Latin America

Latin America[a]
Latin America (orthographic projection).svg
Area20,111,457 km2 (7,765,077 sq mi)[1]
Population639,048,639 (2016 est.)[2][b]
Population density31/km2 (80/sq mi)
DemonymLatin American
Spanish, Portuguese and French
Quechua, Haitian Creole, Mayan languages, Guaraní, Aymara, Nahuatl, Italian, German, English, Dutch, Polish, Ukrainian, Welsh, Yiddish, Chinese, Japanese
Time zonesUTC-2 to UTC-8
Largest cities(Metro areas)[3][4]
1. São Paulo
2. Mexico City
3. Buenos Aires
4. Lima
5. Rio de Janeiro
6. Bogotá
7. Santiago
8. Belo Horizonte
9. Guadalajara
10. Monterrey
UN M.49 code419 – Latin America

Latin America[a] is a group of countries and dependencies in the Americas with a shared history of facing colonialism and coloniality by Spain, Portugal and other European countries and where Romance languages such as Spanish, Portuguese, and French dominate, but hundreds of Native languages such as Nahuatl, Mixtec, Maya, Quechua, and Aymara are also spoken. Latin America is broader than the terms Ibero-America or Hispanic America. The term "Latin America" was first used in an 1856 conference with the title "Initiative of the America. Idea for a Federal Congress of the Republics" (Iniciativa de la América. Idea de un Congreso Federal de las Repúblicas),[5] by the Chilean politician Francisco Bilbao. The term was used also by Napoleon III's French government in the 1860s as Amérique latine to consider French-speaking territories in the Americas, (French Canadians, French Louisiana, French Guiana, Haiti, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Martin, Saint Barthélemy) along with the larger group of countries where Spanish and Portuguese languages prevailed, including the Spanish-speaking portions of the United States (Southwestern United States and Florida)[6] Today, areas of Canada and the United States (with the exception of Puerto Rico)[7] where Spanish, Portuguese and French are predominant are typically not included in definitions of Latin America.

Latin America consists of 13 dependencies and 20 countries which cover an area that stretches from the northern border of Mexico to the southern tip of South America, including the Caribbean. It has an area of approximately 19,197,000 km2 (7,412,000 sq mi),[1] almost 13% of the Earth's land surface area. As of 2016, its population was estimated at more than 639 million[2][b] and in 2014, Latin America had a combined nominal GDP of US$5,573,397 million[8] and a GDP PPP of 7,531,585 million USD.[8][9]

Etymology and definitions


Presencia de América Latina (Presence of Latin America, 1964–65) is a 300 square meters (3,200 sq ft) mural at the hall of the Arts House of the University of Concepción, Chile. It is also known as Latin America's Integration.

The idea that a part of the Americas has a linguistic affinity with the Romance cultures as a whole can be traced back to the 1830s, in the writing of the French Saint-Simonian Michel Chevalier, who postulated that this part of the Americas was inhabited by people of a "Latin race", and that it could, therefore, ally itself with "Latin Europe", ultimately overlapping the Latin Church, in a struggle with "Teutonic Europe", "Anglo-Saxon America" and "Slavic Europe".[10] Further investigations of the concept of Latin America are by Michel Gobat in the American Historical Review,[11] the studies of Leslie Bethell,[12] and the monograph by Mauricio Tenorio-Trillo, Latin America: The Allure and Power of an Idea (2017).[13]

Historian John Leddy Phelan located the origins of “Latin America” in the French occupation of Mexico. His argument is that French imperialists used the concept of "Latin" America as a way to counter British imperialism, as well as to challenge the German threat to France.[14] The idea of a "Latin race" was then 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.[15] French ruler Napoleon III had a strong interest in extending French commercial and political power in the region he and his business promoter Felix Belly called “Latin America” to emphasize the shared Latin background of France with the former colonies of Spain and Portugal. This led to Napoleon's failed attempt to take military control of Mexico in the 1860s.[6]

