Sept. 27, 2020 • 1 min
During the 19th century, in most of Central and South America, a large majority of the population was of African origin. Most were slaves working on plantations, producing crops such as sugar and coffee for European consumers. Slavery was abolished gradually in varying degrees in Central and South America starting in the early 1800s, with Brazil being the last country to outlaw slavery in 1888. After abolition, freed slaves often joined the lower strata of hierarchical societies in which poverty and inequality were made worse by unfair land redistribution. In Latin America, independence did not lead to widespread prosperity or good government, but merely to imbalance of power and economic inequality. Military dictatorships were common, as were wars and civil conflicts. Meanwhile, Brazil experienced a 'rubber boom' from the 1880s, which fuelled an unprecedented economic expansion in Latin America thanks to the extraction and commercialisation of wild rubber from the jungles of the Amazon. However, development was entirely based on investment from Europe and North America, and was largely designed to serve the needs of the industrialised countries, not the local people.