Latin America is a group of Western Hemispheric countries and dependencies where Romance languages (derived from Latin), principally Spanish, Portuguese and, to a lesser extent, French, are predominantly spoken. The term is "commonly used to describe South America, [Mexico and] Central America, and islands of the Caribbean." The term is used for those places brought under the Spanish Empire, Portuguese Empire in Brazil, and the French Colonial Empire in the circum-Caribbean region. Some subnational regions known as French America such as Quebec and parts of the United States where Romance languages are primarily spoken are not usually included due to the countries as a whole being a part of Anglo-America, (an exception to this is Puerto Rico, which is almost always included within the definition of Latin America despite being a territory of the United States). The term is broader than categories such as Hispanic America, which specifically refers to Spanish-speaking countries and Ibero-America, which specifically refers to both Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries. The term is also more recent in origin.
|Area||20,111,457 km2 (7,765,077 sq mi)|
|Population||642,216,682 (2018 est.)|
|Population density||31/km2 (80/sq mi)|
|Languages||Romance languages |
Quechua, Mayan languages, Guaraní, Aymara, Nahuatl, Haitian Creole, German, English, Dutch, Polish, Russian, Welsh, Yiddish, Greek, Chinese, Japanese, Others
|Time zones||UTC−2 to UTC−8|
|Largest cities||(Metro areas)|
1. São Paulo
2. Mexico City
3. Buenos Aires
4. Rio de Janeiro
8. Belo Horizonte
|UN M49 code|
The term "Latin America" was first used in an 1856 conference with the title "Initiative of America. Idea for a Federal Congress of the Republics" (Iniciativa de la América. Idea de un Congreso Federal de las Repúblicas), by the Chilean politician Francisco Bilbao. The term was further popularised by French Emperor Napoleon III's government in the 1860s as Amérique latine to justify France's military involvement in Mexico and try to include French-speaking territories in the Americas such as French Canada, French Louisiana, or French Guiana, in the larger group of countries where Spanish and Portuguese languages prevailed.
Including French-speaking territories, Latin America would consist of 20 countries and 14 dependent territories that cover an area that stretches from Mexico to Tierra del Fuego and includes much of the Caribbean. It has an area of approximately 19,197,000 km2 (7,412,000 sq mi), almost 13% of the Earth's land surface area. As of March 2, 2020, population of Latin America and the Caribbean was estimated at more than 652 million, and in 2019, Latin America had a combined nominal GDP of US$5,188,250 million and a GDP PPP of 10,284,588 million USD.
Etymology and definitions
There is no universal agreement on the origin of the term Latin America. The concept and term came into being in the nineteenth century, following political independence of countries from Spain and Portugal. It was popularized in 1860s France during the reign of Napoleon III, the term Latin America as part of its attempt to create a French empire in the Americas. Research has shown that the idea that a part of the Americas has a linguistic and cultural affinity with the Romance cultures as a whole can be traced back to the 1830s, in the writing of the French Saint-Simonian Michel Chevalier, who postulated that this part of the Americas was inhabited by people of a "Latin race", and that it could, therefore, ally itself with "Latin Europe", ultimately overlapping the Latin Church, in a struggle with "Teutonic Europe", "Anglo-Saxon America" and "Slavic Europe".
Historian John Leddy Phelan located the origins of the term Latin America in the French occupation of Mexico. His argument is that French imperialists used the concept of "Latin" America as a way to counter British imperialism, as well as to challenge the German threat to France. The idea of a "Latin race" was then taken up by Latin American intellectuals and political leaders of the mid- and late-nineteenth century, who no longer looked to Spain or Portugal as cultural models, but rather to France. French ruler Napoleon III had a strong interest in extending French commercial and political power in the region he and his business promoter Felix Belly called "Latin America" to emphasize the shared Latin background of France with the former Viceroyalties of Spain and colonies of Portugal. This led to Napoleon's failed attempt to take military control of Mexico in the 1860s.
However, though Phelan thesis is still frequently cited in the U.S. academy, further scholarship has shown earlier usage of the term. Two Latin American historians, Uruguayan Arturo Ardao and Chilean Miguel Rojas Mix found evidence that the term "Latin America" was used earlier than Phelan claimed, and the first use of the term was completely opposite to support imperialist projects in the Americas. Ardao wrote about this subject in his book Génesis de la idea y el nombre de América latina (Genesis of the Idea and the Name of Latin America, 1980), and Miguel Rojas Mix in his article "Bilbao y el hallazgo de América latina: Unión continental, socialista y libertaria" (Bilbao and the Finding of Latin America: a Continental, Socialist and Libertarian Union, 1986). As Michel Gobat reminds in his article "The Invention of Latin America: A Transnational History of Anti-Imperialism, Democracy, and Race", "Arturo Ardao, Miguel Rojas Mix, and Aims McGuinness have revealed [that] the term 'Latin America' had already been used in 1856 by Central Americans and South Americans protesting U.S. expansion into the Southern Hemisphere". Edward Shawcross summarizes Ardao's and Rojas Mix's findings in the following way: "Ardao identified the term in a poem by a Colombian diplomat and intellectual resident in France, José María Torres Caicedo, published on 15 February 1857 in a French based Spanish-language newspaper, while Rojas Mix located it in a speech delivered in France by the radical liberal Chilean politician Francisco Bilbao in June 1856".
Now under the administration of the United States, by the late 1850s, the term was being used in local California newspapers such as El Clamor Público by Californios writing about América latina and latinoamérica, and identifying as latinos as the abbreviated term for their "hemispheric membership in la raza latina".
So, regarding when the words "Latin" and "America" were combined for the first time in a printed work, the term "Latin America" was first used in 1856 in a conference by the Chilean politician Francisco Bilbao in Paris. The conference had the title "Initiative of the America. Idea for a Federal Congress of Republics." The following year the Colombian writer José María Torres Caicedo also used the term in his poem "The Two Americas". Two events related with the U.S. played a central role in both works. The first event happened less than a decade before the publication of Bilbao's and Torres Caicedo works: the Invasion of Mexico or, in USA the Mexican–American War, after which Mexico lost a third of its territory. The second event, the Walker affair, happened the same year both works were written: the decision by U.S. president Franklin Pierce to recognize the regime recently established in Nicaragua by American William Walker and his band of filibusters who ruled Nicaragua for nearly a year (1856–57) and attempted to reinstate slavery there, where it had been already abolished for three decades
In both Bilbao's and Torres Caicedo's works, the Mexican–American War (1846-48 and William Walker's expedition to Nicaragua are explicitly mentioned as examples of dangers for the region. For Bilbao, "Latin America" was not a geographical concept, since he excluded Brazil, Paraguay, and Mexico. Both authors also ask for the union of all Latin American countries as the only way to defend their territories against further foreign U.S. interventions. Both rejected also European imperialism, claiming that the return of European countries to non-democratic forms of government was another danger for Latin American countries, and used the same word to describe the state of European politics at the time: "despotism." Several years later, during the French invasion of Mexico, Bilbao wrote another work, "Emancipation of the Spirit in America," where he asked all Latin American countries to support the Mexican cause against France, and rejected French imperialism in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. He asked Latin American intellectuals to search for their "intellectual emancipation" by abandoning all French ideas, claiming that France was: "Hypocrite, because she [France] calls herself protector of the Latin race just to subject it to her exploitation regime; treacherous, because she speaks of freedom and nationality, when, unable to conquer freedom for herself, she enslaves others instead!" Therefore, as Michel Gobat puts it, the term Latin America itself had an "anti-imperial genesis," and their creators were far from supporting any form of imperialism in the region, or in any other place of the globe.
In France the term Latin America was used with the opposite intention. It was employed by the French Empire of Napoleon III during the French invasion of Mexico as a way to include France among countries with influence in the Americas and to exclude Anglophone countries. It played a role in his campaign to imply cultural kinship of the region with France, transform France into a cultural and political leader of the area, and install Maximilian of Habsburg as emperor of the Second Mexican Empire. This term was also used in 1861 by French scholars in La revue des races Latines, a magazine dedicated to the Pan-Latinism movement.
- Latin America is often used synonymously with Ibero-America ("Iberian America"), excluding the predominantly Dutch-, French- and English-speaking territories. Thus the countries of Haiti, Belize, Guyana and Suriname, and several French overseas departments, are excluded.
- In a more literal definition, which is close to the semantic origin, Latin America designates countries in the Americas where a Romance language (a language derived from Latin) predominates: Spanish, Portuguese, French, and the creole languages based upon these. Thus it includes Mexico, most of Central and South America, and in the Caribbean, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Puerto Rico. Latin America is, therefore, defined as all those parts of the Americas that were once part of the Spanish, Portuguese and French Empires.
- The term is sometimes used more broadly to refer to all of the Americas south of the United States, thus including the Guianas (French Guiana, Guyana, and Suriname), the Anglophone Caribbean (and Belize); the Francophone Caribbean; and the Dutch Caribbean. This definition emphasizes a similar socioeconomic history of the region, which was characterized by formal or informal colonialism, rather than cultural aspects (see, for example, dependency theory). Some sources avoid this simplification by using the alternative phrase "Latin America and the Caribbean", as in the United Nations geoscheme for the Americas.
The distinction between Latin America and Anglo-America is a convention based on the predominant languages in the Americas by which Romance-language and English-speaking cultures are distinguished. Neither area is culturally or linguistically homogeneous; in substantial portions of Latin America (e.g., highland Peru, Bolivia, Mexico, Guatemala), Native American cultures and, to a lesser extent, Amerindian languages, are predominant, and in other areas, the influence of African cultures is strong (e.g., the Caribbean basin – including parts of Colombia and Venezuela).
The term is not without controversy. Historian Mauricio Tenorio-Trillo explores at length the "allure and power" of the idea of Latin America. He remarks at the outset, "The idea of 'Latin America' ought to have vanished with the obsolescence of racial theory... But it is not easy to declare something dead when it can hardly be said to have existed," going on to say, "The term is here to stay, and it is important." Following in the tradition of Chilean writer Francisco Bilbao, who excluded Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay from his early conceptualization of Latin America, Chilean historian Jaime Eyzaguirre has criticized the term Latin America for "disguising" and "diluting" the Spanish character of a region (i.e. Hispanic America) with the inclusion of nations that according to him do not share the same pattern of conquest and colonization.
Subregions and countries
Latin America can be subdivided into several subregions based on geography, politics, demographics and culture. If defined as all of the Americas south of the United States, the basic geographical subregions are North America, Central America, the Caribbean and South America; the latter contains further politico-geographical subdivisions such as the Southern Cone, the Guianas and the Andean states. It may be subdivided on linguistic grounds into Spanish America, Portuguese America and French America.
|Flag||Arms||Country/Territory||Capital(s)||Name(s) in official language(s)||Area
|Argentina||Buenos Aires||Argentina||2,780,400||44,361,150||14.4||UTC/GMT -3 hours||South America|
|Bolivia (Plurinational State of)||Sucre and La Paz||Bolivia; Buliwya; Wuliwya; Volívia||1,098,581||11,353,142||9||UTC/GMT -4 hours||South America|
|Brazil||Brasília||Brasil||8,515,767||209,469,323||23.6||UTC/GMT -2 hours (Fernando de Noronha)
UTC/GMT -3 hours (Brasília)
UTC/GMT -4 hours (Amazonas)
UTC/GMT -5 hours (Acre)
|Chile||Santiago||Chile||756,096||18,729,160||23||UTC/GMT -3 hours (Magallanes and Chilean Antarctica)
UTC/GMT -4 hours (Continental Chile)
UTC/GMT -5 hours (Easter Island)
|Colombia||Bogotá||Colombia||1,141,748||49,661,048||41.5||UTC/GMT -5 hours||South America|
|Costa Rica||San José||Costa Rica||51,100||4,999,441||91.3||UTC/GMT -6 hours||Central America|
|Cuba||Havana||Cuba||109,884||11,338,134||100.6||UTC/GMT -4 hours||Caribbean|
|Dominican Republic||Santo Domingo||República Dominicana||48,442||10,627,141||210.9||UTC/GMT -4 hours||Caribbean|
|Ecuador||Quito||Ecuador||283,560||17,084,358||54.4||UTC/GMT -5 hours||South America|
|El Salvador||San Salvador||El Salvador||21,040||6,420,746||290.3||UTC/GMT -6 hours||Central America|
|French Guiana*||Cayenne||Guyane||83,534||282,938||3||UTC/GMT -3 hours||South America|
|Guadeloupe*||Basse-Terre||Guadeloupe||1,628||399,848||250||UTC/GMT -4 hours||Caribbean|
|Guatemala||Guatemala City||Guatemala||108,889||17,247,849||129||UTC/GMT -6 hours||Central America|
|Haiti||Port-au-Prince||Haïti; Ayiti||27,750||11,123,178||350||UTC/GMT -4 hours||Caribbean|
|Honduras||Tegucigalpa||Honduras||112,492||9,587,522||76||UTC/GMT -6 hours||Central America|
|Martinique*||Fort-de-France||Martinique||1,128||375,673||340||UTC/GMT -4 hours||Caribbean|
|Mexico||Mexico City||México||1,964,375||126,190,788||57||UTC/GMT -5 hours (Zona Sureste)
UTC/GMT -6 hours (Zona Centro)
UTC/GMT -7 hours (Zona Pacífico)
UTC/GMT -8 hours (Zona Noroeste)
|Nicaragua||Managua||Nicaragua||130,375||6,465,501||44.3||UTC/GMT -6 hours||Central America|
|Panama||Panama City||Panamá||75,517||4,176,869||54.2||UTC/GMT -5 hours||Central America|
|Paraguay||Asunción||Paraguay; Tetã Paraguái||406,752||6,956,066||14.2||UTC/GMT -4 hours||South America|
|Peru||Lima||Perú; Piruw||1,285,216||31,989,260||23||UTC/GMT -5 hours||South America|
|Puerto Rico*||San Juan||Puerto Rico||9,104||3,039,596||397||UTC/GMT -4 hours||Caribbean|
|Saint Barthélemy*||Gustavia||Saint-Barthélemy||25||9,961||398||UTC/GMT -4 hours||Caribbean|
|Saint Martin*||Marigot||Saint-Martin||53.2||39,000||733||UTC/GMT -4 hours||Caribbean|
|Uruguay||Montevideo||Uruguay||176,215||3,449,285||18.87||UTC/GMT -3 hours||South America|
|Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)||Caracas||Venezuela||916,445||28,887,118||31.59||UTC/GMT -4 hours||South America|
*: Not a sovereign state
There is no evidence of human evolution in the Americas; human settlement in the Americas is the result of migration from Asia. The earliest known human settlement was identified at Monte Verde, near Puerto Montt in Southern Chile. Its occupation dates to some 14,000 years ago and there is some disputed evidence of even earlier occupation. Over the course of millennia, people spread to all parts of the North and South America and the Caribbean islands. Although the region now known as Latin America stretches from northern Mexico to Tierra del Fuego, the diversity of its geography, topography, climate, and cultivable land meant that populations were not evenly distributed. Sedentary populations of fixed settlements supported by agriculture gave rise to high civilizations in Mesoamerica (central and southern Mexico and Central America) and the highland Andes populations of Quechua and Aymara, as well as Chibcha. Agricultural surpluses from intensive cultivation of maize in Mesoamerica and potatoes and hardy grains in the Andes were able to support far populations beyond farmers' households and communities. Surpluses allowed for the creation of social, political, religious, and military hierarchies, urbanization with stable village settlements and major cities, specialization of craft work, and the transfer of products via tribute and trade. In the Andes, llamas were domesticated and used for transportation of goods; Mesoamerica had no large domesticated animals to aid human labor or provide meat. Mesoamerican civilizations developed systems of writing; in the Andes, knotted quipus emerged as a system of accounting. The Caribbean region had sedentary populations settled by Arawak or Tainos and in what is now Brazil, many Tupian peoples lived in fixed settlements. Semi-sedentary populations had agriculture and settled villages, but soil exhaustion necessitated shifting of settlements. Populations were less dense and social and political hierarchies less institutionalized. Non-sedentary peoples lived in small bands, with low population density and lacked agriculture. They lived in regions with harsh environments. By the first millennium CE, the Western Hemisphere was the home of tens of millions of people, with the exact numbers being a source of ongoing research and controversy.
