Term Paper: What Defines Latin America

Pages: 6 (1671 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Literature - Latin-American  ·  Buy This Paper

Latin America unites all countries of Americas where Romance languages are spoken (languages which derived from Latin language). From geographical perspective Latin America includes territories where Spanish, Portuguese or French dominated during colonization era: Mexico, Central America, South America and Caribbean. French speaking territories in Canada (such as Quebec province) are not included to Latin America, due to a number of reasons, mainly cultural differences. Latin America consists of 20 states and dependent territories. Even though that traditionally Latin America is considered to be Spanish-speaking world, French and Portuguese languages are also spread. In common understanding, the word "Latino" is referred to describe people of Latin-speaking cultures, those who have common Spanish cultural heritage, including Spanish nation. In 1990 Latino National Political Survey respondents had shown strong loyalty to Spanish people, people of their national origin, but they experienced little cultural unity with Spanish only, identifying themselves by nationality labels, not by pan-ethnic labels.

Today it's generally agreed that term Hispanic is bureaucratic, in common language "Latino" is used greater. History of the term Latin America goes all the way to the 19th century. It was used by French emperor Napoleon III, who considered countries of Latin America to be the subject of his expansionist policies and it was also used by Michel Chevalier (1836). Later, term Latino became nominal for countries of South and Central America. "Latin America" was not used in USA until 1890s as these countries were referred to Spanish America. It's explained by historical fact, as starting from 1890s the U.S.A. began to spread its economical and partly political influence over the American mainland and following the doctrine of Monroe, the U.S.A. official press and political figures began to differentiate with Old Spanish world and new Latino world of Americas, which already had a different and original culture of its own. Another reason was to diminish the role of weakening Spain and Portugal in the New World. In modern understanding the term Latino represents some sort of equivalent to Latin Europe, where original culture turned into transnational cultural unification factor. Today "Latino" has the sense of supernationality, rather that ethnic definition both in terms of culture and mentality.

Conditions under which Latin American culture was formed were diverse from the very beginning. Colonization era promoted the spread of European culture, especially Spanish, Portuguese and French national cultures on the hand with Catholicism which played later a great role in establishment of universal mentality of Latin Americans. Original culture of colorizators was greatly influenced by elements of native Indian culture, as these elements have preserved in national clothes, food, folk art and beliefs. Culture of Caribbean and Brazil was also supplemented by ethnic particularities of African slaves who were imported as plantation labor. Unlike the U.S.A., Latin America experienced another tendencies in ethnic and cultural development so that diversity of Latino culture had become its characteristics:

"The Caribbean and circum-Caribbean states including Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, and Brazil as well as the Andean countries of Ecuador, Bolivia, and Peru have never denied their plural reality -- at least not in their recent promotional literature. The Jamaican national motto is "Out of Many, One People." Trinidad has a motto that reads: "Together we aspire. Together we achieve" (Knight, 8)

Origin in Latin America is mainly associated with social status so that the word race got the synonym "social class." Such ethnic designations had preserved not only in Latin America, but in countries of Africa and South Asia: "...Nor, properly speaking, should mestizo -- the genetic mixture of Spaniard and Indians -- and mulatto -- the term used to describe the mixture of white and black in colonial Spanish America -- be considered especially useful ethnic terms. Nevertheless, in Latin America they are so considered." (Knight, 10)

Today the biggest Diaspora of Latin Americans in the U.S.A. is considered to be in Miami, FL. Miami is often called capital of Latin America and Caribbean due to a number of reasons: Hispanic-Latinos form 53% of Miami Dade county population, which equals to 53% of the total population. Surveys show that nearly 93% of Dade country population were born outside the U.S.A. mainly in Latin American countries or Caribbean: "45.7% of the Hispanic Heads of Household have lived in South Florida for at least 10 years. Hispanic banks control over $36 billion. Hispanic population has increased 204% since 1970. 63% of Miami's Hispanics are age 18 to 44 and Spanish speaking at home."

Such statistics shows that Latin Americans play an equal role in business and economic life of South Florida. Because South Florida began to develop dynamically only since late 1950s after air-conditioning was introduced, both citizens of the U.S.A. And immigrants from Latin America had nearly the same economical opportunities in the region. But Latin Americans had more advantages as South Florida had unlimited opportunities for financial prosperity, comparing to the conditions in their homelands, while for a number of USA citizens moving to Florida promised less financial benefits. As a result today the income of Hispanic-Americans in South Florida doesn't differ much from income of non-Hispanic-Americans: "Mean household income for Hispanics in South Florida is $35,800 compared to $38,000 for Non-Hispanics.In other regions annual income of Latin Americans was about $22,500 in 1990" (from Demographics Miami) Such interaction of Miami area with Latin America defiend orientation of its local economy:

"South American, Central Americans and Caribbean overnight visitors to Dade spent over $3.5 billion in 199;

South Americans invest $billions annually in Dade;

Over 71% of Florida's international trade is done with South America, Central America and Caribbean;

60.5% of Dade County's tourism is South American. " (from Demographics Miami)

On the hand with economical ties of South Florida with Latin America there exists a number of cultural particularities in Dade country: dwelling architecture typical for Latin America in a number of Dade and urban Miami areas, elements of Latin American culture in food, popular music, holidays, festivals, etc.: "Miami is largest Hispanic publishing city in the U.S. with 12 Hispanic AM/FM Radio Stations; 2 TV and 2 Cable TV Hispanic stations." (from Demographics Miami) Nevertheless, even Miami with a large Hispanic population can not be called Latin America, as society in Miami area lives under different laws and social rules which exist in Latin America. Young generation of Hispanic origin prefers to speak English not only at school but also in their surrounding, number of them also dream to move up north where they will have more opportunities, as South Florida is mainly a tourist state with overdeveloped service industry. In addition, all attempts of Hispanic local political figures to make Spanish the second official language in South Florida fail. As a result even such stable culture of Latino immigrants assimilates with traditional American culture as they are deprived of opportunity to build basis for their cultural heritage in the U.S.A.- Spanish language is not official, which is crucial in decreasing level of national identity.

But on the hand with diverse cultural origins and influence of Spanish colonial culture, Latin America is also distinguished by its political traditions which are oppositely different from the U.S.A. ones, even though both political systems were formed under similar conditions- fighting for independence from European metropolises. Such authors as Jose Pinera even call Latin America an "orphan continent." He writes that despite the fact of heroic war for independence in South American colonies, its leaders: Bolivar, O'Higgins and Sucre were the followers of authoritarian colonial traditions, based on the government of chosen. Bolivar's ideal state was similar to authoritarian France under Napoleon Bonaparte, but not a constitutional government:

"... It is one thing to know how to fight and another to govern. The Liberators (and their successors) did not anchor the young republics in the values of individual liberty, did not establish… [END OF PREVIEW]

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