However, though Phelan thesis is still frequently mentioned in the U.S. academy, two Latin American historians, the Uruguayan Arturo Ardao and the Chilean Miguel Rojas Mix proved decades ago that the term "Latin America" was used earlier than Phelan claimed, and the first use of the term was completely opposite to support imperialist projects in the Americas. Ardao wrote about this subject in his book Génesis de la idea y el nombre de América latina (Genesis of the Idea and the Name of Latin America, 1980),[16] and Miguel Rojas Mix in his article "Bilbao y el hallazgo de América latina: Unión continental, socialista y libertaria" (Bilbao and the Finding of Latin America: a Continental, Socialist and Libertarian Union, 1986).[17] As Michel Gobat reminds in his article "The Invention of Latin America: A Transnational History of Anti-Imperialism, Democracy, and Race", "Arturo Ardao, Miguel Rojas Mix, and Aims McGuinness have revealed [that] the term 'Latin America' had already been used in 1856 by Central and South Americans protesting U.S. expansion into the Southern Hemisphere".[18] Edward Shawcross summarizes Ardao's and Rojas Mix's findings in the following way: "Ardao identified the term in a poem by a Colombian diplomat and intellectual resident in France, José María Torres Caicedo, published on 15 February 1857 in a French based Spanish-language newspaper, while Rojas Mix located it in a speech delivered in France by the radical liberal Chilean politician Francisco Bilbao in June 1856".[19]

So, regarding when the words "Latin" and "America" were combined for the first time in a printed work, the term "Latin America" was first used in 1856 in a conference by the Chilean politician Francisco Bilbao in Paris.[20] The conference had the title "Initiative of the America. Idea for a Federal Congress of Republics."[5] The following year the Colombian writer José María Torres Caicedo also used the term in his poem "The Two Americas".[21] Two events related with the U.S. played a central role in both works. The first event happened less than a decade before the publication of Bilbao's and Torres Caicedo works: the Mexican–American War, after which Mexico lost a third of its territory. The second event, the Walker affair, happened the same year both works were written: the decision by U.S. president Franklin Pierce to recognize the regime recently established in Nicaragua by American William Walker and his band of filibusters who ruled Nicaragua for nearly a year (1856–57) and attempted to reinstate slavery there, where it had been already abolished for three decades

In both Bilbao's and Torres Caicedo's works, the Mexican-American War and Walker's expedition to Nicaragua are explicitly mentioned as examples of dangers for the region. For Bilbao, "Latin America" was not a geographical concept, since he excluded Brazil, Paraguay and Mexico. Both authors also ask for the union of all Latin American countries as the only way to defend their territories against further foreign U.S. interventions. Both rejected also European imperialism, claiming that the return of European countries to non-democratic forms of government was another danger for Latin American countries, and used the same word to describe the state of European politics at the time: "despotism." Several years later, during the French invasion of Mexico, Bilbao wrote another work, "Emancipation of the Spirit in America," where he asked all Latin American countries to support the Mexican cause against France, and rejected French imperialism in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. He asked Latin American intellectuals to search for their "intellectual emancipation" by abandoning all French ideas, claiming that France was: "Hypocrite, because she [France] calls herself protector of the Latin race just to subject it to her exploitation regime; treacherous, because she speaks of freedom and nationality, when, unable to conquer freedom for herself, she enslaves others instead!"[22] Therefore, as Michel Gobat puts it, the term Latin America itself had an "anti-imperial genesis," and their creators were far from supporting any form of imperialism in the region, or in any other place of the globe.

However, in France the term Latin America was used with the opposite intention. It was employed by the French Empire of Napoleon III during the French invasion of Mexico as a way to include France among countries with influence in the Americas and to exclude Anglophone countries. It played a role in his campaign to imply cultural kinship of the region with France, transform France into a cultural and political leader of the area, and install Maximilian of Habsburg as emperor of the Second Mexican Empire.[23] This term was also used in 1861 by French scholars in La revue des races Latines, a magazine dedicated to the Pan-Latinism movement.[24]

Contemporary definitions

The 4 common subregions in Latin America
  • Latin America generally refers to territories in the Americas where the Spanish, Portuguese or French languages prevail: Mexico, most of Central and South America, and in the Caribbean, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Puerto Rico. Latin America is, therefore, defined as all those parts of the Americas that were once part of the Spanish, Portuguese and French Empires.[25] By this definition, Latin America is coterminous with Ibero-America when excluding the minority French-speaking territories ("Iberian America").[26]
  • The term is sometimes used more broadly to refer to all of the Americas south of the United States,[27] thus including the Guianas (French Guiana, Guyana, and Suriname), the Anglophone Caribbean (and Belize); the Francophone Caribbean; and the Dutch Caribbean. 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).[28] 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.[29][30][31]
  • In a more literal definition, which is close to the semantic origin, Latin America designates countries in the Americas where a Romance language (a language derived from Latin) predominates: Spanish, Portuguese, French, and the creole languages based upon these.[27] In this definition, the Canadian province of Quebec would be classified as part of Latin America.

