, they migrated down the Pacific coast to South America. Evidence of the latter would since have been covered by a sea level rise of hundreds of meters following the last ice age. Both routes may have been taken, although the genetic evidences suggests a single founding population. The micro-satellite diversity and distributions specific to South American Indigenous people indicates that certain populations have been isolated since the initial colonization of the region.
A second migration occurred after the initial peopling of the Americas; Na Dene speakers found predominantly in North American groups at varying genetic rates with the highest frequency found among the Athabaskans at 42% derive from this second wave. Linguists and biologists have reached a similar conclusion based on analysis of Amerindian language groups and ABO blood group system distributions. Then the people of the Arctic small tool tradition a broad cultural entity that developed along the Alaska Peninsula, around Bristol Bay, and on the eastern shores of the Bering Strait around 2,500 BCE (4,500 years ago) moved into North America. The Arctic small tool tradition, a Paleo-Eskimo culture branched off into two cultural variants, including the Pre-Dorset, and the Independence traditions of Greenland. The descendants of the Pre-Dorset cultural group, the Dorset culture was displaced by the final migrants from the Bering sea coast line the ancestors of modern Inuit, the Thule people by 1000 Common Era (CE). Around the same time as the Inuit migrated into Greenland, Viking settlers began arriving in Greenland in 982 and Vinland shortly thereafter, establishing a settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows, near the northernmost tip of Newfoundland. The Viking settlers quickly abandoned Vinland, and disappeared from Greenland by 1500.
The pre-Columbian era incorporates all period subdivisions in the history and prehistory of the Americas before the appearance of significant European influences on the American continents, spanning the time of the original settlement in the Upper Paleolithic to European colonization during the Early Modern period. The term Pre-Columbian is used especially often in the context of the great indigenous civilizations of the Americas, such as those of Mesoamerica (the Olmec, the Toltec, the Teotihuacano, the Zapotec, the Mixtec, the Aztec, and the Maya) and the Andes (Inca, Moche, Muisca, Cañaris).
Many pre-Columbian civilizations established characteristics and hallmarks which included permanent or urban settlements, agriculture, civic and monumental architecture, and complex societal hierarchies. Some of these civilizations had long faded by the time of the first permanent European arrivals (c. late 15th–early 16th centuries), and are known only through archeological investigations. Others were contemporary with this period, and are also known from historical accounts of the time. A few, such as the Maya, had their own written records. However, most Europeans of the time viewed such texts as pagan, and much was destroyed in Christian pyres. Only a few hidden documents remain today, leaving modern historians with glimpses of ancient culture and knowledge.
Although there had been previous trans-oceanic contact, large-scale European colonization of the Americas began with the first voyage of Christopher Columbus in 1492. The first Spanish settlement in the Americas was La Isabela in northern Hispaniola. This town was abandoned shortly after in favor of Santo Domingo de Guzmán, founded in 1496, the oldest American city of European foundation. This was the base from which the Spanish monarchy administered its new colonies and their expansion. On the continent, Panama City on the Pacific coast of Central America, founded on August 5, 1519, played an important role, being the base for the Spanish conquest of South America. The spread of new diseases brought by Europeans and Africans killed many of the inhabitants of North America and South America, with a general population crash of Native Americans occurring in the mid-16th century, often well ahead of European contact. European immigrants were often part of state-sponsored attempts to found colonies in the Americas. Migration continued as people moved to the Americas fleeing religious persecution or seeking economic opportunities. Millions of individuals were forcibly transported to the Americas as slaves, prisoners or indentured servants.
Decolonization of the Americas began with the American Revolution and the Haitian Revolution in the late 1700s. This was followed by numerous Latin American wars of independence in the early 1800s. Between 1811 and 1825, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile, Gran Colombia, the United Provinces of Central America, Mexico, Brazil, Peru, and Bolivia gained independence from Spain and Portugal in armed revolutions. After the Dominican Republic won independence from Haiti, it was re-annexed by Spain in 1861, but reclaimed its independence in 1865 at the conclusion of the Dominican Restoration War. The last violent episode of decolonization was the Cuban War of Independence which became the Spanish–American War, which resulted in the independence of Cuba in 1898, and the transfer of sovereignty over Puerto Rico from Spain to the United States.
Peaceful decolonization began with the purchase by the United States of Louisiana from France in 1803, Florida from Spain in 1819, of Alaska from Russia in 1867, and the Danish West Indies from Denmark in 1916. Canada became independent of the United Kingdom, starting with the Balfour Declaration of 1926, Statute of Westminster 1931, and ending with the patriation of the Canadian Constitution in 1982. The Dominion of Newfoundland similarly achieved partial independence under the Balfour Declaration and Statute of Westminster, but was re-absorbed into the United Kingdom in 1934. It was subsequently confederated with Canada in 1949.
The remaining European colonies in the Caribbean began to achieve peaceful independence well after World War II. Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago became independent in 1962, and Guyana and Barbados both achieved independence in 1966. In the 1970s, the Bahamas, Grenada, Dominica, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines all became independent of the United Kingdom, and Suriname became independent of the Netherlands. Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, and Saint Kitts and Nevis achieved independence from the United Kingdom in the 1980s.
The Americas make up most of the land in Earth's western hemisphere. The northernmost point of the Americas is Kaffeklubben Island, which is the most northerly point of land on Earth. The southernmost point is the islands of Southern Thule, although they are sometimes considered part of Antarctica. The mainland of the Americas is the world's longest north-to-south landmass. The distance between its two polar extremities, the Boothia Peninsula in northern Canada and Cape Froward in Chilean Patagonia, is roughly 14,000 km (8,700 mi). The mainland's most westerly point is the end of the Seward Peninsula in Alaska; Attu Island, further off the Alaskan coast to the west, is considered the westernmost point of the Americas. Ponta do Seixas in northeastern Brazil forms the easternmost extremity of the mainland, while Nordostrundingen, in Greenland, is the most easterly point of the continental shelf.
