Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Latin America

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Latin America
Latin America (orthographic projection).svg
Area21,069,501 km²
Population569 million[1]
Pop. density27 per sq km (70 per sq mile)
DemonymLatin AmericanAmerican
Time ZonesUTC-2 to UTC-8
Largest cities1. Mexico City
2. São Paulo
3. Buenos Aires
4. Rio de Janeiro
5. Lima
6. Bogotá
7. Santiago
8. Belo Horizonte
9. Caracas
10. Guadalajara
Latin America (SpanishAmérica Latina or LatinoaméricaPortugueseAmérica LatinaFrenchAmérique latine) is a region of the Americas where Romance languages (i.e., those derived from Latin) – particularly SpanishPortuguese, and variably French – are primarily spoken.[2][3] Latin America has an area of approximately 21,069,501 km² (7,880,000 sq mi), almost 3.9% of the Earth's surface or 14.1% of its land surface area. As of 2008, its population was estimated at more than 569 million.



[edit]Etymology and definitions

The idea that a part of the Americas has a cultural affinity with the Romance cultures as a whole can be traced back to the 1830s, in particular in the writing of the French Saint-Simonian Michel Chevalier, who postulated that this part of the Americas were 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."[4] 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.[5] The actual term "Latin America" was coined in France under Napoleon III and played a role in his campaign to imply cultural kinship with France, transform France into a cultural and political leader of the area and install Maximilian as emperor of Mexico.[6] In contemporary usage:
The distinction between Latin America and Anglo-America (or, in some uses, North America), which can be criticized for stressing only the European heritage of these regions (that is, for Eurocentrism), 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 homogenous; in substantial portions of Latin America (e.g., highland EcuadorBoliviaGuatemala, and Paraguay), American Indian 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)—and the coastal areas of Ecuador and Brazil.


Darcy Ribeiro has proposed a classification between “witness peoples (yellow)” (Mexico, Guatemala, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador), “New peoples (Red)” (Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Caribbean nations, Chile and Paraguay) and “transplanted peoples(Blue)” (Uruguay and Argentina).[13]
Latin America can be subdivided into several subregions based on geography, politics, demographics and culture; some subregions are North AmericaCentral America, theCaribbean, the Southern Cone, and Andean states. In terms of culture, society and national identity Mario Sambarino classified Latin American states into Mestizo-American Ecuador,ColombiaMexico etc.), Indigenous-America (Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Peru) and European-American (Argentina and Uruguay).[14]
In Darcy Ribeiro's classification system Latin American countries are classified as "New Peoples" (Chile, Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil etc.), that merged from the mix of several cultures while Peru, Bolivia and Mexico are "Testimony Peoples", remnants of ancient civilizations and Argentina and Uruguay, former "New Peoples" that became "Transplantated Peoples", essentially European, after massive immigration.[14] Under this scheme, the people of the Brazilian Amazon could be regarded as being just as much "Testimony Peoples" as those of the Peruvian Amazon, and the people of the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul could equally be seen as "Translplanted", just like those of the very similar cultures of neighboring Uruguay and Argentina.


[edit]Pre-columbian history

A view of Machu Picchu, a pre-ColumbianInca site in Peru.
The Americas were thought to have been first inhabited by people crossing the Bering Land Bridge, now known as the Bering strait, from northeast Asia into Alaska well over 10,000 years ago. The earliest known settlement, however, 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[citation needed] 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 carribean region. The Chibchas of Colombia, theQuechuas and Aymaras of Bolivia and Perú were the three Indian groups that settled most permanently.
The region was home to many indigenous peoples and advanced civilizations, including the AztecsToltecsCaribsTupiMaya, 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 it's downfall caused by the Spanish invasion.

[edit]European invasion

Archaeological site of Chichén-Itzá inYucatánMexico. One of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
With the arrival of the Europeans following Christopher Columbus's 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 did not favor the Aztec elite, and Francisco Pizarro eliminated the Incan rule in Western South America. European powers, most notably 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 1493, which gave Spain all areas to the west, and Portugal all areas to the east (the Portuguese lands in South America subsequently becoming Brazil). By the end of the sixteenth century, Europeans occupied large areas of North, Central and South America, extending from present-day southern Oregon in the United States through the southern tips of the Patagonia. European culture, customs and government was imposed, 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.
Diseases brought by the Europeans, such as smallpox and measles, wiped out a large proportion of the indigenous population, with epidemics of diseases reducing them sharply from their prior populations. 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. It is often believed that a strong percentage of civilizations such as the Aztecs, resigned to life rather than living with the new unbearable illnesses, and were not conquered by the Spaniards. Many of the survivors were forced to work in European plantations and mines. Intermixingbetween 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.

