Latin America

Latin America (Portuguese/Spanish: América Latina) is the region of the Americas where Romance languages — those derived from Latin, namely Spanish, Portuguese and French — are officially or primarily spoken. Latin America is distinct from Anglo-America, a region of the Americas where English is spoken.


There are several definitions of Latin America:

Geopolitically, Latin America is divided into 20 independent countries and several dependent territories. Spanish is predominant and an official language in most Latin American countries, with the exception of Brazil, where Portuguese prevails.


A terrain map of Latin America
A terrain map of Latin America

Originally a political term, Amerique Latine was coined by French emperor Napoleon III, who cited Amerique Latine and Indochine as goals for expansion during his reign. While the term helped him stake a claim to those territories, it eventually came to embody those parts of the Americas that speak Romance languages initially brought by settlers from Spain, Portugal and, to a minor extent, France in the 15th and 16th centuries. An alternate etymology points to Michel Chevalier, who mentioned the term in 1836. [2]

In the United States, the term was not used until the 1890s, and did not become a common descriptor of the region until early in the twentieth century. Before then, Spanish America was more commonly used. [3]

The term Latin America has come to represent an expression equivalent to Latin Europe and implies a sense of supranationality greater than those implied by notions of statehood or nationhood. This supranational identity is expressed through common initiatives and organizations, like the South American Community of Nations. It is important to observe that the terms Latin American, Latin, Latino, and Hispanic differ from each other.

Many people in Latin America do not speak Latin-derived languages, but native ones or languages brought over by immigration. There is also the blend of Latin-derived cultures with indigenous and African ones resulting in a differentiation in relation to the Latin-derived cultures of Europe.

Quebec, other French-speaking areas in Canada and the United States like Acadia, Louisiana, Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, and other places north of Mexico are traditionally excluded from the sociopolitical definition of Latin America, despite having significant populations that speak a Latin-derived language, due in part to these territories' not existing as sovereign states or being geographically separated from the rest of Latin America. French Guiana, however, is sometimes included, despite being a dependency of France and not an independent country.

As alluded to above, the term Ibero-America is sometimes used to refer to the nations that were formerly colonies of Spain and Portugal, as these two countries are located on the Iberian peninsula. The Organization of Ibero-American States (OEI) takes this definition a step further, by including Spain and Portugal (often termed the Mother Countries of Latin America) among its member states, in addition to their Spanish and Portuguese-speaking former colonies in America.


Countries in Latin America by date of independence
Countries in Latin America by date of independence
Main article: History of Latin America
See also: History of South America for a treatment of Pre-Columbian civilisations and a general overview of the region's history.

The Americas are thought to have been first inhabited by people crossing the Bering Land Bridge, now the Bering strait, from northeast Asia into Alaska more than 10,000 years ago. Over the course of millennia, people spread to all parts of the continent. By the first millennium AD/CE, South America’s vast rainforests, mountains, plains and coasts were the home of tens of millions of people. Some groups formed permanent settlements, such as the Chibchas (or "Muiscas" or "Muyscas") and the Tairona groups. The Chibchas of Colombia, the Quechuas of Peru and the Aymaras of Bolivia were the three Indian 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 14th century and mid-15th centuries, respectively.

With the arrival of the Europeans following Christopher Columbus's voyages, the indigenous elites, such as the Incans and Aztecs, lost power to the Europeans. Hernán Cortés destroyed the Aztec elite's power with the help of local groups who disliked 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 America subsequently becoming Brazil). By the end of the 16th century, Europeans occupied large areas of Central and South America, extending all the way into the present southern United States. European culture and government was imposed, with the Roman Catholic Church becoming a major economic and political power, as well as the official religion of the region.

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 20%. 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. Intermarriage 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.

