What is Latin America and What are its Characteristics?

Most of Latin America remains part of the Organization of American States, and remains bound by the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, also known as the Rio Pact, which provides for hemispheric defense, with the exceptions of Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Mexico and Venezuela, which withdrew. Latin America is a vast expanse of territory that encompasses twenty countries with a population of 120 million people. It is a highly diversified continent with each country having its own unique characteristics. The term “Latin America” should not be used to assume that the area is a uniform political or economic whole.

Each country should be considered for itself and all generalizations should be avoided or carefully qualified when applied to a single country. A considerable number of the total population are not of Latino origin or culture, but are Indians, blacks and people of mixed blood. Above all, these twenty countries are strongly nationalist and do not consider themselves Latin American at all, but as Mexicans, Peruvians, Cubans, Costa Ricans, etc. Geographically speaking, these nations also differ greatly from each other. The distances are enormous since its territory is three times the size of the United States.

One country, Brazil, is so big that the entire U. S. could fit into it and make room for a second Texas. On the other hand, El Salvador is about the size of Maryland and Costa Rica has a smaller population than Washington D.

C.In addition to geographical differences, Latin American countries also differ in terms of social and cultural achievements. In some countries illiteracy reaches 75 percent while in others most people can read and write. The small Central American republic of Costa Rica has long been proud to have more teachers than soldiers. In every country there are at least a few well-educated individuals who speak several languages fluently and who feel at home in the world of European culture. The standard of living is relatively low overall compared to ours.

Some countries have made significant progress in improving the social and economic conditions of their population such as Uruguay during the presidency (1903-07, 1911-1) of José Batlle y Ordónez where workers won many reforms such as an eight-hour day and accident insurance for industrial workers; child labor is not allowed; and the elderly receive pensions. Latin America also has the smallest population and lowest number of inhabitants per square mile of any continent except Australia. Most countries rely primarily on agriculture and mining and are comparatively young on the scale of economic development. All Latin American nations have some ties in common such as being producers of raw materials for the world such as coffee, wheat, bananas, tin, silver and oil; and all have had to borrow capital from abroad. The plane has provoked a revolution in transport since 1927 with an enormous development of airlines throughout the area. Today in only seven of the twenty republics railroad mileage exceeds airline mileage and many Latin American countries have more mileage per thousand square miles than the United States. To conclude, Latin America is a highly diversified continent with each country having its own unique characteristics.

It is important to consider each country for itself rather than making generalizations about them as a whole. Despite geographical differences and varying levels of economic development there are some ties that bind all Latin American nations together such as being producers of raw materials for the world and having to borrow capital from abroad.

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