South America broke off from the west of the supercontinent Gondwana around 135 million years ago, forming its own continent. Around 15 million years ago, the collision of the Caribbean Plate and the Pacific Plate resulted in the emergence of a series of volcanoes along the border that created a number of islands. The gaps in the archipelago of Central America filled in with material eroded off North America and South America, plus new land created by continued volcanism. By three million years ago, the continents of North America and South America were linked by the Isthmus of Panama, thereby forming the single landmass of the Americas. The Great American Interchange resulted in many species being spread across the Americas, such as the cougar, porcupine, opossums, armadillos and hummingbirds.
The geography of the western Americas is dominated by the American cordillera, with the Andes running along the west coast of South America and the Rocky Mountains and other North American Cordillera ranges running along the western side of North America. The 2,300-kilometer-long (1,400 mi) Appalachian Mountains run along the east coast of North America from Alabama to Newfoundland. North of the Appalachians, the Arctic Cordillera runs along the eastern coast of Canada.
The largest mountain ranges are the Andes and Rocky Mountains. The Sierra Nevada and the Cascade Range reach similar altitudes as the Rocky Mountains, but are significantly smaller. In North America, the greatest number of fourteeners are in the United States, and more specifically in the U.S. state of Colorado. The highest peaks of the Americas are located in the Andes, with Aconcagua of Argentina being the highest; in North America Denali (Mount McKinley) in the U.S. state of Alaska is the tallest.
Between its coastal mountain ranges, North America has vast flat areas. The Interior Plains spread over much of the continent, with low relief. The Canadian Shield covers almost 5 million km² of North America and is generally quite flat. Similarly, the north-east of South America is covered by the flat Amazon Basin. The Brazilian Highlands on the east coast are fairly smooth but show some variations in landform, while farther south the Gran Chaco and Pampas are broad lowlands.
The climate of the Americas varies significantly from region to region. Tropical rainforest climate occurs in the latitudes of the Amazon, American cloud forests, Florida and Darien Gap. In the Rocky Mountains and Andes, dry and continental climates are observed. Often the higher altitudes of these mountains are snow-capped.
Southeastern North America is well known for its occurrence of tornadoes and hurricanes, of which the vast majority of tornadoes occur in the United States' Tornado Alley. Often parts of the Caribbean are exposed to the violent effects of hurricanes. These weather systems are formed by the collision of dry, cool air from Canada and wet, warm air from the Atlantic.
With coastal mountains and interior plains, the Americas have several large river basins that drain the continents. The largest river basin in North America is that of the Mississippi, covering the second largest watershed on the planet. The Mississippi-Missouri river system drains most of 31 states of the U.S., most of the Great Plains, and large areas between the Rocky and Appalachian mountains. This river is the fourth longest in the world and tenth most powerful in the world.
In North America, to the east of the Appalachian Mountains, there are no major rivers but rather a series of rivers and streams that flow east with their terminus in the Atlantic Ocean, such as the Hudson River, Saint John River, and Savannah River. A similar instance arises with central Canadian rivers that drain into Hudson Bay; the largest being the Churchill River. On the west coast of North America, the main rivers are the Colorado River, Columbia River, Yukon River, Fraser River, and Sacramento River.
The Colorado River drains much of the Southern Rockies and parts of the Great Basin and Range Province. The river flows approximately 1,450 miles (2,330 km) into the Gulf of California, during which over time it has carved out natural phenomena such as the Grand Canyon and created phenomena such as the Salton Sea. The Columbia is a large river, 1,243 miles (2,000 km) long, in central western North America and is the most powerful river on the West Coast of the Americas. In the far northwest of North America, the Yukon drains much of the Alaskan peninsula and flows 1,980 miles (3,190 km) from parts of Yukon and the Northwest Territory to the Pacific. Draining to the Arctic Ocean of Canada, the Mackenzie River drains waters from the Arctic Great Lakes of Arctic Canada, as opposed to the Saint-Lawrence River that drains the Great Lakes of Southern Canada into the Atlantic Ocean. The Mackenzie River is the largest in Canada and drains 1,805,200 square kilometers (697,000 sq mi).
The largest river basin in South America is that of the Amazon, which has the highest volume flow of any river on Earth. The second largest watershed of South America is that of the Paraná River, which covers about 2.5 million km².
North America and South America began to develop a shared population of flora and fauna around 2.5 million years ago, when continental drift brought the two continents into contact via the Isthmus of Panama. Initially, the exchange of biota was roughly equal, with North American genera migrating into South America in about the same proportions as South American genera migrated into North America. This exchange is known as the Great American Interchange. The exchange became lopsided after roughly a million years, with the total spread of South American genera into North America far more limited in scope than the spread on North American genera into South America.
There are 35 sovereign states in the Americas, as well as an autonomous country of Denmark, three overseas departments of France, three overseas collectivities of France, and one uninhabited territory of France, eight overseas territories of the United Kingdom, three constituent countries of the Netherlands, three public bodies of the Netherlands, two unincorporated territories of the United States, and one uninhabited territory of the United States.