The last two great civilizations, the Aztecs and Incas emerged into prominence later on in the early fourteenth century and mid-fifteenth centuries. Although the indigenous empires were conquered by Europeans, the sub-imperial organization of the densely populated regions remained in place. The presence or absence of indigenous populations had an impact on how European imperialism played out in the Americas. The pre-Columbian civilizations of Mesoamerica and the highland Andes became sources of pride for American-born Spaniards in the late colonial era and for nationalists in the post-independence era. For some modern Latin American nation-states, the indigenous roots of national identity is expressed in the ideology of indigenismo. These modern constructions of national identity usually critiqued its colonial past.
Spanish and Portuguese colonization
Spanish and Portuguese colonization of the Western Hemisphere laid the basis for unities now seen as characteristic of Latin America. In the fifteenth century, both Portugal and Spain embarked on voyages of overseas exploration, following the Christian Reconquest of Iberia from Muslims. Portugal sailed down the west coast of Africa and the kingdom of Castile in central Spain authorized the voyage of Genoese mariner Christopher Columbus. Portugal's expansion into the Indian ocean occupied its interests, although from the voyage of Pedro Álvares Cabral in 1500 it laid claim to Brazil. The 1494 line of demarcation by Spain and Portugal gave Spain all areas to the west, and Portugal all areas to the east. However, compared to the riches of Africa, India, and the Spice Islands, Brazil did not immediately attract Portuguese much exploration or settlement. Spanish colonists began founding permanent settlements in Hispaniola (1492), Puerto Rico (1508), Cuba (1509) and the Spanish Main (tierra firme) (1509-13). In these early contacted regions, Spaniards establishing patterns of interaction with indigenous peoples that they transferred to the mainland. At the time of European contact, the area was densely populated by indigenous peoples who were not organized as empires nor created large physical complexes. With the expedition of Hernán Cortés from Cuba to Mexico in 1519, Spaniards encountered an indigenous imperial civilization of the Aztecs. Using techniques of warfare they honed in the early Caribbean phase of settlement, Cortés sought indigenous allies to topple the superstructure of the Aztec Empire after a two-year war of conquest. The Spanish recognized many indigenous elites as nobles under Spanish rule with continued power and influence over commoners, utilizing them as intermediaries in the emerging Spanish imperial system. With the example of the conquest of central Mexico, Spaniards sought similar great empires to conquer, with expansion in other regions of Mexico and Central America, and then the conquest of the Inca empire by Francisco Pizarro. By the end of the sixteenth century Spain and Portugal claimed territory extending from Alaska to the southern tips of the Patagonia. They founded cities that remain important centers. In Spanish America, these include Panama (1519), Mexico City (1521); Guadalajara, Mexico (1531-42), Cartagena (1532), Lima (1535), and Quito (1534). In Brazil, coastal cities were founded in Olinda (1537), Salvador de Bahia (1549), São Paulo (1554), and Rio de Janeiro (1565).
Spaniards explored extensively in the mainland territories Spain claimed, but they settled in great numbers in areas with dense and hierarchically organized indigenous populations and exploitable resources, especially silver. Early Spanish conquerors saw the indigenous themselves as an exploitable resource for tribute and labor and individual Spaniards were awarded grants of encomienda as reward for participation in the conquest. Throughout most of Spanish America, indigenous populations were the largest component, with some black slaves serving in auxiliary positions. The three racial groups during the colonial era were European whites, black Africans, and indigenous. Over time, there was intermixture of these populations, resulting in castas. In most of Spanish America, the indigenous were the majority population.
Both dense indigenous populations and silver were found in New Spain (colonial Mexico) and Peru, and these became centers of Spanish institutions. The viceroyalty of New Spain, centered in Mexico City, was established in 1535 and, the Viceroyalty of Peru, centered in Lima in 1542. The viceroyalty of New Spain also had jurisdiction over the Philippines, once the Spanish established themselves there in the late sixteenth century. The viceroy being the direct representative of the king. Also established was the Roman Catholic Church as an institution. The so-called "spiritual conquest" was to convert indigenous populations to Christianity, incorporating them into Christendom, with no other religion permitted. Pope Alexander VI in 1493 had bestowed on Catholic Monarchs great power over ecclesiastical appointments and functioning of the church its overseas possessions, the monarch was the patron of institutional church. The state and the Catholic church were the institutional pillars of Spanish colonial rule. In the late eighteenth century, the crown also established a royal military to defend its possessions against foreign incursions, especially by the British. It also increased the number of viceroyalties in Spanish South America.
Portugal did not establish firm institutional rule in Brazil until 1530s, but it paralleled many patterns of colonization in Spanish America. The Brazilian indigenous peoples were initially dense, but were semi-sedentary and lacked the organization that allowed Spaniards more easily incorporate the indigenous into the colonial order. The Portuguese used indigenous laborers to extract the valuable commodity known as brazilwood, which gave its name to the colony. Portugal took greater control of the region to prevent other European powers, particularly France, from threatening its claims.
Europeans sought wealth in the form of high value, low bulk products that were exported Europe. The Spanish Empire established institutions to secure wealth for itself and protect its empire in the Americas from rivals. In trade it followed principles of mercantilism, where its overseas possessions were to enrich the center of power in Iberia. Trade was regulated through the royal House of Trade in Seville, Spain, with the main export product from Spanish America to Spain being silver, later followed by the red dye cochineal. Silver was found in the Andes, in particular the silver mountain of Potosí, (now in Bolivia) in the region where indigenous men were forced to labor in the mines. In New Spain, the rich deposits of silver were found in northern Mexico, in Zacatecas and Guanajuato, outside the zone of dense indigenous settlement. Labor was attracted from elsewhere for mining and landed estates were established to raise wheat, range cattle and sheep. Mules were bred for transportation and replacement of human labor in refining silver. Plantations for sugar cultivation developed on a large scale for the export market in Brazil and the Caribbean islands.
Manufactured and luxury goods were sent from Spain and entered Spanish America legally only through the Caribbean ports of Veracruz, Havana, and Cartagena, as well as the Pacific port of Callao, (Peru). Transpacific trade was established in the late sixteenth century from port of Acapulco, Mexico to the port of Manila, Philippines, transporting silver from Mexico and Peru to Asia; Chinese silks and porcelains were sent first to Mexico and then re-exported to Spain. This system of commerce was in theory was tightly controlled, but it was increasingly undermined by other European powers. The English, French, and Dutch seized Caribbean islands claimed by the Spanish and established sugar plantations themselves. These islands also became hubs for contraband trade with Spanish America. Many regions of Spanish America that were not well supplied by Spanish merchants, such as Central America, participated in contraband trade with foreign merchants.
Eighteenth-century reforms sought to modernize the mercantile system to stimulate greater trade exchanges between Spain and Spanish America in a system known as comercio libre. This was not free trade in the standard sense, but rather free commerce within the Spanish empire. Liberalization of trade and limited deregulation sought to break the monopoly of merchants based in the Spanish port of Cádiz. Administrative reforms created the system of districts known as intendancies, modeled on those in France. Their creation was aimed at strengthening crown control over its possessions and fomenting economic development.
Brazil’s economic importance emerged in the seventeenth century with the establishment of large-scale cane sugar plantations. It was the high value, low bulk export product that the Portuguese sought and it was entirely dependent on black slave labor. Unlike core areas of Spanish America, indigenous populations in Brazil were not a source of labor, except during the earliest years of the colony. Blacks became the majority of Brazil's population. For Portugal, Brazil was one pole of a triangular Atlantic system of trade between Iberia, Africa, and its American colony. Huge numbers of African slaves were shipped to Brazil to labor first on sugar plantations in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, then in and diamonds in the eighteenth century, succeeded by coffee in the nineteenth century. Like Spain, Portugal restricted foreign powers from trading in its American colony or entering coastal waters it claimed. As the economic center of the colony shifted from the sugar-producing northeast to the southern region of gold and diamond mines, the capital was transferred from Salvador de Bahia to Rio de Janeiro in 1763. During the colonial era, Brazil was the manufacturing center for Portugal's ships. As a global maritime empire, Portugal created a vital industry in Brazil. Once Brazil achieved its independence, this industry languished. `
The more than three centuries of direct Spanish and Portuguese colonial rule left lasting imprints on Latin America. The most salient are linguistic, with the romance languages of Spanish and Portuguese being the dominant languages oft the region, and religious, with Roman Catholicism continuing to claim the largest number of adherents. Diseases to which indigenous populations had no immunity devastated populations, although they continue into the current era in many places. The forced transportation of African slaves transformed major regions where they labored to produce the export products, especially sugar. In regions with dense indigenous populations, they remained the largest percentage of the population; sugar producing regions had the largest percentage of blacks. European whites in both Spanish America and Brazil were a small percentage of the population, but they were the wealthiest and most socially elite sector, and the racial hierarchies they established in the colonial era have persisted. Cities founded by Europeans in the colonial era remain as major centers of power. Exports of metals and agricultural products to Europe dominated Latin American economies, with the manufacturing sector deliberately suppressed; the development of modern, industrial economies of Europe depended on the underdevelopment of Latin America. Despite the many commonalities of colonial Spanish America and Brazil, they did not conceive of themselves as being part of a single region; that was a development of the post-independence period beginning in the nineteenth century.
Independence era (1776–1825)
Independence in the Americas was not inevitable or uniform in the Americas. Events in Europe had a profound impact on the colonial empires of Spain, Portugal, and France in the Americas. France and Spain had supported the American Revolution that saw the independence of the Thirteen Colonies from Britain, which had defeated them in the Seven Years' War (1757-63). The outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, a political and social uprising toppling the Bourbon monarchy and overturning the established order, precipitated events in France's rich Caribbean sugar colony of Saint-Domingue, whose black population rose up led by Toussaint L'ouverture. The Haitian Revolution had far reaching consequences. Britain declared war on France and attacked ports in Saint-Domingue. Haiti gained independence, led by ex-slave Jean-Jacques Dessalines in 1804 following many years of violent struggle, with huge atrocities on both sides. Haitian independence affected colonial empires in the Americas, as well as the United States. Many white, slave-owning sugar planters of Saint-Domingue fled to the Spanish island of Cuba, where they established sugar plantations that became the basis of Cuba's economy. Uniquely in the hemisphere, the black victors in Haiti abolished slavery at independence. Many thousands of remaining whites were executed on orders by Dessalines. For other regions with large enslaved populations, the Haitian Revolution was a cautionary tale for the white slave-owning planters. Despite Spain and Britain's happiness at France's defeat, they "were obsessed by the possible impact of the slave uprising on Cuba, Santo Domingo, and Jamaica" (now a British sugar colony). U.S. President Thomas Jefferson, a wealthy slave owner, refused to recognize Haiti's independence, which only came in 1862 by President Abraham Lincoln. With France's failure to defeat the slave insurgency and needing money for the war with Britain, Napoleon Bonaparte sold France's remaining mainland holdings in North America (Quebec was already lost to Britain in the Seven Years' War) to the United States in the 1803 Louisiana Purchase.
Napoleon's invasion of the Iberian peninsula in 1807-1808 was a major change in the world order, with the stability of both the metropoles and their overseas possessions upended. It resulted in the flight, with British aid, of the Portuguese royal court to Brazil, its richest colony. In Spain, France forced abdication of the Spanish Bourbon monarchs and their replacement with Napoleon's brother Joseph Bonaparte as king. The period 1808 until the restoration in 1814 of the Bourbon monarchy was when new political experiments were undertaken. In Spanish America, the question of legitimacy of the new foreign monarch's right to rule set off fierce debates and actions leading in many regions to wars of independence. The conflicts were regional and usually quite complex. Chronologically these Spanish American independence wars were the conquest in reverse, with the areas most recently incorporated into the Spanish empire, such as Argentina and Chile, becoming the first to achieve independence, while the colonial strongholds of Mexico and Peru were the last to achieve independence in the early nineteenth century. Cuba and Puerto Rico, both old Caribbean sugar producing areas did not achieve independence from Spain until the 1898 Spanish-American War, with U.S. intervention.
In Spain, a bloody war against the French invaders broke out and regional juntas were established to rule in the name of the deposed Bourbon king, Ferdinand VII. In Spanish America, local juntas also rejected Napoleon’s brother as their monarch. Spanish Liberals re-imagined the Spanish Empire as equally being Iberia and the overseas territories. Liberals sought a new model of government, a constitutional monarchy, with limits on the power of the king as well as on the Catholic Church. Ruling in the name of the deposed Bourbon monarch Ferdinand VII, representatives of the Spanish empire, both from the peninsula and Spanish America, convened a convention in the port of Cadiz. For Spanish American elites who had been shut of official positions in the late eighteenth century in favor of peninsular-born appointees, this was a major recognition of their role in the empire. These empire-wide representatives drafted and ratified the Spanish Constitution of 1812, establishing a constitutional monarchy and set down other rules of governance, including citizenship and limitations on the Catholic Church. Constitutional rule was a break from absolutist monarchy and gave Spanish America a starting point for constitutional governance. So long as Napoleon controlled Spain, the liberal constitution was the governing document.
When Napoleon was defeated and the Bourbon monarchy restored in 1814, Ferdinand VII and his conservative supporters immediately reasserted absolutist monarchy, ending the liberal interregnum. In Spanish America, this counter-revolution set off a new wave of struggles for independence in Spanish America.
In South America Simón Bolívar of Venezuela and José de San Martín of Argentina, and Bernardo O'Higgins in Chile led armies of fighting for independence. In Mexico, which had seen the initial insurgency led by Hidalgo and José María Morelos, royalist forces kept control. In 1820, when military officers in Spain restored the liberal Constitution of 1812, conservatives in Mexico saw independence as a better option. Royalist military officer Agustín de Iturbide changed sides and forged an alliance with insurgent leader Vicente Guerrero and together they brought about Mexico's independence in 1821.
For Portugal and Brazil, Napoleon's defeat did not immediately result in the return of the Portuguese monarch to Portugal, since Brazil was the richest part of the Portuguese empire. As with Spain in 1820, Portuguese liberals threatened power of the monarchy and compelled John VI to return in April 1821, leaving his son Pedro to rule Brazil as regent. In Brazil, Pedro contended with revolutionaries and insubordination by Portuguese troops, all of whom he subdued. The Portuguese government's threatened to revoke the political autonomy that Brazil had enjoyed since 1808, provoking widespread opposition in Brazil. Pedro declared Brazil's independence from Portugal on 7 September 1822 and became emperor. By March 1824 had defeated all armies loyal to Portugal. Brazil's independence was achieved relatively peaceably, territorial integrity was maintained, and its ruler was from the Royal House of Braganza, whose successors ruled Brazil until their overthrow in 1889.
- Bernardo O'Higgins, hero of Chilean independence
- Vicente Guerrero, insurgent hero of Mexican independence, who joined with Iturbide
- Agustín de Iturbide, former royal military officer who brought about Mexican independence and was crowned emperor
Post-Independence in Latin America, ca. 1825-1879
Although much of Latin America gained its independence in the early nineteenth century, formal recognition by their former metropolitan powers in Spain and Portugal did not come immediately. Portugal officially recognized Brazil on August 29, 1825. The Spanish crown did not recognize new Spanish American nations' independence and sent to Mexico military expeditions in failed attempts to regain control over its valuable former territory. Spain finally recognized Mexico's independence in 1836, 15 years after it was achieved. Its recognition of Ecuador's independence came in 1840. The new independent territories exerted rights to establish government, control their national territory, establish trade relations with other nations, and have the power to tax. Brazil and Mexico both established monarchies in 1822. Mexico's was short-lived (1822-23) under leader of independence General Iturbide, elected constitutional emperor 19 May 1822 and forced to abdicate 19 March 1823. Iturbide had no royal pedigree, so as a commoner he had no prestige or permanent legitimacy as ruler. Brazil's monarchy, a branch of the House of Braganza, lasted until 1889. Spanish America fragmented in various regions.
