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Latin America

Latin America
Area 19,197,000 km2 (7,412,000 sq mi)[1]
Population 588,019,503
Pop. density 31/km2 (80/sq mi)
Demonym Latin American
Countries 20
Dependencies 13
Languages Mainly: Spanish and Portuguese. Others: Quechua, Mayan languages, Guaraní, French, Aymara, Nahuatl, Italian.
Time zones UTC-2 to UTC-8
Largest cities [2]
1. São Paulo
2. Mexico City
3. Lima
4. Bogotá
5. Rio de Janeiro
6. Santiago
7. Santo Domingo
8. Salvador
9. Buenos Aires
10. Brasília

Latin America or Romance-speaking America is the subregion of the [4] (larger than those of India, and Japan and the UK combined).[5] The term "Latin America" was first used in 1861 in La revue des races Latines, a magazine "dedicated to the cause of Pan-Latinism".[6]


  • Etymology and definitions 1
    • Subdivisions 1.1
  • History 2
    • Pre-Columbian history 2.1
    • European colonization 2.2
    • Independence (1804–1825) 2.3
  • Consolidation and liberal-conservative conflicts (1818-1990) 3
    • Conservative and Liberal Conflicts in Latin America in the 19th Century 3.1
    • British Influence of Latin America during 19th century 3.2
    • France Involvement in Latin America during the 19th century 3.3
    • United States Involvement in Latin America during the 19th Century 3.4
      • Monroe Doctrine 3.4.1
      • Mexican–American War (1846–1848) 3.4.2
    • World wars (1914–1945) 3.5
      • Brazil's participation in World War II 3.5.1
      • Involvement in World War II 3.5.2
    • Cold War (1946–1990) 3.6
      • Economy 3.6.1
      • Reforms 3.6.2
      • Bureaucratic authoritarianism 3.6.3
      • US relations 3.6.4
      • Cuban Revolution 3.6.5
      • Bay of Pigs Invasion 3.6.6
      • Alliance for Progress 3.6.7
      • Nicaraguan Revolution 3.6.8
    • Washington Consensus 3.7
    • Turn to the Left 3.8
    • The return of social movements 3.9
    • Commodity boom and increasing relations with China 3.10
  • Demographics 4
    • Ethnic groups 4.1
    • Language 4.2
    • Religion 4.3
    • Migration 4.4
    • Education 4.5
    • Crime and violence 4.6
  • Economy 5
    • Size 5.1
    • Standard of living 5.2
    • Environment 5.3
  • Inequality 6
  • Trade blocs 7
  • Tourism 8
  • Culture 9
    • Art 9.1
    • Film 9.2
    • Literature 9.3
    • Music and dance 9.4
  • Bibliography 10
  • See also 11
  • References 12
  • External links 13
  • Further reading 14

Etymology and definitions

The Parc de l'Amérique-Latine in Quebec City, the capital of a French-speaking province in Canada, celebrates the cultural ties between Quebec and the other people who speak a Romance language in the Americas.

The idea that a part of the Americas has a linguistic 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" in a struggle with "Teutonic Europe", "Anglo-Saxon America" and "Slavic Europe".[7] The idea was later 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.[8] The term was first used in Paris in an 1856 conference by the Chilean politician Francisco Bilbao[9] and the same year by the Colombian writer José María Torres Caicedo in his poem "Two Americas".[10] The term Latin America was supported by the French Empire of Napoleon III during the French invasion of Mexico as a way to include France among countries with influence in America and to exclude Anglophone countries and 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.[11] This term was also used in 1861 by French scholars in La revue des races Latines, a magazine dedicated to the Pan-Latinism movement.[12]

In contemporary usage:

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, Guatemala, and Paraguay), 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 4 common subregions in Latin America
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;[20] 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 Hispanic America, Portuguese America and French America.
Flag Arms Name Area
Population density
(per km²)
Capital Name(s) in official language(s)
Argentina 2,780,400 41,660,417 14.4 Buenos Aires Argentina
Bolivia 1,098,581 10,461,053 9 Sucre Bolivia
Brazil 8,515,767 201,032,714 23.6 Brasília Brasil
Chile 756,096 17,556,815 23 Santiago Chile
Colombia 1,141,748 47,387,109 41.5 Bogotá Colombia
Costa Rica 51,100 4,667,096 91.3 San José Costa Rica
Cuba 109,884 11,061,886 100.6 Havana Cuba
Dominican Republic 48,442 10,219,630 210.9 Santo Domingo República Dominicana
Ecuador 283,560 15,439,429 54.4 Quito Ecuador
El Salvador 21,040 6,108,590 290.3 San Salvador El Salvador
French Guiana* 83,534 250,109 3 Cayenne Guyane française
Guadeloupe* 1,628 405,739 250 Basse-Terre Guadeloupe
Guatemala 108,889 15,438,384 129 Guatemala City Guatemala
Haiti 27,750 9,996,731 350 Port-au-Prince Ayiti, Haïti
Honduras 112,492 8,555,072 76 Tegucigalpa Honduras
Martinique* 1,128 386,486 340 Fort-de-France Martinique
Mexico 1,972,550 118,395,054 57 Mexico City México
Nicaragua 130,375 5,788,531 44.3 Managua Nicaragua
Panama 75,517 3,661,868 54.2 Panama City Panamá
Paraguay 406,752 6,800,284 14.2 Asunción Paraguay
Peru 1,285,216 30,475,144 23 Lima Perú
Puerto Rico* 9,104 3,615,086 397 San Juan Puerto Rico
Saint Barthélemy* 53.2 36,286 682 Gustavia Saint-Barthélemy
Saint Martin* 25 9,035 361 Marigot Saint-Martin
Uruguay 176,215 3,324,460 18.87 Montevideo Uruguay
Venezuela 916,445 31,648,930 31.59 Caracas Venezuela
Total 20,111,457 603,441,595 30

*: Not a sovereign state


Pre-Columbian history

Archaeological site of Chichén-Itzá in Yucatán, Mexico. One of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
A view of Machu Picchu, a pre-Columbian Inca site in Peru. One of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

The earliest known 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 continents. By the first millennium AD/CE, South America's vast rainforests, mountains, plains and coasts were the home of tens of millions of people. The earliest settlements in the Americas are of the Las Vegas Culture[21] from about 8000 BC and 4600 BC, a sedentary group from the coast of Ecuador, the forefathers of the more known Valdivia culture, of the same era. Some groups formed more permanent settlements such as the Chibchas (or "Muiscas" or "Muyscas") and the Tairona groups. These groups are in the circum Caribbean region. The Chibchas of Colombia, the Quechuas and Aymaras of Bolivia and Perú were the three indigenous groups that settled most permanently.

