Diving into the cultural heritage of South America, we quickly become immersed in its colours, traditions, musical rhythms and magical mysteries. No other culture embraces its past so enthusiastically, with a melting pot of ethnic influences combining to create a picture of a region with vast artistic scope. From the countries of Ecuador, Peru, Guatemala, Bolivia and Paraguay, all influenced greatly by the distinctive pre-Columbian cultures, to the larger countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Venezuela that are just as important.
Art through time
From the exquisite Inca temples in Peru at Machu Picchu to the relatively modern South American painters such as Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, the compulsion to follow an artistic path has long been set. Everywhere you look in South America, evidence of powerfully artistic people is there. The 16th century colonization of South America and resulting influences from Portugal, Spain and Asia introduced outside elements to the indigenous art, carving out a unique South American cultural identity that remains strong today. Whatever art inspires you, be it sculpture, architecture, painting, textiles, jewelry or woodcarving, fine examples of all can be discovered in South America.
Music over the centuries
The lilting notes of ocarina music and panpipe melodies floating across the Andes characterize the traditional music of South America. The expressive and pure sounds created by a range of traditional wind instruments and flutes as well as stringed harps and mandolins, are played as much today as in ancient times, at celebrations, funerals and festivals – underlining a firm resolve to hold on to the musical heritage of their forefathers in times when modern musical styles are all pervading. The energy of carnival in places such as Brazil are underlined by the fervent Latin American rhythms and beats of dance styles such as Salsa, Tango and Merengue, all
quintessentially South American in flavor.
South America has many famous literary giants who have found inspiration in their homelands. The trademark ‘magical realism’ writing style used by many South American authors is something found nowhere else, but which has found worldwide popularity. Great writers such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Carlos Fuentes and Mario Vargas Llosa all continue to be widely read in South America and beyond. Why not check a book out of the library and get a feel for the beauty of South American language?
Art of the natural
With such a large area, the choices pile up. South America has many stunning natural sights, so take a camera along and if you make it to any one of these fantastic places, the trip will be worthwhile: Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, Iguazu Falls between Argentina and Brazil, Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia, Easter Island Chile, Cartagena in Columbia, The Galapagos Islands in Ecuador and Monte Verde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica. There are hundreds of other beautiful places equally deserving of a mention, this is by no means an exhaustive list.
The cultures of all the South American countries are much like a piece of fine, bespoke jewelry – a string of special gems, each one unique and beautiful in its own way, with its own very particular story to tell. This brief introduction merely scratches the surface and there is absolutely no substitution for experiencing the real thing.