By the end of the 18th century, Spanish and Portuguese power waned as other European powers took their place, notably Britain and France. Resentment grew over the restrictions imposed by the Spanish government, as well as the dominance of native Spaniards (Iberian-born peninsulares) over the major institutions and the majority population, including the Spanish descended Creoles (criollos). Napoleon's invasion of Spain in 1808 marked the turning point, compelling Creole 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 Simón Bolívar and José de San Martin, and by providing them with considerable munitions and troops. Fighting soon broke out between the Juntas and the Spanish authorities, with initial Creole victories, such as Father Miguel Hidalgo's in Mexico and Francisco de Miranda's in Venezuela, crushed by Spanish troops. Under the leadership of Simón Bolívar, José de San Martin and other Libertadores, the independence movement regained strength, and by 1825, all of Spanish Latin America, except for Puerto Rico and Cuba, gained independence from Spain. Brazil achieved independence with a constitutional monarchy established in 1822. During the same year in Mexico, a Spanish military officer, Agustín de Iturbide, led conservatives who created a constitutional monarchy, with Iturbide as emperor (shortly followed by a republic).

Political divisions

See the Interactive Map of Politics in Latin America.

Latin America is often seen as encompassing the following regions:

Countries French Dependencies Netherlands Dependency United States Dependency

In addition, some might add Belize, the Falkland Islands, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and Suriname to this list, but they are not culturally or linguistically Latin American — although much of Belize's population is. They maintain economic ties with nearby countries, and are grouped by the United Nations in the predominantly Latin American region (South. However, all except Suriname are also the objects of long-standing territorial claims by their Latin American neighbors.


The population of Latin America is an amalgam of racial and ethnic groups. The composition varies from country to country; some have a predominance of a racially mixed population, some have a high percentage of people of Amerindian origin, some are dominated by inhabitants of European origin and some populations are primarily of African origin. Most or all Latin American countries have Asian minorities.


Latin America has a very diverse population, with many ethnic groups of different ancestries and races, the majority of which are European, Amerindian, or African in origin, or a mix of any of these.

Only in three countries do the Amerindians make up the largest segment of the population: in Guatemala and Bolivia they represent a majority of over 50%, and in Peru they constitute a plurality of just under 50%. In the rest of the Region, most people with a Native American lineage are admixed with one or more other racial lineages.

Since the 16th century a large number of Iberian colonists left for Latin America: the Portuguese to Brazil and the Spaniards to the rest of the region. An intensive race mixing between the Europeans and the Amerindians occurred (mostly in, and after, the 1800s) and their descendants, known as mestizos, make up the majority of the population in several Latin American countries, such as Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, and Venezuela.

Starting in the late 16th century, a large number of black African slaves was brought to Latin America, the majority of whom were sent to the Caribbean and Brazil. Nowadays, African descendants make up the majority of the population in most Caribbean countries. Many of the African slaves in Latin America mixed with the Europeans, and their descendants, known as Mulattoes, make up the majority of the population in some countries such as the Dominican Republic and Cuba, and a large proportion of the populations of Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, and Belize. Mixing between Africans and Amerindians also occurred, and their descendants are known as Zambos, found primarily in Venezuela and Colombia. Many Latin American countries also have a substantial tri-racial population, their ancestry being a mix of European, Amerindian, and African, most notably in Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and Brazil.

Millions of European immigrants arrived in Latin America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with most of them settling in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Venezuela. The top five groups of European immigrants were Italians, Spaniards, Portuguese, Germans and Irish. The descendants of these immigrants and the descendants of Spanish and Portuguese colonial settlers together compose some 90% of the current white population. Some of the other groups are Poles, Russians, Welsh, Ukrainians, French, Croatians and European Jews. More than two thirds of Latin America's entire white population resides in a continuous area of South America that consists of Argentina, Uruguay, and southern Brazil. (See Immigration to Argentina and Immigration to Brazil.)

In this same period, many immigrants came from the Middle-East and Asia, including Indians, Lebanese, Syrians, and, more recently, Koreans, Chinese, and Japanese (mainly to Brazil). In the late 19th century, a small wave of Americans, mostly from the former Confederate States of the Southern U.S., settled in Brazil, and fewer across Latin America.

 Racial Origins

These figures include 19 of the 20 Latin American nations. Venezuela is not included as it does not include race on its census.

