Who is Latin America? A Comprehensive Overview

Latin America is a region of the Americas that is home to Romance languages such as Spanish, Portuguese, and French. The United Nations has divided the region into North America, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) was founded in 1948 and initially included Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Chile, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. Later on, Canada, France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and the United States joined.

Italy (1990), Germany (2000), Japan (2000), South Korea (2000), Norway (2001), and Turkey (2001) also became members. The Association for Latin American Studies was established in 1966 and welcomes anyone interested in Latin American studies. The origin of the term 'Latin America' is not universally agreed upon. It was created in the 19th century after the political independence of countries in the Spanish and Portuguese empires.

It also became popular in France during Napoleon III's reign as part of his attempt to create a French empire in the Americas. Research has shown that the idea of a part of the Americas having a linguistic and cultural affinity with Romance cultures dates back to the 1830s when Frenchman Michel Chevalier postulated that part of the Americas was inhabited by people of Latin race and could therefore ally itself with Latin Europe. The distinction between Latin America and Anglo-America is based on language; Romance languages are spoken predominantly in Latin America while English-speaking cultures dominate Anglo-America. Neither area is linguistically or culturally homogeneous; for example, in substantial parts of Latin America indigenous languages are spoken.

The oldest known human settlement in the area was identified in Monte Verde near Puerto Montt in southern Chile and dates back some 14,000 years ago. Over millennia people spread to all parts of North and South America and the Caribbean islands. The diversity of geography, topography, climate and arable land meant that populations were not evenly distributed. Sedentary populations from fixed settlements supported by agriculture gave rise to complex civilizations in Mesoamerica (central and southern Mexico and Central America) and the high Andean populations of Quechua and Aymara as well as Chibcha.

Agricultural surpluses from intensive maize cultivation in Mesoamerica and resistant potatoes and grains in the Andes were able to sustain distant populations beyond farmers' homes and communities. This allowed for the creation of social hierarchies, urbanization with stable settlements in villages and major cities, specialization of artisanal labor and transfer of products through tribute and trade. In the Andes llamas were domesticated to transport goods while Mesoamerica did not have large domestic animals to aid human labor or provide meat. Mesoamerican civilizations developed writing systems while knotted quipus emerged as an accounting system in the Andes. The Spanish extensively explored continental territories they claimed but settled mainly where there were dense indigenous populations with exploitable resources such as silver. The three main racial groups during colonial times were whites from Europe, blacks from Africa, and indigenous people from Latin America.

Over time these populations intermingled resulting in castes. In most of Latin America indigenous people were the majority population. The Roman Catholic Church launched a spiritual conquest to convert indigenous peoples to Christianity without allowing any other religion. In 1493 Pope Alexander VI granted Catholic Monarchs great power over ecclesiastical appointments and functioning of churches in overseas possessions. The monarch was also patron saint of institutional church while state and Catholic Church were institutional pillars of Spanish colonial rule. At the end of 18th century crown also established royal army to defend its possessions against foreign incursions especially from Britain.

Number of viceroyalties also increased in Spanish South America. José de San Martín was Liberator of Argentina Chile Peru while Vicente Guerrero was insurgent hero who joined Agustín de Iturbide former royal military officer who achieved independence from Mexico crowned emperor. In 19th century policy was to end slavery slave trade even in Latin America. In Brazil Britain made end slave trade condition for diplomatic recognition while Brazilian economy totally dependent on slaves. Abolitionists pushed for end slavery which finally ended 1888 followed next year by fall Brazilian monarchy. French also sought trade links with Latin America export luxury goods establish financial links including granting foreign loans governments often dire need income. While Mexican conservatives liberals fought Reform War La Reforma Mexican conservatives strengthen their side looking European monarch place throne.

Leave Reply

All fileds with * are required