The term Southern Cone (Cono Sur, Cone Sul) refers to a geographic region composed of the southernmost areas of South America, below the Tropic of Capricorn. The region includes all of Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, and some parts of Paraguay and southern portions of Brazil which include the Brazilian states of Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, Paraná and São Paulo.
Italian (mostly its Northern dialects, such as Venetian) is spoken in rural communities across Argentina and Southern Brazil. German in some dialects is mostly spoken in Southern Brazil, Southern Argentina and in some communities in Southern Chile.
Furthermore English is spoken in the Falkland Islands, a disputed territory between the U.K. (inhabited by British subjects) and Argentina. Welsh is spoken by descendants of immigrants in the Patagonia region of Argentina. Japanese has speakers in communities of Southeastern Brazil and Korean in the main cities. Portuñol, Portunhol in Portuguese, is a pidgin language of Brazilian Portuguese and Spanish that is spoken in the border with Brazil.
Autochthonous languages, spoken by some Native American groups include Mapudungun (also known as Mapuche) and Guarani. The first one is spoken in the region of Patagonia, in southern Argentina and Chile. Guarani is an official language of Paraguay and is spoken in the northeastern Argentine provinces of Corrientes and Misiones where it is an official language along with Spanish.
The population of these countries: Argentina (39.3 million), Chile (16.4 million) and Uruguay (3.6 million). Buenos Aires is the largest metropolitan area at 13.1 million and Santiago, Chile has 6.4 million. When southern Brazil is included, São Paulo is the largest city, with 19.8 million. Uruguay's capital and largest city, Montevideo, has 1.8 million, and it receives many visitors on ferry boats across the Río de la Plata from Buenos Aires, 50 km (35 miles) away.
As far as ethnicity is concerned, the population of the Southern Cone is racially and culturally very similar to the European making up about 80 percent of the total population, being majority in Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Southern Brazil,. Racial minorities make up 17% of the population, being majority in Paraguay and Chile, though their characteristics lean towards the nations of Southern Europe. Native Americans make up 2% of the population, and mulattoes, mostly in Southern Brazil and Uruguay, the remaining 1%.
Argentina, along with other areas of new settlement like Canada, Australia or the United States is considered a country of immigrants and a melting pot of different peoples, both autochthonous and immigrants. Most Argentines are descendents of colonial-era settlers and of the 19th and 20th century immigrants from Europe, with 90% of the population being of European descent for generations, the majority of these immigrants came from Italy and Spain, as well as other European countries. An estimated 7% of the population are mestizo. The last national census, based on self-identification, counted about 600,000 Argentines (1.6%) of Amerindian heritage. A further 3-4% of Argentines were of Arabic or East Asian extraction. A study conducted by the University of Buenos Aires suggested that 56% of the population has some degree of Amerindian admixture on either paternal or maternal lineages, and about 10% were shown to have Amerindian ancestors on both lineages.
In the case of Uruguay, the majority of the population is of Spanish and Italian descent. the indigenous population is now extinct, yet retains a visible minority with mestizos and blacks making up 12% of the population.
Meanwhile, although the majority of the population of Paraguay is composed of mestizos (mixed European & Amerindian), the European contribution has impacted significantly. It is not uncommon for the admixture in their mestizos to lean more towards the European element, as opposed to a relatively equal amount of both in the rest of Latin America, and in some cases it is the only discernible element. This situation has led to the often contentious question on the proportion of white people. Paraguay has an undetermined number of unmixed White Europeans, as well as a visible Amerindian minority.
The bulk of the Chilean population features a white and white mestizo composition, the product of miscegenation between colonial Spanish immigrants and Amerindian females.. Whites are mostly Spanish in origin (mainly Castilians, Andalusians and Basques), and to a lesser degree from Chile's various waves of immigrants (Italians, Germans, Israelis, Yugoslavians, Arabs, etc.). Foreigners have always been scarce in Chile. In the 1960 census they numbered 105,000 (55% being Spanish, Germans, Italians or Argentines, in that order). Besides being small in number, they mixed quickly with the locals. The black population was always scant, reaching a high of 25,000 during the colonial period; its racial contribution is less than 1%. The current Native American population is relatively small (see below) according to the censuses; their numbers are augmented when one takes into consideration those that are physically similar, and those that are linguistically or socially thought to belong to them.
The other conspicuous characteristic of the Southern Cone is its relatively high standard of living and quality of life. Argentina's and Chile’s HDIs—(0.869), (0.863) are the highest in Latin America—similar to those of the richest countries in Eastern Europe, such as Slovenia, Croatia or Hungary. Uruguay, where illiteracy technically doesn't exist, reaches the same level in this area, even considering that it faces restrictions to its industrial and economic growth. Argentina and Chile are considered developed countries when it comes to human development, since their high indices of 0.869 and 0.863 respectively surpass many places in Europe and other industrialized regions. High life expectancy, health and education access, significant participation in the global markets and the emerging economy profile of its members make the Southern Cone the most prosperous macro-region in Latin America.
The majority is Roman Catholic, but there are Jewish and Protestants as well(mostly in Argentina and Uruguay). Religions included Muslims, Anglicans, Lutherans, Eastern Orthodox, Buddhists and Daoists. Jewish communities thrive in Argentina and Uruguay. Despite some parts of the Southern cone's religious conservatism, it never curtailed the region's characteristics of social reform. Uruguay, where agnosticism and atheism is very common, has a strong church and state separation policy and could be considered one of the most secular countries in America. The more conservative Chile only recently passed a law to legalize divorce, contrasting with Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, countries where gay union is already possible in some regions.
The climates are mostly temperate, but include humid subtropical, Mediterranean, highland tropical, maritime temperate, sub-Antarctic temperate, highland cold, desert and semi-arid temperate regions. Except for northern regions of Argentina (Thermal equator in January), the whole country of Paraguay, the Argentina-Brazil border and the interior of the Atacama desert, the region rarely suffers from heat. In addition to that, the winter presents mostly cool temperatures. Strong and constant wind and high humidity is what brings low temperatures in the winter. The Atacama is the driest place on Earth.
Currently, Argentine President Cristina Kirchner and Chilean President Michelle Bachelet have restored credible and reformist governments. Uruguay has a liberal and secular tradition where their social welfare policies, freedom rights history and democratic stability are sometimes held as the "Switzerland of Latin America". For information on countries' political histories, see Argentina, Chile and Uruguay.
Nowadays, the southernmost states of Brazil (the states of São Paulo, Paraná, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul,) are generally included because they share the same characteristics with Uruguay, Argentina and Chile: above average standard of living, mild climate, high level of industrialization and strong European immigration.