The region was home to many indigenous peoples and advanced civilizations, including the Aztecs, Toltecs, Caribs, Tupi, Maya, and Inca. The golden age of the Maya began about 250, with the last two great civilizations, the Aztecs and Incas, emerging into prominence later on in the early fourteenth century and mid-fifteenth centuries, respectively. The Aztec empire was ultimately the most powerful civilization known throughout the Americas, until its downfall in part by the Spanish invasion.

European colonization

Romantic Painting of Christopher Columbus arriving to the Americas Primer desembarco de Cristóbal Colón en América, by Dióscoro Puebla (1862).
Brazil, for having been a colony of Portugal, makes the Portuguese architecture a mark in the colonial era, as seen in the photo of a street in Paraty.
With the arrival of the Europeans following Christopher Columbus' voyages, the indigenous elites, such as the Incas and Aztecs, lost power to the heavy European invasion. Hernándo Cortés seized the Aztec elite's power with the help of local groups who had favored the Aztec elite, and Francisco Pizarro eliminated the Incan rule in Western South America. The European powers of Spain and Portugal colonized the region, which along with the rest of the uncolonized world, was divided into areas of Spanish and Portuguese control by the line of demarcation in 1494, which gave Spain all areas to the west, and Portugal all areas to the east (the Portuguese lands in South America subsequently becoming Brazil).
The Colonial city of Granada in Nicaragua, is one of the most visited sites in Central America.
By the end of the sixteenth century Spain and Portugal had been joined by others, including France, in occupying large areas of North, Central and South America, ultimately extending from Alaska to the southern tips of the Patagonia. European culture, customs and government were introduced, with the Roman Catholic Church becoming the major economic and political power to overrule the traditional ways of the region, eventually becoming the only official religion of the Americas during this period.

Epidemics of diseases brought by the Europeans, such as smallpox and measles, wiped out a large portion of the indigenous population. Historians cannot determine the number of natives who died due to European diseases, but some put the figures as high as 85% and as low as 25%. Due to the lack of written records, specific numbers are hard to verify. Many of the survivors were forced to work in European plantations and mines. Intermixing between the indigenous peoples and the European colonists was very common, and, by the end of the colonial period, people of mixed ancestry (mestizos) formed majorities in several colonies.

Independence (1804–1825)

José de San Martín, The Liberator of Argentina, Chile and Peru.

In 1804, Haiti became the first Latin American nation to gain independence, following a violent slave revolt led by Toussaint L'ouverture on the French colony of Saint-Domingue. The victors abolished slavery. Haitian independence inspired independence movements in Spanish America.

By the end of the eighteenth century, Spanish and Portuguese power waned on the global scene as other European powers took their place, notably Britain and France. Resentment grew among the majority of the population in Latin America over the restrictions imposed by the Spanish government, as well as the dominance of native Spaniards (Iberian-born Peninsulares) in the major social and political institutions. Napoleon's invasion of Spain in 1808 marked a turning point, compelling Criollo elites to form juntas that advocated independence. Also, the newly independent Haiti, the second oldest nation in the New World after the United States, further fueled the independence movement by inspiring the leaders of the movement, such as Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla of México, Simón Bolívar of Venezuela and José de San Martín of Argentina, and by providing them with considerable munitions and troops.

Fighting soon broke out between juntas and the Spanish colonial authorities, with initial victories for the advocates of independence. Eventually these early movements were crushed by the royalist troops by 1810, including those of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla in Mexico in the year 1810. Later on Francisco de Miranda in Venezuela by 1812. Under the leadership of a new generation of leaders, such as Simón Bolívar "The Liberator", José de San Martín of Argentina, and other Libertadores in South America, the independence movement regained strength, and by 1825, all Spanish America, except for Puerto Rico and Cuba, had gained independence from Spain. Brazil achieved independence with a constitutional monarchy established in 1822. In the same year in Mexico, a military officer, Agustín de Iturbide, led a coalition of conservatives and liberals who created a constitutional monarchy, with Iturbide as emperor. This First Mexican Empire was short-lived, and was followed by the creation of a republic in 1823.

Consolidation and liberal-conservative conflicts (1818-1990)

Conservative and Liberal Conflicts in Latin America in the 19th Century

After the independence of many Latin American countries, there was conflict between the people and the government, much of which can be reduced to the contrasting ideologies between liberalism and conservatism.[22] Conservatism was the dominant system of government prior to the revolutions and it was founded on having social classes, including governing by kings. Liberalists wanted to see a change in the ruling systems, and to move away from monarchs and social classes in order to promote equality.

When liberal Guadalupe Victoria became the first president of Mexico in 1824, conservatists relied on their belief that the state had been better off before the new government came into power, so, by comparison, the old government was better in the eyes of the Conservatives. Following this sentiment, the conservatives pushed to take control of the government, and they succeeded. General Santa Anna was elected president in 1833. The following decade, the Mexican-American war (1846-1848) caused Mexico to lose a significant amount of territory to the United States. This loss led to a rebellion by the enraged liberal forces against the conservative government.

In 1837, conservative Rafael Carrera conquered Guatemala and separated from the Central American Union. The instability that followed the disintegration of the union led to the independence of the other Central American countries.

In Brazil, rural aristocrats were in conflict with the urban conservatives. Portuguese control over Brazilian ports continued after Brazil’s independence. Following the conservative idea that the old government was better, urbanites tended to support conservatism because more opportunities were available to them as a result of the Portuguese presence.

  • Isabel Maurer Queipo (ed.): "Directory of World Cinema: Latin America", intellectbooks, Bristol 2013, ISBN 9781841506180

Further reading

  • IDB Education Initiative
  • Latin American Network Information Center
  • Latin America Data Base
  • Washington Office on Latin America
  • Council on Hemispheric Affairs
  • Infolatam. Information and analysis of Latin America
  • Map of Land Cover: Latin America and Caribbean (FAO)
  • Lessons From Latin America by Benjamin Dangl, The Nation, March 4, 2009
  • Keeping Latin America on the World News Agenda – Interview with Michael Reid of The Economist
  • Cold War in Latin America, CSU Pomona University
  • Latin America Cold War Resources, Yale University
  • Latin America Cold War, Harvard University
  • Latin American Research Centre, University of Calgary
  • , by John PilgerThe war on Democracy