|Country or territory||Area
|Languages (official in bold)||Capital|
|Anguilla (United Kingdom)||91||13,452||164.8||English||The Valley|
|Antigua and Barbuda||442||86,295||199.1||Creole, English||St. John's|
|Aruba (Netherlands)||180||101,484||594.4||Papiamentu, Spanish, Dutch||Oranjestad|
|Bahamas, The||13,943||351,461||24.5||Creole, English||Nassau|
|Belize||22,966||349,728||13.4||Spanish, Kriol, English||Belmopan|
|Bermuda (United Kingdom)||54||64,237||1,203.7||English||Hamilton|
|Bolivia||1,098,580||10,027,254||8.4||Spanish and 36 indigenous languages||La Paz and Sucre |
|Bonaire (Netherlands)||294||12,093||41.1||Papiamentu, Spanish, Dutch||Kralendijk|
|Bouvet Island (Norway)||49||0||0||Uninhabited||—|
|British Virgin Islands (United Kingdom)||151||29,537||152.3||English||Road Town|
|Cayman Islands (United Kingdom)||264||55,456||212.1||English||George Town|
|Clipperton Island (France)||6||0||0.0||Uninhabited||—|
|Costa Rica||51,100||4,667,096||89.6||Spanish||San José|
|Curaçao (Netherlands)||444||150,563||317.1||Papiamentu, Dutch||Willemstad|
|Dominica||751||71,293||89.2||French Patois, English||Roseau|
|Dominican Republic||48,671||10,378,267||207.3||Spanish||Santo Domingo|
|El Salvador||21,041||6,401,240||293.0||Spanish||San Salvador|
|Falkland Islands (United Kingdom)||12,173||3,000||0.26||English||Stanley|
|French Guiana (France)||91,000||237,549||2.7||French||Cayenne|
|Greenland (Denmark)||2,166,086||56,483||0.026||Greenlandic, Danish||Nuuk (Godthåb)|
|Guatemala||108,889||15,806,675||128.8||Spanish, Garifuna and 23 Mayan languages||Guatemala City|
|Martinique (France)||1,128||392,291||352.6||Patois, French||Fort-de-France|
|Mexico||1,964,375||119,713,203||57.1||Spanish, 68 indigenous languages||Mexico City|
|Montserrat (United Kingdom)||102||4,922||58.8||Creole English, English||Plymouth; Brades|
|Navassa Island (United States)||5||0||0.0||Uninhabited||—|
|Peru||1,285,220||30,814,175||22||Spanish, Quechua, Aymara||Lima|
|Puerto Rico (United States)||8,870||3,615,086||448.9||Spanish, English||San Juan|
|Saba (Netherlands)||13||1,537||118.2||English, Dutch||The Bottom|
|Saint Barthélemy (France)||21||8,938||354.7||French||Gustavia|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||261||55,000||199.2||English||Basseterre|
|Saint Lucia||539||180,000||319.1||English, French Creole||Castries|
|Saint Martin (France)||54||36,979||552.2||French||Marigot|
|Saint Pierre and Miquelon (France)||242||6,081||24.8||French||Saint-Pierre|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||389||109,000||280.2||English||Kingstown|
|Sint Eustatius (Netherlands)||21||2,739||130.4||Dutch, English||Oranjestad|
|Sint Maarten (Netherlands)||34||37,429||1,176.7||English, Spanish, Dutch||Philipsburg|
| South Georgia and
South Sandwich Islands (UK)
|Suriname||163,270||534,189||3||Dutch and others||Paramaribo|
|Trinidad and Tobago||5,130||1,328,019||261.0||English||Port of Spain|
|Turks and Caicos Islands (UK)||948||31,458||34.8||Creole English, English||Cockburn Town|
|United States[note 2]||9,629,091||320,206,000||34.2||English, Spanish||Washington, D.C.|
|U.S. Virgin Islands (United States)||347||106,405||317.0||English, Spanish||Charlotte Amalie|
|Venezuela||916,445||30,206,307||30.2||Spanish and 40 indigenous languages||Caracas|
In 2015 the total population of the Americas was about 985 million people, divided as follows:[note 1]
There are three urban centers that each hold titles for being the largest population area based on the three main demographic concepts:
In accordance with these definitions, the three largest population centers in the Americas are: Mexico City, anchor to the largest metropolitan area in the Americas; New York City, anchor to the largest urban area in the Americas; and São Paulo, the largest city proper in the Americas. All three cities maintain Alpha classification and large scale influence.
|Country||City||City Population||Metro Area Population|
|Brazil||São Paulo||12,038,175||21,742, 939|
|United States||New York City||8,405,837||19,949,502|
|United States||Los Angeles||3,928,864||13,131,431|
The population of the Americas is made up of the descendants of four large ethnic groups and their combinations.
The majority of the population live in Latin America, named for its predominant cultures, rooted in Latin Europe (including the two dominant languages, Spanish and Portuguese, both Romance languages), more specifically in the Iberian nations of Portugal and Spain (hence the use of the term Ibero-America as a synonym). Latin America is typically contrasted with Anglo-America, where English, a Germanic language, is prevalent, and which comprises Canada (with the exception of francophone Canada rooted in Latin Europe [France]—see Québec and Acadia) and the United States. Both countries are located in North America, with cultures deriving predominantly from Anglo-Saxon and other Germanic roots.
The most prevalent faiths in the Americas are as follows:
Other faiths include Buddhism; Hinduism; Sikhism; Bahá'í Faith; a wide variety of indigenous religions, many of which can be categorized as animistic; new age religions and many African and African-derived religions. Syncretic faiths can also be found throughout the Americas.
Various languages are spoken in the Americas. Some are of European origin, others are spoken by indigenous peoples or are the mixture of various idioms like the different creoles.
The most widely spoken language in the Americas is Spanish. The dominant language of Latin America is Spanish, though the most populous nation in Latin America, Brazil, speaks Portuguese. Small enclaves of French-, Dutch- and English-speaking regions also exist in Latin America, notably in French Guiana, Suriname, and Belize and Guyana respectively. Haitian Creole is dominant in the nation of Haiti, where French is also spoken. Native languages are more prominent in Latin America than in Anglo-America, with Nahuatl, Quechua, Aymara and Guaraní as the most common. Various other native languages are spoken with less frequency across both Anglo-America and Latin America. Creole languages other than Haitian Creole are also spoken in parts of Latin America.
The dominant language of Anglo-America is English. French is also official in Canada, where it is the predominant language in Quebec and an official language in New Brunswick along with English. It is also an important language in Louisiana, and in parts of New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont. Spanish has kept an ongoing presence in the Southwestern United States, which formed part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain, especially in California and New Mexico, where a distinct variety of Spanish spoken since the 17th century has survived. It has more recently become widely spoken in other parts of the United States because of heavy immigration from Latin America. High levels of immigration in general have brought great linguistic diversity to Anglo-America, with over 300 languages known to be spoken in the United States alone, but most languages are spoken only in small enclaves and by relatively small immigrant groups.
The nations of Guyana, Suriname, and Belize are generally considered not to fall into either Anglo-America or Latin America because of their language differences from Latin America, geographic differences from Anglo-America, and cultural and historical differences from both regions; English is the primary language of Guyana and Belize, and Dutch is the primary language of Suriname.
