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What is a Cordillera?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 02 December 2016
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A cordillera is a major mountain range, classically the principal mountain range of a continent. This term is most commonly found in the Americas, especially in South America, with the Andes being the most notable cordillera of South America. In addition to being a major geographical feature, a cordillera can also be an important cultural feature, and a popular vacationing spot. Many nations actively promote their cordillera regions, encouraging tourists to visit the mountains.

This term comes from the Spanish word for “rope.” “Cordillera” means “little rope,” referring to the way in which a mountain range lies across a map, and for those who are not familiar with Spanish, the double-L is pronounced like a “Y,” so the word is pronounced “cord-y-era.” This distinctive double-L construction can also be seen in other words of Spanish origin, such as “llama” and “tortilla.” The word can also be used as an adjective, “cordilleran.”

In addition to the Andes of South America, several other mountain ranges around the world can be referred to as cordilleras, including the Coast Range of the United States, the Rocky Mountains, the Arctic Cordillera, and the Alps. These major mountain ranges typically form as a byproduct of uplift, a process in which two tectonic plates collide, causing a mountain range to emerge as the land starts to buckle. Glaciers and the elements may also contribute to the formation and gradual breakdown of a cordillera.

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Mountainous terrain is a very distinctive environment. The cordillera is often dry, with sparse plants and harsh weather. It can also be extremely cold, and oxygen levels can decrease at great heights. Traditional residents of the cordillera have adapted to the difficult way of life in a variety of creative ways, ranging from breeding hardy animals which can survive at high altitude to living a nomadic lifestyle which allows people to travel down the slopes in the harsh winter months to find more favorable weather.

A cordillera can create a substantial geographical barrier. Regions ringed by mountains may become quite isolated as a result of the fact that people cannot readily travel over the cordillera, and sometimes mountain ranges can act as a natural wall against invaders, the spread of disease, and the dissemination of new cultural trends. The cordillera's dry, cold environment can also act as a remarkable preservative, which explains why astounding archaeological finds are often made in mountainous regions such as the cordillera of Peru.

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orangey03
Post 3

My aunt and uncle live in the appropriately named mountain community of Cordillera, Colorado. They belong to the Club at Cordillera, and when we have family retreats, we get access this awesome place with its beautiful views.

The Trailhead Family Center is part of the club. It is a two-story lodge made of logs. It has a pool, a big lawn, and a recreation center inside. This place is also set up for youth camps at certain times during the summer. Our extended family is rather large, and we love to come here to relax inside after a hard day of hiking and enjoying the scenery.

kylee07drg
Post 2

Though I have never lived anywhere near the mountains, I have had an irrational fear of volcanoes since childhood. This fear keeps me from visiting any of the awe-inspiring active cordilleras in the world, even the ones right here in the United States.

I used to pretend like slow lava was gaining on me, and I would jump on the bed to escape it. After I realized a few years later that there were no volcanoes within a dangerous range, I started to develop other cordillera-related fears, such as fear of earthquakes and landslides. Though a part of me would love to climb and explore, the biggest part would rather stay far away from potential death.

Perdido
Post 1

I vacationed in the Andes Cordillera two years ago. It truly is beautiful. The area is quite independent because of its natural resources.

One of those is tourism. I ran into so many other Americans during my stay that I can see how lucrative the industry must be for the area. There were people there of many other nationalities, also, making an area that would otherwise be sparsely populated have quite a few explorers roaming around.

Another resource of the Andes is copper. I learned while visiting that copper mining allows for almost half of Chile’s exports.

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