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  116. ^ See Passing (racial identity) for a discussion of a related phenomenon, although in a later and very different cultural and legal context.
  117. ^  
  118. ^ David Cahill (1994). "Colour by Numbers: Racial and Ethnic Categories in the Viceroyalty of Peru". Journal of Latin American Studies 26: 325–346.  
  119. ^ Maria Martinez (2002). "The Spanish concept of Limpieza de Sangre and the emergence of the race/caste system in the viceroyalty of New Spain, PhD dissertation". University of Chicago. 
  120. ^ Bakewell, Peter (1997). A History of Latin America. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell. pp. 160–163.  
  121. ^ Fracisco H. Ferreira et al. Inequality in Latin America: Breaking with History?, The World Bank, Washington, D.C., 2004
  122. ^ Nicola Jones and Hayley Baker. "Untangling links between trade, poverty and gender". ODI Briefing Papers 38, March 2008. Overseas Development Institute (ODI). 
  123. ^ Isabel Ortiz and Matthew Cummins (April 2011). "Global Inequality: Beyond the Bottom Billion". UNICEF. p. 26. 
  124. ^ Francisco H. Ferreira et al. Inequality in Latin America: Breaking with History?, The World Bank, Washington, D.C., 2004
  125. ^ Human Development Report, UNDP
  126. ^ "World Development Indicators database, 1 July 2011". Gross national income per capita 2010, Atlas method and PPP. World Bank Organization (WBO). 
  127. ^ Barrientos, A. and Claudio Santibanez. (2009). "New Forms of Social Assistance and the Evolution of Social Protection in Latin America". Journal of Latin American Studies. Cambridge University Press 41, 1–26.
  128. ^ Benedicte de la Brière and Laura B. Rawlings, "Examining Conditional Cash Transfer Programs: A Role for Increased Social Inclusion?", Social Safety Net Primary Papers, The World Bank, 2006, p.4
  129. ^ "Regional Human Development Report for Latin America and the Caribbean 2010". Inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean. Inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean. 
  130. ^ "Societies on the move". The Economist. 2010-09-11. 
  131. ^ Monika Huber, Wolfgang Kaiser (February 2013). "Mixed Feelings". 
  132. ^ Carmen Altés. "El turismo en América Latina y el Caribe y la experiencia del BID" [Tourism in Latin America and the Caribbean and the experience of the IDB]. Ingresos directos por turismo internacional. Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). 
  133. ^ http://mkt.unwto.orgs/all/files/docpdf/unwtohighlights11enhr_1.pdf
  134. ^ "UNWTO Tourism Highlights, 2011 Edition". International Tourist Arrivals. World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). 
  135. ^ "UNWTO Tourism Highlights, 2012 Edition". International Tourist Arrivals. World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). 
  136. ^ "UNWTO Tourism Highlights, 2012 Edition". International Tourism Receipts. World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). 
  137. ^ Carmen Altés. "El turismo en América Latina y el Caribe y la experiencia del BID" [Tourism in Latin America and the Caribbean and the experience of the IDB]. Figura 1: Ingresos por turismo internacional (% de exportaciones). Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). 
  138. ^ Carmen Altés. "El turismo en América Latina y el Caribe y la experiencia del BID" [Tourism in Latin America and the Caribbean and the experience of the IDB]. Figura 2: Ingresos por turismo internacional (% del PIB). Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). 
  139. ^ Carmen Altés. "El turismo en América Latina y el Caribe y la experiencia del BID" [Tourism in Latin America and the Caribbean and the experience of the IDB]. Figura 3: Empleo en turismo (% del empleo total). Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). 
  140. ^ "The Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2011". Table 1: Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index 2011 and 2009 comparison. World Economic Forum (WEF). 
  141. ^ Stepan, Nancy Leys (1991). "The Hour of Eugenics": Race, Gender, and Nation in Latin America. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. in passim.  
  142. ^ "Frida Kahlo "Roots" Sets $5.6 Million Record at Sotheby's". Art Knowledge News. Retrieved 2007-09-23. 
  143. ^ Notimex / El Siglo De Torreón (2012-04-01). "Fernando Botero, el gran artista de Latinoamérica". Retrieved 2013-12-09. 
  144. ^ "Fernando Botero, el aprendiz eterno". Retrieved 2013-12-09. 
  145. ^ Forero, Juan (2005-05-08). Great Crime' at Abu Ghraib Enrages and Inspires an Artist"'". The New York Times. 
  146. ^ Dr. Christopher Washburne. "Clave: The African Roots of Salsa". University of Salsa. Retrieved 2006-05-23. 
  147. ^ "Guide to Latin Music". Caravan Music. Retrieved 2006-05-23. 
  148. ^ "Heitor Villa-Lobos". Leadership Medica. Retrieved 2006-05-23. 
  149. ^ The Baltimore Sun. "Latin music returns to America with wave of new pop starlets". The Michigan Daily. Retrieved 2006-05-23. 
  150. ^ "Daddy Yankee leads the reggaeton charge". Associated Press. Retrieved 2006-05-23. 


See also

  • Azevedo, Aroldo. O Brasil e suas regiões. São Paulo: Companhia Editora Nacional, 1971. (Portuguese)
  • Enciclopédia Barsa. Volume 4: Batráquio – Camarão, Filipe. Rio de Janeiro: Encyclopædia Britannica do Brasil, 1987. (Portuguese)
  • Coelho, Marcos Amorim. Geografia do Brasil. 4th ed. São Paulo: Moderna, 1996. (Portuguese)
  • Galeano, Eduardo. Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent. 1973
  • Edwards, Sebastián. Left Behind: Latin America and the False Promise of Populism. University of Chicago Press, 2010.
  • Moreira, Igor A. G. O Espaço Geográfico, geografia geral e do Brasil. 18. Ed. São Paulo: Ática, 1981. (Portuguese)
  • Vesentini, José William. Brasil, sociedade e espaço – Geografia do Brasil. 7th Ed. São Paulo: Ática, 1988. (Portuguese)
  • Julio Miranda Vidal: (2007) Ciencia y tecnología en América Latina Edición electrónica gratuita. Texto completo en
  • Donghi, T. (1970). Historia contemporánea de América Latina ([2. ed.). Madrid: Alianza Editorial.
  • Engerman, Stanley L., and Kenneth L. Sokoloff. "History Lessons: Institutions, Factors Endowments, and Paths of Development in the New World." The Journal of Economic Perspectives Vol. 14(3) pp. 217–232 (2000): pp. 217–232. Print.
  • Latin American History from 1800 to 1914. Woodville. Colegio Woodville, n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2013. .
  • Racine, K. (Aug2010). “This England and This Now”: British Cultural and Intellectual Influence in the Spanish American Independence Era. Hispanic American Historical Review, Vol. 90(Issue 3), p423–454.
  • Pozas, Mario A. "EL LIBERALISMO HISPANOAMERICANO EN EL SIGLO XIX" University of Central Arkansas.
  • Bakewell, Peter. "A History of Latin America": A Blackwell History of the World.
  • Schneider, Ronald M. "Latin American Political History: Patterns and Personalities"


More recently, Reggaeton, which blends Jamaican reggae and dancehall with Latin America genres such as bomba and plena, as well as that of 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 U.S., such as southern Florida and New York City, and parts of Latin America where migration to the U.S. is common, such as Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, and Mexico.[150]

Latin pop, including many forms of rock, is popular in Latin America today (see Spanish language rock and roll).[149]

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 Luiz Gonzaga, Caetano Veloso, Susana Baca, Chavela Vargas, Simon Diaz, Julio Jaramillo, Toto la Momposina as well as musical ensembles such as Inti Illimani and Los Kjarkas are magnificent examples of the heights that this soul can reach.