Total Population 522.8 million. Racial groups: 174 million White (33.3% of the total population), 133.8 million Mestizo (25.6%), 90.3 million Mulatto (17.3%), 60.8 million Amerindian or Native Peoples (11.6%), 31.5 million White/Mestizo (6%; a few countries count Whites and Mestizos together), 24.8 million Black (4.7%), 1.4 million Asian (0.3%; this figure may be much lower than the actual one), 6.2 million Other and Unknown (1.2%). [Note: Venezuela's population is 26,749,000. Applying to this the country's 1998 race ratios (mestizo 67%, white 21%, black 10%, Amerindian 2% ([2])) yields, for the entire region: Population 549,549,000; White 32.7%, Mestizo 27.6%, Mulatto 16.4%, Amerindian or Native Peoples 11.2%, White/Mestizo 5.7%, Black 5%, Asian 0.3%, Other and Unknown 1.1%]. As these numbers show, although almost every Latin American country has a majority population, that is not the case for the region as a whole. Another fact they show is that more than 80% of Latin Americans range from having a significant amount of European admixture to being of fully European origin.


See also: Indigenous languages of the Americas
Romance languages in Latin America: Green-Spanish; Orange-Portuguese; Blue-French
Romance languages in Latin America: Green-Spanish; Orange-Portuguese; Blue-French

Spanish is the predominant language in the majority of the countries. Portuguese is spoken primarily in Brazil, where it is both the official and the national language. French is also spoken in smaller countries, in the Caribbean, and in French Guiana. Dutch is the official language on various Caribbean islands and in Suriname on the continent; however, as Dutch is a Germanic language, these territories are generally not be considered part of Latin America.

Several nations, especially in the Caribbean, have their own Creole languages, derived from European languages and various African tongues. Native American languages are spoken in many Latin American nations, mainly Peru, Guatemala, Bolivia, Paraguay, and to a lesser degree in Mexico, Ecuador and Chile. Note that the lesser degree of indigenous speakers in Mexico is proportional to that country's population. In real numbers, however, Mexico harbors the largest population of indigenous speaker of any country in the Americas, surpassing Amerindian majority countries of Guatemala, Bolivia and the Amerindian plurality country of Peru. The population of speakers of indigenous languages in other countries is tiny or non-existent.

In Peru, Quechua holds official language status, alongside Spanish and any other indigenous language in the areas where they predominate. In Bolivia, Aymara, Quechua and Guaraní hold official status alongside Spanish. Guarani is, along with Spanish, the official language of Paraguay, and is spoken by a majority of the population who are for the most part mestizos bilingual in Spanish. In Ecuador, while holding no official status, 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 Sierra region of the country. Colombia, while having fewer than 1% of its population as speakers of indigenous languages, recognizes all indigenous languages spoken within its territory as official. Nahuatl is only 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.

European languages, other than Spanish and Portuguese, that are spoken include; Italian in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and and to a lesser extent Venezuela; German in southern Brazil, Argentina, and two German-speaking villages, one in southern Chile and another in northern Venezuela; Welsh in southern Argentina.


The primary religion throughout Latin America is Roman Catholicism. Latin America, particularly Brazil, is active in developing the quasi-socialist Roman Catholic movement known as Liberation Theology. Practitioners of the Protestant, Pentecostal, Evangelical, Mormon, Buddhist, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Bahá'í, and indigenous denominations and religions exist. Various Afro-Latin American traditions, such as Santería, and Macumba, a tribal- voodoo religion are also practiced. Evangelicalism in particular is increasing in popularity. [4]


According to ECLAC [5], an economic growth rate of 5.3% is estimated for 2006, equivalent to a per capita increase of 3.8%. This marks the fourth consecutive year of economic growth, and the third consecutive year of rates exceeding 4%, after an average annual growth rate of only 2.2% between 1980 and 2002. A breakdown of the annual rates of GDP growth (in US dollars at constant 2000 prices) is transcribed as follows:

Country 2004 2005 2006(a) 2007(b)
Latin America 6.0 4.5 5.3 4.7
Flag of Argentina Argentina 9.0 9.2 8.5 7.5
Flag of Bolivia Bolivia 3.9 4.1 4.5 4.0
Flag of Brazil Brazil 4.9 2.3 2.8 3.5
Flag of Chile Chile 6.2 6.3 4.4 5.5
Flag of Colombia Colombia 4.9 5.2 6.0 5.0
Flag of Costa Rica Costa Rica 4.1 5.9 6.8 5.0
Flag of Cuba Cuba(c) 5.4 11.8 12.5 n.a.
Flag of Dominican Republic Dominican Republic 2.7 9.2 10.0 7.0
Flag of Ecuador Ecuador 7.9 4.7 4.9 4.0
Flag of El Salvador El Salvador 1.8 2.8 3.8 4.0
Flag of Guatemala Guatemala 2.7 3.2 4.6 5.0
Flag of Haiti Haiti -3.5 1.8 2.5 3.0
Flag of Honduras Honduras 5.0 4.1 5.6 5.0
Flag of Mexico Mexico 4.2 3.0 4.8 3.8
Flag of Nicaragua Nicaragua 5.1 4.0 3.7 4.0
Flag of Panama Panama 7.5 6.9 7.5 7.0
Flag of Paraguay Paraguay 4.1 2.9 4.0 3.5
Flag of Peru Peru 5.2 6.4 7.2 6.0
Flag of Uruguay Uruguay 11.8 6.6 7.3 6.0
Flag of Venezuela Venezuela 17.9 9.3 10.0 7.0

(a) Estimate

(b) Projection

(c) Figures provided by the National Statistics Office of Cuba, under evaluation by ECLAC

Source: ECLAC [6]

Growth continues to fall short of other developing regions, however. With the international environment remaining favorable, the volume of goods and services exports was up by 8.4% for the region as a whole and the main export prices rose, which translated into a terms-of-trade improvement equivalent to over 7%.

According to the World Bank in 2006 Latin America had higher export revenues and volumes given the record-high commodity world prices than the previous year. Total GDP growth averaged 4.4% in 2005 and it is expected to grow 4.6% in 2006. The biggest exporter in the region is Mexico; in 2005 Mexico alone exported 213.7 billion USD, roughly equivalent to the exports of all members of Mercosur combined (including Venezuela), which totaled 214.5 billion USD[7]. In the same year, Mexico also had the largest Gross National Income (GNI) of 753 million USD[8] and the largest income per capita in the region, 7,310 USD[9]. However, adjusted to purchasing power parity (PPP) instead of using nominal exchange rates, Brazil's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was the largest in the region (1.627 trillion USD[10]) though Argentina's income per capita in PPP was the largest (13,920 USD[9]).

As a result of these income gains, and of increased remittances from abroad, growth in national income (7.2%) again exceeded GDP expansion. In addition, other factors, such as growing investor and consumer confidence after several years of sustained growth, real interest rates that remained relatively low despite recent hikes in many countries, a stronger boost to public spending, an expansion in total wages driven by rising employment and a modest upturn in real wages, have helped to make domestic demand into an additional engine for growth. In fact, domestic demand rose by 7.0%, with gross domestic investment up by 10.5% and consumption by 6.0%.

Public spending rose in several countries as a result of larger investments in physical and social infrastructure and higher current spending. But since fiscal revenues climbed even more steeply, the prevailing picture shows central governments with higher primary surpluses (up from 1.7% to 2.2% of GDP as a simple average of 19 countries) and narrower overall deficits (from 1.1% to 0.3% of GDP). Alert to changes in international interest rates and to the effects of surging domestic demand and rising fuel prices, many countries' monetary authorities raised benchmark rates, especially in the first half of the year. In most cases, this did not slow economic activity, given the abundant liquidity. Nevertheless, inflation decreased in most of the countries and, in weighted terms, it came down from 6.1% in 2005 to 4.8% in 2006. Many countries had to deal with downward pressure on the exchange rate because of large inflows of foreign currency generated by stronger export prices or remittances. They took different steps to contain the effects of these inflows but, overall, most local currencies appreciated slightly (3.5% on average).

Fueled by sustained economic growth, job creation continued, especially in waged employment. A half percentage point increase in the employment rate was partially offset by a rise in labor market participation. As a result, open unemployment continued the downward trend begun in 2004, albeit more slowly, with a drop of 0.4 percentage points taking the rate to 8.7%. In contrast to the pattern of the last few years, real wages also benefited from increased demand for labor in 2006 and formal sector wages rose by some 3% as a regional average.