As a consequence of the violent struggles for independence in most of Spanish America, the military grew in importance. In the post-independence period, often played a key role in politics. Military leaders often became the first heads of state, but regional strongmen or caudillos also emerged. The first half of the nineteenth century is sometimes characterized as the “age of caudillos.” In Argentina, Juan Manuel Rosas and in Mexico Antonio López de Santa Anna are exemplars of caudillos. Although most countries created written constitutions and created separate branches of government, the state and rule of law were weak, the military emerged as the dominant institution in the civil sphere. Constitutions were written laying out division of powers, but the rule of personalist strongmen, dominated. Dictoratorial powers were granted to some strongmen, nominally ruling as presidents under a constitution, as "constitutional dictators."
In the religious sphere, the Roman Catholic Church, one of the pillars of colonial rule, remained a powerful institution and generally continued as the only permissible religion. With the Spanish monarch no longer the patron of the church, many national governments asserted their right to appoint clerics as a logical transfer of power to a sovereign state. The Catholic Church denied that the right had transferred to the new governments; for a time the Vatican refused to appoint new bishops. In Brazil, because the ruler after independence was a member of the House of Braganza, and Portugal recognized political independence quite speedily, the Vatican appoint a papal nuncio to Brazil in 1830. The official had jurisdiction over not just Brazil, but also the new states in Spanish America, but in Brazil as well, there were church-state conflicts. During the reign of Pedro II, Protestant missionaries were tolerated, and when the monarchy was overthrown in 1889, the Catholic Church was disestablished .
There were struggles within the new nation-states between conservatives, who favored the old order of a powerful, centralized state and continuation of the Catholic Church as a key institution. In Mexico, following the abdication of Emperor Iturbide in 1823, Mexican political leaders wrote a constitution for its newly declared federated republic under the Constitution of 1824. Central America opted out of joining the new federated republic of Mexico, with no real conflict. Hero of the insurgency Guadalupe Victoria became the first president of Mexico in 1824. Conservatives pushed to take control of the government, favored central rule of the nation, as opposed to liberals, who generally favored the power of states expressed in federalism. General Santa Anna was elected president in 1833 and was in and out of office until 1854. In South America Gran Colombia came into being, spanning the what are now the separate countries of Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Panama, and Peru, with independence leader Simón Bolívar as head of state (1819-30). Gran Colombia dissolved in 1831, due to conflicts similar to those elsewhere in Spanish America between centralist conservatives and pro-federalist liberals.In Argentina, the conflict resulted a prolonged civil war between unitarianas (i.e. centralists) and federalists, which were in some aspects respectively analogous to liberals and conservatives in other countries. Between 1832 and 1852, the country existed as a confederation, without a head of state, although the federalist governor of Buenos Aires province, Juan Manuel de Rosas, was given the powers of debt payment and international relations and exerted a growing hegemony over the country. A national constitution was only enacted in 1853, reformed in 1860, and the country reorganized as a federal republic led by a liberal-conservative elite. After Uruguay achieved its independence, in 1828, a similar polarization crystallized between blancos and colorados, where the agrarian conservative interests were pitted against the liberal commercial interests based in Montevideo, and which eventually resulted in the Guerra Grande civil war (1839–1851).
In Brazil, Emperor Dom Pedro I, worn down by years of administrative turmoil and political dissensions with both liberal and conservative sides of politics, including an attempt of republican secession, Pedro I went to Portugal in 1831 to reclaim his daughter's crown, abdicating the Brazilian throne in favor of his five-year-old son and heir (who thus became the Empire's second monarch, with the title of Dom Pedro II). As a minor the new Emperor could not exert his constitutional powers until he became of age, a regency was set up by the National Assembly. In the absence of a charismatic figure who could represent a moderate face of power, during this period a series of localized rebellions took place, as the Cabanagem, the Malê Revolt, the Balaiada, the Sabinada, and the Ragamuffin War, which emerged from the dissatisfaction of the provinces with the central power, coupled with old and latent social tensions peculiar of a vast, slave holding and newly independent nation state. This period of internal political and social upheaval, which included the Praieira revolt, was overcome only at the end of the 1840s, years after the end of the regency, which occurred with the premature coronation of Pedro II in 1841. During the last phase of the monarchy, an internal political debate was centered on the issue of slavery. The Atlantic slave trade was abandoned in 1850, as a result of the British' Aberdeen Act, but only in May 1888 after a long process of internal mobilization and debate for an ethical and legal dismantling of slavery in the country, was the institution formally abolished. On November 15, 1889, worn out by years of economic stagnation, in attrition with the majority of Army officers, as well as with rural and financial elites (for different reasons), the monarchy was overthrown by a military coup.
Foreign Powers' influence and interventions, ca. 1825-1870
Foreign powers particularly the British and the U.S. were keenly interested in the possibilities opening for their countries with the struggles of independence. They quick to recognize newly independent countries in Latin America as well as establish commercial relationships with them, since the colonial limits on trade with foreign powers had ended. With the 1803 Louisiana Purchase from France, the U.S. now bordered Spanish Mexico, and both the U.S. and Spain sought clarity about their borders, signing the 1819 Adams-Onís Treaty, ceding Florida to the U.S. and setting the northern border of Spain’s claim in North America. When Mexico achieved independence, the U.S. recognized the government under Agustín de Iturbide, sending diplomat Joel Poinsett as its representative 1822-23. Poinsett concluded an agreement with Mexico confirming the terms of the Adams-Onís Treaty. Previously Poinsett had traveled widely in Latin America and had concluded a trade agreement with independent Argentina. The first major articulation of U.S. foreign policy toward Latin America as a region was the 1820 Monroe Doctrine. It warned foreign powers from intervening in the Americas. The U.S. was relatively weak compared to the powerful British Empire, but it was a key policy that informed U.S. actions toward Latin America. The U.S. was concerned that foreign powers could support Spain in its attempts to reclaim its empire. Those actions often included its own direct interventions in the region, justified by President Theodore Roosevelt in the 1904 Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine.
British commercial interests were eager to seize the opportunity to trade in Latin America. Britain and Portugal had long been allies against the Spanish and French, so that British recognition of Brazil’s independence followed quickly after Portugal’s own. As with many other Latin American countries, Brazil exported primary products and imported manufactured goods. For Britain, inserting its economic dominance in Latin America in what is now called neocolonialism meant that nation-states were sovereign countries, but most were dependent on other powers economically. British dominance hindered the development of Latin American industries and strengthened the dependence on the world trade network. Britain now replaced Spain as the region's largest trading partner. Great Britain invested significant capital in Latin America to develop the area as a market for processed goods. From the early 1820s to 1850, the post-independence economies of Latin American countries were lagging and stagnant. Over the nineteenth century, enhanced trade among Britain and Latin America led to state development such as infrastructure improvements. These improvements included roads and railroads which grew the trades between countries and outside nations such as Great Britain. By 1870, exports dramatically increased, attracting capital from abroad (including Europe and USA). Until 1914 with the outbreak of World War I, Britain was a major economic power in Latin America.
For the U.S., its initial sphere of influence was in Mexico, but the drive for territorial expansion, particularly for southern slave-owners seeking new territory for their enterprises, saw immigration of white slave-owners with their slaves to Texas, which ultimately precipitated conflict between the Mexican government and the Anglo-American settlers. The Texas Revolution of 1836-37 defeated Mexican forces, and in 1845, the U.S. annexation of the Texas territory that Mexico still claimed set the stage for the U.S.-Mexican War (1846-48). That war resulted in the resounding defeat of Mexico and U.S. troops occupying Mexico City. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo added a huge swath of what had been north and northwest Mexico the U.S., territory that Spain and then Mexico had claimed, but had not succeeded in occupying effectively. Southern slave owners, such as Thomas Jefferson and John C. Calhoun were also interested in the possibility of the U.S. acquiring Cuba from Spain, with the aim of expanding both U.S. territory and slavery. When such a plan was leaked in 1854, offering $130 million to Spain, it caused a scandal in among abolitionists in the U.S., who sought to end the expansion of slavery. It was repudiated by U.S. President Franklin Pierce. The American Civil War (1861-65) decided the question of slavery. Another episode in U.S.-Latin American relations was the attempt at expansionism in Latin America is the case of the filibuster William Walker. In 1855, he traveled to Nicaragua hoping to overthrow the government and take territory for the United States. With only the aid of 56 followers, he was able to take over the city of Granada, declaring himself commander of the army and installing Patricio Rivas as a puppet president. However, Rivas' presidency ended when he fled Nicaragua; Walker rigged the following election to ensure that he became the next president. His presidency did not last long, however, as he was met with much opposition from political groups in Nicaragua and neighboring countries. On May 1, 1857, Walker was forced by a coalition of Central American armies to surrender himself to a United States Navy officer who repatriated him and his followers. When Walker subsequently returned to Central America in 1860, he was apprehended by the Honduran authorities and executed.
Britain’s nineteenth-century policy was to end slavery and the slave trade, including Latin America. In Brazil, Britain made the end of the slave trade a condition of diplomatic recognition. The Brazilian economy was entirely dependent on slaves. Abolitionists in Brazil pressed for the end of slavery, which was finally terminated in 1888, followed the next year by the fall of the Brazilian monarchy.
The French also sought commercial ties to Latin America, to export luxury goods and establish financial ties, including extending foreign loans to governments, often in dire need of revenue. However, France intervened in Mexico a spectacular fashion. As Mexican conservatives and liberals fought a civil war over liberal reforms, Mexican conservatives to bolster their side and sought a European monarch to place on the throne of Mexico. Napoleon III of France invaded Mexico in 1862 and facilitated the appointment of Maximilian von Hapsburg. Since the U.S. was embroiled in its civil war, it could not hinder the French occupation that it saw as a violation of the Monroe Doctrine, but the government of Abraham Lincoln continued to recognize the Mexican government of Benito Juárez. The French withdrew their support of Maximilian in 1867, Maximilian and two conservative Mexican generals were executed, when Mexican liberals returned to power.
International Conflicts between Latin American nations
There were armed conflicts between Latin American nations in the late nineteenth century, as well as protracted civil wars in Mexico and Colombia. A notable international conflict is the War of the Pacific (1879-1884), when Chile seized territory and resources from Peru and Bolivia, gained valuable nitrate deposits and left Bolivia landlocked with no access to the sea. Also notable is the War of the Triple Alliance (1864-1870) in which Paraguay under Francisco Solano López provoked war against Brazil, which joined in alliance with Argentina and Uruguay. The war was a disaster for Paraguay, with huge loss of life and destruction of the modernized sector.
U.S. involvement in Latin America, 1870-1933
In the late 19th century and early 20th century, the U.S. banana importing companies United Fruit Company, Cuyamel Fruit Company (both ancestors of Chiquita), and Standard Fruit Company (now Dole), acquired large amounts of land in Central American countries like Guatemala, Honduras, and Costa Rica. The companies gained leverage over the governments and a ruling elite in these countries by dominating their economies and paying kickbacks, and exploited local workers. These countries came to be called banana republics.
Cubans, with the aid of Dominicans, launched a war for independence in 1868 and, over the next 30 years, suffered 279,000 losses in a brutal war against Spain that culminated in U.S. intervention. The 1898 Spanish–American War resulted in the end of Spanish colonial presence in the Americas. A period of frequent U.S. intervention in Latin America followed, with the acquisition of the Panama Canal Zone in 1903, the so-called Banana Wars in Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Honduras; the Caco Wars in Haiti; and the so-called Border War with Mexico. Some 3,000 Latin Americans were killed between 1914 and 1933. The U.S. press described the occupation of the Dominican Republic as an 'Anglo-Saxon crusade', carried out to keep the Latin Americans 'harmless against the ultimate consequences of their own misbehavior'.
World War I (1914-1918)
In general, Latin America stayed out of direct conflict in World War I, but the Great Powers were aware of the region's importance in the short and long term. Germany attempted to draw Mexico in to supporting its side, against the British, the French, and the especially the U.S. by trying to leverage anti-Americanism to its advantage. The Great Powers had been actively working to affect the course of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920). Great Britain and the U.S. had huge investments in Mexico, with Germany close behind, so that the outcome of the conflict would be consequential. The U.S. directly intervened militarily, but not on a huge scale. A German diplomatic proposal, now known as the January 1917 Zimmermann Telegram, sought to entice Mexico to join an alliance with Germany in the event of the United States entering World War I against Germany by promising the return of territory Mexico lost to the U.S. The proposal was intercepted and decoded by British intelligence. The revelation of the contents outraged the public in the U.S. and swayed public opinion. The news helped generate support for the United States declaration of war on Germany in April 1917 as well as calm U.S.-Mexico relations. Mexico, far weaker militarily, economically and politically than the U.S., ignored the German proposal; after the U.S. entered the war, it officially rejected it.
When the U.S. entered the conflict in 1917, it abandoned its hunt in Mexico for the revolutionary Pancho Villa who had attacked the U.S. in Columbus, New Mexico. The Mexican government was not pro-Villa, but was angered at the U.S. violating Mexico's sovereign territory with troops. The expeditionary force led by General John J. Pershing that had hopelessly chased him around northern Mexico was deployed to Europe. The U.S. then sought Latin American nations to join on the side of the allied powers of Britain, France, and the U.S. against Germany. They were not quick to join, since Germany was now a major financial lender to Latin America, and a number of nations were antipathetic to traditional lenders in Britain and France. If Latin America joined the allies, it was not cost-free to them. The U.S. sought hemispheric solidarity against Germany, and Brazil, Costa Rica, Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Haiti declared war. Others took the lesser step of breaking diplomatic relations. Argentina, Chile, and Mexico remained neutral.
More important than these moves that did not result in Latin American military mobilization was the impact of the war on transatlantic shipping, the economic lifeline for their export economies. Export economies in the mining sector and nitrates for gun powder boomed, but agricultural exports of sugar and coffee languished when European economies turned to war production. Britain was on the winning side of the war, but in its aftermath its economic power was much reduced. After 1914, the U.S. replaced Britain as the major foreign power influence in Latin America. Latin American nations gained standing internationally in the aftermath of the war, participating in the Versailles Conference and signed the Treaty of Versailles and joined the League of Nations. Latin America played an important role in the International Court of Justice.
Interwar period and World War II, 1920s-1945
The Great Depression was a world wide phenomenon and had an impact on Latin America. Exports largely fell and economies stagnated. For a number Latin American countries, the Depression made them favor internal economic development, in a policy of import substitution industrialization.
World War I and the League of Nations did not settle conflicts between European nations, but in the wake of World War I, Latin American nations gained success in pressing discussions of hemispheric importance. The Inter-American System was institutionally established with the First International Conference of American States of 1889-90, where 17 Latin American nations sent delegates to Washington D.C. formed the Pan American Union. Subsequent Pan-American Conferences saw the initial dominance of the U.S. in the hemisphere give way as Latin American nations asserted their priorities. The Havana Conference of 1928 was the high water mark of U.S. dominance and assertion of its right to intervene in Latin America, but with the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt to the U.S. presidency in 1932, U.S. policy changed toward Latin America. He abandoned routine U.S. interventions in Latin America that it claimed as its right and initiated the Good Neighbor Policy in March 1933. He sought hemispheric cooperation rather than U.S. coercion toward the region. At the Montevideo Conference in December 1933, the U.S. Secretary of State voted in favor of the Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, declaring “no state has the right to intervene in the internal or external affairs of another.” President Roosevelt himself attended the inaugural session of the hemispheric conference in Buenos Aires in 1936, where the U.S. reaffirmed the policy of non-intervention in Latin America and discussed the issue of neutrality for the hemisphere should war break out. With the Nazi invasion of Poland in September 1939 and the spread of war in Europe, foreign ministers of hemispheric nations met in Panama, at which the Declaration of Neutrality was signed, and the territorial waters bordering the hemisphere were expanded. The aim of these moves was to strengthen hemispheric solidarity and security. With the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on the U.S. navy base at Pearl Harbor, hemispheric ministers met in January 1942 in Rio de Janeiro. Some nations had already declared war on the Axis Powers, and others severed relations with the Axis. Chile did not do so until 1943, and Argentina, traditionally pro-German, did not until 1945. The U.S. requested that Germans suspected of Nazi sympathies be deported from Latin America to the U.S.
Brazil in World War II
After World War I, in which Brazil was an ally of the United States, Great Britain, and France, the country realized it needed a more capable army but did not have the technology to create it. In 1919, the French Military Mission was established by the French Commission in Brazil. Their main goal was to contain the inner rebellions in Brazil. They tried to assist the army by bringing them up to the European military standard but constant civil missions did not prepare them for World War II. Brazil's President, Getúlio Vargas, wanted to industrialize Brazil, allowing it to be more competitive with other countries. He reached out to Germany, Italy, France, and the United States to act as trade allies. Many Italian and German people immigrated to Brazil many years before World War II began thus creating a Nazi influence. The immigrants held high positions in government and the armed forces.