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.[148] 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.

A couple dances Argentine Tango.

Other influential Latin American sounds include the Antillean soca and calypso, the Honduras (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.

Another well-known Latin American musical genre includes the Argentine and Uruguayan tango, 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 guitarrist João Gilberto and pianist Antonio Carlos Jobim.

Caribbean Hispanic music, such as merengue, bachata, salsa, and more recently reggaeton, from such countries as the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Cuba, and Panama has been strongly influenced by African rhythms and melodies. Haiti's compas is a genre of music that draws influence and is thus similar to its Caribbean Hispanic counterparts, with an element of jazz and modern sound as well.[146][147]

Antonio Carlos Jobim was a Brazilian composer and singer consecrated with Bossa Nova, widely known as the composer of "Garota de Ipanema" (The Girl from Ipanema), one of the most recorded songs of all time
Salsa dancing in Cali, Colombia

Latin America has produced many successful worldwide artists in terms of recorded global music sales. Among the most successful have been Gloria Estefan (Cuba), Roberto Carlos (Brazil), Carlos Santana (Mexico) of whom have sold over 90 million records, Luis Miguel (Mexico), Shakira (Colombia) and Vicente Fernández (Mexico) with over 50 million records sold worldwide.

Mexicans dancing Jarabe Tapatío in Guadalajara, Mexico
Celebrating the annual "Alegría por la vida" Carnaval in Managua, Nicaragua

Music and dance

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 Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez (1982), the Guatemalan novelist Miguel Ángel Asturias (1967), the Mexican poet and essayist Octavio Paz (1990), and the Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa (2010).

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.

However, what really put Latin American literature on the global map was no doubt the literary Jorge Luis Borges were also rediscovered.

Argentine L'Hôtel, Paris in 1969.
Chilean Poet Gabriela Mistral, first Latin American to win a Nobel Prize in Literature, in 1945.

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 U.S. and wrote for journals in Argentina and elsewhere.

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.

From the very moment of Europe's "discovery" of the continent, 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).

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.

Mexican scholar and poet of the 17th century Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz


It is also worth noting that many Latin Americans have achieved significant success within Hollywood, for instance Carmen Miranda (Portuguese-Brazilian), Salma Hayek (Mexican), and Benicio del Toro (Puerto Rican), while Mexican Americans such as Robert Rodriguez have also made their mark in film production.

Cuban cinema has enjoyed much official support since the Cuban revolution and important film-makers include Tomás Gutiérrez Alea.

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.

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).

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), El abrazo partido (2004), El otro (2007) and the 2010 Foreign Language Academy Award winner El secreto de sus ojos.

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 Iñarritu to the front rank of Hollywood directors. Alejandro González Iñárritu directed in (2006) Babel and Alfonso Cuarón directed (Children of Men in (2006), and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in (2004)). Guillermo del Toro close friend and also a front rank Hollywood director in Hollywood and Spain, directed Pan's Labyrinth (2006) and produce 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 directed by Carlos Cuarón.

Guadalajara International Film Festival the festival (held in Mexico) is considered the most prestigious film festival in Latin America and among the most important Spanish language film festivals in the world.

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. The 1950s and 1960s saw a movement towards Third Cinema, led by the Argentine filmmakers Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino. More recently, a new style of directing and stories filmed has been tagged as "New Latin American Cinema".

Latin American film is both rich and diverse. Historically, the main centers of production have been Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, and Cuba.


Colombian sculptor and painter Fernando Botero is also widely known[143][144][145] by his works which, on first examination, are noted for their exaggerated proportions and the corpulence of the human and animal figures.

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.[142]

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 and Santiago Martinez Delgado and Pedro Nel Gómez in Colombia. Some of the most impressive Muralista works can be found in Mexico, Colombia, New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

Diego Rivera's mural depicting Mexico's history at the National Palace in Mexico City.

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.

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.


  • Indigenous cultures of the people who inhabited the continent prior to the arrival of the Europeans. Ancient and very advanced civilizations developed their own political, social and religious systems. The Maya, 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 a United States 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 and Germans. 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.[141] 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.
  • 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 Belize, Brazil, Honduras, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Haiti, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, and Cuba.
  • Asian cultures, whose presence derives from the long history of the Coolie trade mostly arriving during the 19th and 20th centuries. This has largely effected the cuisine, traditions including literature, art and lifestyles and politics. The effects of Asian influences have especially and mostly effected the nations of Belize, Brazil, Cuba, Panama and Peru.

Latin American culture is a mixture of many cultural expressions worldwide. It is the product of many diverse influences:


Performance indicators for international tourism in Latin America
Country Tourist
of US$)
per arrival)
per capita)
(as %
of GDP)
(as %
of exports)
Direct and
in tourism
 Argentina 5.663 5,353 945 133 7.4 1.8 9.1 4.20
 Bolivia 0.807 310 384 31 9.4 2.2 7.6 3.35
 Brazil 5.433 6,555 1,207 34 3.2 0.5 7.0 4.36
 Chile 3.070 1,831 596 107 5.3 1.9 6.8 4.27
 Colombia 2.385 4,061 873 45 6.6 1.4 5.9 3.94
 Costa Rica 2.196 2,156 982 459 17.5 8.1 13.3 4.43
 Cuba 2.507 2,187 872 194 N/A N/A N/A N/A
 Dominican Republic 4.306 4,353 1,011 440 36.2 18.8 19.8 3.99
 Ecuador 1.141 837 734 58 6.3 1.5 7.4 3.79
 El Salvador 1.184 415 351 67 12.9 3.4 6.8 3.68
 Guatemala 1.225 1,350 1,102 94 16.0 2.6 6.0 3.82
 Haiti 0.255 167 655 17 19.4 3.2 4.7 N/A
 Honduras 0.931 701 753 92 13.5 5.0 8.5 3.79
 Mexico 23.403 11,869 507 105 5.7 1.6 14.2 4.43
 Nicaragua 1.060 377 356 65 15.5 3.7 5.6 3.56
 Panama 2.06 1,926 1,308 550 10.6 6.3 12.9 4.30
 Paraguay 0.524 241 460 37 4.2 1.3 6.4 3.26
 Peru 2.598 2,360 908 81 9.0 1.6 7.6 4.04
 Uruguay 2.857 2,187 765 643 14.2 3.6 10.7 4.24
 Venezuela 0.510 739 1,449 25 1.3 0.4 8.1 3.46

