Latin America Lecture Notes By Dr. Fernando A. Rodriguez
Latin America • “Latin” America consists of two parts: • Middle America which includes Mexico, central America, and all of the islands of the Caribbean sea. • South America which includes twelve independent countries and one colony.
Defining the Realm • Although middle America is part of Latin America, this section of the world belongs to the north American continent. • Physiographically, north America terminates at the river basin in Columbia, south America.
Population of Middle America for 1997 • Mexico – 96 million. • Central America – 32 million. • Caribbean America – 36 million. • Thus, the total population for this realm is approximately 164 million.
Urbanization and Natural Increase • Over 70% of the population is already urbanized. • In the mid-1990s, the rate of natural increase for Mexico and Central America was 2.3% with a potential of doubling every 30 years. • For the Caribbean islands, the rate was 1.4% every 51 years.
Racial/Ethnic Composition • Indians – they live in the highlands of Mexico and central America. • Mestizos – individuals with Indian and Spanish ancestry. They live in the highlands of Mexico and central America. • Europeans – they are individuals of Spanish, French, or English ancestry. The Spaniards live in the highlands where they found the Indians and where the climate is temperate as in Europe. The English and French live in the Caribbean islands while the English also live in Belize.
Racial/Ethnic Composition • Blacks – they live in the Caribbean islands and coastal fringe of Central America or from Belize to Panama. • Mulattos – these are individuals of black and white ancestry. They live in the Caribbean Islands. • Zambos – they are individuals who live mainly in the Caribbean Islands and are a result of a union of Indians who lived in the mountains of Jamaica and Hispanola and black slaves who escaped the island plantations.
The Physiography of Middle America • The physiography of middle America is highly divided and fragmented. Its funnel- shaped mainland consist of a 3800 mile connection between the north and south American realms, and it narrows to a 40-mile ribbon of land in panama. • Middle America is therefore an isthmian link or a land bridge.
Physiography of Middle America • Baja California consists of an 800 mile peninsula which dominated by igneous intrusive rocks with lava caps. • The San Bernardino Mountains extend into Baja but, here, they are known as the Juarez Mountains.
Physiography of Middle America • Draw Diagram of Baja California. • This diagram shows the Colorado Delta which is 150 miles long, but it has “mud volcanoes”, swamps, and areas prone to flooding. • Except for the international border, the peninsula is sparsely settled. • The people live from tourism, fishing, and local mining of iron, lead, and zinc.
Physiography of Middle America • Coastal Fringe of Western Mexico • This area is effectively cut off from the interior of central Mexico by the Sierra Madre Occidental. • The area is relatively narrow, and it has finger-like extensions of the mountains to form valleys where rivers lay. • This area is utilized for agriculture and farmers grow rice, sugar cane, wheat, oats, tobacco, cotton, and they raise cattle and pigs for market.
Physiography of Middle America • Sierra Madre Occidental • This mountain range extends from the U.S. border to approximately the 19th Parallel. • It is approximately 8-10,000 feet in elevation. • This mountain range contains deep valleys or canyons called barrancas. • One of these barrancas is known as La Barranca de Cobre. It rivals the Grand Canyon in grandeur and splendor. • Mining is important along this range. Gold is mined in the City of Las Coloradas while silver is mined in the City of Batopilas.
Physiography of Middle America • Altiplano of Mexico • The plateau of Mexico is divided into two parts: • Mesa del Norte, and • Mesa del Sur. • (Draw Diagram of this region.) • Both sections contain a series of inter-mountain basins called bolsones. • These bolsones vary in elevation from 3,000 to 7, 500 feet.
Physiography of Middle America • Sierra Madre Oriental • These mountains are considered to be a continuation of the Rocky Mountains. • The elevation is approximately 8-10,000 feet. • These mountains do not contain barrancas but they do have deep valleys, with spurs that lead into the eastern coastal plain.
Physiography of Middle America • The Gulf Coastal Plain of Eastern Mexico • This region begins north of Laredo and extends to a narrow point north of Vera Cruz and, then, widens into the coastal plain of the Yucatan Peninsula. • South from Texas, the coastal plain increases in precipitation and vegetation, leading to the rain forest of southern Mexico. • The area south of Matamores contains a Cfa climate, and in the Tampico area it gives way to an Aw climate. • Here, large ranches for fattening cattle proliferate.