[edit]Independence (1810-1825)

Simon Bolivar, one of the main Independence movement leaders
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. In Latin America resentment grew among the majority of the population 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 institutionsNapoleon'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 and the oldest independent nation in Latin America, further fueled the independence movement by inspiring the leaders of the movement, such as Simón Bolívar and José de San Martin, 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 theroyalist troops by 1812, including those of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla in Mexico and Francisco de Miranda in Venezuela. Under the leadership of a new generation of leaders, such as Simón BolívarJosé de San Martin 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 arepublic in 1823.

[edit]Consolidation and liberal-conservative conflicts (1825-1900)

[edit]World wars (1914-1945)

[edit]Cold war (1946-1990)

In the 1950s, the Cold War moved close to the United States, in Latin America. The nations of Latin America faced many critical problems, including widespread poverty and poor health care. The United States feared the politics of socialism and communism would be particularly appealing to the countries of Latin America. At the same time, many United States citizens worried about the threat to their own security and businesses in Latin America. This led the United States to take up a very aggressive military strategy of containment. Through the Cold War, the United States removed many democratically elected leaders of Latin American countries through covert C.I.A. operations and replaced them with leaders who were more friendly to the United States' interests.
Arguably, this interference with the democratic system in these countries created a blowback because many Latin Americans rejected the United States involvement. Many of the leaders who were put into power positions by the United States became dictators and oppressors as well.

[edit]Late 20th century military regimes

Military dictators Jorge Rafael Videla of Argentina andAugusto Pinochet of Chile.
By the 1970s leftists had acquired a significant political influence which prompted the right-wing, ecclesiastical authorities and a large portion of the individual country's upper class to support coup d'etats to avoid what they perceived as a communist threat. This was further fueled by Cuban and United States intervention which led to a political polarization. Most South American countries were in some periods ruled by military dictatorships.
Around the 1970s, these regimes collaborated in Operation Condor killing many leftist dissidents, including some urban guerrillas.[15] However, by the early 90's all countries had restored their democracies.

[edit]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, DC-based institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and the US Treasury Department during the 80's and 90's.
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 counties with governments of the left, including Brazil, Chile and Peru, have in practise 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.

[edit]Turn to the left

Left-leaning leaders of Bolivia, Brazil and Chile at the Union of South American Nations summit in 2008.
Since the 2000s, or 1990s in some countries, left-wing political parties have risen to power. The rise of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Lula da Silva in Brazil, Fernando Lugo in Paraguay,Néstor and Cristina Kirchner in Argentina, Tabaré Vázquez and recently elected José Mujica in Uruguay, the Lagos and Bachelet governments in Chile, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, Manuel Zelaya in Honduras (although deposed by the 28 June 2009 coup d'état), and Rafael Correa of Ecuador are all part of this wave of left-wing politicians who also often declare themselves socialists, Latin Americanists or anti-imperialists.


[edit]Ethnic groups

The population of Latin America is a composite 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 a European-Indian, or Mestizo, population; in others, Amerindians are a majority; some are dominated by inhabitants of European ancestry; and some countries' populations are primarily Mulatto. Most Latin American countries have varying sizes of Asian minorities. Europeans are the largest single group, and they and people of part-European ancestry combine for approximately 80% of the population.[1] In addition to the following groups, Latin America also has millions of tri-racial people of African, Amerindian, and European ancestry. Most are found in Colombia, Venezuela, and Brazil, with a much smaller presence in a number of other countries. The concept of race and ethnicity in Latin America varies greatly from country to country, and in many places, when a Latin America speaks of "race", they are referring to what an Anglo-American would call nationality.[citation needed]

Amerindians make up the majority of the population in Bolivia and about half in Peru.

Juniti Saito, head of the Brazilian Air Force and one of over a million Japanese-Brazilians.

Salsa dancers of Mulatto heritage,Camagüey, Cuba.

Vicente Fox An example of a Caucasian Latin American.

Garinagu (Zambos) celebrating in Guatemala.