Income from tourism is key to the economy of several Latin American countries.[132] Thanks to its proximity to the USA, Mexico receives the largest number of international tourists, with 22.3 million visitors in 2010, followed by Argentina, with 5.2 million in 2010; Brazil, with 5.1 million; Puerto Rico, with 3.6 million, Chile with 2.7 million, Colombia with 2.385 million;[133] Dominican Republic, with 4.1 million and Panama with 2.06 million.[134] Places such as Cancún, Galápagos Islands, Machu Picchu, Chichen Itza, Cartagena de Indias, Cabo San Lucas, Acapulco, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Margarita Island, São Paulo, Salar de Uyuni, Punta del Este, Santo Domingo, Labadee, San Juan, La Habana, Panama City, Iguazu Falls, Puerto Vallarta, Poás Volcano National Park, Punta Cana, Viña del Mar, Mexico City, Quito, Bogotá, Santa Marta, San Andrés, Buenos Aires, Lima, Maceió, Florianópolis, Cuzco, Ponce and Patagonia are popular among international visitors in the region.

Cancún is the top international tourist destination in Mexico and Latin America.


The major trade blocs (or agreements) in the region are the Pacific Alliance and the Union of South American Nations, composed of the integrated Mercosur and Andean Community of Nations (CAN). Minor blocs or trade agreements are the G3 Free Trade Agreement, the Dominican Republic – Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). 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 has already signed an FTA with Canada, and along with Peru, Colombia and Mexico are the only four Latin American nations that have an FTA with the United States, the latter being a member of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Trade blocs

Many countries in Latin America have responded to high levels of poverty by implementing new, or altering old, social assistance programs such as conditional cash transfers. These include Mexico's Progresa Oportunidades, Brazil's Bolsa Escola and Bolsa Familia, Panama's Red de Oportunidades and Chile's Chile Solidario.[127] In general, these programs provide money to poor families under the condition that those transfers are used as an investment on their children's human capital, such as regular school attendance and basic preventive health care. The purpose of these programs is to address the inter-generational transmission of poverty and to foster social inclusion by explicitly targeting the poor, focusing on children, delivering transfers to women, and changing social accountability relationships between beneficiaries, service providers and governments.[128] These programs have helped to increase school enrollment and attendance and they also have shown improvements in children's health conditions.[129] Most of these transfer schemes are now benefiting around 110 million people in the region and are considered relatively cheap, costing around 0.5% of their GDP.[130] In some countries e.g. in Peru decentralisation is hoped to help addressing social justice and poverty better. NGOs which addressed those problems on the local level before could help with that.[131]

According to the World Bank, the poorest countries in the region were (as of 2008):[126] Haiti, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Honduras. Undernourishment affects to 47% of Haitians, 27% of Nicaraguans, 23% of Bolivians and 22% of Hondurans.

Trends on income inequality 1998-2010 in 7 Latin American countries (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela). Source of the data: World Bank.

According to a study by the World Bank,the richest decile of the population of Latin America earn[124] 48% of the total income, while the poorest 10% of the population earn only 1.6% of the income. In contrast, in developed countries, the top decile receives 29% of the total income, while the bottom decile earns 2.5%. The countries with the highest inequality in the region (as measured with the Gini index in the UN Development Report[125]) in 2007 were Haiti (59.5), Colombia (58.5), Bolivia (58.2), Honduras (55.3), Brazil (55.0), and Panama (54.9), while the countries with the lowest inequality in the region were Venezuela (43.4), Uruguay (46.4) and Costa Rica (47.2).

In 2008, According to UNICEF, Latin America and the Caribbean region had the highest combined income inequality in the world with a measured net Gini coefficient of 48.3, an unweighted average which is considerably higher than the world's Gini coefficient average of 39.7. Gini is the statistical measurement used to measure income distribution across entire nations and their populations and their income inequality. The other regional averages were: sub-Saharan Africa (44.2), Asia (40.4), Middle East and North Africa (39.2), Eastern Europe and Central Asia (35.4), and high-income nations (30.9).[123]

Poverty continues to be one of the region's main challenges; according to the ECLAC, Latin America is the most unequal region in the world.[107] Inequality is undermining the region's economic potential and the well-being of its population, since it increases poverty and reduces the impact of economic development on poverty reduction.[108] Children in Latin America are often forced to seek work on the streets when their families can no longer afford to support them, leading to a substantial population of street children in Latin America.[109] According to some estimates, there are 40 million street children in Latin America.[110] Inequality in Latin America has deep historical roots in the Latin European racially based Casta system[111][112][113][114][115][116][117] 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[118][119][120] 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.[121] Recent economic liberalisation also plays a role as not everyone is equally capable of taking advantage of its benefits.[122] 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.

Expensive homes and apartments surrounding a poor marginal zone are an example of the stark difference in incomes among Mexico City inhabitants.
Slums on the outskirts of a wealthy urban area in São Paulo, Brazil are an example of poverty and inequality common in Latin America.


Environmental indicators for Latin American countries
Country Environmental
CO2 emissions[106]
(tons of CO2
per capita)
 Argentina 56.48 4.14
 Bolivia 54.57 1.31
 Brazil 60.90 1.74
 Chile 55.34 3.84
 Colombia 62.33 1.33
 Costa Rica 69.03 1.37
 Cuba 56.48 2.40
 Dominican Republic 52.44 1.79
 Ecuador 60.55 2.09
 El Salvador 52.08 1.10
 Guatemala 51.88 1.03
 Haiti 41.15 0.24
 Honduras 52.54 0.96
 Mexico 49.11 3.72
 Nicaragua 59.23 0.73
 Panama 57.94 2.10
 Paraguay 52.40 0.64
 Peru 50.29 1.32
 Uruguay 57.06 2.31
 Venezuela 55.62 5.45