Most of the non-native languages have, to different degrees, evolved differently from the mother country, but are usually still mutually intelligible. Some have combined, however, which has even resulted in completely new languages, such as Papiamento, which is a combination of Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch (representing the respective colonizers), native Arawak, various African languages, and, more recently English. The lingua franca Portuñol, a mixture of Portuguese and Spanish, is spoken in the border regions of Brazil and neighboring Spanish-speaking countries. More specifically, Riverense Portuñol is spoken by around 100,000 people in the border regions of Brazil and Uruguay. Because of immigration, there are many communities where other languages are spoken from all parts of the world, especially in the United States, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica and Uruguay—very important destinations for immigrants.
|Subdivisions of the Americas|
North America (NA)
South America (SA)
May be included in
either NA or SA
North America (NA)
May be included in NA
North America (NA)
May be included in NA
Middle America (MA)
Caribbean (may be
included in MA)
South America (SA)
May be included
in MA or SA
May be included in A-A
Latin America (LA)
May be included in LA
Speakers of English generally refer to the landmasses of North America and South America as the Americas, the Western Hemisphere, or the New World. The adjective American may be used to indicate something pertains to the Americas, but this term is primarily used in English to indicate something pertaining to the United States. Some non-ambiguous alternatives exist, such as the adjective Pan-American, or New Worlder as a demonym for a resident of the closely related New World. Use of America in the hemispherical sense is sometimes retained, or can occur when translated from other languages. For example, the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) in Paris maintains a single continental association for "America", represented by one of the five Olympic rings.
American linguist H.L. Mencken said, " The Latin-Americans use Norteamericano in formal writing, but, save in Panama, prefer nicknames in colloquial speech." To avoid "American" one can use constructed terms in their languages derived from "United States" or even "North America". In Canada, its southern neighbor is often referred to as "the United States", "the U.S.A.", or (informally) "the States", while U.S. citizens are generally referred to as "Americans". Most Canadians resent being referred to as "Americans".
In Spanish, América is a single continent composed of the subcontinents of América del Sur and América del Norte, the land bridge of América Central, and the islands of the Antillas. Americano or americana in Spanish refers to a person from América in a similar way that europeo or europea refers to a person from Europa. The terms sudamericano/a, centroamericano/a, antillano/a and norteamericano/a can be used to more specifically refer to the location where a person may live.
Citizens of the United States of America are normally referred to by the term estadounidense (rough literal translation: "United Statesian") instead of americano or americana which is discouraged, and the country's name itself is officially translated as Estados Unidos de América (United States of America), commonly abbreviated as Estados Unidos (EEUU). Also, the term norteamericano (North American) may refer to a citizen of the United States. This term is primarily used to refer to citizens of the United States, and less commonly to those of other North American countries.
In Portuguese, América is a single continent composed of América do Sul (South America), América Central (Central America) and América do Norte (North America). It can be ambiguous, as América can be used to refer to the United States of America, but is avoided in print and formal environments.
In French the word américain may be used for things relating to the Americas; however, similar to English, it is most often used for things relating to the United States. Panaméricain may be used as an adjective to refer to the Americas without ambiguity. French speakers may use the noun Amérique to refer to the whole landmass as one continent, or two continents, Amérique du Nord and Amérique du Sud. In French, Amérique is also used to refer to the United States, making the term ambiguous. Similar to English usage, les Amériques or des Amériques is used to refer unambiguously to the Americas.
In Dutch, the word Amerika mostly refers to the United States. Although the United States is equally often referred to as de Verenigde Staten ("the United States") or de VS ("the US"), Amerika relatively rarely refers to the Americas, but it is the only commonly used Dutch word for the Americas. This often leads to ambiguity; and to stress that something concerns the Americas as a whole, Dutch uses a combination, namely Noord- en Zuid-Amerika (North and South America).
Latin America is generally referred to as Latijns Amerika or Midden-Amerika for Central America.
The adjective Amerikaans is most often used for things or people relating to the United States. There are no alternative words to distinguish between things relating to the United States or to the Americas. Dutch uses the local alternative for things relating to elsewhere in the Americas, such as Argentijns for Argentine, etc.
The following is a list of multinational organizations in the Americas.
|Rank||Country||GDP (nominal, Peak Year)
millions of USD 
|Rank||Country||GDP (PPP, Peak Year)
millions of USD
The U.S. has the fastest-growing economy in the Americas according to a 2016 study conducted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and has the highest GDP per capita in the Americas as well. Countries in the northern part of the Americas tend to have healthier and stronger economies than countries in the southern part of the Americas.
In 2016, five to seven countries in the southern part of the Americas had weakening economies in decline, compared to only three countries in the northern part of the Americas. Haiti has the lowest GDP per capita in the Americas, although its economy was growing slightly as of 2016.
Africa, the Americas, Antarctica, Asia, Australia together with Oceania, and Europe are considered to be Continents.
In some parts of the world students are taught that there are only six continents, as they combine North America and South America into one continent called the Americas.
Central America is not a continent but a subcontinent since it lies within the continent America.
Canada's oldest known home is a cave in Yukon occupied not 12,000 years ago like the U.S. sites, but at least 20,000 years ago
However, despite the lack of this conclusive and widespread evidence, there are suggestions of human occupation in the northern Yukon about 24,000 years ago, and hints of the presence of humans in the Old Crow Basin as far back as about 40,000 years ago.
The part of the Earth comprising North and South America and surrounding waters; longitudes 20°W and 160°E are often considered its boundaries
Western Hemisphere, the half of the world that includes North and South America.