The value of the region's merchandise exports rose by 21% and its imports by 20%. Together with higher transfers (over US$ 9 billion net), this improvement of the balance of trade in goods was more than enough to offset the widening deficit on the factor and non-factor services accounts. Hence, the balance-of-payments current account surplus increased from 1.5% of GDP in 2005 to 1.8% in 2006. The capital and financial account surplus was smaller than the previous year, at US$ 230 million. This result reflected external debt-reduction policies, together with the development of domestic financial markets and the accumulation of assets abroad. It also reflected a sharp fall in net foreign investment, which owed much to the Brazilian acquisition of a Canadian firm, while capital flows into the region in the form of foreign direct investment were down slightly in comparison to 2005.

The average region-wide performance masks large differences between and within countries. In particular, the international environment has affected exporters of high-demand natural resources, especially in South America (and petroleum-exporting countries in other subregions), in a very different way to the other Latin American and Caribbean countries.

In the light of the risks for the region's future economic development, particularly the risk of a hard or soft landing in the global economy, many countries in the region have taken steps to reduce their vulnerability. Such measures include adopting more flexible exchange-rate regimes, paying down foreign debt, restructuring debt in favour of longer profiles and fixed rates, building up international reserves, strengthening fiscal accounts and reducing the dollarization of their financial systems. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that a global economic slowdown would seriously affect the region's growth and the wellbeing of its population.

Economic expansion is expected to slow slightly in 2007, with the regional GDP growth rate projected at around 4.7%. If these projections are borne out, the region's per capita output will show a cumulative gain of some 15%, or 2.8% per year, in the period 2003-2007.

Inequality and poverty continue to be the region's main challenges; according to the ECLAC Latin America is the most unequal region in the world[11]. Moreover, according to the World Bank, nearly 25% of the population lives on less than 2 USD a day. The countries with the highest inequality in the region (as measured with the Gini index in the UN Development Report[12]) in 2006 were Bolivia (60.1) Colombia (58.6), Paraguay (57.8) and Chile (57.1), while the countries with the lowest inequality in the region were Nicaragua (43.1), Ecuador (43.7), Venezuela (44.1) and Uruguay (44.9). One aspect of inequality and poverty in Latin America is unequal access to basic infrastructure. For example, access to water and sanitation in Latin America and the quality of these services remain low.

The major trade blocs or agreements in the region are the Mercosur and the Andean Community of Nations (CAN). Minor blocs or trade agreements are the G3 and the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). 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 Brazilian and Paraguayan legislatures). 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. Additionally, several countries of the region have signed free trade agreements with countries outside the region; e.g.: Mexico is a member of the NAFTA, Chile has signed a FTA with the United States, and Colombia's and Peru's legislatures have approved a FTA with the United States and are awaiting its ratification by the US Senate.

The following table lists (in alphabetical order) all the countries in Latin America indicating Gross National Income (GNI), per capita income in nominal terms and adjusted to purchasing power parity (PPP), Gross Domestic Product in PPP, a measurement of inequality through the Gini index (the higher the index the more unequal the income distribution is), and the Human Development Index (HDI). GDP and GNI statistics come from the World Bank with data as of 2005. Gini index and HDI come from the UN Development Program.