Brazil continued to remain neutral to the United States and Germany. Brazil attended continental meetings in Buenos Aires, Argentina (1936); Lima, Peru (1938); and Havana, Cuba (1940) that obligated them to agree to defend any part of the Americas if they were to be attacked. Brazil stopped trading with Germany once Germany started attacking offshore trading ships, resulting in Germany declaring a blockade against the Americas in the Atlantic Ocean. Once the German submarines attacked unarmed Brazilian trading ships, President Vargas met with the United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt to discuss how they could retaliate. On January 22, 1942, Brazil officially ended all relations with Germany, Japan, and Italy, becoming a part of the Allies.
The Brazilian Expeditionary Force was sent to Naples, Italy to fight with the Allied Powers. Brazil was the only Latin American country to send troops to Europe. Initially, Brazil wanted to only provide resources and shelter for the war to have a chance of gaining a high postwar status but ended up sending 25,000 men to fight. However, it was not a secret that Vargas had an admiration for Hitler's Nazi Germany and its Führer. He even let German Luftwaffe build secret air forces around Brazil. This alliance with Germany became Brazil's second best trade alliance behind the United States.
In the post-war period, nine thousand war criminals escaped to South America, including Croats, Ukrainians, Russians and other western Europeans who aided the Nazi war machine. Most, perhaps as many as 5,000, went to Argentina; between 1,500 and 2,000 are thought[by whom?] to have made it to Brazil; around 500 to 1,000 to Chile; and the rest to Paraguay and Uruguay.
After World War II, the United States and Latin America continued to have a close relationship. For example, USAID created family planning programs in Latin America combining the NGOs already in place, providing the women in largely Catholic areas access to contraception.
Mexico and World War II
Mexico entered World War II in response to German attacks on Mexican ships. The Potrero del Llano, originally an Italian tanker, had been seized in port by the Mexican government in April 1941 and renamed in honor of a region in Veracruz. It was attacked and crippled by the German submarine U-564 on May 13, 1942. The attack killed 13 of 35 crewmen. On May 20, 1942, a second tanker, Faja de Oro, also a seized Italian ship, was attacked and sunk by the German submarine U-160, killing 10 of 37 crewmen. In response, President Manuel Ávila Camacho and the Mexican government declared war on the Axis powers on May 22, 1942.
A large part of Mexico's contribution to the war came through an agreement January 1942 that allowed Mexican nationals living in the United States to join the U.S. armed forces. As many as 250,000 Mexicans served in this way. In the final year of the war, Mexico sent one air squadron to serve under the Mexican flag: the Mexican Air Force's Escuadrón Aéreo de Pelea 201 (201st Fighter Squadron), which saw combat in the Philippines in the war against Imperial Japan. Mexico was the only Latin-American country to send troops to the Asia-Pacific theatre of the war. In addition to those in the armed forces, tens of thousands of Mexican men were hired as farm workers in the United States during the war years through the Bracero program, which continued and expanded in the decades after the war.
World War II helped spark an era of rapid industrialization known as the Mexican Miracle. Mexico supplied the United States with more strategic raw materials than any other country, and American aid spurred the growth of industry. President Ávila was able to use the increased revenue to improve the country's credit, invest in infrastructure, subsidize food, and raise wages.
World War II and the Caribbean
President Federico Laredo Brú led Cuba when war broke out in Europe, though real power belonged to Fulgencio Batista as Chief of Staff of the army. In 1940, Laredo Brú infamously denied entry to 900 Jewish refugees who arrived in Havana aboard the MS St. Louis. After both the United States and Canada likewise refused to accept the refugees, they returned to Europe, where many were eventually murdered in the Holocaust. Batista became president in his own right following the election of 1940. He cooperated with the United States as it moved closer to war against the Axis. Cuba declared war on Japan on December 8, 1941, and on Germany and Italy on December 11.
Cuba was an important participant in the Battle of the Caribbean and its navy gained a reputation for skill and efficiency. The navy escorted hundreds of Allied ships through hostile waters, flew thousands of hours on convoy and patrol duty, and rescued over 200 victims of German U-Boat attacks from the sea. Six Cuban merchant ships were sunk by U-boats, taking the lives of around eighty sailors. On May 15, 1943, a squadron of Cuban submarine chasers sank the German submarine U-176 near Cayo Blanquizal. Cuba received millions of dollars in American military aid through the Lend-Lease program, which included air bases, aircraft, weapons, and training. The United States naval station at Guantanamo Bay also served as a base for convoys passing between the mainland United States and the Panama Canal or other points in the Caribbean.
The Dominican Republic declared war on Germany and Japan following the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Nazi declaration of war on the US. It did not directly contribute with troops, aircraft, or ships, however 112 Dominicans were integrated into the US military and fought in the war. On May 3, 1942, German submarine U-125 sank Dominican ship San Rafael with 1 torpedo and 32 rounds from the deck gun 50 miles west off Jamaica; 1 was killed, 37 survived. On May 21, 1942, German submarine U-156 sank Dominican ship Presidente Trujillo off Fort-de-France, Martinique; 24 were killed, 15 survived. Rumors of pro-Nazi Dominicans supplying German U-boats with food, water and fuel abounded during the war.
Nazi flight to Latin America
In the immediate aftermath World War II and the defeat of fascism, many Nazis and other fascists escaped Europe to South America via ratlines, with the aid of the Vatican. Argentina was a prime destination, because of its large German population and pro-German government of Juan Domingo Perón. Prominent Nazis Adolf Eichmann and Josef Mengele were able to flee there from Europe. Both lived undetected for years, with Mengele dying in Brazil. Israeli intelligence tracked down Eichmann, living under an assumed name, and was abducted and brought to Israel to stand trial and was executed.
Cold War Era (1945–1992)
Following World War II, the United States focused on what it perceived as the threat of communism and the Soviet Union to the interests of Western Europe and the United States. Although Latin American countries had been a staunch allies in the war and reaped some benefits during the war, in the postwar period the region did not prosper as it had expected. Latin America struggled in the postwar period without large-scale aid from the U.S., which was devoting resources to rebuilding Western Europe, including Germany. In Latin America there was increasing inequality with political consequences in individual countries. The U.S. returned a policy of interventionism where it felt political and economic its interests threatened. With the breakup of the Soviet bloc in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including the Soviet Union itself, Latin America sought find new solutions to long standing problems. With its Soviet alliance dissolved, Cuba entered a Special Period of severe economic disruption, high death rates, and food shortages.
Many Latin American economies continued to grow in the post-World War II era, but not as quickly as they had hoped for. With the transatlantic trade re-opening following the peace, Europe looked as it would need Latin American food exports and raw materials. The National policies of industrialization adopted in Latin America when export trade was slowed due to the Great Depression and then isolation due to World War II was now subject to international competition. Those who supported the return to the export of commodities for which Latin America had a comparative advantage disagreed with those who sought an expansion of the industrial sector. The rebuilding of Europe , including Germany, with the aid of the U.S. in the post-World War II era did not bring stronger demand for Latin American exports. In Latin America, much of the hard currency earned by their participation in the war went for nationalizing foreign owned industries and paying down the debt. A number of governments set tariff and exchange rate policies that undermined the export sector and aided urban working classes. Growth in the post-war period slowed and by the mid-1950s, the optimism of the postwar period was replaced by pessimism.
Economic integration was called for, to attain economies that could compete with the economies of the United States or Europe. Starting in the 1960s with the Latin American Free Trade Association and Central American Common Market, Latin American countries worked toward economic integration.
Guatemalan Revolution (1944-54)
In the postwar era, the Guatemalan Revolution overthrew the U.S.-backed dictator Jorge Ubico in 1945 and held free and fair elections. This brought a reformist president Dr. Juan José Arévalo (1945-51), a non-communist believer in "spiritual socialism" to the presidency, bringing populist institutional reforms. Reforms included land laws that threatened the interests of large, foreign-owned enterprises; a social security law, workmen’s compensation, laws allowing labor to organize and strike, and universal suffrage except for illiterate women. His government established diplomatic ties with the Soviet Union in April 1945, when it was still an ally against the Axis powers; communists entered leadership positions in the labor movement. At the end of his term, his hand-picked populist and nationalist candidate, Jacobo Arbenz, was elected, following the assassination of the rival right-wing candidate. Arbenz proposed placing capital in the hands of Guatemalans, building new infrastructure, and instituting significant land reform via Decree 900. With what the U.S. considered the prospect of even more radical changes in Guatemala, it backed a coup against Arbenz in 1954, overthrowing him. Argentine Che Guevara was in Guatemala during the Arbenz presidency; the coup ousting Arbenz was instructive for Guervara and Latin American nations seeking significant structural change.
Cuban Revolution (1959-1992)
The Cuban Revolution that overthrew the corrupt, U.S.-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, was a huge event not only in Cuban history, but also the history of Latin America and the world. The years' long struggle of revolutionaries led by Jesuit-educated, Cuban lawyer Fidel Castro, his younger brother Raúl, Argentine Che Guevara, and others were successful, with 1 January 1959 as their first day in power. Within a short time as U.S. hostility during the last two years of the Eisenhower presidency increased, the Cuban leadership became increasingly radicalized. The U.S. imposed a trade embargo on Cuba, and combined with Castro's expropriation of private enterprises, this was detrimental to the Cuban economy. Taking a leaf from its old playbook that had toppled Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954, the U.S. secretly trained Cuban exiles to overthrow Castro's regime, expecting that Cubans would support a return to the old order. The Bay of Pigs Invasion was a complete disaster for the counter-revolutionaries and a major victory in Cuba. The failure of the invasion led to a Soviet-Cuban alliance. In 1962, Cuba threatened the USA when it allowed Soviet missiles to be placed on the island, just 90 miles away from Florida; Cuba saw it as a way to defend the island, while the Americans saw it as a threat. The ensuing Cuban Missile Crisis—the closest the world has ever come to total annihilation—almost saw a US invasion or bombing of Cuba, but it ended when the two sides agreed on the removal of missiles; the US removed theirs from Italy and Turkey, while the Soviets removed theirs from Cuba. The crisis' end left Cuba blockaded by the US, which was also obligated to not invade Cuba. In fact, they were allowed to keep Guantanamo Bay as a naval base as per an agreement with the previous government of Batista.
Impact of the Cuban Revolution
The Cuban Revolution was for many countries an inspiration and a model, but for the U.S. it was a challenge to its power and influence in Latin America. The U.S. was concerned with the spread of communism in Latin America, and U.S. President Eisenhower responded to the threat by Dominican Republic's dictator Rafael Trujillo, who voiced a desire to seek an alliance with the Soviet Union. In 1961, Trujillo was murdered with weapons supplied by the CIA. U.S. President John F. Kennedy initiated the Alliance for Progress in 1961, to establish economic cooperation between the U.S. and Latin America. The Alliance would provide $20 billion for reform in Latin America, and counterinsurgency measures. Instead, the reform failed because of the simplistic theory that guided it and the lack of experienced American experts who could understand Latin American customs.
The Cuban Revolution was an inspiration for leftist struggles in Latin America. Fidel Castro visited both Chile and Nicaragua, extending Cuban solidarity, after leftists took power. In Chile, Salvador Allende and a coalition of leftists, Unidad Popular won an electoral victory in 1970; they lasted until the violent military coup of 11 September 1973. In the Nicaragua leftists held power from 1979-1990.
Cuba became involved in foreign interventions. From 1966 until the late 1980s, the Soviet government upgraded Cuba's military capabilities, and Cuba was active in foreign interventions, assisting with the liberation movements of several countries in Latin America and elsewhere in the world. Most notable were in Portuguese Africa, Angola and Mozambique, and the anti-imperialist struggles of countries such as Syria, Algeria, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Vietnam. Che Guevara left Cuba to fight first in Africa, and then went to Bolivia to try to foment revolution there. In September 1977, 12 MiG-21s conducted strafing flights over Puerto Plata in Dominican Republic to warn then president Joaquín Balaguer against intercepting Cuban warships headed to or returning from Angola, where it was involved in the conflict for national liberation from Portugal. Cuba's overseas interventions ended with the fall of the Soviet Union and the collapse of the Cuban economy in its wake.
In Chile, the postwar period saw uneven economic development, with the mining sector (copper, nitrates) continuing to be important, but an industrial sector also emerged. The agricultural sector stagnated and Chile needed to import foodstuffs. After the 1958 election, Chile entered a period of reform. The secret ballot was introduced, the Communist Party was relegalized, and populism in the countryside grew. In 1970, democratic elections brought to power socialist Salvador Allende, who implemented many reforms begun in 1964 under Christian Democrat Eduardo Frei. The economy continued to be dependent on mineral exports and a large portion of the population reaped no benefits for the prosperity and modernity of some sectors. Chile had a long tradition of stable, electoral democracy, In the 1970 election, a coalition of leftists, the Unidad Popular ("popular unity") candidate Allende was elected. Allende and his coalition held power for three years, with the increasing hostility of the U.S. The Chilean military with U.S. support staged a bloody coup in 1973. The military under General Augusto Pinochet held power until 1990.
Nicaraguan Revolution (1979-1990)
Following the American occupation of Nicaragua in 1912, as part of the Banana Wars, the Somoza family political dynasty came to power, and would rule Nicaragua until their ouster in 1979 during the Nicaraguan Revolution. The era of Somoza family rule was characterized by strong U.S. support for the government and its military as well as a heavy reliance on U.S.-based multi-national corporations. The Nicaraguan Revolution (Spanish: Revolución Nicaragüense or Revolución Popular Sandinista) encompassed the rising opposition to the Somoza dictatorship in the 1960s and 1970s, the campaign led by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) to violently oust the dictatorship in 1978–79, the subsequent efforts of the FSLN to govern Nicaragua from 1979 until 1990 and the Contra War which was waged between the FSLN and the Contras from 1981 to 1990.
The Revolution marked a significant period in Nicaraguan history and revealed the country as one of the major proxy war battlegrounds of the Cold War with the events in the country rising to international attention. Although the initial overthrow of the Somoza regime in 1978–79 was a bloody affair, the Contra War of the 1980s took the lives of tens of thousands of Nicaraguans and was the subject of fierce international debate. During the 1980s both the FSLN (a leftist collection of political parties) and the Contras (a rightist collection of counter-revolutionary groups) received large amounts of aid from the Cold War super-powers (respectively, the Soviet Union and the United States).
Post-Cold War era
With the fall of the Soviet Union, the Cold War ended. In the U.S., policy-makers developed what is known as the Washington Consensus. The set of specific economic policy prescriptions that were considered the "standard" reform package were promoted for crisis-wracked developing countries by Washington, D.C.-based institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and the US Department of the Treasury during the 1980s and 1990s.
In recent years, several Latin American countries led by socialist or other left wing governments – including Argentina and Venezuela – have campaigned for (and to some degree adopted) policies contrary to the Washington Consensus set of policies. (Other Latin countries with governments of the left, including Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Peru, have in practice adopted the bulk of the policies.) Also critical of the policies as actually promoted by the International Monetary Fund have been some US economists, such as Joseph Stiglitz and Dani Rodrik, who have challenged what are sometimes described as the "fundamentalist" policies of the International Monetary Fund and the US Treasury for what Stiglitz calls a "one size fits all" treatment of individual economies.
The term has become associated with neoliberal policies in general and drawn into the broader debate over the expanding role of the free market, constraints upon the state, and US influence on other countries' national sovereignty.
This politico-economical initiative was institutionalized in North America by 1994 NAFTA, and elsewhere in the Americas through a series of like agreements. The comprehensive Free Trade Area of the Americas project, however, was rejected by most South American countries at the 2005 4th Summit of the Americas.
Return of social movements
In 1982, Mexico announced that it could not meet its foreign debt payment obligations, inaugurating a debt crisis that would "discredit" Latin American economies throughout the decade. This debt crisis would lead to neoliberal reforms that would instigate many social movements in the region. A "reversal of development" reigned over Latin America, seen through negative economic growth, declines in industrial production, and thus, falling living standards for the middle and lower classes. Governments made financial security their primary policy goal over social security, enacting new neoliberal economic policies that implemented privatization of previously national industries and informalization of labor. In an effort to bring more investors to these industries, these governments also embraced globalization through more open interactions with the international economy.