Social and economic indicators for Latin American countries
Country Human
GDP (PPP)[95]
per capita
Real GDP
<1.25 US$
Rate per
 Argentina 0.811 18,709 8.9 45.8 3.7 0.9 98 76 03.4 1.789
 Bolivia 0.675 5,330 5.1 57.3 11.6 14.0 91 67 08.9 1.969
 Brazil 0.730 12,340 2.7 53.9 8.6 0.3 90 74 21.0 2.073
 Chile 0.819 19,474 5.9 52.1 3.2 0.8 99 79 03.2 1.591
 Colombia 0.719 11,284 5.9 53.9[103] 7.6 8.2 93 74 31[104] 2.701
 Costa Rica 0.773 13,205 4.2 50.3 3.7 0.7 96 79 11.3 1.781
 Cuba 0.780 N/A N/A N/A 4.6 N/A 100 79 05.0 1.986
 Dominican Republic 0.702 9,845 4.5 48.4 9.1 4.3 90 73 25.0 2.093
 Ecuador 0.724 10,517 7.8 49.0 7.9 5.1 92 76 15.2 2.042
 El Salvador 0.680 7,648 1.4 46.9 14.6 5.1 84 72 69.2 2.280
 Guatemala 0.581 5,335 3.8 53.7 19.7 16.9 75 71 38.5 2.248
 Haiti 0.456 1,358 5.6 59.5 31.5 54.9 49 62 06.9 2.127
 Honduras 0.632 4,741 3.6 57.7 13.7 23.3 85 73 91.6 2.281
 Mexico 0.775 15,931 4.0 51.7 5.9 8.4 93 77 22.7 2.500
 Nicaragua 0.599 4,641 4.7 52.3 17.0 15.8 78 74 13.6 1.882
 Panama 0.780 16,993 10.6 52.3 6.7 9.5 94 76 21.6 1.877
 Paraguay 0.669 6,787 3.8 52.0 10.5 5.1 94 73 11.5 1.976
 Peru 0.741 11,403 6.9 48.0 10.2 5.9 90 74 10.3 2.304
 Uruguay 0.792 16,728 5.7 42.4 3.0 0.0 99 77 05.9 1.565
 Venezuela 0.748 13,633 4.2 43.5 6.6 3.5 96 74 45.1 2.410

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.

Standard of living

Population and economy size for Latin American countries
Country Population[91]
GDP (nominal)[92]
of US$
GDP (PPP)[93]
of US$
 Argentina 40.4 472,815 726,226
 Bolivia 9.9 27,012 54,134
 Brazil 201 2,395,968 2,393,954
 Chile 17.1 272,119 316,516
 Colombia 45 378,713 500,576
 Costa Rica 4.7 44,313 57,955
 Cuba 11.3 N/A N/A
 Dominican Republic 9.9 59,429 98,835
 Ecuador 14.5 88,186 134,805
 El Salvador 6.2 24,421 46,050
 Guatemala 14.4 50,303 78,012
 Haiti 10.0 8,335 13,501
 Honduras 7.6 18,320 37,408
 Mexico 113.4 1,207,820 1,743,474
 Nicaragua 5.8 7,695 19,827
 Panama 3.5 34,517 55,124
 Paraguay 6.5 22,363 35,262
 Peru 29.1 184,962 322,675
 Puerto Rico 3.7 101,500 64,840 (2010 estimate)
 Uruguay 3.4 52,349 53,365
 Venezuela 29.0 337,433 396,848
Total 577.8 5,725,145 7,114,547
[90] review of emerging economies, by 2050 the largest economies in the world will be as follows: China, United States, India, Brazil, and Mexico.BRIC' Goldman SachsAccording to



Countries with low crime rates in Latin America are Argentina, Chile, Cuba, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Uruguay.[89]

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. 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 were: Honduras 91.6, El Salvador 69.2, Venezuela 45.1, Belize 41.4, Guatemala 38.5, Puerto Rico 26.2, Dominican Republic 25, Mexico 23.7, and Ecuador 18.2.[84] Compared to the world average homicide rating of 6.9, the country with the highest rating in Latin America is more than 13x's the world average. The top 10 highest homicide rates per 100,000 inhabitants ever recorded since 1995 were entirely made up of countries from Latin America and they were El Salvador, Honduras, and Colombia with El Salvador scoring the highest homicide rate ever recorded at 139.1 back in 1995.[85] In Colombia alone, one person was murdered every 10 minutes in 2005.[86] Amnesty International has even named Latin America as the most dangerous region in the world for journalists to work.[87] Crime-related violence in Latin America represents the most threat to public health, striking more victims than HIV/AIDS or other infectious diseases.[88]

Latin America and the Caribbean have been cited by numerous sources to be the most dangerous regions in the world.[81][82] 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.[83] Many agree that the prison crisis will not be resolved until the gap between the rich and the poor is addressed.

Crime and violence

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.[80]

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.[80]

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.[79] 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.[79]

World map indicating literacy by country (2011 Human Development Report) Grey = no data


For the period 2000–2005, Chile, Costa Rica, Panama, and Venezuela were the only countries with global positive migration rates, in terms of their yearly averages.[78]

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. About 10 million Mexicans live in the United States.[61] 28.3 million Americans listed their ancestry as Mexican as of 2006.[62] According to the 2005 Colombian census or DANE, about 3,331,107 Colombians currently live abroad.[63] The number of Brazilians living overseas is estimated at about 2 million people.[64] An estimated 1.5 to two million Salvadorans reside in the United States.[65] At least 1.5 million Ecuadorians have gone abroad, mainly to the United States and Spain.[66] Approximately 1.5 million Dominicans live abroad, mostly in the United States.[67] More than 1.3 million Cubans live abroad, most of them in the United States.[68] It is estimated that over 800,000 Chileans live abroad, mainly in Argentina, the United States, Canada, Australia and Sweden.[69] An estimated 700,000 Bolivians were living in Argentina as of 2006 and another 33,000 in the United States.[70] Central Americans living abroad in 2005 were 3,314,300,[71] of which 1,128,701 were Salvadorans,[72] 685,713 were Guatemalans,[73] 683,520 were Nicaraguans,[74] 414,955 were Hondurans,[75] 215,240 were Panamanians,[76] 127,061 were Costa Ricans[77] and 59,110 were Belizeans.


The vast majority of Latin Americans are Christians, mostly Roman Catholics belonging to the Latin Rite.[59] About 70% of the Latin American population consider themselves Catholic.[60]


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.

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.

Other European languages spoken in Latin America include: English, by some groups in Puerto Rico, as well as in nearby countries that may or may not be considered Latin American, like Belize and Guyana; German, in southern Brazil, southern Chile portions of Argentina and Paraguay; Italian, in Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay; and Welsh, in southern Argentina.[53][54][55][56][57][58]

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.

Native American 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.

Spanish and Portuguese are the predominant languages of Latin America. Spanish is spoken as first language by about 60% of the population, Portuguese is spoken by about 34% of the population and about 6% of the population 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 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, and the French overseas collectivity of Saint Pierre and Miquelon; it is also spoken by some Panamanians of Afro-Antillean descent. Dutch is the official language in Suriname, Aruba, and the Netherlands Antilles. (As Dutch is a Germanic language, these territories are not necessarily considered part of Latin America.)

Linguistic map of Latin America. Spanish in green, Portuguese in orange, and French in blue.


