Latin America (Spanish: América Latina or Latinoamérica; Portuguese: América Latina; French: Amérique latine) is a region of the Americas where Romance languages (i.e., those derived from Latin) – particularly Spanish and Portuguese, and variably French – are primarily spoken.[2][3] Latin America has an area of approximately 21,069,501 km² (7,880,000 sq mi), or almost 3.9% of the Earth's surface (14.1% of land surface area.). As of 2008, its population was estimated at more than 569 million.

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:

* In one sense, Latin America refers only to those territories in the Americas where the Spanish or Portuguese languages prevail: Mexico, most of Central and South America, and in the Caribbean, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. Latin America is, therefore, defined as all those parts of the Americas that were once part of the Spanish and Portuguese Empires. [7]

* Often, particularly in the United States, the term more broadly refers to all of the Americas south of the United States; thus, English-speaking countries such as Belize, Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Lucia, Dominica, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and the Bahamas, as well as Haiti and Martinique, Guadeloupe, French Guiana, the Netherlands Antilles, Aruba and Suriname are included. (Nevertheless, in this use, it is noted that in the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba, Papiamento – a predominantly Iberian–derived creole language – is spoken by the majority of the population.) This definition emphasizes a similar socioeconomic history of the region, which was characterized by formal or informal colonialism, rather than cultural aspects. (See, for example, dependency theory.)[8] As such, some sources avoid this oversimplification by using the phrase "Latin America and the Caribbean" instead, as in the United Nations geoscheme for the Americas.[9][10][11]

* In a more literal definition, which remains faithful to the original usage, Latin America designates all of those countries and territories in the Americas where a Romance language (i.e., languages derived from Latin, and hence the name of the region) is spoken: Spanish, Portuguese, and French, and the creole languages based upon these. Although French-influenced areas of the Americas would include Quebec, this region is rarely considered to be part of Latin America, since its history, distinctively North American culture and economy, and British-inspired political institutions are generally deemed too closely intertwined with the rest of Canada.[12]

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 Ecuador, Bolivia, Guatemala, 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).


Latin America can be subdived into servel subregions based on geopgraphy, politics, demographics and culture; some subregions are the Southern Cone, Central America, Meso America and Andean states.

In terms of culture, society and national identity Sambarino classified Latin American states into Mestizo-American (Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Venezuela, etc.), Indigenous-America (Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru) and European-American (Argentina and Uruguay).[13]

In Darcy Ribeiros classification system latin American countries are classfied as "New Peoples" (Chile, Colombia, Venezuela etc.), that merged from the mix of several cultures while Peru and Bolivia are "Testimony Peoples", remants of ancient civilizations and Argentina and Uruguay, former "New Peoples" that became "Transplantated Peoples", essentially European, after massive immigration.[13]

Notes and references

* Julio Miranda Vidal: (2007) Ciencia y tecnología en América Latina Edición electrónica gratuita. Texto completo en

1. a b c d "CIA - The World Factbook -- Field Listing - Ethnic groups". Retrieved 2008-02-20.

2. Colburn, Forrest D (2002). Latin America at the End of Politics. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0691091811.

3. "Latin America." The New Oxford Dictionary of English. Pearsall, J., ed. 2001. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press; p. 1040: "The parts of the American continent where Spanish or Portuguese is the main national language (i.e. Mexico and, in effect, the whole of Central and South America including many of the Caribbean islands)."

4. Mignolo, Walter (2005). The Idea of Latin America. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. p. 77-80. ISBN 9781405100861.

5. McGuiness, Aims (2003). "Searching for 'Latin America': Race and Sovereignty in the Americas in the 1850s" in Appelbaum, Nancy P. et al. (eds.). Race and Nation in Modern Latin America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 87–107. ISBN 0-8078-5441-7

6. Chasteen, John Charles (2001). Born in Blood and Fire: A Concise History of Latin America. W. W. Norton. page156. ISBN 0393976130.

7. Rangel, Carlos (1977). The Latin Americans: Their Love-Hate Relationship with the United States. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. pp. 3–5. ISBN 0-15-148795-2. Skidmore, Thomas E.; Peter H. Smith (2005). Modern Latin America (6 ed.). Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 1–10. ISBN 0-19-517013-X.

8. Butland, Gilbert J. (1960). Latin America: A Regional Geography. New York: John Wiley and Sons. pp. 115–188. ISBN 0-470-12658-2. Dozer, Donald Marquand (1962). Latin America: An Interpretive History. New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 1–15. Szulc, Tad (1965). Latin America. New York Times Company. pp. 13–17. Olien, Michael D. (1973). Latin Americans: Contemporary Peoples and Their Cultural Traditions. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. pp. 1–5. ISBN 0-03-086251-5. Black, Jan Knippers (ed.) (1984). Latin America: Its Problems and Its Promise: A Multidisciplinary Introduction. Boulder: Westview Press. pp. 362–378. ISBN 0-86531-213-3. Bruns, E. Bradford (1986). Latin America: A Concise Interpretive History (4 ed.). New York: Prentice-Hall. pp. 224–227. ISBN 0-13-524356-4. Skidmore, Thomas E.; Peter H. Smith (2005). Modern Latin America (6 ed.). Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 351–355. ISBN 0-19-517013-X.

9. Composition of macro geographical (continental) regions, geographical sub-regions, and selected economic and other groupings, UN Statistics Division. Accessed on line 23 May 2009. (French)

10. Latin America and the Caribbean. The World Bank. Retrieved on 17 July 2009.

11. Country Directory. Latin American Network Information Center-University of Texas at Austin. Retrieved on 17 July 2009.

12. Bethell, Leslie (ed.) (1984). The Cambridge History of Latin America. 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. xiv. ISBN 0-521-23223-6.

13. a b Larraín, Jorge. Identidad chilena. 2001. Editorial LOM.