Latin America

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Latin America


Area 7,930,845 sq miles
Population 560, 287,688
Countries 20
Dependencies 4
GDP $2.26 Trillion (exchange rate)
Languages Spanish, Portuguese, French, Quechua, Aymara, Nahuatl, Mayan languages
Time Zones
Largest Cities Mexico City,
São Paulo,
Buenos Aires

Latin America is a cultural region of the American continent consisting of countries where the official and predominantly-used language is latin-based : Spanish ; Portuguese and to a lesser extent French.

Latin America is the American equivalent of Latin Europe.

Taking a Social-political perspective, including only independent countries, it corresponds roughly to all nations south of the Rio Grande, consisting of Mexico (in North America), most of Central America, most of South America and the countries of the Caribbean where Spanish, French, Portuguese or creoles based on those languages are spoken. Following that criteria, Latin America is divided into 20 independent countries and several dependent political units. Brazil is by far the largest country in Latin America both in area and in population. It occupies more than 40 percent of the region's land area and has about a third of its people. Its official language, Portuguese, is not officially spoken in other American countries.



The term 'Latin America' has come to be applied to this region because the majority of its inhabitants speak a language descended from the ancient Latin language. Spanish and Portuguese, and to a lesser extent French, all Latin based, are the most widely spoken languages in the region.

There are, however, many people in Latin America who do not speak the official Latin-derived languages, but languages indigenous to the region or languages brought by languages.

Québec, Acadia and other French-speaking areas in Canada, Louisiana, Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, and other places north of Mexico are traditionally excluded from the Social-political definition of Latin America, despite significant populations speaking a Latin-derived language, because they don't exist as independent states, and/or because they are geographically isolated from the rest of Latin America. French Guiana, however, is usually included, despite being a dependency of France and not an independent country.

The term "Latin America", thus, is not always taken too literally. Although its etymology lies in a description of linguistic origins of many of the region's inhabitants, to some people in some countries (especially in the USA) it has come to be wrongly applied to describe the entire geographic region of Central and South America, and often the Caribbean, regardless of language. More specifically, Guyana and Suriname in South America, Belize in Central America and many countries in the Caribbean do not speak (predominantly, or at all) Latin languages and therefore are not formally considered part of Latin America.

The related term Iberoamerica 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.


Political Divisions

Latin America is made up of the following countries:

And the following dependencies:

To France

To the United Kingdom

To the Netherlands

To the United States

NOTE: The asterisk denotes places where Latin based languages are not predominant. These places, although not Latin in a strictly linguistic point of view, are certainly part of Latin America on a geopolitical and economic perspective (for instance, they are all gathered in the same UN regional commission - ECLALC).


See: History of Latin America


A large percentage of the people in Latin America is of mixed origins, the result of racial intermingling among European settlers, African slaves, and American natives, with notable exception of the "Southern Cone" ("cono sur": Argentina, Uruguay, southern Brazil) where the population and the culture is the most Europeanized of all the Americas. Outside of the "Southern Cone", this mixture of backgrounds ("Mestizaje" in Spanish) has profoundly influenced religion, music, and politics, and given rise to a vague identity of those belonging to these mixed cultures; this imprecise cultural heritage is (arguably improperly) called Latinos in American English. Outside of the USA, and in many languages (especially romance ones) "Latino" just means "Latin" (which refers to cultures and peoples that can trace their heritage back to the ancient Roman Empire.)


Below is a table showing the Gross domestic product (GDP) per capita at purchasing power parity (PPP) prices and the GDP (PPP) of each of the Latin American countries. This can be used as a rough gauge to the relative standards of living in the region. Data is from the year 2005.

GNI per capita (PPP)
GNI per capita (PPP)
Country GDP (PPP) per capita GDP (PPP)
international dollars millions of international dollars
Argentina Argentina 13,153 516,951
Chile Chile 11,537 186,733
Costa Rica Costa Rica 10,316 44,579
Mexico Mexico 10,090 1,064,889
Uruguay Uruguay 9,619 32,885
Brazil Brazil 8,745 1,552,542
Panama Panama 7,327 22,706
Colombia Colombia 7,303 336,808
Dominican Republic Dominican Republic 7,055 63,594
Venezuela Venezuela 5,801 153,331
Peru Peru 5,594 164,110
Paraguay Paraguay 4,663 29,014
El Salvador El Salvador 4,525 31,171
Guatemala Guatemala 4,136 56,736
Ecuador Ecuador 4,010 56,779
Bolivia Bolivia 3,049 25,892
Cuba Cuba 3,000 33,920
Honduras Honduras 2,793 20,549
Nicaragua Nicaragua 2,779 16,052
Haiti Haiti 1,614 14,118
Latin America 8,105 4,421,569

Sources: Data from table is from an April 2005 report by the IMF and graphics data is from data by the World Bank from 2003 [1]. Data for Cuba is a 2004 estimate from the CIA World Factbook. GDP (PPP) per capita for Latin America was calculated using population data from List of countries by population


The Spanish and Portuguese (in the 10 most populated countries), and French (in smaller countries, in the Caribbean, and in French Guiana) languages predominate.

Many Caribbean nations have their own African-influenced Creole versions of these languages. Native American languages are spoken in many Latin American nations, mainly Mexico, Peru, and Bolivia.


The primary religion throughout Latin America is Roman Catholicism, but one can also find practitioners belonging to Protestant, Pentecostal, Evangelical, Buddhist, Jewish, Hindu, Bahá'í, indigenous, and various Afro-Latin American traditions, such as Santería, and Macumba.


One of the main characteristics of Latin-American music is its diversity; contrarily to a widespread view (especially in the US), there is not one specific Latin American style of music. The so-called "Latin music" covers generally only the Hispano-Caribbean music (Salsa, Merengue, Bachatta, etc.), that is to say the styles of music that have been strongly influenced by African rythms and melodies. It is also possible to find completly different styles of music in Latin America, such as the Argentinean Tango or the various styles of music from Pre-Columbian traditions that are widespread in the Andean region. In Brazil, the Samba, the American Jazz, the European classical music and the Choro have developped the so-called bossa nova music. As concerning the musicology field, classical composer Heitor Villa-Lobos worked on the recording of native musical traditions. His classical works have been heavily influenced by them too.


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