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: many 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, in Latin America the only Black majority nation is Haiti and the only Pardo majority is Brazil. Asian and Afro-Amerindian (historically sometimes called Zambo) 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,[51] or even more.[52]

Ethnic groups


The 2000s commodities boom caused positive effects for many Latin American economies. Another trend is the rapidly increasing importance of the relations with China.[50]

Commodity boom and increasing relations with China

[49] production, which is largely a women's issue because of how it draws on women for cheap labor.maquila in Argentina and protests against Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina, as well as gender-based movements such as the recovered factories Other significant types of social movements include labor struggles and strikes, such as [49] peoples in Bolivia.Quechua and Aymara peoples in Panama, and Altiplano Kuna peoples in the Amazon, YanomamiRural 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
Children singing the Internationale, 20th Anniversary of MST.

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.[49]

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.[47] 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.[48] 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.[47] 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 more inclusive (a trend that proved conductive 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.[47] Feeling excluded from these new projects, the lower classes took ownership of their own democracy through a revitalization of social movements in Latin America.

The return of social movements

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), Colombia (Juan Manuel Santos) and Panama (Ricardo Martinelli) had right-wing governments.

UNASUR summit in the Palacio de la Moneda, Santiago de Chile.

Turn to the Left

This politico-economical initiative was institutionalized in North America by the 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.

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.

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, 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 U.S. 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 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 Treasury Department during the 1980s and 1990s.

Washington Consensus

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.[46] 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).

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[15] 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[13] and the Contra War which was waged between the FSLN and the Contras from 1981-1990.

Nicaraguan Revolution

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.

Alliance for Progress

Encouraged by the success of Guatemala in the 1954 Guatemalan coup d'état,[44] in 1960, the U.S. decided to support an attack on Cuba by anti-Castro rebels. The Bay of Pigs invasion was an unsuccessful invasion of Cuba in 1961, financed by the U.S. through the CIA, to overthrow Fidel Castro. The incident proved to be very embarrassing for the new Kennedy administration.[45]

Bay of Pigs Invasion

By 1959, Cuba was afflicted with a corrupt dictatorship under Batista, and Fidel Castro ousted Batista that year and set up the first communist state in the hemisphere. 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.[40] Around Latin America, rural guerrilla conflict and urban terrorism increased, inspired by the Cuban example. The United States put down these rebellions by supporting Latin American countries in their counter guerrilla operations through the Alliance for Progress launched by President John F. Kennedy. This thrust appeared to be successful. A Marxist, Salvador Allende, became president of Chile in 1970, but was overthrown three years later in a military coup led by the U.S. Despite civil war, high crime and political instability, most Latin American countries eventually adopted democracies besides Cuba.

Cuban Revolution

In 1954, when Jacobo Arbenz of Guatemala accepted the support of communists and attacked holdings of the United Fruit Company, the US decided to assist Guatemalan counter-revolutionaries in overthrowing Arbenz.[43] These interventionist tactics featured use of the CIA rather than the military, which was used in Latin America for the majority of the Cold War in events including the overthrow of Salvador Allende. Latin America was more concerned with issues of economic development, while the United States focused on fighting communism, even though the presence of communism was small in Latin America.[42]

After World War II and the beginning of a Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union, US diplomats became interested in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and frequently waged proxy wars against the Soviet Union in these countries. The US sought to stop the spread of communism. Latin American countries generally sided with the US in the Cold War period, even though they complained of being neglected since the US's concern with communism were focussed in Europe and Asia, not Latin America. Some Latin American governments also complained of the US support in the overthrow of some nationalist governments, and intervention through the CIA. In 1947, the US Congress passed the National Security Act, which created the National Security Council in response to the United States's growing obsession with anti-communism.[42]

US relations

Bureaucratic authoritarianism was practiced in Brazil after 1964, in Argentina, and in Chile under Augusto Pinochet, in a response to harsh economic conditions. It rested on the conviction that no democracy could take the harsh measures to curb inflation, reassure investors, and quicken economic growth quickly and effectively. Though inflation fell sharply, industrial production dropped with the decline of official protection.[41]

Bureaucratic authoritarianism

Advances in public health caused an explosion of population growth, making it difficult to provide social services. Education expanded, and social security systems introduced, but benefits usually went to the middle class, not the poor. As a result, disparity of wealth increased. Increasing inflation and other factors caused countries to be unwilling to fund social development programs to help the poor.

Large countries like Argentina called for reforms to lessen the disparity of wealth between the rich and the poor, which has been a long problem in Latin America that stunted economic growth.[41]


Economic integration was called for, to attain economies that could compete with the economies of the U.S 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.[40]

The Great Depression caused Latin America to grow at a slow rate, separating it from leading industrial democracies. The two world wars and U.S. Depression also made Latin American countries favor internal economic development, leading Latin America to adopt the policy of import substitution industrialization.[40] Countries also renewed emphasis on exports. Brazil began selling automobiles to other countries, and some Latin American countries set up plants to assemble imported parts, letting other countries take advantage of Latin America's low labor costs. Colombia began to export flowers, emeralds and coffee grains and gold, becoming the world's second leading flower exporter.


Cold War (1946–1990)

There was Nazi influence in certain parts of the country, but Jewish migration from Europe during the war continued. Only a small number of people recognized or knew about the Holocaust.[38] Furthermore, numerous military bases were built during the war by the U.S, but some also by the Germans. Even now, unexploded bombs from the second world war that need to be made safe still remain.[39]

Involvement in World War II

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.[37]

The Brazilian Expeditionary Force was sent to Naples, Italy to fight for democracy. 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.[36]

Once the German submarines attacked unarmed Brazilian trading ships, President Vargas met with 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.

Brazil continued to try to remain neutral to the United States and Germany because it was trying to make sure it could continue to be a place of interest for both opposing countries. 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. Eventually Brazil decided to stop trading with Germany once Germany started attacking offshore trading ships resulting in Germany declaring a blockade against the Americas in the Atlantic Ocean. Furthermore, Germany also ensured that they would be attacking the Americas soon.

Brazil 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. It was recently found that 9,000 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 to have made it to Brazil; around 500 to 1,000 to Chile; and the rest to Paraguay and Uruguay.[35] 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, but he knew that he could never favor the Nazis because of their racism towards the large black population in Brazil. This alliance with Germany became Brazil's second best trade alliance behind the United States.

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 didn't 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.

Painting of Franklin Roosevelt and Getúlio Vargas visiting an air force base in Natal, Brazil.
Carmen Miranda is the symbol of the Good Neighbor Policy, implemented by the United States in the 1940s.