Significantly, as democracy spread across much of Latin America, the realm of government became more inclusive (a trend that proved conducive to social movements), the economic ventures remained exclusive to a few elite groups within society. Neoliberal restructuring consistently redistributed income upward while denying political responsibility to provide social welfare rights, and though development projects took place throughout the region, both inequality and poverty increased. Feeling excluded from these new projects, the lower classes took ownership of their own democracy through a revitalization of social movements in Latin America.
Both urban and rural populations had serious grievances as a result of the above economic and global trends and have voiced them in mass demonstrations. Some of the largest and most violent of these have been protests against cuts in urban services, such as the Caracazo in Venezuela and the Argentinazo in Argentina.
Rural movements have made diverse demands related to unequal land distribution, displacement at the hands of development projects and dams, environmental and indigenous concerns, neoliberal agricultural restructuring, and insufficient means of livelihood. These movements have benefited considerably from transnational support from conservationists and INGOs. The Movement of Rural Landless Workers (MST) is perhaps the largest contemporary Latin American social movement. As indigenous populations are primarily rural, indigenous movements account for a large portion of rural social movements, including the Zapatista rebellion in Mexico, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), indigenous organizations in the Amazon region of Ecuador and Bolivia, pan-Mayan communities in Guatemala, and mobilization by the indigenous groups of Yanomami peoples in the Amazon, Kuna peoples in Panama, and Altiplano Aymara and Quechua peoples in Bolivia. Other significant types of social movements include labor struggles and strikes, such as recovered factories in Argentina, as well as gender-based movements such as the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina and protests against maquila production, which is largely a women's issue because of how it draws on women for cheap labor.
Turn to the left
In most countries, since the 2000s left-wing political parties have risen to power. The presidencies of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, Ricardo Lagos and Michelle Bachelet in Chile, Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff in Brazil, Néstor Kirchner and his wife Cristina Fernández in Argentina, Tabaré Vázquez and José Mujica in Uruguay, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, Rafael Correa in Ecuador, Fernando Lugo in Paraguay, Manuel Zelaya in Honduras (removed from power by a coup d'état), Mauricio Funes and Salvador Sánchez Cerén in El Salvador are all part of this wave of left-wing politicians who often declare themselves socialists, Latin Americanists, or anti-imperialists (often implying opposition to US policies towards the region). A development of this has been the creation of the eight-member ALBA alliance, or "The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America" (Spanish: Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América) by some of the countries already mentioned. By June 2014, Honduras (Juan Orlando Hernández), Guatemala (Otto Pérez Molina), and Panama (Ricardo Martinelli) had right-wing governments.
Following the pink tide, the conservative wave swept across the continent. Several right-wing leaders rose to power, including Argentina's Mauricio Macri and Brazil's Michel Temer, following a controversial impeachment of the country's first female president. In Chile, the conservative Sebastián Piñera succeeded the socialist Michelle Bachelet in 2017.
With the end of the commodity boom in the 2010s, economic stagnation or recession resulted in some countries. As a result, the left-wing governments of the Pink Tide lost support. The worst-hit was Venezuela, which is facing severe social and economic upheaval.
The corruption scandal of Odebrecht, a Brazilian conglomerate, has raised allegations of corruption across the region's governments (see Operation Car Wash). The bribery ring has become the largest corruption scandal in Latin American history. As of July 2017, the highest ranking politicians charged were former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (arrested) and former Peruvian presidents Ollanta Humala (arrested) and Alejandro Toledo (fugitive, fled to the US).
The COVID-19 pandemic proved a political challenge for many unstable Latin American democracies, with scholars identifying a decline in civil liberties as a result of opportunistic emergency powers. This was especially true for countries with strong presidential regimes, such as Brazil.
|Source: "UN report 2004 data" (PDF)|
|City||Country||2017 population||2014 GDP (PPP, $million, USD)||2014 GDP per capita, (USD)|
|Rio de Janeiro||Brazil||14,440,345||$176,630||$14,176|
This section contains too many or overly lengthy quotations for an encyclopedic entry. (February 2020)
The inhabitants of Latin America are of a variety of ancestries, ethnic groups, and races, making the region one of the most diverse in the world. The specific composition varies from country to country: some have a predominance of European-Amerindian or more commonly referred to as Mestizo or Castizo depending on the admixture, population; in others, Amerindians are a majority; some are dominated by inhabitants of European ancestry; and some countries' populations are primarily Mulatto. Various black, Asian and Zambo (mixed black and Amerindian) minorities are also identified regularly. People with European ancestry are the largest single group, and along with people of part-European ancestry, they combine to make up approximately 80% of the population, or even more.
According to Jon Aske:
Before Hispanics became such a 'noticeable' group in the U.S., the distinction between black and white was the major racial division and according to the one-drop rule adhered to by the culture at large, one drop of African ancestry usually meant that the person was Black. ...
The notion of racial continuum and a separation of race (or skin color) and ethnicity, on the other hand, is the norm in most of Latin America. In the Spanish and Portuguese empires, racial mixing or miscegenation was the norm and something that the Spanish and Portuguese had grown rather accustomed to during the hundreds of years of contact with Arabs and North Africans in the Iberian peninsula. But, demographics may have made this inevitable as well. Thus, for example, of the approximately 13.5 million people who lived in the Spanish colonies in 1800 before independence only about one fifth were white. This contrasts with the U.S., where more than four-fifths were whites (out of a population of 5.3 million in 1801, 900,000 were slaves, plus approximately 60,000 free blacks). ...
The fact of the recognition of a racial continuum in Hispanic American (sic) does not mean that there wasn't discrimination, which there was, or that there wasn't an obsession with race, or 'castes', as they were sometimes called. ...
In areas with large indigenous Amerindian populations, a racial mixture resulted, which is known in Spanish as mestizos ... who are a majority in Mexico, Central America and most of South America. Similarly, when African slaves were brought to the Caribbean region and Brazil, where there was very little indigenous presence left, unions between them and Spanish produced a population of mixed mulatos ... who are a majority of the population in many of those Spanish-speaking Caribbean basin countries (Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Colombia, and Venezuela).
Aske has also written that:
Spanish colonization was rather different from later English, or British, colonization of North America. They had different systems of colonization and different methods of subjugation. While the English were primarily interested in grabbing land, the Spanish in addition had a mandate to incorporate the land's inhabitants into their society, something which was achieved by religious conversion and sexual unions which produced a new 'race' of mestizos, a mixture of Europeans and indigenous peoples. mestizos (sic) form the majority of the population in Mexico, Central America, and much of South America. Racial mixing or miscegenation, after all, was something that the Spanish and Portuguese had been accustomed to during the hundreds of years of contact with Arabs and North Africans. Similarly, later on, when African slaves were introduced into the Caribbean basin region, unions between them and Spaniards produced a population of mulatos, who are a majority of the population in the Caribbean islands (the Antilles) (Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico), as well as other areas of the Caribbean region (Colombia, Venezuela and parts of the Central American Caribbean coast). mestizos (sic) and mulatos may not have always have been first class citizens in their countries, but they were never disowned in the way the outcomes of unions of Europeans and Native Americans were in the British colonies, where interracial marriages were taboo and one drop of Black or Amerindian blood was enough to make the person 'impure'.
Racially mixed societies arose in most of Spanish and Portuguese America, compounded in varying proportions from European, Indian, and Negro strands. Fairly frequent resort to manumission mitigated the hardships of slavery in those areas; and the Catholic church positively encouraged marriages between white immigrants and Indian women as a remedy for sexual immorality. However, in the southern English colonies and in most of the Caribbean islands, the importation of Negro slaves created a much more sharply polarized biracial society. Strong race feeling and the servile status of nearly all Negroes interdicted intermarriage, practically if not legally. Such discrimination did not prevent interbreeding; but children of mixed parentage were assigned to the status of their mothers. Mulattoes and Indian half-breeds were thereby excluded from the white community. In Spanish (and, with some differences, Portuguese) territories a more elaborate and less oppressive principle of racial discrimination established itself. The handful of persons who had been born in the homelands claimed topmost social prestige; next came those of purely European descent; while beneath ranged the various racial blends to form a social pyramid whose numerous racial distinctions meant that no one barrier could become as ugly and inpenetrable as that dividing whites from Negroes in the English, Dutch, and French colonies.
Thomas C. Wright, meanwhile, has written that:
The demographic makeup of colonial Latin America became more complex when, as the native population declined, the Portuguese, Spanish, and the French in Haiti turned to Africa for labor, as did the British in North America. The tricontinental heritage that characterizes Latin America, then, is shared by the United States, but even a casual examination reveals that the outcome of the complex interaction of different peoples has varied. While miscegenation among the three races certainly occurred in North America, it appears to have been much less common than in Latin America. Furthermore, offspring of such liaisons were not recognized as belonging to new, distinct racial categories in North America as they were in Latin America. The terms mestizo or mameluco, mulatto, the general term castas, and dozens of subcategories of racial identity frankly recognized the outcomes of interracial sexual activity in Latin America and established a continuum of race rather than the unrealistic absolute categories of white, black, or Indian as used in the United States. (The U.S. Census Bureau's forms did not allow individuals to list more than one race until 2000.)
Spanish is the predominant language of Latin America. It is spoken as first language by about 60% of the population. Portuguese is spoken by about 30%, and about 10% speak other languages such as Quechua, Mayan languages, Guaraní, Aymara, Nahuatl, English, French, Dutch and Italian. Portuguese is spoken only in Brazil (Brazilian Portuguese), the biggest and most populous country in the region. Spanish is the official language of most of the rest of the countries and territories on the Latin American mainland (Spanish language in the Americas), as well as in Cuba, Puerto Rico (where it is co-official with English), and the Dominican Republic. French is spoken in Haiti and in the French overseas departments of Guadeloupe, Martinique and Guiana. It is also spoken by some Panamanians of Afro-Antillean descent. Dutch is the official language in Suriname, Aruba, Curaçao, and the Netherlands Antilles. (As Dutch is a Germanic language, these territories are not necessarily considered part of Latin America.) However, the native language of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao, is Papiamento, a creole language largely based on Portuguese and Spanish and has a considerable influence coming from the Dutch language and Portuguese-based creole languages.
Amerindian languages are widely spoken in Peru, Guatemala, Bolivia, Paraguay and Mexico, and to a lesser degree, in Panama, Ecuador, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina, and Chile amongst other countries. In Latin American countries not named above, the population of speakers of indigenous languages tend to be very small or even non-existent (e.g. Uruguay). Mexico is possibly the only country that contains a wider variety of indigenous languages than any Latin American country, but the most spoken language is Nahuatl.
In Peru, Quechua is an official language, alongside Spanish and any other indigenous language in the areas where they predominate. In Ecuador, while holding no official status, the closely related Quichua is a recognized language of the indigenous people under the country's constitution; however, it is only spoken by a few groups in the country's highlands. In Bolivia, Aymara, Quechua and Guaraní hold official status alongside Spanish. Guaraní, along with Spanish, is an official language of Paraguay, and is spoken by a majority of the population (who are, for the most part, bilingual), and it is co-official with Spanish in the Argentine province of Corrientes. In Nicaragua, Spanish is the official language, but on the country's Caribbean coast English and indigenous languages such as Miskito, Sumo, and Rama also hold official status. Colombia recognizes all indigenous languages spoken within its territory as official, though fewer than 1% of its population are native speakers of these languages. Nahuatl is one of the 62 native languages spoken by indigenous people in Mexico, which are officially recognized by the government as "national languages" along with Spanish.
Other European languages spoken in Latin America include: English, by half of the current population in Puerto Rico, as well as in nearby countries that may or may not be considered Latin American, like Belize and Guyana, and spoken by descendants of British settlers in Argentina & Chile; German, in southern Brazil, southern Chile, portions of Argentina, Venezuela and Paraguay; Italian, in Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, and Uruguay; Ukrainian, Polish and Russian in southern Brazil and Argentina; and Welsh, in southern Argentina. Yiddish and Hebrew are possible to be heard around Buenos Aires and São Paulo especially. Non-European or Asian languages include Japanese in Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, and Paraguay, Korean in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Chile, Arabic in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, and Chile, and Chinese throughout South America. Countries like Venezuela, Argentina and Brazil have their own dialects or variations of German and Italian.
In several nations, especially in the Caribbean region, creole languages are spoken. The most widely spoken creole language in Latin America and the Caribbean is Haitian Creole, the predominant language of Haiti; it is derived primarily from French and certain West African tongues with Amerindian, English, Portuguese and Spanish influences as well. Creole languages of mainland Latin America, similarly, are derived from European languages and various African tongues.
The Garifuna language is spoken along the Caribbean coast in Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Belize mostly by the Garifuna people a mixed race Zambo people who were the result of mixing between Indigenous Caribbeans and escaped Black slaves. Primarily an Arawakan language, it has influences from Caribbean and European languages.
Archaeologists have deciphered over 15 pre-Columbian distinct writing systems from mesoamerican societies. the ancient Maya had the most sophisticated textually written language, but since texts were largely confined to the religious and administrative elite, traditions were passed down orally. oral traditions also prevailed in other major indigenous groups including, but not limited to the Aztecs and other Nahuatl speakers, Quechua and Aymara of the Andean regions, the Quiché of Central America, the Tupi-Guaraní in today's Brazil, the Guaraní in Paraguay and the Mapuche in Chile.
The vast majority of Latin Americans are Christians (90%), mostly Roman Catholics belonging to the Latin Church. About 70% of the Latin American population consider themselves Catholic. In 2012 Latin America constitute in absolute terms the second world's largest Christian population, after Europe.
According to the detailed Pew multi-country survey in 2014, 69% of the Latin American population is Catholic and 19% is Protestant. Protestants are 26% in Brazil and over 40% in much of Central America. More than half of these are converts from Roman Catholicism.
|Country||Catholic (%)||Protestant (%)||Irreligion (%)||Other (%)|
Due to economic, social and security developments that are affecting the region in recent decades, the focus is now the change from net immigration to net emigration.
The number of Brazilians living overseas is estimated at about 2 million people. An estimated 1.5 to two million Salvadorans reside in the United States. At least 1.5 million Ecuadorians have gone abroad, mainly to the United States and Spain. Approximately 1.5 million Dominicans live abroad, mostly in the United States. More than 1.3 million Cubans live abroad, most of them in the United States. It is estimated that over 800,000 Chileans live abroad, mainly in Argentina, the United States, Canada, Australia and Sweden. An estimated 700,000 Bolivians were living in Argentina as of 2006 and another 33,000 in the United States.
Japanese Brazilian immigrants to Japan numbered 250,000 in 2004, constituting Japan's second-largest immigrant population. Their experiences bear similarities to those of Japanese Peruvian immigrants, who are often relegated to low income jobs typically occupied by foreigners. Central Americans living abroad in 2005 were 3,314,300, of which 1,128,701 were Salvadorans, 685,713 were Guatemalans, 683,520 were Nicaraguans, 414,955 were Hondurans, 215,240 were Panamanians and 127,061 were Costa Ricans.
As a result of the 2010 Haiti Earthquake and its social and economic impact, there was a significant migration of Haitians to other Latin American countries. During the presidency of Hugo Chávez and his successor Nicolás Maduro, over 3.2 million people fled Venezuela during the Venezuelan refugee crisis as socioeconomic conditions and the quality of life worsened.
The countries of Latin America seek to strengthen links between migrants and their states of origin, while promoting their integration in the receiving state. These Emigrant Policies focus on the rights, obligations and opportunities for participation of emigrated citizens who already live outside the borders of the country of origin. Research on Latin America shows that the extension of policies towards migrants is linked to a focus on civil rights and state benefits that can positively influence integration in recipient countries. In addition, the tolerance of dual citizenship has spread more in Latin America than in any other region of the world.