The distinction between Latin America and Anglo-America 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 homogeneous; in substantial portions of Latin America (e.g., highland Peru, Bolivia, Mexico, Guatemala), Native American 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).

The term is not without controversy. Historian Mauricio Tenorio-Trillo explores at length the "allure and power" of the idea of Latin America. He remarks at the outset, "The idea of 'Latin America' ought to have vanished with the obsolescence of racial theory... But it is not easy to declare something dead when it can hardly be said to have existed," going on to say, "The term is here to stay, and it is important."[32] Following in the tradition of Chilean writer Francisco Bilbao, who excluded Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay from his early conceptualization of Latin America,[33] Chilean historian Jaime Eyzaguirre has criticized the term Latin America for "disguising" and "diluting" the Spanish character of a region (i.e. Hispanic America) with the inclusion of nations that according to him do not share the same pattern of conquest and colonization.[34]

Subregions and countries

Latin America can be subdivided into several subregions based on geography, politics, demographics and culture. If defined as all of the Americas south of the United States, the basic geographical subregions are North America, Central America, the Caribbean and South America;[35] the latter contains further politico-geographical subdivisions such as the Southern Cone, the Guianas and the Andean states. It may be subdivided on linguistic grounds into Hispanic America, Portuguese America and French America.

Flag Arms Country Capital(s) Name(s) in official language(s) Area
Population density
(per km²)
Time(s) zone(s) Subregion
Argentina Coat of arms of Argentina.svg Argentina Buenos Aires Argentina 2,780,400 43,847,430 14.4 UTC/GMT -3 hours South America
Bolivia Coat of arms of Bolivia.svg Bolivia Sucre and La Paz Bolivia; Buliwya; Wuliwya; Volívia 1,098,581 10,887,882 9 UTC/GMT -4 hours South America
Brazil Coat of arms of Brazil.svg Brazil Brasília Brasil 8,515,767 207,652,865 23.6 UTC/GMT -2 hours (Fernando de Noronha)
UTC/GMT -3 hours (Brasília)
UTC/GMT -4 hours (Amazonas)
UTC/GMT -5 hours (Acre)
South America
Chile Coat of arms of Chile.svg Chile Santiago Chile 756,096 17,909,754 23 UTC/GMT -3 hours (Magallanes and Chilean Antarctica)

UTC/GMT -4 hours (Continental Chile)

UTC/GMT -5 hours (Easter Island)

