Many outsiders may think of South America as a third-world land of poverty and political instability. And historically, this hasn't been far from the truth. But South America is now beginning to come into its own, both politically and socially. The military dictatorships and guerrilla wars that plagued this region in the 1970s and 1980s are largely things of the past, and a new respect for traditional culture and indigenous people is beginning to ease social tensions -- though there's still a long way to go. These social advances are great news for travelers, who are beginning to take notice. The increasing popularity of adventure, archaeological, and ecotourism has brought waves of new visitors to South America, a trend that looks to continue.

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