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S O U T H A M E R I C A
Venezuela’s rugged Llanos are one of the world’s richest tropical grasslands. This large,very fertile plain is located in central and southern Venezuela and eastern and central Colom-bia. Itisdrained bytheOrinoco River and itsmanytributaries.This mostlyﬂat,grassycountryis teeming with wildlife, including more than 100 species of mammals and over 300 speciesof birds. Here, a catﬁsh known as the
weighs up to 330 pounds and is considered aculinary delicacy.
is a word of Quechua origin that means “a plain without trees.” This ﬂat land is Argentina’s agricultural heartland, home of the gaucho (cowboy) and is famed for its manycattle ranches.Patagonia is the area between the Andes Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. It stretchessouth from the Rio Negro River in southern Argentina to Tierra del Fuego and the Strait of Magellan and is one of the less populated regions in the world. Its mostly rugged, barren landis not suitable for extensive farming, but is compatible with sheep raising.
Inthesixteenthcentury,SpanishexplorersintheAmericasencounteredtwogreatcivilizations,one in Mesoamerica (the territory controlled by the Aztecs and the Mayas at the time of the conquest) and the other in South America (the territory in the central Andean regionunder Inca rule). The people of these regions accounted for many tribes and nations, withachievements that included art, cities, and strong foundations of economic, political, andsocial organization.The Inca empire, with its capital at Cuzco (in modern-day Peru), covered a large portionof South America in the ﬁfteenth and the ﬁrst quarter of the sixteenth century. The empirestretchednearly2,500milesdownthewestcoastofSouthAmerica,andcoveredcoastaldesert,high mountains, and low-lying jungle. It covered most of modern-day Peru, part of Ecuador,and Bolivia, northwest Argentina, and the greater part of Chile. To control such a hugearea, the Incas built roads, including both mountainous and coastal routes. This road system was key to farming success since it allowed distribution of foodstuffs over long distances. Agriculture was an important part of Incan life and farmers used sophisticated methods of cultivation. By the time of the Spanish conquest, the ancient Americans were some of thegreatest plant cultivators in the world. Maize from Mesoamerica and potatoes from the Andes were some of their contributions to the European diet. To get the highest yield from theircrops, the Incas used terracing and irrigation methods on hillsides in the highlands. Buildingterracesmeantthattheycouldusemorelandforcultivation,anditalsohelpedtoresisterosionof the land by wind and rain.