South America
Colombia Coat of arms of Colombia.svg Colombia Bogotá Colombia 1,141,748 48,653,419 41.5 UTC/GMT -5 hours South America
Costa Rica Coat of arms of Costa Rica.svg Costa Rica San José Costa Rica 51,100 4,857,274 91.3 UTC/GMT -6 hours Central America
Cuba Coat of arms of Cuba.svg Cuba Havana Cuba 109,884 11,475,982 100.6 UTC/GMT -4 hours Caribbean
Dominican Republic Coat of arms of the Dominican Republic.svg Dominican Republic Santo Domingo República Dominicana 48,442 10,648,791 210.9 UTC/GMT -4 hours Caribbean
Ecuador Coat of arms of Ecuador.svg Ecuador Quito Ecuador 283,560 16,385,068 54.4 UTC/GMT -5 hours South America
El Salvador Coat of arms of El Salvador.svg El Salvador San Salvador El Salvador 21,040 6,344,722 290.3 UTC/GMT -6 hours Central America
French Guiana French Guyana COA.png French Guiana* Cayenne Guyane 83,534 275,713 3 UTC/GMT -3 hours South America
Guadeloupe Coat of arms of Guadeloupe.svg Guadeloupe* Basse-Terre Guadeloupe 1,628 449,975 250 UTC/GMT -4 hours Caribbean
Guatemala Coat of arms of Guatemala.svg Guatemala Guatemala City Guatemala 108,889 16,582,469 129 UTC/GMT -6 hours Central America
Haiti Coat of arms of Haiti.svg Haiti Port-au-Prince Haïti; Ayiti 27,750 10,847,334 350 UTC/GMT -4 hours Caribbean
Honduras Coat of arms of Honduras.svg Honduras Tegucigalpa Honduras 112,492 9,112,867 76 UTC/GMT -6 hours Central America
Martinique BlasonMartinique.svg Martinique* Fort-de-France Martinique 1,128 385,103 340 UTC/GMT -4 hours Caribbean
Mexico Coat of arms of Mexico.svg Mexico Mexico City México 1,964 375 127,540,423 57 UTC/GMT -5 hours (Zona Sureste)
UTC/GMT -6 hours (Zona Centro)
UTC/GMT -7 hours (Zona Pacífico)
UTC/GMT -8 hours (Zona Noroeste)
North America
Nicaragua Coat of arms of Nicaragua.svg Nicaragua Managua Nicaragua 130,375 6,149,928 44.3 UTC/GMT -6 hours Central America
Panama Coat of arms of Panama.svg Panama Panama City Panamá 75,517 4,034,119 54.2 UTC/GMT -5 hours Central America
Paraguay Coat of arms of Paraguay.svg Paraguay Asunción Paraguay; Tetã Paraguái 406,752 6,725,308 14.2 UTC/GMT -4 hours South America
Peru Escudo nacional del Perú.svg Peru Lima Perú; Piruw 1,285,216 31,773,839 23 UTC/GMT -5 hours South America
Puerto Rico Coat of arms of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.svg Puerto Rico* San Juan Puerto Rico 9,104 3,667,903 397 UTC/GMT -4 hours Caribbean
Saint Barthélemy Blason St Barthélémy TOM entire.svg Saint Barthélemy* Gustavia Saint-Barthélemy 53.2 9,000[36] 682 UTC/GMT -4 hours Caribbean
Collectivity of Saint Martin St Martin Coat.png Saint Martin* Marigot Saint-Martin 25 39,000 361 UTC/GMT -4 hours Caribbean
Uruguay Coat of arms of Uruguay.svg Uruguay Montevideo Uruguay 176,215 3,444,006 18.87 UTC/GMT -3 hours South America
Venezuela Original Coat of arms of Venezuela.png Venezuela Caracas Venezuela 916,445 31,568,179 31.59 UTC/GMT -4 hours South America
Total 20,111,457 626,741,000

*: Not a sovereign state

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Latyns-Amerika
aragonés: America Latina
asturianu: América Llatina
azərbaycanca: Latın Amerikası
bamanankan: Latino Amerika
Bân-lâm-gú: Latin Bí-chiu
башҡортса: Латин Америкаһы
беларуская: Лацінская Амерыка
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Лацінская Амэрыка
Boarisch: Lateinamerika
brezhoneg: Amerika Latin
Cymraeg: America Ladin
Deutsch: Lateinamerika
español: América Latina
Esperanto: Latinameriko
estremeñu: América Latina
euskara: Latinoamerika
Fiji Hindi: Latin America
føroyskt: Latínamerika
français: Amérique latine
贛語: 拉丁美洲
Bahasa Indonesia: Amerika Latin
interlingua: America latin
italiano: America Latina
kernowek: Amerika Latin
latviešu: Latīņamerika
lietuvių: Lotynų Amerika
Limburgs: Latiens Amerika
Lingua Franca Nova: America latina
la .lojban.: la'ortu'a
македонски: Латинска Америка
مازِرونی: لاتین آمریکا
Bahasa Melayu: Amerika Latin
Mirandés: América Latina
မြန်မာဘာသာ: လက်တင်အမေရိက
Nederlands: Latijns-Amerika
नेपाल भाषा: लातिन अमेरिका
Norfuk / Pitkern: Leten Merika
norsk nynorsk: Latin-Amerika
Patois: Latn Amoerka
português: América Latina
Qaraqalpaqsha: Latın Amerika
română: America Latină
русиньскый: Латинска Америка
Seeltersk: Latienamerikoa
sicilianu: Amèrica latina
Simple English: Latin America
slovenčina: Latinská Amerika
slovenščina: Latinska Amerika
српски / srpski: Латинска Америка
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Latinska Amerika
svenska: Latinamerika
татарча/tatarça: Латин Америкасы
Türkçe: Latin Amerika
Türkmençe: Latyn Amerikasy
українська: Латинська Америка
vèneto: Merica latina
Tiếng Việt: Mỹ Latinh
吴语: 拉丁美洲
粵語: 拉丁美洲
žemaitėška: Luotīnu Amerėka
中文: 拉丁美洲