Country GNI[8] GNI per capita[9] GNI (PPP) per capita[9] GDP (PPP)[10] Income equality[12] HDI
million USD USD USD million USD Gini index  
Flag of Argentina Argentina 173,020 4,470 13,920 558,755 52.8 0.863
Flag of Bolivia Bolivia 9,271 1,010 2,740 26,225 60.1 0.692
Flag of Brazil Brazil 644,133 3,460 8,230 1,576,728 58 0.792
Flag of Chile Chile 95,584 5,870 11,470 205,884 57.1 0.859
Flag of Colombia Colombia 104,520 2,290 7,420 354,265 58.6 0.790
Flag of Costa Rica Costa Rica 19,867 4,590 9,680 43,207 49.9 0.841
Flag of Cuba Cuba [13] n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. 0.826
Flag of Dominican Republic Dominican Republic 21,080 2,370 7,150 67,410 51.7 0.751
Flag of Ecuador Ecuador 34,759 2,630 4,070 56,509 43.7 0.765
Flag of El Salvador El Salvador 16,832 2,450 5,120 36,478 52.4 0.729
Flag of Guatemala Guatemala 30,259 2,400 4,410 56,295 55.1 0.673
Flag of Haiti Haiti 3,876 450 1,840 15,657 59.2 0.482
Flag of Honduras Honduras 8,586 1,190 2,900 20,091 53.8 0.683
Flag of Mexico Mexico 753,394 7,310 10,030 1,052,443 49.5 0.821
Flag of Nicaragua Nicaragua 4,968 910 3,650 20,189 43.1 0.698
Flag of Panama Panama 14,951 4,630 7,310 25,478 56.4 0.809
Flag of Paraguay Paraguay 7,854 1,180 4,970 30,547 57.8 0.757
Flag of Peru Peru 73,045 2,610 5,830 174,144 54.6 0.767
Flag of Uruguay Uruguay 15,096 4,360 9,810 35,185 44.9 0.851
Flag of Venezuela Venezuela 127,799 4,810 6,440 173,583 44.1 0.784

Cultural diversity

Urarina shaman, 1988
Urarina shaman, 1988

The rich mosaic of Latin American cultural expressions is the product of many diverse influences, derived mainly from :

The rich mosaic of Latin American cultural expressions is the product of many diverse influences, derived mainly from :


See also: Latin American painters

The development of Latin American painting stemmed originally from the styles brought along by Spanish, Portuguese and French Baroque Painters, which in turn were following the trends of the Italian Masters. This Eurocentrism of the Arts, in general, started to fade in the early 20th century, as Latin-Americans began to acknowledge the uniqueness of their condition and started to follow their own path.

From the early 20th century, the art of Latin America was greatly inspired by the Constructivist Movement. The Constructivist Movement was founded in Russia around 1913 by Vladimir Tatlin. The Movement quickly spread from Russia to Europe and then into Latin America. Joaquin Torres Garcia and Manuel Rendón have been credited with bringing the Constructivist Movement into Latin America from Europe.

Another important artistic movement generated in Latin America is Mexico's Muralismo represented by the world famous painters Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, José Clemente Orozco and Rufino Tamayo. Some of the most impressive Muralista works can be found in Mexico, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

Mexican painter Frida Kahlo remains by far the most known and famous Latin American artist. She painted about her own life and the Mexican culture in a style combining Realism, Symbolism and Surrealism. Kahlo's work holds the highest selling price of all Latin American paintings.


It has been suggested that this article or section be merged into Latin American writers. (Discuss)

Latin American literature gained its own identity, evolving from the strong European and, at a later stage, Anglo-American influences, and is very recognisable internationally, including renowned Nobel Prize winners such as the Colombian Gabriel García Márquez (One Hundred Years of Solitude), Mexican Octavio Paz (The Labyrinth of Solitude), Chileans Gabriela Mistral and Pablo Neruda.

The Argentine Jorge Luis Borges is an influential figure of Latin-American letters. [14]

Other important Latin-American writers are:

Music and Dance

Main article: Latin American music

One of the main characteristics of Latin American music is its diversity, from the lively rhythms of Central America and the Caribbean to the more austere sounds of southern South America. Another feature of Latin American music is its original blending of the variety of styles that arrived in The Americas and became influential, from the early Spanish and European Baroque to the different beats of the African rhythms.

Latino-Caribbean music, such as salsa, merengue, bachata, and more recently reggaeton come from such countries as Cuba, Panama, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, are styles of music that have been strongly influenced by African rhythms and melodies. [15] [16]

Other main musical genres of Latin American include the Argentine and Uruguayan tango, the Colombian cumbia and vallenato, the Mexican ranchera, the Chilean Cueca, the Peruvian Marinera and Tondero, the Uruguayan Candombe, the Central American (Garifuna) Punta, the French Antillean Zouk, the Antillean Soca and Calypso, and the various styles of music from Pre-Columbian traditions that are widespread in the Andean region. In Brazil, samba, North-American jazz, European classical music and choro combined into the bossa nova music. Recently the Haitian kompa has become increasingly popular. [17]

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. [18] Also notable is the recent work of the Cuban Leo Brouwer and guitar work of the Venezuelan Antonio Lauro and the Paraguayan Agustín Barrios.