Western Hemisphere The half of the earth comprising North America, Central America, and South America
The Half of the earth that contains the Americas
Western Hemisphere that half of the earth which includes North & South America
America's Next Top Model (abbreviated ANTM and Top Model) is an American reality television series and interactive competition in which a number of aspiring models compete for the title of "America's Next Top Model" and a chance to begin their career in the modeling industry. Created by Tyra Banks, who also serves as an executive producer, and developed by Ken Mok and Kenya Barris, the series premiered in May 2003, and was aired semiannually until 2012, then annually from 2013. The first six seasons (referred to as "cycles") were aired on UPN, before UPN merged with The WB to create The CW in 2006. The following sixteen cycles were aired on The CW until the series was first cancelled in October 2015. The series has since been revived, with cycle 24 currently airing by VH1. The series was among the highest-rated programs on UPN, and was the highest-rated show on The CW from 2007 to 2010. Advertisers paid $61,315 per 30-second slot during the 2011–12 television seasons, the highest of any series on The CW.The first 22 cycles of the series and cycle 24 were presented by Banks, with cycle 23 being presented by Rita Ora. The series also employs a panel of two or three additional judges, a creative director and a runway coach.
Cycles 1–16, 19 and 23–24 each consisted of a cast of between 10 and 15 female contestants with no previous participation on the series. Cycle 17's cast consisted entirely of previous participants, while cycle 18's had seven new contestants and seven former Britain's Next Top Model participants. Cycles 20–22 featured male contestants in the contest, including two male winners. As of April 2018, 24 people have won the competition. Winners typically receive a feature in a magazine and a contract with a modeling agency among other prizes.
The series is the originator of the international Top Model franchise. Over thirty versions of the series have been produced internationally.Atlantic slave trade
The Atlantic slave trade or transatlantic slave trade involved the transportation by slave traders of enslaved African people, mainly to the Americas. The slave trade regularly used the triangular trade route and its Middle Passage, and existed from the 16th to the 19th centuries. The vast majority of those who were enslaved and transported in the transatlantic slave trade were people from central and western Africa, who had been sold by other West Africans to Western European slave traders (with a small number being captured directly by the slave traders in coastal raids), who brought them to the Americas. The South Atlantic and Caribbean economies especially were dependent on the supply of secure labour for the production of commodity crops, making goods and clothing to sell in Europe. This was crucial to those western European countries which, in the late 17th and 18th centuries, were vying with each other to create overseas empires.The Portuguese were the first to engage in the Atlantic slave trade in the 16th century. In 1526, they completed the first transatlantic slave voyage to Brazil, and other European countries soon followed. Shipowners regarded the slaves as cargo to be transported to the Americas as quickly and cheaply as possible, there to be sold to work on coffee, tobacco, cocoa, sugar and cotton plantations, gold and silver mines, rice fields, construction industry, cutting timber for ships, in skilled labour, and as domestic servants. The first Africans imported to the English colonies were classified as "indentured servants", like workers coming from England, and also as "apprentices for life". By the middle of the 17th century, slavery had hardened as a racial caste, with the slaves and their offspring being legally the property of their owners, and children born to slave mothers were also slaves. As property, the people were considered merchandise or units of labour, and were sold at markets with other goods and services.
The major Atlantic slave trading nations, ordered by trade volume, were: the Portuguese, the British, the French, the Spanish, and the Dutch Empires. Several had established outposts on the African coast where they purchased slaves from local African leaders. These slaves were managed by a factor who was established on or near the coast to expedite the shipping of slaves to the New World. Slaves were kept in a factory while awaiting shipment. Current estimates are that about 12 million Africans were shipped across the Atlantic, although the number purchased by the traders was considerably higher, as the passage had a high death rate. Near the beginning of the 19th century, various governments acted to ban the trade, although illegal smuggling still occurred. In the early 21st century, several governments issued apologies for the transatlantic slave trade.British colonization of the Americas
British colonization of the Americas (including colonization by both the English and the Scots) began in 1607 in Jamestown, Virginia, and reached its peak when colonies had been established throughout the Americas. The English, and later the British, were among the most important colonizers of the Americas, and their American empire came to surpass the Spanish American colonies in military and economic might.
Three types of colonies were established in the English overseas possessions in America of the 17th century and continued into the British Empire at the height of its power in the 17th century. These were charter colonies, proprietary colonies, and royal colonies. A group of 13 British American colonies collectively broke from the British Empire in the 1770s through a successful revolution, establishing the modern United States. After the end of the Napoleonic Wars (1803–15), the remaining British territories in North America were slowly granted more responsible government. In 1838 the Durham Report recommended full responsible government for Canada, but this was not fully implemented for another decade. Eventually, with the Confederation of Canada, the Canadian colonies were granted significant autonomy and became a self-governing Dominion in 1867. Other colonies in the Americas followed at a much slower pace. In this way, two countries in North America, ten in the Caribbean, and one in South America have received their independence from Great Britain or the later United Kingdom. All of these, except the United States, are members of the Commonwealth of Nations and nine are Commonwealth realms. The eight current British overseas territories in the Americas have varying degrees of self-government.Central Time Zone
The North American Central Time Zone (CT) is a time zone in parts of Canada, the United States, Mexico, Central America, some Caribbean Islands, and part of the Eastern Pacific Ocean.
Central Standard Time (CST) is six hours behind Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). During summer most of the zone uses daylight saving time (DST), and changes to Central Daylight Time (CDT) which is five hours behind UTC.Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus (; before 31 October 1451 – 20 May 1506) was an Italian explorer, navigator, and colonist who completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean under the auspices of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain. He led the first European expeditions to the Caribbean, Central America, and South America, initiating the permanent European colonization of the Americas. Columbus discovered the viable sailing route to the Americas, a continent which was not then known to the Old World. While what he thought he had discovered was a route to the Far East, he is credited with the opening of the Americas for conquest and settlement by Europeans.
Columbus's early life is somewhat obscure, but scholars generally agree that he was born in the Republic of Genoa and spoke a dialect of Ligurian as his first language. He went to sea at a young age and travelled widely, as far north as the British Isles (and possibly Iceland) and as far south as what is now Ghana. He married a Portuguese woman and was based in Lisbon for several years, but later took a Spanish mistress; he had one son with each woman. Though largely self-educated, Columbus was widely read in geography, astronomy, and history. He formulated a plan to seek a western sea passage to the East Indies, hoping to profit from the lucrative spice trade.
