Definition of Latin America Essay

Pages: 4 (1202 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Literature - Latin-American

Latin America is a geo-cultural region that loosely incorporates the Hispanophone and Lusophone nations within North and South America. The U.S. And Canada are typically excluded, as are Caribbean nations that do not speak Spanish. Even though the U.S. is not considered to be part of Latin America, Miami is nevertheless said to be the capital of Latin America, as a city with immigrants from all over the region, and the hub of trade between Latin America and the northern markets (Booth, 2001). The sobriquet is not a stretch either. Latin America is defined by its relations with the Spanish during their conquest of the Americas (and the Portuguese in Brazil). Spanish is the predominant language, Catholicism the religion, and all areas have colonial Spanish architecture as well as legal and political traditions. It is for these reasons that countries that were not colonized by Spain or Portugal are specifically excluded from the definition of Latin America.

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While linked by a common history, the countries that comprise Latin America are incredibly diverse. All of these countries hosted indigenous populations, some wealthy and powerful, others less so, but they were all subsumed after the Spanish invaded, creating mestizo cultures. In some countries, the cultural and social influences are predominantly Spanish (such as in Argentina), while in others the native populations still dominate (such as in Bolivia, or Guatemala). Socially, there are class differences that often cut along racial lines, with people of European descent holding higher status in most countries than people of native descent, something that reflects the traditional colonial social power structures. People of African descent live in several countries in Latin America -- Brazil, Cuba, the DR, PR, and Colombia -- but their status is often related to the fact that their ancestors were brought over as slaves.

Essay on Definition of Latin America Assignment

Latin America as a region is defined by the commonalities. Thus while there are some differences, at times significant ones, between the countries, the common bonds are what make them Latin American. The differences may arise from indigenous traditions, or from modern day outlooks, but the commonalities between these countries arise from the ways that they were colonized, and by whom, and how that has manifested in the modern-day culture.

Social Issues

There are a number of social issues in Peru, and these are found in many Latin American countries. The indigenous people often face a certain amount of social injustice. In Peru, many indigenous people do not speak Spanish, which inherently excludes them from the corridors of power. The Spanish colonizers set up the power structures of Peru, and its institutions, and power has been maintained by those of Spanish descent ever since. A result of this is that most of the country's wealth has been concentrated among a Spanish-descended elite. Among the indigenous, 78% live in poverty, compared with 40% for the Spanish, something that reflects differential access to power, resources, and opportunity within the society. Indigenous Peruvians are typically excluded from government, even today, and this is to the detriment of their ability to have opportunities to improve their lives.

Mixed race Peruvians might fare a little bit better, but they still occupy a lower status than those of pure European descent. Such are the stratifications within Peruvian society. If these people do not have access to good schooling, and never come to learn the Spanish language, they will have almost no opportunity to improve their lives, such is the high level of discrimination against them.

Political Issues

One political issue is the status of women in Peru. Peruvian women do not enjoy many rights, and have been… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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