|Latin America is made up of a group of countries
colonized by Latin-speaking European peoples, above all
Spanish and Portuguese.
Twenty countries make up Latin
America: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa
Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti,
Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru,
Dominican Republic, Uruguay and Venezuela. Among them,
Brazil has the highest population - see
History: First Peoples
From the 15th century, European metropolises began the
colonization of the American continent.
The great powers such as Portugal and Spain in an attempt
to expand their domains and collect wealth to supply their
markets, invaded the territories that would give rise to the
Latin American nations, subjugating the peoples who already
lived here: Brazilian Indians,
Mayans, Aztecs, Incas,
Exploration and Colonization
There were more than three centuries of domination, but
in the 19th century, several liberation movements would
transform the history of Latin America. The
struggles for independence would put an end to European
domination on the continent by starting the formation of
The movements in favor of independence were marked by the
violence practiced by the metropolises against the “rebels”.
With the achievement of political emancipation, most nations
would adopt the republican regime as a form of government,
except Brazil that was governed by a monarchical regime
until the proclamation of the republic in 1889 (Mexico for a
short period was governed by a monarchy ).
Even with independence, these countries
continued to have cultural characteristics inherited from
the colonizing metropolis. An important feature of the
independence processes both in Brazil and in Hispanic
America, is the leadership of local elites in the
The struggles for independence were not motivated by a
nationalist feeling, but by the desire of the local elites
to take over the place occupied by the European dominator.
With the achievement of political emancipation, Latin
American countries would seek to build their own identity.
The more than three centuries of domination have caused a
considerable delay for these nations.
While the vast majority of European countries already
enjoyed the benefits of industrialization, in Latin America
the dominance of agrarian elites in political and economic
command predominated. The economy was intended for the
production of agricultural products that
would mainly supply the demanding international market.
In many countries, monoculture still prevailed. In
Brazil, for example, coffee was the basis of the economy
The great world powers saw in Latin America a potential
consumer of their industrialized products. This need to
acquire goods manufactured by industrial powers generated
enormous dependence on Latin American countries, mainly
dependent on England and the United States.
To aggravate this scenario, many nations have taken out
loans from the powers that be, further strengthening the
ties of economic dependence.
The formation of National States did not mean the full
independence of the population. Power in these new nations
came to be exercised by local elites, whether through a
republican or monarchical regime, was marked by
Political alliances were formed in exchange for favors
such as protection, land and public office for their allies.
In Brazil, the first constitution enacted in 1824 was
strongly authoritarian character with the creation of the
moderating power, which gave full powers to the Emperor D.
In Hispanic America, the dominance exercised by the
Creoles (children of Spaniards born in America) meant that
the majority of the population remained controlled by an
Throughout the 19th century, the borders of the new
states still underwent some transformations. Conflicts such
as the Pacific War that involved Chile, Bolivia and Peru in
the dispute for the Atacama Desert; Paraguay War dispute
that defined the borders between Brazil, Paraguay and
Argentina; Cisplatina war triggered by the annexation of
Uruguayan territory by D. Pedro I were some regional clashes
that influenced the reorganization of border limits.
Even at the beginning of the 20th century, Latin American
countries continued to supply raw materials and agricultural
products to the industrialized powers, but the outbreak of
the First World War in 1914 would change this situation.
With the outbreak of the conflict, Latin America was
prevented from trading with these nations due to the war,
which forced them to produce domestically what was
previously purchased from the United States or Europe. This
policy became known as import substitution.
Industrialization has undergone an impulse, changing the
economic and social configuration of these countries, the
working class emerges as a new social class while the urban
population grew every day with the arrival of rural workers
in search of better living conditions.
The centuries of European domination followed by the
control exercised by authoritarian elites, has made Latin
America historically complicated territory. Social
inequalities coupled with high foreign debt have meant that
Latin American countries are rated as underdeveloped. Among
the main problems we can mention:
- High concentration of income in the hands of a small
portion of the population, while the majority suffers
from unemployment or the consequences of low income;
- Low schooling, access to education has acquired an
elitist character, excluding the poorest population;
- Precarious housing in peripheral locations such as
slums. This social problem is partly due to the
migration of the rural population to the urban area in
search of jobs;
- Hunger, malnutrition and lack of medical assistance
are some of the problems that increase infant mortality
rates and decrease the life expectancy of the
The problems generated by underdevelopment still
represent a serious obstacle for many countries in Latin
America. However, since the 1990s, these nations have been
achieving certain economic stability.
Since then, Latin America has been establishing economic
partnerships with the great powers, which facilitates the
entry of foreign capital and its application in the
productive sectors, which has enabled greater integration
with the international economy.
Another factor worth mentioning is the negotiation of the
foreign debt of these countries, which allowed for greater
control over inflation and economic stagnation.
Latin American nations share many characteristics, such
as the fact that they were colonized and became independent
almost at the same time. However, Latin America is formed by
a group of countries that have different economic, cultural
and social traits.
Perhaps the great wealth of this part of the American
continent lies in the cultural diversity of the Latin
peoples, which at the same time distinguishes them, but also
unites them around an ideal that is to achieve their