Despite significant progress, education access and school completion remains unequal in Latin America. The region has made great progress in educational coverage; almost all children attend primary school and access to secondary education has increased considerably. Quality issues such as poor teaching methods, lack of appropriate equipment and overcrowding exist throughout the region. These issues lead to adolescents dropping out of the educational system early. Most educational systems in the region have implemented various types of administrative and institutional reforms that have enabled reach for places and communities that had no access to education services in the early 1990s. Compared to prior generations, Latin American youth have seen an increase in their levels of education. On average, they have completed two years schooling more than their parents.
However, there are still 23 million children in the region between the ages of 4 and 17 outside of the formal education system. Estimates indicate that 30% of preschool age children (ages 4–5) do not attend school, and for the most vulnerable populations, the poor and rural, this calculation exceeds 40 percent. Among primary school age children (ages 6 to 12), coverage is almost universal; however there is still a need to incorporate 5 million children in the primary education system. These children live mostly in remote areas, are indigenous or Afro-descendants and live in extreme poverty.
Among people between the ages of 13 and 17 years, only 80% are full-time students in the education system; among them only 66% advance to secondary school. These percentages are lower among vulnerable population groups: only 75% of the poorest youth between the ages of 13 and 17 years attend school. Tertiary education has the lowest coverage, with only 70% of people between the ages of 18 and 25 years outside of the education system. Currently, more than half of low income children or living in rural areas fail to complete nine years of education.
Crime and violence
Latin America and the Caribbean have been cited by numerous sources to be the most dangerous regions in the world. Studies have shown that Latin America contains the majority of the world's most dangerous cities. Many analysts attribute the reason to why the region has such an alarming crime rate and criminal culture is largely due to social and income inequality within the region, they say that growing social inequality is fueling crime in the region. Many agree that the prison crisis will not be resolved until the gap between the rich and the poor is addressed.
Crime and violence prevention and public security are now important issues for governments and citizens in Latin America and the Caribbean region. Homicide rates in Latin America are the highest in the world. From the early 1980s through the mid-1990s, homicide rates increased by 50 percent. Latin America and the Caribbean experienced more than 2.5 million murders between 2000 and 2017. There were a total of 63,880 murders in Brazil in 2018.
The major victims of such homicides are young men, 69 percent of whom are between the ages of 15 and 19 years old. Countries with the highest homicide rate per year per 100,000 inhabitants as of 2015 were: El Salvador 109, Honduras 64, Venezuela 57, Jamaica 43, Belize 34.4, St. Kitts and Nevis 34, Guatemala 34, Trinidad and Tobago 31, the Bahamas 30, Brazil 26.7, Colombia 26.5, the Dominican Republic 22, St. Lucia 22, Guyana 19, Mexico 16, Puerto Rico 16, Ecuador 13, Grenada 13, Costa Rica 12, Bolivia 12, Nicaragua 12, Panama 11, Antigua and Barbuda 11, and Haiti 10. Most of the top countries with the highest homicide rates are in Africa and Latin America. Countries in Central America, like El Salvador and Honduras, top the list of homicides in the world.
Brazil has more overall homicides than any country in the world, at 50,108, accounting for one in 10 globally. Crime-related violence in Latin America represents the most threat to public health, striking more victims than HIV/AIDS or other infectious diseases. Countries with lowest homicide rate per year per 100,000 inhabitants as of 2015 were: Chile 3, Peru 7, Argentina 7, Uruguay 8 and Paraguay 9.
Water supply and sanitation in Latin America is characterized by insufficient access and in many cases by poor service quality, with detrimental impacts on public health. Water and sanitation services are provided by a vast array of mostly local service providers under an often fragmented policy and regulatory framework. Financing of water and sanitation remains a serious challenge.
This article needs additional citations for verification. (December 2020)
While feminist movements became prevalent in Europe and North America in the 1960s and 1970s, the women of Latin America were gathering to oppose dictatorships and civil wars. As democracy began to spread across the region, feminist movements gradually began to push for more reproductive rights.
In the 1990s, many of the groups that made up the women's movement began to evolve in order to adapt to a changing political climate. These groups focused on specific policy issues, such as abortion, and were not composed exclusively of civil society actors. During this same time period, anti-abortion activism was also beginning to gain momentum. The Vatican replaced hundreds of progressive clergy and summarily repressed discussions of reproductive issues. Groups continuing to fight for legal abortion across the region have faced a strong resistance from the Catholic church as well as the religious right in the United States. Although a majority of countries within the region are officially secular, the church continues to have an extensive influence within the region due to Latin America being the largest Catholic region in the world. The religious right in the United States holds substantial clout over the political right in its own country, which has resulted in the United States banning federal funding for international NGOs. Considerably damaging to groups in Latin America was Ronald Reagan's 1984 Global Gag Rule which prohibited international organizations receiving US federal funds from performing or promoting abortion as a method of family planning.Latin America is home to some of the few countries of the world with a complete ban on abortion, without an exception for saving maternal life.
HIV/AIDS has been a public health concern for Latin America due to a remaining prevalence of the disease. In 2018 an estimated 2.2 million people had HIV in Latin America and the Caribbean, making the HIV prevalence rate approximately 0.4% in Latin America.
Some demographic groups in Latin America have higher prevalence rates for HIV/ AIDS including men who have sex with men having a prevalence rate of 10.6%, and transgender women having one of the highest rates within the population with a prevalence rate of 17.7%. Female sex workers and drug users also have higher prevalence for the disease than the general population (4.9% and 1%-49.7% respectively).
One aspect that has contributed to the higher prevalence of HIV/AIDS in LGBTQIA+ groups in Latin America is the concept of homophobia. Homophobia in Latin America has historically affected HIV service provision through under reported data and less priority through government programs.
Antiretroviral treatment coverage has been high, with AIDS related deaths decreasing between 2007 to 2017 by 12%, although the rate of new infections has not seen a large decrease. The cost of antiretroviral medicines remain a barrier for some in Latin America, as well as country wide shortages of medicines and condoms. In 2017 77% of Latin Americans with HIV were aware of their HIV status.The prevention of HIV/AIDS in Latin America among groups with a higher prevalence such as men who have sex with men and transgender women, has been aided with educational outreach, condom distribution, and LGBTQIA+ friendly clinics. Other main prevention methods include condom availability, education and outreach, HIV awareness, and mother-to-child transmission prevention.
According to Goldman Sachs' BRICS review of emerging economies, by 2050 the largest economies in the world will be as follows: China, United States, India, Japan, Germany, United Kingdom, Brazil and Mexico.
(2019, billions US$)
(2019, billions US$)
Over the past two centuries, Latin America's GDP per capita has fluctuated around world average. However, there is a substantial gap between Latin America and the developed economies. In the Andean region this gap can be a consequence of low human capital among Inca Indios in Pre-Columbian times. It is evident that the numeracy value of Peruvian Indios in the early 16th century was just half of the numeracy of the Spanish and Portuguese. Between 1820 and 2008, this gap widened from 0.8 to 2.7 times. Since 1980, Latin America also lost growth versus the world average. Many nations such as those in Asia have joined others on a rapid economic growth path, but Latin America has grown at slower pace and its share of world output declined from 9.5% in 1980 to 7.8% in 2008.
Standard of living
Latin America is the region with the highest levels of income inequality in the world. The following table lists all the countries in Latin America indicating a valuation of the country's Human Development Index, GDP at purchasing power parity per capita, measurement of inequality through the Gini index, measurement of poverty through the Human Poverty Index, measurement of extreme poverty based on people living under 1.25 dollars a day, life expectancy, murder rates and a measurement of safety through the Global Peace Index. Green cells indicate the best performance in each category while red indicates the lowest.
per capita in US$
|Youth literacy %
|Bolivia||0.718 (H)||6,421||4.1||46.6||14.0||99.4||69||12 (2012)||2.038|
|Costa Rica||0.810 (VH)||15,318||3.0||48.6||0.7||98.3||79||10||1.699|
|Dominican Republic||0.756 (H)||15,777||5.5||45.7||4.3||97.0||78||17||2.143|
|El Salvador||0.673 (M)||8,293||2.3||41.8||15.1||96.0||75||64||2.237|
|Haiti||0.510 (L)||1,794||2.5||59.2||54.9||72.3||64||10 (2012)||2.066|
|Nicaragua||0.660 (M)||4,972||4.0||45.7||15.8||87.0||73||8 (2019)||1.975|
|Panama||0.815 (VH)||20,512||6.0||51.9||9.5||97.6||79||18 (2012)||1.837|
|CO2 emissions |
(tons of CO2
- Brazil is the world's largest producer of sugarcane, soy, coffee, orange, guarana, açaí and Brazil nut; is one of the 5 largest producers of maize, papaya, tobacco, pineapple, banana, cotton, beans, coconut, watermelon and lemon; and is one of the 10 largest producers in the world of cocoa, cashew, avocado, persimmon, mango, onion, guava, rice, sorghum, oat and tomato;
- Argentina is the world's largest producer of yerba mate; is one of the 5 largest producers in the world of soy, corn, sunflower seed, lemon and pear, one of the 10 largest producers in the world of barley, grape, artichoke, tobacco, oat, and cotton, and one of the 15 largest producers in the world of wheat, chickpea, sugarcane, sorghum, apple, orange and grapefruit;
- Chile is one of the 5 largest world producers of cherry and cranberry, and one of the 10 largest world producers of grape, apple, kiwi, peach, plum and hazelnut, focusing on exporting high-value fruits;
- Colombia is one of the 5 largest producers in the world of coffee, avocado and palm oil, and one of the 10 largest producers in the world of sugarcane, banana, pineapple and cocoa;
- Peru is one of the 5 largest producers of avocado, blueberry, artichoke and asparagus, quinoa, one of the 10 largest producers in the world of coffee and cocoa, one of the 15 largest producers in the world of potato and pineapple, and also has a considerable production of grape, sugarcane, rice, banana, maize and cassava; its agriculture is considerably diversified;
- Paraguay's agriculture is currently developing, being currently the 6th largest producer of soy in the world and entering the list of the 20 largest producers of maize and sugarcane.
In Central America, the following stand out:
- Guatemala, one of the 10 largest producers in the world of coffee, sugar cane, melon and natural rubber, and one of the world's 15 largest producers of banana and palm oil;
- Honduras, which is one of the 5 largest producers of coffee in the world, and one of the 10 largest producers of palm oil;
- Costa Rica, which is the world's largest producer of pineapple;
- Dominican Republic, which is one of the world's top 5 producers of papaya and avocado, and one of the 10 largest producers of cocoa.
- Mexico is the world's largest producer of avocado, one of the world's top 5 producers of chili, lemon, orange, mango, papaya, strawberry, grapefruit, pumpkin and asparagus, and one of the world's 10 largest producers of sugar cane, maize, sorghum, bean, tomato, coconut, pineapple, melon and blueberry.
Brazil is the world's largest exporter of chicken meat: 3.77 million tons in 2019. The country is the holder of the second largest herd of cattle in the world, 22.2% of the world herd. The country was the second largest producer of beef in 2019, responsible for 15.4% of global production. It was also the 3rd largest world producer of milk in 2018. This year, the country produced 35.1 billion liters. In 2019, Brazil was the 4th largest pork producer in the world, with almost 4 million tons.
In 2018, Argentina was the 4th largest producer of beef in the world, with a production of 3 million tons (behind only USA, Brazil and China). Uruguay is also a major meat producer. In 2018, it produced 589 thousand tons of beef.
In the production of chicken meat, Mexico is among the 10 largest producers in the world, Argentina among the 15 largest and Peru and Colombia among the 20 largest. In the production of beef, Mexico is one of the 10 largest producers in the world and Colombia is one of the 20 largest producers. In the production of pork, Mexico is among the 15 largest producers in the world. In the production of honey, Argentina is among the 5 largest producers in the world, Mexico among the 10 largest and Brazil among the 15 largest. In terms of cow's milk production, Mexico is among the 15 largest producers in the world and Argentina among the 20.
Mining and petroleum
In the mining sector, Brazil stands out in the extraction of iron ore (where it is the second world exporter), copper, gold, bauxite (one of the 5 largest producers in the world), manganese (one of the 5 largest producers in the world), tin (one of the largest producers in the world), niobium (concentrates 98% of reserves known to the world) and nickel. In terms of gemstones, Brazil is the world's largest producer of amethyst, topaz, agate and one of the main producers of tourmaline, emerald, aquamarine, garnet and opal.Chile contributes about a third of the world copper production. In 2018, Peru was the 2nd largest producer of silver and copper in the world, and the 6th largest producer of gold (the 3 metals that generate the highest value), in addition to being the 3rd largest producer in the world of zinc and tin and 4th in lead. Bolivia is the 5th largest producer of tin, the 7th largest producer of silver, and the 8th largest producer of zinc in the worldMexico is the largest producer of silver in the world, representing almost 23% of world production, producing more than 200 million ounces in 2019. It also has important productions of copper and zinc and produces a significant amount of gold.
In the production of oil, Brazil was the 10th largest oil producer in the world in 2019, with 2.8 million barrels / day. Mexico was the twelfth largest, with 2.1 million barrels / day, Colombia in 20th place with 886 thousand barrels / day, Venezuela was the twenty-first place, with 877 thousand barrels / day, Ecuador in 28th with 531 thousand barrels / day and Argentina. 29 with 507 thousand barrels / day. Since Venezuela and Ecuador consume little oil and export most of their production, they are part of OPEC. Venezuela had a big drop in production after 2015 (where it produced 2.5 million barrels / day), falling in 2016 to 2.2 million, in 2017 to 2 million, in 2018 to 1.4 million and in 2019 to 877 thousand, due to lack of investments.
In the production of natural gas, in 2018, Argentina produced 1,524 bcf (billions of cubic feet), Mexico produced 999, Venezuela 946, Brazil 877, Bolivia 617, Peru 451, Colombia 379.
The World Bank annually lists the top manufacturing countries by total manufacturing value. According to the 2019 list, Mexico would have the twelfth most valuable industry in the world (US $217.8 billion), Brazil has the thirteenth largest (US $173.6 billion), Venezuela the thirtieth largest (US $58.2 billion, however, which depend on oil to obtain this value), Argentina the 31st largest (US $57.7 billion), Colombia the 46th largest (US $35.4 billion), Peru the 50th largest (US $28.7 billion) and Chile the 51st largest (US $28.3 billion).
In Latin America, few countries achieve projection in industrial activity: Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and, less prominently, Chile. Begun late, the industrialization of these countries received a great boost from World War II: this prevented the countries at war from buying the products they were used to importing and exporting what they produced. At that time, benefiting from the abundant local raw material, the low wages paid to the labor force and a certain specialization brought by immigrants, countries such as Brazil, Mexico and Argentina, as well as Venezuela, Chile, Colombia and Peru, were able to implement important industrial parks. In general, in these countries there are industries that require little capital and simple technology for their installation, such as the food processing and textile industries. The basic industries (steel, etc.) also stand out, as well as the metallurgical and mechanical industries.
The industrial parks of Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Chile, however, present much greater diversity and sophistication, producing advanced technology items. In the rest of Latin American countries, mainly in Central America, the processing industries of primary products for export predominate.
In the food industry, in 2019, Brazil was the second largest exporter of processed foods in the world. In 2016, the country was the 2nd largest producer of pulp in the world and the 8th producer of paper. In the footwear industry, in 2019, Brazil ranked 4th among world producers. In 2019, the country was the 8th producer of vehicles and the 9th producer of steel in the world. In 2018, the chemical industry of Brazil was the 8th in the world. In textile industry, Brazil, although it was among the 5 largest world producers in 2013, is very little integrated in world trade. In the aviation sector, Brazil has Embraer, the third largest aircraft manufacturer in the world, behind Boeing and Airbus.
Transport in Latin America is basically carried out using the road mode, the most developed in the region. There is also a considerable infrastructure of ports and airports. The railway and fluvial sector, although it has potential, is usually treated in a secondary way.
Brazil has more than 1.7 million km of roads, of which 215,000 km are paved, and about 14,000 km are divided highways. The two most important highways in the country are BR-101 and BR-116. Argentina has more than 600,000 km of roads, of which about 70,000 km are paved, and about 2,500 km are divided highways. The three most important highways in the country are Route 9, Route 7 and Route 14. Colombia has about 210,000 km of roads, and about 2,300 km are divided highways. Chile has about 82,000 km of roads, 20,000 km of which are paved, and about 2,000 km are divided highways. The most important highway in the country is the Route 5 (Pan-American Highway) These 4 countries are the ones with the best road infrastructure and with the largest number of double-lane highways, in South America.
