|the fourth largest of the continents, bordering on the Caribbean in the north, the Pacific in the west, and the Atlantic in the east and joined to Central America by the Isthmus of Panama. It is dominated by the Andes Mountains, which extend over 7250 km (4500 miles) and include many volcanoes; ranges from dense tropical jungle, desert, and temperate plains to the cold wet windswept region of Tierra del Fuego. Pop (Latin America and the Caribbean): 558 281 000 (2005 est). Area: 17 816 600 sq km (6 879 000 sq miles)|
Note: Exploration of the continent began in the sixteenth century with the Portugese claiming what is now Brazil and the Spanish claiming most of the remaining land. Settlement was accompanied by the defeat of many of the Native American cultures, including the Inca Empire.
Note: All of the Latin American nations in South America and Central America achieved their independence from Spain or Portugal in the first half of the nineteenth century.