Arguably, the main contribution to music entered through folklore, where the true soul of the Latin American and Caribbean countries is expressed. Musicians such as Yma Súmac, Atahualpa Yupanqui, Violeta Parra, Victor Jara, Mercedes Sosa, Jorge Negrete, Caetano Veloso, and others gave magnificent examples of the heights that this soul can reach.

Latin pop, including many forms of rock, is popular in Latin America today (see Spanish language rock and roll). [19]

More recently, Reggaeton, which blends Jamaican music influences of reggae and dancehall with those of Latin America, 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 temporary migration to the U.S. is common, such as Guatemala and parts of Mexico.[20]


Latin American film is both rich and diverse. The 1950s and 1960s saw a movement towards Third Cinema, led by the Argentine filmmakers Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino.

Mexican movies from the Golden Era in the 1940s are the greatest examples of Latin American cinema, with a huge industry comparable to the Hollywood of those years. Mexican movies were exported and exhibited in all Latin America. More recently movies such as Amores Perros (2000), Y tu mamá también (2001) and Babel (2005) have been successful in creating universal stories about contemporary subjects, and were internationally recognised, as in the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. Mexican directors Alejandro González Iñárritu, Alfonso Cuarón (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) and screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga are some of the most known present-day film makers.

Argentine cinema was a big industry in the first half of the 20th century. After a series of military governments that shackled culture in general, the industry re-emerged after the 1976–1983 military dictatorship to produce the The Official Story in 1985, becoming the only Latin American movie to win the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Other nominees for Argentina were The Truce (1974), Camila (1984), Tango (1998) and Son of the Bride (2001). The Argentine economic crisis affected the production of films in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but many Argentine movies produced during those years were internationally acclaimed, including El abrazo partido (2004), Roma (2004) and Nueve reinas (2000), which was the basis for the 2004 American remake Criminal.

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. Movies like Central do Brasil (1999) and Cidade de Deus (2003) have fans around the world, and its directors have taken part in American and European film projects.

See also

Portal:Latin America
Latin America Portal


  1. ^ Papiamentu.
  2. ^ In his Lettres sur l'Amèrique du Nord
  3. ^ Latin American (Last accessed 07-15-06).
  4. ^ Paul Sigmund (Last accessed 05-21-06). Education and Religious Freedom in Latin America. Princeton University.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Data taken from CIA Factbook
  8. ^ a b Gross National Income 2005, Atlas Method, The World Bank
  9. ^ a b c d Gross National Income Per Capita 2005, Atlas Method and PPP The World Bank
  10. ^ a b Gross Domestic Product PPP 2005 the World Bank
  11. ^ La región sigue siendo la más desigual del mundo, según Cepal América Economía
  12. ^ a b Human Development Report Programme 2006 p. 335 United Nations
  13. ^ The World Bank does not report statistics for Cuba. The CIA Factbook reports an estimated GDP PPP of 40,060 million USD and an estimated GDP per capita of 3,500 USD
  14. ^ Calin-Andrei Mihailescu (Last accessed 05-21-06). This Craft of Verse. Harvard University Press.
  15. ^ Dr. Christopher Washburne (Last accessed 05-23-06). Clave: The African Roots of Salsa. University of Salsa.
  16. ^ Guide to Latin Music. Caravan Music (Last accessed 05-23-06).
  17. ^
  18. ^ Heitor Villa-Lobos. Leadership Medica (Last accessed 05-23-06).
  19. ^ The Baltimore Sun. "Latin music returns to America with wave of new pop starlets", The Michigan Daily, Last accessed 05-23-06.
  20. ^ "Daddy Yankee leads the reggaeton charge", Associated Press, Last accessed 05-23-06.

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