The roadway network in Mexico has an extent of 366,095 km (227,481 mi), of which 116,802 km (72,577 mi) are paved, Of these, 10,474 km (6,508 mi) are multi-lane expressways: 9,544 km (5,930 mi) are four-lane highways and the rest have 6 or more lanes.
Due to the Andes Mountains, Amazon River and Amazon Forest, there have always been difficulties in implementing transcontinental or bioceanic highways. Practically the only route that existed was the one that connected Brazil to Buenos Aires, in Argentina and later to Santiago, in Chile. However, in recent years, with the combined effort of countries, new routes have started to emerge, such as Brazil-Peru (Interoceanic Highway), and a new highway between Brazil, Paraguay, northern Argentina and northern Chile (Bioceanic Corridor).
There are more than 2,000 airports in Brazil. The country has the second largest number of airports in the world, behind only the United States. São Paulo International Airport, located in the Metropolitan Region of São Paulo, is the largest and busiest in the country – the airport connects São Paulo to practically all major cities around the world. Brazil has 44 international airports, such as those in Rio de Janeiro, Brasília, Belo Horizonte, Porto Alegre, Florianópolis, Cuiabá, Salvador, Recife, Fortaleza, Belém and Manaus, among others. Argentina has important international airports such as Buenos Aires, Cordoba, Bariloche, Mendoza, Salta, Puerto Iguazú, Neuquén and Usuhaia, among others. Chile has important international airports such as Santiago, Antofagasta, Puerto Montt, Punta Arenas and Iquique, among others. Colombia has important international airports such as Bogotá, Medellín, Cartagena, Cali and Barranquilla, among others. Peru has important international airports such as Lima, Cuzco and Arequipa. Other important airports are those in the capitals of Uruguay (Montevideo), Paraguay (Asunción), Bolivia (La Paz) and Ecuador (Quito). The 10 busiest airports in South America in 2017 were: São Paulo-Guarulhos (Brazil), Bogotá (Colombia), São Paulo-Congonhas (Brazil), Santiago (Chile), Lima (Peru), Brasília (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Buenos Aires-Aeroparque (Argentina), Buenos Aires-Ezeiza (Argentina), and Minas Gerais (Brazil).
There are 1,834 airports in Mexico, the third-largest number of airports by country in the world. The seven largest airports—which absorb 90% of air travel—are (in order of air traffic): Mexico City, Cancún, Guadalajara, Monterrey, Tijuana, Acapulco, and Puerto Vallarta. Considering all of Latin America, the 10 busiest airports in 2017 were: Mexico City (Mexico), São Paulo-Guarulhos (Brazil), Bogotá (Colombia), Cancún (Mexico), São Paulo-Congonhas (Brazil), Santiago ( Chile), Lima (Peru), Brasilia (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) and Tocumen (Panama).
About ports, Brazil has some of the busiest ports in South America, such as Port of Santos, Port of Rio de Janeiro, Port of Paranaguá, Port of Itajaí, Port of Rio Grande, Port of São Francisco do Sul and Suape Port. Argentina has ports such as Port of Buenos Aires and Port of Rosario. Chile has important ports in Valparaíso, Caldera, Mejillones, Antofagasta, Iquique, Arica and Puerto Montt. Colombia has important ports such as Buenaventura, Cartagena Container Terminal and Puerto Bolivar. Peru has important ports in Callao, Ilo and Matarani. The 15 busiest ports in South America are: Port of Santos (Brazil), Port of Bahia de Cartagena (Colombia), Callao (Peru), Guayaquil (Ecuador), Buenos Aires (Argentina), San Antonio (Chile), Buenaventura (Colombia), Itajaí (Brazil), Valparaíso (Chile), Montevideo (Uruguay), Paranaguá (Brazil), Rio Grande (Brazil), São Francisco do Sul (Brazil), Manaus (Brazil) and Coronel (Chile).
The four major seaports concentrating around 60% of the merchandise traffic in Mexico are Altamira and Veracruz in the Gulf of Mexico, and Manzanillo and Lázaro Cárdenas in the Pacific Ocean. Considering all of Latin America, the 10 largest ports in terms of movement are: Colon (Panama), Santos (Brazil), Manzanillo (Mexico), Bahia de Cartagena (Colombia), Pacifico (Panama), Callao (Peru), Guayaquil ( Ecuador), Buenos Aires (Argentina), San Antonio (Chile) and Buenaventura (Colombia).
The Brazilian railway network has an extension of about 30,000 kilometers. It's basically used for transporting ores. The Argentine rail network, with 47,000 km of tracks, was one of the largest in the world and continues to be the most extensive in Latin America. It came to have about 100,000 km of rails, but the lifting of tracks and the emphasis placed on motor transport gradually reduced it. It has four different trails and international connections with Paraguay, Bolivia, Chile, Brazil and Uruguay. Chile has almost 7,000 km of railways, with connections to Argentina, Bolivia and Peru. Colombia has only about 3,500 km of railways.
Among the main Brazilian waterways, two stand out: Hidrovia Tietê-Paraná (which has a length of 2,400 km, 1,600 on the Paraná River and 800 km on the Tietê River, draining agricultural production from the states of Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Goiás and part of Rondônia, Tocantins and Minas General) and Hidrovia do Solimões-Amazonas (it has two sections: Solimões, which extends from Tabatinga to Manaus, with approximately 1600 km, and Amazonas, which extends from Manaus to Belém, with 1650 km. Almost entirely passenger transport from the Amazon plain is done by this waterway, in addition to practically all cargo transportation that is directed to the major regional centers of Belém and Manaus). In Brazil, this transport is still underutilized: the most important waterway stretches, from an economic point of view, are found in the Southeast and South of the country. Its full use still depends on the construction of locks, major dredging works and, mainly, of ports that allow intermodal integration. In Argentina, the waterway network is made up of the La Plata, Paraná, Paraguay and Uruguay rivers. The main river ports are Zárate and Campana. The port of Buenos Aires is historically the first in individual importance, but the area known as Up-River, which stretches along 67 km of the Santa Fé portion of the Paraná River, brings together 17 ports that concentrate 50% of the total exports of the country.
The Brazilian government has undertaken an ambitious program to reduce dependence on imported petroleum. Imports previously accounted for more than 70% of the country's oil needs but Brazil became self-sufficient in oil in 2006–2007. Brazil was the 10th largest oil producer in the world in 2019, with 2.8 million barrels / day. Production manages to supply the country's demand. In the beginning of 2020, in the production of oil and natural gas, the country exceeded 4 million barrels of oil equivalent per day, for the first time. In January this year, 3.168 million barrels of oil per day and 138.753 million cubic meters of natural gas were extracted.
Brazil is one of the main world producers of hydroelectric power. In 2019, Brazil had 217 hydroelectric plants in operation, with an installed capacity of 98,581 MW, 60.16% of the country's energy generation. In the total generation of electricity, in 2019 Brazil reached 170,000 megawatts of installed capacity, more than 75% from renewable sources (the majority, hydroelectric).
In 2013, the Southeast Region used about 50% of the load of the National Integrated System (SIN), being the main energy consuming region in the country. The region's installed electricity generation capacity totaled almost 42,500 MW, which represented about a third of Brazil's generation capacity. The hydroelectric generation represented 58% of the region's installed capacity, with the remaining 42% corresponding basically to the thermoelectric generation. São Paulo accounted for 40% of this capacity; Minas Gerais by about 25%; Rio de Janeiro by 13.3%; and Espírito Santo accounted for the rest. The South Region owns the Itaipu Dam, which was the largest hydroelectric plant in the world for several years, until the inauguration of Three Gorges Dam in China. It remains the second largest operating hydroelectric in the world. Brazil is the co-owner of the Itaipu Plant with Paraguay: the dam is located on the Paraná River, located on the border between countries. It has an installed generation capacity of 14 GW for 20 generating units of 700 MW each. North Region has large hydroelectric plants, such as Belo Monte Dam and Tucuruí Dam, which produce much of the national energy. Brazil's hydroelectric potential has not yet been fully exploited, so the country still has the capacity to build several renewable energy plants in its territory.
As of February 2021,[ref] according to ONS, total installed capacity of wind power was 19.1 GW, with average capacity factor of 58%. While the world average wind production capacity factors is 24.7%, there are areas in Northern Brazil, specially in Bahia State, where some wind farms record with average capacity factors over 60%; the average capacity factor in the Northeast Region is 45% in the coast and 49% in the interior. In 2019, wind energy represented 9% of the energy generated in the country. In 2019, it was estimated that the country had an estimated wind power generation potential of around 522 GW (this, only onshore), enough energy to meet three times the country's current demand. In 2020 Brazil was the 8th country in the world in terms of installed wind power (17.2 GW).
Nuclear energy accounts for about 4% of Brazil's electricity. The nuclear power generation monopoly is owned by Eletronuclear (Eletrobrás Eletronuclear S/A), a wholly owned subsidiary of Eletrobrás. Nuclear energy is produced by two reactors at Angra. It is located at the Central Nuclear Almirante Álvaro Alberto (CNAAA) on the Praia de Itaorna in Angra dos Reis, Rio de Janeiro. It consists of two pressurized water reactors, Angra I, with capacity of 657 MW, connected to the power grid in 1982, and Angra II, with capacity of 1,350 MW, connected in 2000. A third reactor, Angra III, with a projected output of 1,350 MW, is planned to be finished.
As of February 2021,[ref] according to ONS, total installed capacity of photovoltaic solar was 8.5 GW, with average capacity factor of 23%. Some of the most irradiated Brazilian States are MG ("Minas Gerais"), BA ("Bahia") and GO (Goiás), which have indeed world irradiation level records. In 2019, solar power represented 1.27% of the energy generated in the country. In 2020, Brazil was the 14th country in the world in terms of installed solar power (7.8 GW).
Wealth inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean remains a serious issue despite strong economic growth and improved social indicators over the past decade. A report released in 2013 by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs entitled Inequality Matters. Report of the World Social Situation, observed that: ‘Declines in the wage share have been attributed to the impact of labour-saving technological change and to a general weakening of labour market regulations and institutions. Such declines are likely to affect individuals in the middle and bottom of the income distribution disproportionately, since they rely mostly on labour income.’ In addition, the report noted that ‘highly-unequal land distribution has created social and political tensions and is a source of economic inefficiency, as small landholders frequently lack access to credit and other resources to increase productivity, while big owners may not have had enough incentive to do so.
According to the ECLAC, Latin America is the most unequal region in the world. Inequality in Latin America has deep historical roots in the Latin European racially based Casta system instituted in Latin America in colonial times that have been difficult to eradicate since the differences between initial endowments and opportunities among social groups have constrained the poorest's social mobility, thus making poverty to be transmitted from generation to generation, becoming a vicious cycle. High inequality is rooted in the deepest exclusionary institutions of the Casta system that have been perpetuated ever since colonial times and that have survived different political and economic regimes. Inequality has been reproduced and transmitted through generations because Latin American political systems allow a differentiated access on the influence that social groups have in the decision making process, and it responds in different ways to the least favored groups that have less political representation and capacity of pressure. Recent economic liberalisation also plays a role as not everyone is equally capable of taking advantage of its benefits. Differences in opportunities and endowments tend to be based on race, ethnicity, rurality and gender. Because inequality in gender and location are near universal, race and ethnicity play a larger, more integral role in the unequal discriminatory practices in Latin America. These differences have a strong impact on the distribution of income, capital and political standing.
The major trade blocs (or agreements) in the region are the Pacific Alliance and Mercosur. Minor blocs or trade agreements are the G3 Free Trade Agreement, the Dominican Republic – Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Andean Community of Nations (CAN). However, major reconfigurations are taking place along opposing approaches to integration and trade; Venezuela has officially withdrawn from both the CAN and G3 and it has been formally admitted into the Mercosur (pending ratification from the Paraguayan legislature). The president-elect of Ecuador has manifested his intentions of following the same path. This bloc nominally opposes any Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States, although Uruguay has manifested its intention otherwise. Chile, Peru, Colombia and Mexico are the only four Latin American nations that have an FTA with the United States and Canada, both members of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Income from tourism is key to the economy of several Latin American countries. Mexico is the only Latin American country to be ranked in the top 10 worldwide in the number of tourist visits. It received by far the largest number of international tourists, with 39.3 million visitors in 2017, followed by Argentina, with 6.7 million; then Brazil, with 6.6 million; Chile, with 6.5 million; Dominican Republic, with 6.2 million; Cuba with 4.3 million; Peru and Colombia with 4.0 million. The World Tourism Organization reports the following destinations as the top six tourism earners for the year 2017: Mexico, with US$21,333 million; the Dominican Republic, with US$7,178 million; Brazil, with US$6,024 million; Colombia, with US$4,773 million; Argentina, with US$4,687 million; and Panama, with US$4,258 million.
Places such as Cancún, Riviera Maya, Galápagos Islands, Punta Cana, Chichen Itza, Cartagena de Indias, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico City, Machu Picchu, Margarita Island, Acapulco, San Ignacio Miní, Santo Domingo, Buenos Aires, Salar de Uyuni, Rio de Janeiro, Punta del Este, Labadee, San Juan, São Paulo, La Habana, Panama City, Iguazú Falls, Puerto Vallarta, Poás Volcano National Park, Viña del Mar, Guanajuato City, Bogotá, Santa Marta, San Andrés, San Miguel de Allende, Lima, Guadalajara, Cuzco, Ponce and Perito Moreno Glacier are popular among international visitors in the region.
- (*) Data for 2015 rather than 2017, as the newest data is currently unavailable.
Latin American culture is a mixture of many cultural expressions worldwide. It is the product of many diverse influences:
- Indigenous cultures of the people who inhabited the continent prior to European Colonization. Ancient and very advanced civilizations developed their own political, social and religious systems. The Mayas, the Aztecs and the Incas are examples of these. Indigenous legacies in music, dance, foods, arts and crafts, clothing, folk culture and traditions are very strong in Latin America. Linguistic effects on Spanish and Portuguese are also marked, such as in terms like pampa, taco, tamale, cacique.
- Western civilization, in particular the culture of Europe, was brought mainly by the colonial powers – the Spanish, Portuguese and French – between the 16th and 19th centuries. The most enduring European colonial influence is language and Roman Catholicism. More recently, additional cultural influences came from the United States and Europe during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, due to the growing influence of the former on the world stage and immigration from the latter. The influence of the United States is particularly strong in northern Latin America, especially Puerto Rico, which is an American territory. Prior to 1959, Cuba, who fought for its independence along American soldiers in the Spanish–American War, was also known to have a close socioeconomic relation with the United States. In addition, the United States also helped Panama become an independent state from Colombia and built the twenty-mile-long Panama Canal Zone in Panama which held from 1903 (the Panama Canal opened to transoceanic freight traffic in 1914) to 1999, when the Torrijos-Carter Treaties restored Panamanian control of the Canal Zone. South America experienced waves of immigration of Europeans, especially Italians, Spaniards, Portuguese, Germans, Austrians, Poles, Ukrainians, French, Dutch, Russians, Croatians, Lithuanians and Ashkenazi Jews. With the end of colonialism, French culture was also able to exert a direct influence in Latin America, especially in the realms of high culture, science and medicine. This can be seen in any expression of the region's artistic traditions, including painting, literature and music, and in the realms of science and politics.
Due to the impact of Enlightenment ideals after the French revolution, a certain number of Iberian-American countries decriminalized homosexuality after France and French territories in the Americas in 1791. Some of the countries that abolished sodomy laws or banned any reference to state interference in consensual adult sexuality in the 19th century were Dominican Republic (1822), Brazil (1824), Peru (1836), Mexico (1871), Paraguay (1880), Argentina (1887), Honduras (1899), Guatemala and El Salvador. Today same-sex marriage is legal in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Uruguay, and French overseas departments, as well as in several states of Mexico. Civil unions can be held in Chile.
- African cultures, whose presence derives from a long history of New World slavery. Peoples of African descent have influenced the ethno-scapes of Latin America and the Caribbean. This is manifested for instance in music, dance and religion, especially in countries like Brazil, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Haiti, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, and Cuba.