A representation of a Mestizo, in aPintura de Castas during the Spanish colonial period of the Americas.
  • Amerindians. The aboriginal population of Latin America, the Amerindians, arrived in Paleolithic times. In post-Columbian times they experienced tremendous population decline, particularly in the early decades of colonization. They have since recovered in numbers, surpassing sixty million (by some estimates), though they compose a majority only in Bolivia and Guatemala, and per some sources in Peru, as well. In Ecuador Amerindians are a large minority that comprises two-fifths of the population. Mexico's 13% is the next largest ratio, and this community is actually the largest Amerindian population in Latin America. Most of the remaining countries have Amerindian minorities, in every case making up less than one-tenth of the total population. In many countries, people of mixed Amerindian and European ancestry make up the majority of the population (seeMestizo).
  • Asians. People of Asian descent number several million in Latin America. The first Asians to settle in the region were Filipino, as a result of Spain's trade involving Asia and the Americas. The majority of Asian Latin Americans are of Japanese or Chinese ancestry and reside mainly in Brazil and Peru; there is also a growing Chinese minority in Panama. Brazil is home to 1.49 million people of Asian descent,[16][17] which includes the largest ethnic Japanese community outside of Japan itself. Peru, with 1.47 million people of Asian descent,[18][19] has one of the largest Chinese communities in the world, with nearly one million Peruvians being of Chinese ancestry. The Japanese community also maintains a strong presence in Peru, and a past president and a number of politicians there are of Japanese descent.[20] Koreans also form communities numbering tens of thousands of individuals in several countries, including Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico.[21]
  • Blacks. Millions of African slaves were brought to Latin America from the sixteenth century onward, the majority of whom were sent to the Caribbean region and Brazil. Today, people identified as "Black" are most numerous in Brazil (more than 10 million), and in relative terms in Puerto Rico (15%). Significant populations are also found in Colombia,CubaDominican RepublicVenezuelaEcuador, and Panama. Latin Americans of mixed Black and White ancestry, called Mulattoes, are more numerous than Blacks.
  • Mestizos. Intermixing between Europeans and Amerindians began early in the colonial period and was extensive. The resulting people, known as mestizos, make up the majority of the population in half of the countries of Latin America. Additionally, mestizos compose large minorities in nearly all the other mainland countries.
  • MulattoesMulattoes are people of mixed European and African ancestry, mostly descended from Spanish or Portuguese settlers on one side and African slaves on the other during the colonial period. Brazil is home to Latin America's largest mulatto population. Mulattoes form a majority of population in the Dominican Republic and Cuba, and are also numerous in Venezuela, Panama, Peru, Colombia, and Puerto Rico, and Ecuador. Smaller populations of mulattoes are found in other Latin American countries.[1]
  • Zambos: Intermixing between Africans and Amerindians was especially prevalent in ColombiaVenezuela, and Brazil, often due to slaves's running away (becomingcimarrones: maroons) and being taken in by Amerindian villagers. People of this mixed ancestry are known as Zambos or (in Central America) Garinagu in Spanish speaking nations, and Cafusos in Brazil.

Ethnic distribution in Latin America (2005)[22]
 Costa Rica4,024,0000.8%82.0%15.0%0.0%0%2.0%0.2%
 Dominican Republic8,373,0000.0%14.6%0.0%75.0%7.7%2.3%0.4%
 El Salvador6,278,0008.0%1.0%91.0%0.0%0.0%0.0%0.0%
 Puerto Rico3,965,0000.0%74.8%0.0%10.0%15.0%0.0%0.2%


Spanish and Portuguese are the predominant languages of Latin America. Portuguese is spoken only in Brazil, the most populous country in the region. Spanish is the official language of most of the rest of the countries on the Latin American mainland, as well as in Puerto Rico (where it is co-official with English), Cuba and the Dominican Republic.French is spoken in some Caribbean islands, including GuadeloupeMartinique, and Haiti, as well as in the overseas departments of French Guiana (South America) and in Saint Pierre and Miquelon (North America). Dutch is the official language of some Caribbean islands and in Suriname on the continent; however, as Dutch is a Germanic language, these territories are not considered part of Latin America.
Other European languages spoken in Latin America include: English, by some groups in ArgentinaNicaraguaPanama, and Puerto Rico, as well as in nearby countries that may or may not be considered Latin American, like Belize and Guyana (English is used as a major foreign language in Latin American commerce and education); German, in southernBrazil, southern Chile, Argentina, portions of northern Venezuela, and Paraguay; Italian, in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Venezuela; and Welsh [27][28][29][30][31][32], in southern Argentina.

Most widely spoken Pre-contact languages distribution area in Latin America, at the beginning of 21st century: QuechuaGuarani,AymaraNahuatlMayan languages,Mapuche
In several nations, especially in the Caribbean region, creole languages are spoken. The most widely spoken creole language in the Caribbean and Latin America in general is Haitian Creole, the predominant language of Haiti; it is derived primarily from French and certain West African tongues with some Amerindian and Spanish influences as well. Creole languages of mainland Latin America, similarly, are derived from European languages and various African tongues. Native American languagesare widely spoken in PeruGuatemalaBoliviaParaguay, and to a lesser degree, in MexicoEcuador, and Chile. In Latin American countries not named above, the population of speakers of indigenous languages is small or non-existent.
In PeruQuechua is an official language, alongside Spanish and any other indigenous language in the areas where they predominate. Another widely used language is known as riverian which is also known as nicolacian, which is spoken in rural parts of Mexico[33] .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 BoliviaAymara, Quechua and Guaraní hold official status alongside Spanish. Guarani is, along with Spanish, 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 Argentineprovince of Corrientes. In Nicaragua, Spanish is the official language, but on the country's Caribbean coast English and indigenous languages such as MiskitoSumo, andRama 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. 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.