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I do not know much about South America which is why I am here. Since most were colonies, mixtures of many races and cultures and nearly all spoke the same language, how did it end up with so many countries? What separated them from each other?

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I feel you could write a book about this tbh. I'm willing to be proven wrong, but this looks a bit too broad at the moment. – Kobunite Dec 13 '13 at 16:39
I changed the title since 'segregate' is not quite what OP seems to have had in mind. – Felix Goldberg Dec 13 '13 at 17:31
@Kobunite: While a book might be necessary to describe every boundary dispute and resolution over 500 years, and every distinct indigenous culture that contributes to the hinterland definitions of former Spanish provincial capitals, the general trends can quite adequately be outlined in a few paragraphs. – Pieter Geerkens Dec 14 '13 at 16:12
@PieterGeerkens - Fair enough, as I said - I'm willing to be proven wrong. In fact, I'd love to be. :-) I like a good answer I didn't expect! – Kobunite Dec 14 '13 at 21:35

I believe the answer can be distilled to Cultural; Geographical; and Historical and Logistical reasons:

  • Brazil and the Guyana's are separate countries as a legacy of being colonized by the British, Dutch, French and Portuguese respectively instead of Spain.
  • The spine of the Andes is an extremely formidable obstacle that divides the continent into a western spine; a central plateau and pampas; and an eastern other section Ecuador, Peru and Chile occupy the spine; Colombia, Bolivia and Argentina the central plateau and pampas area; Venezuela and the Guyanas occupy the Guyana Highlands and adjacent coastline; and Brazil the Brazilian Highlands and Amazon Basin. Similarly the Uruguay River and River Plata form a natural northern border for Argentina.
  • The geographical regions described above are strongly associated with distinct indigenous cultures; and are the hinterlands of former provincial capitals of Spanish America. During the Wars of Independence launched by Simon Bolivar, in the early 19th century, the borders tended to settle further along natural geographic defensive positions, both as the rebels drove the Spanish off the continent in distinct waves, and as the newly independent nations squabbled amongst themselves for the spoils of victory.
  • In cases such as the Chilean-Confederation War (1836-9), attempts to further unify the new nations were simply seen as too threatening by vested interests in neighbouring states.
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South America was initially divided into the Spanish and Portuguese speaking parts by the Treaty of Tordesillas. The Portuguese part is Brazil, the Spanish part consists of most of the rest of South America.

The Spanish part was subdivided into New Granada (north), Peru (center), and La Plata (south).

The Andes Mountains subdivided each of these parts; e.g. Venezuela and Colombia in New Granada, Peru and Bolivia in the center, and Chile from the rest of La Plata in the South. The La Plata river itself spawned three countries around major cities: Asuncion (Paraguay), Montevideo (Uruguay), and Buenos Aires (Argentina.

The independence of New Granada was won by Simon Bolivar of modern Venezuela, of the south by Jose San Martin of modern Argentina, and of Peru, jointly between the two. Not even the "common" liberators was enough to keep the geographically separated pieces from going their separate ways.

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