After years of lobbying, the Catholic Monarchs of Spain agreed to sponsor a journey west, in the name of the Crown of Castile. Columbus left Spain in August 1492 with three ships, and after a stopover in the Canary Islands made landfall in the Americas on 12 October (now celebrated as Columbus Day). His landing place was an island in the Bahamas, known by its native inhabitants as Guanahani; its exact location is uncertain. Columbus subsequently visited Cuba and Hispaniola, establishing a colony in what is now Haiti—the first European settlement in the Americas since the Norse colonies almost 500 years earlier. He arrived back in Spain in early 1493, bringing a number of captive natives with him. Word of his discoveries soon spread throughout Europe.
Columbus would make three further voyages to the New World, exploring the Lesser Antilles in 1493, Trinidad and the northern coast of South America in 1498, and the eastern coast of Central America in 1502. Many of the names he gave to geographical features—particularly islands—are still in use. He continued to seek a passage to the East Indies, and the extent to which he was aware that the Americas were a wholly separate landmass is uncertain; he gave the name indios ("Indians") to the indigenous peoples he encountered. Columbus's strained relationship with the Spanish crown and its appointed colonial administrators in America led to his arrest and removal from Hispaniola in 1500, and later to protracted litigation over the benefits that he and his heirs claimed were owed to them by the crown.
Columbus's expeditions inaugurated a period of exploration, conquest, and colonization that lasted for centuries, helping create the modern Western world. The transfers between the Old World and New World that followed his first voyage are known as the Columbian exchange, and the period of human habitation in the Americas prior to his arrival is known as the Pre-Columbian era. Columbus's legacy continues to be debated. He was widely venerated in the centuries after his death, but public perceptions have changed as recent scholars have given attention to negative aspects of his life, such as his role in the extinction of the Taíno people, his promotion of slavery, and allegations of tyranny towards Spanish colonists. Many landmarks and institutions in the Western Hemisphere bear his name, including the country of Colombia.Columbian exchange
The Columbian exchange, also known as the Columbian interchange, named for Christopher Columbus, was the widespread transfer of plants, animals, culture, human populations, technology, and ideas between the Americas, West Africa, and the Old World in the 15th and 16th centuries. It also relates to European colonization and trade following Christopher Columbus's 1492 voyage. Invasive species, including communicable diseases, were a byproduct of the Exchange. The changes in agriculture significantly altered and changed global populations. The most significant immediate impact of the Columbian exchange was the cultural exchanges and the transfer of people (both free and enslaved) between continents.
The new contact between the global population circulated a wide variety of crops and livestock, which supported increases in population in both hemispheres, although diseases initially caused precipitous declines in the numbers of indigenous peoples of the Americas. Traders returned to Europe with maize, potatoes, and tomatoes, which became very important crops in Europe by the 18th century.
The term was first used in 1972 by American historian Alfred W. Crosby in his environmental history book The Columbian Exchange. It was rapidly adopted by other historians and journalists and has become widely known.Continental Divide of the Americas
The Continental Divide (also known as the Great Divide, Western Continental Divide or more elaborately, the Continental Divide of the Americas) is the principal, and largely mountainous, hydrological divide of the Americas. The Continental Divide extends from the Bering Strait to the Strait of Magellan, and separates the watersheds that drain into the Pacific Ocean from those river systems that drain into the Atlantic Ocean (including those that drain into the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea) and, along the northernmost reaches of the Divide, those river systems that drain into the Arctic Ocean.
Though there are a few other hydrological divides in the Americas, the Continental Divide is by far the most prominent of these because it tends to follow a line of high peaks along the main ranges of the Rocky Mountains and Andes, at a generally much higher elevation than the other hydrological divisions.Eastern Time Zone
The Eastern Time Zone (ET) is a time zone encompassing part or all of 22 states in the eastern part of the contiguous United States, parts of eastern Canada, the state of Quintana Roo in Mexico, Panama in Central America, and the Caribbean Islands.
Places that use Eastern Standard Time (EST) when observing standard time (autumn/winter) are 5 hours behind Coordinated Universal Time (UTC−05:00).
Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), when observing daylight saving time DST (spring/summer) is 4 hours behind Coordinated Universal Time (UTC−04:00).
In the northern parts of the time zone, on the second Sunday in March, at 2:00 a.m. EST, clocks are advanced to 3:00 a.m. EDT leaving a one-hour "gap". On the first Sunday in November, at 2:00 a.m. EDT, clocks are moved back to 1:00 a.m. EST, thus "duplicating" one hour. Southern parts of the zone (Panama and the Caribbean) do not observe daylight saving time.European colonization of the Americas
The European colonization of the Americas describes the history of the settlement and establishment of control of the continents of the Americas by most of the naval powers of Western Europe.
Systematic European colonization began in 1492, when a Spanish expedition headed by the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus sailed west to find a new trade route to the Far East but inadvertently landed in what to be known to Europeans as the "New World". He ran aground on the northern part of Hispaniola on 5 December 1492, which the Taino people had inhabited since the 9th century; the site became the first permanent European settlement in the Americas. Western European conquest, large-scale exploration and colonization soon followed. Columbus's first two voyages (1492–93) reached the Bahamas and various Caribbean islands, including Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, and Cuba. In 1497, Italian explorer John Cabot, on behalf of England, landed on the North American coast, and a year later, Columbus's third voyage reached the South American coast. As the sponsor of Christopher Columbus's voyages, Spain was the first European power to settle and colonize the largest areas, from North America and the Caribbean to the southern tip of South America.
