What is Latin America?

Latin America

Timothy Two Project International considers the region of Latin America to be all those nations in the Western Hemisphere south of the United States (corresponding to the map at right). And within that region we recognize four sub-regions: 1) North America (Mexico); 2) Central America; 3) South America; and 4) the Caribbean.

However, as can be seen in the article from Wikipedia below, Latin America has had a variety of definitions through the years.

Below are selections from “Latin America” in Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia). Click here for the full article.

Latin America[a] is a group of countries and dependencies in the Western Hemisphere where Romance languages such as SpanishPortuguese, and French are predominantly spoken. Some subnational regions such as Quebec and parts of the United States where Romance languages are primarily spoken are not included due to the countries as a whole being a part of Anglo America (an exception to this is Puerto Rico, which is almost always included within the definition of Latin America despite being a territory of the United States). The term is broader than categories such as Hispanic America, which specifically refers to Spanish-speaking countries and Ibero-America, which specifically refers to both Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries. The term is also more recent in origin.

The term “Latin America” was first used in an 1856 conference with the title “Initiative of America. Idea for a Federal Congress of the Republics” (Iniciativa de la América. Idea de un Congreso Federal de las Repúblicas),[7] by the Chilean politician Francisco Bilbao. The term was further popularised by French Emperor Napoleon III‘s government in the 1860s as Amérique latine to justify France’s military involvement in Mexico and try to include French-speaking territories in the Americas such as French CanadaFrench Louisiana, or French Guiana, in the larger group of countries where Spanish and Portuguese languages prevailed.[8]

Including French-speaking territories, Latin America would consist of 20 countries and 14 dependent territories that cover an area that stretches from Mexico to Tierra del Fuego and includes much of 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 March 2, 2020, population of Latin America and the Caribbean was estimated at more than 652 million,[9] and in 2019, Latin America had a combined nominal GDP of US$5,188,250 million[10] and a GDP PPP of 10,284,588 million USD.[10][11]

Contemporary definitions

Latin America is often used synonymously with Ibero-America (“Iberian America”), excluding the predominantly Dutch-, French- and English-speaking territories. Thus the countries of HaitiBelizeGuyana and Suriname, and several French overseas departments, are excluded.[26]

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. Thus it includes 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.[27][28]

The term is sometimes used more broadly to refer to all of the Americas south of the United States,[28] thus including the Guianas (French GuianaGuyana, 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).[29] Some sources avoid this simplification by using the alternative phrase “Latin America and the Caribbean”, as in the United Nations geoscheme for the Americas.[30][31][32]

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 PeruBolivia, 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.”[33] Following in the tradition of Chilean writer Francisco Bilbao, who excluded Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay from his early conceptualization of Latin America,[34] 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.[35]

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;[36] the latter contains further politico-geographical subdivisions such as the Southern Conethe Guianas and the Andean states. It may be subdivided on linguistic grounds into Hispanic AmericaPortuguese America and French America.

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