- Asian cultures, whose part of the presence derives from the long history of the Coolie trade mostly arriving during the 19th and 20th centuries, and most commonly Chinese workers in Peru and Venezuela. But also from Japanese and Korean immigration especially headed to Brazil. This has largely affected the cuisine, traditions including literature, art and lifestyles and politics. The effects of Asian influences have especially and mostly effected the nations of Brazil, Cuba, Panama and Peru.
Beyond the rich tradition of indigenous art, the development of Latin American visual art owed much to the influence of Spanish, Portuguese and French Baroque painting, which in turn often followed the trends of the Italian Masters. In general, this artistic Eurocentrism began to fade in the early twentieth century, as Latin Americans began to acknowledge the uniqueness of their condition and started to follow their own path.
From the early twentieth century, the art of Latin America was greatly inspired by the Constructivist Movement. The Movement quickly spread from Russia to Europe and then into Latin America. Joaquín Torres García and Manuel Rendón have been credited with bringing the Constructivist Movement into Latin America from Europe.
An important artistic movement generated in Latin America is muralism represented by Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, José Clemente Orozco and Rufino Tamayo in Mexico, Santiago Martinez Delgado and Pedro Nel Gómez in Colombia and Antonio Berni in Argentina. Some of the most impressive Muralista works can be found in Mexico, Colombia, New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Philadelphia.
Painter Frida Kahlo, one of the most famous Mexican artists, painted about her own life and the Mexican culture in a style combining Realism, Symbolism and Surrealism. Kahlo's work commands the highest selling price of all Latin American paintings.
The Venezuelan Armando Reverón, whose work begins to be recognized internationally, is one of the most important artists of the 20th century in South America; he is a precursor of Arte Povera and Happening. From the 60s the kinetic art emerges in Venezuela, its main representatives are Jesús Soto, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Alejandro Otero and Gego.
Colombian sculptor and painter Fernando Botero is also widely known[by whom?] by his works which, on first examination, are noted for their exaggerated proportions and the corpulence of the human and animal figures.
Latin American film is both rich and diverse. Historically, the main centers of production have been Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, and Cuba. Latin American film flourished after sound was introduced in cinema, which added a linguistic barrier to the export of Hollywood film south of the border.
Mexican cinema started out in the silent era from 1896 to 1929 and flourished in the Golden Era of the 1940s. It boasted a huge industry comparable to Hollywood at the time with stars such as María Félix, Dolores del Río, and Pedro Infante. In the 1970s, Mexico was the location for many cult horror and action movies. More recently, films such as Amores Perros (2000) and Y tu mamá también (2001) enjoyed box office and critical acclaim and propelled Alfonso Cuarón and Alejandro González Iñárritu to the front rank of Hollywood directors. Alejandro González Iñárritu directed in 2010 Biutiful and Birdman (2014), Alfonso Cuarón directed Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in 2004 and Gravity (2013). Close friend of both, Guillermo del Toro, a top rank Hollywood director in Hollywood and Spain, directed Pan's Labyrinth (2006) and produced El Orfanato (2007). Carlos Carrera (The Crime of Father Amaro), and screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga are also some of the most known present-day Mexican film makers. Rudo y Cursi released in December (2008) in Mexico was directed by Carlos Cuarón.
Argentine cinema has also been prominenent since the first half of the 20th century and today averages over 60 full-length titles yearly. The industry suffered during the 1976–1983 military dictatorship; but re-emerged to produce the Academy Award winner The Official Story in 1985. A wave of imported U.S. films again damaged the industry in the early 1990s, though it soon recovered, thriving even during the Argentine economic crisis around 2001. Many Argentine movies produced during recent years have been internationally acclaimed, including Nueve reinas (2000), Son of the Bride (2001), El abrazo partido (2004), El otro (2007), the 2010 Foreign Language Academy Award winner El secreto de sus ojos and Wild Tales (2014).
In Brazil, the Cinema Novo movement created a particular way of making movies with critical and intellectual screenplays, a clearer photography related to the light of the outdoors in a tropical landscape, and a political message. The modern Brazilian film industry has become more profitable inside the country, and some of its productions have received prizes and recognition in Europe and the United States, with movies such as Central do Brasil (1999), Cidade de Deus (2002) and Tropa de Elite (2007).
Puerto Rican cinema has produced some notable films, such as Una Aventura Llamada Menudo, Los Diaz de Doris and Casi Casi. An influx of Hollywood films affected the local film industry in Puerto Rico during the 1980s and 1990s, but several Puerto Rican films have been produced since and it has been recovering.
Venezuelan television has also had a great impact in Latin America, is said that whilst "Venezuelan cinema began sporadically in the 1950s[, it] only emerged as a national-cultural movement in the mid-1970s" when it gained state support and auteurs could produce work.International co-productions with Latin America and Spain continued into this era and beyond, and Venezuelan films of this time were counted among the works of New Latin American Cinema. This period is known as Venezuela's Golden Age of cinema, having massive popularity even though it was a time of much social and political upheaval.
One of the most famous Venezuelan films, even to date, is the 1976 film Soy un delincuente by Clemente de la Cerda, which won the Special Jury Prize at the 1977 Locarno International Film Festival. Soy un delincuente was one of nine films for which the state gave substantial funding to produce, made in the year after the Venezuelan state began giving financial support to cinema in 1975. The support likely came from increased oil wealth in the early 1970s, and the subsequent 1973 credit incentive policy. At the time of its production the film was the most popular film in the country, and took a decade to be usurped from this position, even though it was only one in a string of films designed to tell social realist stories of struggle in the 1950s and '60s. Equally famous is the 1977 film El Pez que Fuma (Román Chalbaud). In 1981 FONCINE (the Venezuelan Film Fund) was founded, and this year it provided even more funding to produce seventeen feature films. Though a few years later, in 1983 with Viernes Negro, oil prices depreciated and Venezuela entered a depression which prevented such extravagant funding, film production continued; more transnational productions occurred, many more with Spain due to Latin America experiencing poor economic fortune in general, and there was some in new cinema, as well: Fina Torres' 1985 Oriana won the Caméra d'Or Prize at the 1985 Cannes Film Festival as the best first feature. Film production peaked in 1984–5,:37 with 1986 considered Venezuelan cinema's most successful year by the state, thanks to over 4 million admissions to national films, according to Venezuelanalysis. Venezuelan capital Caracas hosted the Ibero-American Forum on Cinematography Integration in 1989, from which the pan-continental IBERMEDIA was formed; a union which provides regional funding.
Pre-Columbian cultures were primarily oral, though the Aztecs and Mayans, for instance, produced elaborate codices. Oral accounts of mythological and religious beliefs were also sometimes recorded after the arrival of European colonizers, as was the case with the Popol Vuh. Moreover, a tradition of oral narrative survives to this day, for instance among the Quechua-speaking population of Peru and the Quiché (K'iche') of Guatemala.
From the very moment of Europe's discovery of the continents, early explorers and conquistadores produced written accounts and crónicas of their experience – such as Columbus's letters or Bernal Díaz del Castillo's description of the conquest of Mexico. During the colonial period, written culture was often in the hands of the church, within which context Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz wrote memorable poetry and philosophical essays. Towards the end of the 18th Century and the beginning of the 19th, a distinctive criollo literary tradition emerged, including the first novels such as Lizardi's El Periquillo Sarniento (1816).
The 19th century was a period of "foundational fictions" (in critic Doris Sommer's words), novels in the Romantic or Naturalist traditions that attempted to establish a sense of national identity, and which often focussed on the indigenous question or the dichotomy of "civilization or barbarism" (for which see, say, Domingo Sarmiento's Facundo (1845), Juan León Mera's Cumandá (1879), or Euclides da Cunha's Os Sertões (1902)). The 19th century also witnessed the realist work of Machado de Assis, who made use of surreal devices of metaphor and playful narrative construction, much admired by critic Harold Bloom.
At the turn of the 20th century, modernismo emerged, a poetic movement whose founding text was Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío's Azul (1888). This was the first Latin American literary movement to influence literary culture outside of the region, and was also the first truly Latin American literature, in that national differences were no longer so much at issue. José Martí, for instance, though a Cuban patriot, also lived in Mexico and the United States and wrote for journals in Argentina and elsewhere.
However, what really put Latin American literature on the global map was no doubt the literary boom of the 1960s and 1970s, distinguished by daring and experimental novels (such as Julio Cortázar's Rayuela (1963)) that were frequently published in Spain and quickly translated into English. The Boom's defining novel was Gabriel García Márquez's Cien años de soledad (1967), which led to the association of Latin American literature with magic realism, though other important writers of the period such as the Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa and Carlos Fuentes do not fit so easily within this framework. Arguably, the Boom's culmination was Augusto Roa Bastos's monumental Yo, el supremo (1974). In the wake of the Boom, influential precursors such as Juan Rulfo, Alejo Carpentier, and above all Jorge Luis Borges were also rediscovered.
Contemporary literature in the region is vibrant and varied, ranging from the best-selling Paulo Coelho and Isabel Allende to the more avant-garde and critically acclaimed work of writers such as Diamela Eltit, Giannina Braschi, Ricardo Piglia, or Roberto Bolaño. There has also been considerable attention paid to the genre of testimonio, texts produced in collaboration with subaltern subjects such as Rigoberta Menchú. Finally, a new breed of chroniclers is represented by the more journalistic Carlos Monsiváis and Pedro Lemebel.
The region boasts six Nobel Prize winners: in addition to the two Chilean poets Gabriela Mistral (1945) and Pablo Neruda (1971), there is also the Guatemalan novelist Miguel Angel Asturias (1967), the Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez (1982), the Mexican poet and essayist Octavio Paz (1990), and the Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa (2010).
Music and dance
Latin America has produced many successful worldwide artists in terms of recorded global music sales. Among the most successful have been Juan Gabriel (Mexico) only Latin American musician to have sold over 200 million records worldwide, Gloria Estefan (Cuba), Carlos Santana, Luis Miguel (Mexico) of whom have sold over 90 million records, Shakira (Colombia) and Vicente Fernández (Mexico) with over 50 million records sold worldwide. Enrique Iglesias, although not a Latin American, has also contributed for the success of Latin music.
Caribbean Hispanic music, such as merengue, bachata, salsa, and more recently reggaeton, from such countries as the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Panama, has been strongly influenced by African rhythms and melodies. Haiti's compas is a genre of music that is influenced by its Caribbean Hispanic counterparts, along with elements of jazz and modern sounds.
Another well-known Latin American musical genre includes the Argentine and Uruguayan tango (with Carlos Gardel as the greatest exponent), as well as the distinct nuevo tango, a fusion of tango, acoustic and electronic music popularized by bandoneón virtuoso Ástor Piazzolla. Samba, North American jazz, European classical music and choro combined to form bossa nova in Brazil, popularized by guitarist João Gilberto with singer Astrud Gilberto and pianist Antonio Carlos Jobim.
Other influential Latin American sounds include the Antillean soca and calypso, the Honduran (Garifuna) punta, the Colombian cumbia and vallenato, the Chilean cueca, the Ecuadorian boleros, and rockoleras, the Mexican ranchera and the mariachi which is the epitome of Mexican soul, the Nicaraguan palo de Mayo, the Peruvian marinera and tondero, the Uruguayan candombe, the French Antillean zouk (derived from Haitian compas) and the various styles of music from pre-Columbian traditions that are widespread in the Andean region.
The classical composer Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887–1959) worked on the recording of native musical traditions within his homeland of Brazil. The traditions of his homeland heavily influenced his classical works. Also notable is the recent work of the Cuban Leo Brouwer and guitar work of the Venezuelan Antonio Lauro and the Paraguayan Agustín Barrios. Latin America has also produced world-class classical performers such as the Chilean pianist Claudio Arrau, Brazilian pianist Nelson Freire and the Argentine pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim. Brazilian opera soprano Bidu Sayão, one of Brazil's most famous musicians, was a leading artist of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City from 1937 to 1952.
Arguably, the main contribution to music entered through folklore, where the true soul of the Latin American and Caribbean countries is expressed. Musicians such as Yma Súmac, Chabuca Granda, Atahualpa Yupanqui, Violeta Parra, Víctor Jara, Jorge Cafrune, Facundo Cabral, Mercedes Sosa, Jorge Negrete, Luiz Gonzaga, Caetano Veloso, Susana Baca, Chavela Vargas, Simon Diaz, Julio Jaramillo, Toto la Momposina, Gilberto Gil, Maria Bethânia, Nana Caymmi, Nara Leão, Gal Costa, Ney Matogrosso as well as musical ensembles such as Inti Illimani and Los Kjarkas are magnificent examples of the heights that this soul can reach.
Latin pop, including many forms of rock, is popular in Latin America today (see Spanish language rock and roll). A few examples are Café Tacuba, Soda Stereo, Maná, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, Rita Lee, Mutantes, Secos e Molhados Legião Urbana, Titãs, Paralamas do Sucesso, Cazuza, Barão Vermelho, Skank, Miranda!, Cansei de Ser Sexy or CSS, and Bajo Fondo.
More recently, reggaeton, which blends Jamaican reggae and dancehall with Latin America genres such as bomba and plena, as well as hip hop, is becoming more popular, in spite of the controversy surrounding its lyrics, dance steps (Perreo) and music videos. It has become very popular among populations with a "migrant culture" influence – both Latino populations in the United States, such as southern Florida and New York City, and parts of Latin America where migration to the United States is common, such as Trinidad and Tobago, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, and Mexico.
World Heritage sites
|Country||Natural sites||Cultural sites||Mixed sites||Total sites|
- Americas (terminology)
- Central American Integration System
- Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly
- Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance
- Latin America and the Caribbean (region)
- Latin America and the League of Nations
- Latin America–United States relations
- Latin American integration
- Latin American studies
- Latin American Studies Association
- Latin Americans
- List of Latin Americans
- Organization of American States
- Pan-American Conferences
- Spanish America
- In the main Latin American languages:
- Spanish: Latinoamérica or América Latina
- French: Amérique Latine
- Portuguese: América Latina
- Includes the population estimates for South American and Central American countries excluding Belize, Guyana, the United States, and Spanish and French speaking Caribbean countries and territories, as listed under "Sub-regions and countries"
- Not including Anglophone or Dutch-speaking countries, such as Belize, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago; see Contemporary definitions section
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The word latinoamericano emerged in the years following the wars of independence in Spain's former colonies [...] By the late 1850s, californios were writing in newspapers about their membership in América latina (Latin America) and latinoamerica, calling themselves latinos as the shortened name for their hemispheric membership in la raza latina (the Latin race). Reprinting an 1858 opinion piece by a correspondent in Havana on race relations in the Americas, El Clamor Publico of Los Angeles surmised that 'two rival races are competing with each other ... the Anglo Saxon and the Latin one [la raza latina].'
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For example, in many parts of Latin America, racial groupings are based less on the biological physical features and more on an intersection between physical features and social features such as economic class, dress, education, and context. Thus, a more fluid treatment allows for the construction of race as an achieved status rather than an ascribed status as is the case in the United States.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
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There are basically four operational categories that may be termed ethnic or even racial in Mexico today: (1) güero or blanco (white), denoting European and Near East extraction; (2) criollo (creole), meaning light mestizo in this context but actually of varying complexion; (3) mestizo, an imprecise category that includes many phenotypic variations; and (4) indio, also an imprecise category. These are nominal categories, and neither güero/blanco nor criollo is a widely used term (see Nutini 1997: 230). Nevertheless, there is a popular consensus in Mexico today that these four categories represent major sectors of the nation and that they can be arranged into a rough hierarchy: whites and creoles at the top, a vast population of mestizos in the middle, and Indians (perceived as both a racial and an ethnic component) at the bottom. This popular hierarchy does not constitute a stratificational system or even a set of social classes, however, because its categories are neither exhaustive nor mutually exclusive. While very light skin is indeed characteristic of the country's elite, there is no "white" (güero) class. Rather, the superordinate stratum is divided into four real classes—aristocracy, plutocracy, political class, and the crème of the upper-middle class—or, for some purposes, into ruling, political, and prestige classes (see Chap. 4). Nor is there a mestizo class, as phenotypical mestizos are found in all classes, though only rarely among the aristocracy and very frequently in the middle and lower classes. Finally, the bottom rungs are not constituted mainly of Indians, except in some localized areas, such as the Sierra Norte de Puebla
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