The Spaniards began building their American empire in the Caribbean, using islands such as Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Hispaniola as bases. The North and South American mainland fell to the conquistadors, with an estimated 8,000,000 deaths of indigenous populations, which has been argued to be the first large-scale act of genocide in the modern era. Florida fell to Juan Ponce de León after 1513. From 1519 to 1521, Hernán Cortés waged a campaign against the Aztec Empire, ruled by Moctezuma II. The Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, became Mexico City, the chief city of what the Spanish were now calling "New Spain". More than 240,000 Aztecs died during the siege of Tenochtitlan. Of these, 100,000 died in combat. Between 500 and 1,000 of the Spaniards engaged in the conquest died. Later, the areas that are today California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Missouri, Louisiana, and Alabama were taken over by other conquistadors, such as Hernando de Soto, Francisco Vázquez de Coronado, and Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca. Farther to the south, Francisco Pizarro conquered the Inca Empire during the 1530s. The de Soto expedition was the first major encounter of Europeans with North American Indians in the eastern half of the United States. The expedition journeyed from Florida through present-day Georgia and the Carolinas, then west across the Mississippi and into Texas. De Soto fought his biggest battle at the walled town of Mabila in present-day Alabama on October 18, 1540. Spanish losses were 22 killed and 148 wounded. The Spaniards claimed that 2,500 Indians died. If true, Mabila was the bloodiest battle ever fought between red men and white in the present-day United States. The centuries of continuous conflicts between the North American Indians and the Anglo-Americans were secondary to the devastation wrought on the densely populated Meso-American, Andean, and Caribbean heartlands.Other powers such as France also founded colonies in the Americas: in eastern North America, a number of Caribbean islands and small coastal parts of South America. Portugal colonized Brazil, tried colonizing the eastern coasts of present-day Canada and settled for extended periods northwest (on the east bank) of the River Plate. The Age of Exploration was the beginning of territorial expansion for several European countries. Europe had been preoccupied with internal wars and was slowly recovering from the loss of population caused by the Black Death; thus the rapid rate at which it grew in wealth and power was unforeseeable in the early 15th century.Eventually, most of the Western Hemisphere came under the control of Western European governments, leading to changes to its landscape, population, and plant and animal life. In the 19th century over 50 million people left Western Europe for the Americas. The post-1492 era is known as the period of the Columbian Exchange, a dramatically widespread exchange of animals, plants, culture, human populations (including slaves), ideas, and communicable disease between the American and Afro-Eurasian hemispheres following Columbus's voyages to the Americas.
Henry F. Dobyns estimates that immediately before European colonization of the Americas there were between 90 and 112 million people in the Americas; a larger population than Europe at the same time.Genetic history of indigenous peoples of the Americas
The genetic history of Indigenous peoples of the Americas (also named Amerindians or Amerinds in physical anthropology) is divided into two sharply distinct episodes:
the initial peopling of the Americas during about 20,000 to 14,000 years ago (20–14 kya), and European contact, after about 500 years ago. The former is the determinant factor for the number of genetic lineages, zygosity mutations and founding haplotypes present in today's Indigenous Amerindian populations.Most Amerindians groups are derived from a basal Ancestral lineage, which formed in Siberia prior to the Last Glacial Maximum, between about 36,000 and 25,000 years ago, from a combination of Proto-Mongoloid and Ancient North Eurasian ancestry and which dispersed throughout the Americas after about 16,000 years ago (an exception are the Na Dene and Eskimo–Aleut speaking groups, which are partially derived from Siberian populations which entered the Americas at a later time).In the early 2000s, archaeogenetics was primarily based on Human Y-chromosome DNA haplogroups and Human mitochondrial DNA haplogroups. Autosomal "atDNA" markers are also used, but differ from mtDNA or Y-DNA in that they overlap significantly.Analyses of genetics among Amerindian and Siberian populations have been used to argue for early isolation of founding populations on Beringia and for later, more rapid migration from Siberia through Beringia into the New World. The microsatellite diversity and distributions of the Y lineage specific to South America indicates that certain Amerindian populations have been isolated since the initial colonization of the region. The Na-Dené, Inuit and Indigenous Alaskan populations exhibit Haplogroup Q-M242; however, they are distinct from other indigenous Amerindians with various mtDNA and atDNA mutations. This suggests that the peoples who first settled in the northern extremes of North America and Greenland derived from later migrant populations than those who penetrated farther south in the Americas. Linguists and biologists have reached a similar conclusion based on analysis of Amerindian language groups and ABO blood group system distributions.Indian
Indian or Indians refers to people or things related to India, or to the indigenous people of the Americas, or Aboriginal Australians until the 19th century.Indigenous languages of the Americas
Indigenous languages of the Americas are spoken by indigenous peoples from Alaska, Nunavut, and Greenland to the southern tip of South America, encompassing the land masses that constitute the Americas. These indigenous languages consist of dozens of distinct language families, as well as many language isolates and unclassified languages.
Many proposals to group these into higher-level families have been made, such as Joseph Greenberg's Amerind hypothesis. This scheme is rejected by nearly all specialists, due to the fact that some of the languages differ too significantly to draw any connections between them.According to UNESCO, most of the indigenous American languages are critically endangered, and many are already extinct. The most widely spoken indigenous language is Southern Quechua, with about 6 to 7 million speakers, primarily in South America.Indigenous peoples of the Americas
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the Pre-Columbian peoples of North, Central and South America and their descendants.
Although some indigenous peoples of the Americas were traditionally hunter-gatherers—and many, especially in the Amazon basin, still are—many groups practiced aquaculture and agriculture. The impact of their agricultural endowment to the world is a testament to their time and work in reshaping and cultivating the flora indigenous to the Americas. Although some societies depended heavily on agriculture, others practiced a mix of farming, hunting and gathering. In some regions the indigenous peoples created monumental architecture, large-scale organized cities, city-states, chiefdoms, states, kingdoms and empires. Among these are the Aztec, Inca and Maya states that until the 16th century were among the most politically and socially advanced nations in the world. They had a vast knowledge of engineering, architecture, mathematics, astronomy, writing, physics, medicine, planting and irrigation, geology, mining, sculpture and goldsmithing.
Many parts of the Americas are still populated by indigenous peoples; some countries have sizable populations, especially Belize, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, Greenland, Guatemala, Guyana, Mexico, Panama, Peru and the United States. At least a thousand different indigenous languages are spoken in the Americas. Some, such as the Quechuan languages, Aymara, Guaraní, Mayan languages and Nahuatl, count their speakers in millions. Many also maintain aspects of indigenous cultural practices to varying degrees, including religion, social organization and subsistence practices. Like most cultures, over time, cultures specific to many indigenous peoples have evolved to incorporate traditional aspects but also cater to modern needs. Some indigenous peoples still live in relative isolation from Western culture and a few are still counted as uncontacted peoples.New World
The New World is one of the names used for the majority of Earth's Western Hemisphere, specifically the Americas (including nearby islands such as those of the Caribbean and Bermuda).