Brazil's participation in World War II

World wars (1914–1945)

The Mexican–American War, another instance of U.S involvement in Latin America, was a war between the United States and Mexico that started in April 1846 and lasted until February 1848. The main cause of the war was the United States' annexation of Texas in 1845 and a dispute afterwards about whether the border between Mexico and the United States ended where Mexico claimed, at the Nueces River, or ended where the United States claimed, at the Rio Grande. Peace was negotiated between the United States and Mexico with the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, which stated that Mexico was to cede land which would later become part of California and New Mexico as well as give up all claims to Texas, for which the United States would pay $15,000,000. However, tensions between the two countries were still high and over the next six years things only got worse with raids along the border and attacks by Native Americans against Mexican citizens. To defuse the situation, the United States agreed to purchase 29,670 squares miles of land from Mexico for $10,000,000 so a southern railroad could be built to connect the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. This would become known as the Gadsden Purchase. A critical component of U.S. intervention in Latin American affairs took form in the Spanish-American War, which drastically affected the futures of Cuba and Puerto Rico in the Americas, as well as Guam and the Philippines, by dismantling some of the last remaining Spanish colonial possessions throughout the world.

Mexican–American War (1846–1848)

Another important aspect of United States involvement in Latin America is the case of William Walker. William Walker was known as a filibuster, a person who invades foreign countries with intentions of annexing them to the United States. In 1855, he traveled to Nicaragua in hopes of overthrowing the government and taking the land for the United States. With only the aid of 56 followers, William Walker was able to take over the city of Granada. He declared himself commander of the army and made Patricio Rivas president. However, Rivas presidency ended when he fled from Nicaragua and come election time, William Walker rigged it and ensured he became the newest president. His reign did not last long, however. He was met with much opposition from the political groups in Nicaragua and neighbouring countries. On May 1, 1857, Walker was forced to surrender by an American naval officer who forced him and his men to leave the country.

The Monroe Doctrine was included in President James Monroe’s 1823 annual message to Congress. The doctrine warns European nations that the United States will no longer tolerate the colonization of Latin American countries. It was originally drafted to meet the present major concerns, but eventually became the precept of U.S. foreign policy in the Western Hemisphere. The doctrine was put into effect in 1865 when the U.S. government supported Mexican president, Benito Juárez, diplomatically and militarily. Some Latin American countries viewed the U.S. interventions, allowed by the Monroe Doctrine when the U.S. deems necessary, with suspicion.[34]

Monroe Doctrine

United States Involvement in Latin America during the 19th Century

Between 1821 and 1910, Mexico battled through various civil wars between the established Conservative government and the Liberal reformists (“Mexico Timeline- Page 2)”. In 1861, the liberalist rebels, led by Benito Juárez, took control of Mexico City, consolidating liberal rule. However, the constant state of warfare left Mexico with a tremendous amount of debt owed to Spain, England, and France, all of whom funded the Mexican war effort (Neeno). As newly appointed president, Benito Juárez suspended payment of debts for next two years, to focus on a rebuilding and stabilization initiative in Mexico under the new government. On December 8, 1861, Spain, England and France landed in Veracruz in order to seize unpaid debts from Mexico. However Napoleon III, with intentions of establishing a French client state to further push his economic interests, pressured the other two powers to withdraw in 1862 (Greenspan; “French Intervention in Mexico…”). France under Napoleon III remained and established Maximilian of Habsburg, Archduke of Austria, as Emperor of Mexico. The march by the French to Mexico City enticed heavy resistance by the Mexican government, it resulted in open war-fare. The Battle of Puebla in 1862 in particular presented an important turning point in which Ignacio Zaragoza led the Mexican army to victory as they pushed back the French offensive (“Timeline of the Mexican Revolution”). The victory came to symbolize Mexico’s power and national resolve against foreign occupancy and as a result delayed France’s later attack on Mexico City for an entire year (Cinco de Mayo (Mexican History)). With heavy resistance by Mexican rebels and the fear of United States intervention against France, forced Napoleon III to withdraw from Mexico, leaving Maximilian to surrender, where he would be later executed by Mexican troops under the rule of Porfirio Díaz (Neeno; “French Intervention in Mexico”). Napoleon III’s desire to expand France’s economic empire influenced the decision to seize territorial domain over the Central American region. The port city of Veracruz, Mexico and France’s desire to construct a new canal were of particular interest. Bridging both New World and East Asian trade routes to the Atlantic were key to Napoleon III’s economic goals to the mining of precious rocks and the expansion of France’s textile industry. Napoleon’s fear of the United States’ economic influence over the Pacific trade region, and in turn all New World economic activity, pushed France to intervene in Mexico under the pretense of collecting on Mexico’s debt. Eventually France began plans to build the Panama Canal in 1881 until 1904 when the United States took over and proceeded with its construction and implementation (“Read Our Story”).

France Involvement in Latin America during the 19th century

This newly gained British dominance hindered the development of Latin American industries and strengthened the dependence on the world trade  network.[29] Britain now replaced Spain as the region’s largest trading  partner.[30]  Great Britain invested significant capital in Latin America in order to develop the area as a market for processed goods.[31]  From early 1820’s-1850 the post-independence economies of Latin American countries were lagging and stagnant.[26]  Eventually, 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.[32]  By 1870 exports dramatically increased attracting capital from abroad (including Europe and USA.)[33]

Losing the North American colonies at the end of the 18th century left Great Britain in need of new markets to supply resources in the early 19th  century.[26] In order to solve this problem, Great Britain turned to the Spanish colonies in South America for resources and markets. In 1806 a small British force surprise attacked the capitol of the viceroyalty in  Río de la Plata.[27]  As a result the local garrison protecting the capitol was destroyed in an attempt to defend against the British  conquest. The British were able to capture numerous amounts of precious  metals, before a French naval force intervened on behalf of the Spanish King and took down the invading force. However, this caused much turmoil in the area as militia took control of the area from the viceroy. The next year the British attacked once again with a much larger force  attempting to reach and conquer Montevideo.[28] They failed to reach Montevideo but succeeded in establishing an alliance with the locals. As a result the British were able to take control of the Indian markets.

British Influence of Latin America during 19th century

In Argentina, the conflict manifested itself as a conflict between the centralists and federalists, which are equivalent to conservatives and liberals, respectively. Uruguay gained its independence in a war with Brazil, after which a central government was established in Argentina. After the first president of the centralized government in Argentina resigned, the civil war between the centralists and federalists continued. When the provinces became the Argentinian Federation with no head of state, Juan Manuel de Rosas was given the powers of debt payment and international relations. He refused to enact a national constitution which resulted in greater conflict and more civil war.[24] The differences in Uruguay were manifested as blancos and colorados, where the conservatives were represented by the blancos and the colorados represented the business interest in Montevideo. The conflicts between these two groups resulted in a civil war which is known as the Guerra Grande.[25]


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