The term originated in the early 16th century after Europeans made landfall in what would later be called the Americas in the age of discovery, expanding the geographical horizon of classical geographers, who had thought of the world as consisting of Africa, Europe, and Asia, collectively now referred to as the Old World (a.k.a. Afro-Eurasia).
The phrase gained prominence after the publication of a pamphlet titled Mundus Novus attributed to Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci.The Americas were also referred to as the "fourth part of the world".Norse colonization of North America
The Norse colonization of North America began in the late 10th century AD when Norsemen explored and settled areas of the North Atlantic including the northeastern fringes of North America. Remains of Norse buildings were found at L’Anse aux Meadows near the northern tip of Newfoundland in 1960. This discovery aided the reignition of archaeological exploration for the Norse in the North Atlantic.The Norse settlements in the North American island of Greenland lasted for almost 500 years. L’Anse aux Meadows, the only confirmed Norse site on the North American mainland, was small and did not last as long. While voyages, for example to collect timber, are likely to have occurred for some time, there is no evidence of any lasting Norse settlements on mainland North America.North America
North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere; it is also considered by some to be a northern subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, to the west and south by the Pacific Ocean, and to the southeast by South America and the Caribbean Sea.
North America covers an area of about 24,709,000 square kilometers (9,540,000 square miles), about 16.5% of the earth's land area and about 4.8% of its total surface.
North America is the third largest continent by area, following Asia and Africa, and the fourth by population after Asia, Africa, and Europe. In 2013, its population was estimated at nearly 579 million people in 23 independent states, or about 7.5% of the world's population, if nearby islands (most notably the Caribbean) are included.
North America was reached by its first human populations during the last glacial period, via crossing the Bering land bridge approximately 40,000 to 17,000 years ago. The so-called Paleo-Indian period is taken to have lasted until about 10,000 years ago (the beginning of the Archaic or Meso-Indian period). The Classic stage spans roughly the 6th to 13th centuries. The Pre-Columbian era ended in 1492, and the transatlantic migrations—the arrival of European settlers during the Age of Discovery and the Early Modern period. Present-day cultural and ethnic patterns reflect different kinds of interactions between European colonists, indigenous peoples, African slaves and their descendants.
Owing to the European colonization of the Americas, most North Americans speak English, Spanish or French, and their culture commonly reflects Western traditions.Pre-Columbian era
The Pre-Columbian era incorporates all period subdivisions in the history and prehistory of the Americas before the appearance of significant European influences on the American continent, spanning the time of the original settlement in the Upper Paleolithic period to European colonization during the Early Modern period.
While the phrase "pre-Columbian era" literally refers only to the time preceding Christopher Columbus's voyages of 1492, in practice the phrase is usually used to denote the entire history of indigenous Americas cultures until those cultures were exterminated, diminished, or extensively altered by Europeans, even if this happened decades or centuries after Columbus's first landing. For this reason the alternative terms of Precontact Americas, Pre-Colonial Americas or Prehistoric Americas are also in use. In areas of Latin America the term usually used is Pre-Hispanic.
Many pre-Columbian civilizations established hallmarks which included permanent settlements, cities, agriculture, civic and monumental architecture, major earthworks, and complex societal hierarchies. Some of these civilizations had long faded by the time of the first permanent European colonies and the arrival of enslaved Africans (c. late 16th–early 17th centuries), and are known only through archaeological investigations and oral history. Other civilizations were contemporary with the colonial period and were described in European historical accounts of the time. A few, such as the Maya civilization, had their own written records. Because many Christian Europeans of the time viewed such texts as heretical, men like Diego de Landa destroyed many texts in pyres, even while seeking to preserve native histories. Only a few hidden documents have survived in their original languages, while others were transcribed or dictated into Spanish, giving modern historians glimpses of ancient culture and knowledge.
Indigenous American cultures continue to evolve after the pre-Columbian era. Many of these peoples and their descendants continue traditional practices while evolving and adapting new cultural practices and technologies into their lives.Spanish colonization of the Americas
The overseas expansion under the Crown of Castile was initiated under the royal authority and first accomplished by the Spanish conquistadors. The Americas were incorporated into the Spanish Empire, with the exception of Brazil, Canada, and several other small countries in South America and The Caribbean. The crown created civil and religious structures to administer the region. The motivations for colonial expansion were trade and the spread of the Catholic faith through indigenous conversions.
Beginning with the 1492 arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean and continuing control of vast territory for over three centuries, the Spanish Empire would expand across the Caribbean Islands, half of South America, most of Central America and much of North America (including present day Mexico, Florida and the Southwestern and Pacific Coastal regions of the United States). It is estimated that during the colonial period (1492–1832), a total of 1.86 million Spaniards settled in the Americas and a further 3.5 million immigrated during the post-colonial era (1850–1950); the estimate is 250,000 in the 16th century, and most during the 18th century as immigration was encouraged by the new Bourbon Dynasty. In contrast, the indigenous population plummeted by an estimated 80% in the first century and a half following Columbus's voyages, primarily through the spread of Afro-Eurasian diseases. This has been argued to be the first large-scale act of genocide in the modern era, although this claim is largely disputed due to the unintended nature of the disease introduction, which is considered a byproduct of Columbian exchange. Racial mixing was a central process in the Spanish colonization of the Americas, and ultimately led to the Latin American identity, which combines Hispanic and native American ethnicities.
Spain enjoyed a cultural golden age in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries when silver and gold from American mines increasingly financed a long series of European and North African wars. In the early 19th century, the Spanish American wars of independence resulted in the secession and subsequent balcanization of most Spanish colonies in the Americas, except for Cuba and Puerto Rico, which were finally given up in 1898, following the Spanish–American War, together with Guam and the Philippines in the Pacific. Spain's loss of these last territories politically ended the Spanish rule in the Americas.