Physiography of Middle America • The Volcanic Axis of Mexico • This is an area of great heights and ruggedness. • The volcanoes are over 15,000 feet in elevation. • These volcanoes may an important role in the religion, art, and culture of the Indian cultures who inhabit Central Mexico. • Draw Diagram of this region.
Physiography of Middle America • The Balsas Depression • This depression is found south of the Volcanic Axis of Mexico. • It is 180 miles long and 30 miles wide. It is deep enough so that when one reaches its bottom, one reaches tropical conditions. • This trough is deep enough for a lake to have existed prior to capture of the lake by the river. • This area has been mined for gold since pre-Columbus time. It is the source of gold which was utilized by the Indians for ornamental purposes and the Spaniards for legal tender.
Physiography of Middle America • Sierra Madre del Sur • This mountain range begins in the State of Jalisco and extends southward along the coast of southwestern Mexico. • This range is high and rugged, as high as the Sierra Madre Occidental. • This range consists of pre-Cambrian and metamorphic rocks. • This range contains spurs that extend to the sea, and these spurs at times result in coastal indentations such as Acapulco.
Physiography of Middle America • The Oaxcan Highlands • On the eastern side of the Sierra Madre del Sur, we find the Sierra de Oaxaca. The area between the two ranges we find an old Eros ional surface which has reached maturity. • The area is known as the Highlands because the slopes of both mountains are steep, and it is due to this slope that the mountains are referred to as “The Highlands.”
Physiography of Middle America • The Chiapas Highlands • On the south side of the Oaxaca Highlands, we find a steep escarpment, and it is this escarpment that cuts the Highlands from the lowlands at the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. • On the south side of this lowland area, we find the Chiapas Highlands. This area consists of two mountain ranges which are separated by the Valley of Chiapas. • The mountains, north of the Valley, are known as the Sierra de San Cristobal while the mountains to the south are known as the Sierra de Chiapas. • The former mountains are made of igneous rock while the latter mountains are made of sedimentary rock.
Physiography of Middle America: Caribbean Islands • Sierra de San Cristobal Sierra de Cuchumantes Sierra de Santa Cruz Cayman Islands Maestra Mts of SE Cuba Cordillera Central of Hispanola Cordillera Central of Puerto Rico. • Sierra de Chiapas Sierra de las Minas Islas de la Bahia Swan Islands Blue Mts of Jamaica Peninsula of Hispanola
Physiography of Middle America: The Central American Volcanic Axis • The volcanic axis of Central America is a result of the Caribbean Plate overriding the Cosco Plate. • The volcanoes are found on the western coast of Central America. • These volcanoes eventually closed the Nicaraguan Trough which is a flora and fauna barrier.
Legacy of Mesoamerica • Middle America was the scene of the emergence of a major, ancient civilization. • Here, lay one of the world’s true culture hearth, a source area from which new ideas radiate and whose population contributed to material and intellectual progress. • This culture hearth is called Mesoamerica and extends from Mexico City to Nicaragua.
Lowland Maya • The Maya civilization in the only one on the world culture map that arose in the lowland tropics. • It experienced successive periods of glory and decline, and it reached its zenith between the third and tenth centuries A.D. • This civilization was ruled by religious leaders, and it produced skilled artists, writers, mathematicians, and astronomers.
The Highland Aztecs • This civilization began in the fourteenth century with the founding of a settlement on an island in the many lakes within the valley of Mexico. This city was known as Tenochtitlan which became the greatest city in the Americas, namely, Mexico city.
The Highland Aztecs • Aztec cities became centers of commerce and trade but it was the Aztec farmers, including other Mesoamerican farmers, who produced the greatest accomplishments of the Aztecs, namely, plant and animal domestication.
Domestication of Plants and Animals in Middle America • According to Carl Sauer, plant and animal domestication in the new world occurred in two distinct areas: • The northwest corner of Columbia in south America, and • Central Mexico and central America, otherwise known as Mesoamerica.
Domestication of Plants and Animals in Middle America • The Arawak and the Carib Indians developed a root agriculture which is called the cunuco farming system, a farming system that is still utilized extensively in the Hispanic west Indies.
Domestication of Plants and Animals in Middle America • In this farming system, the Indians would heap soil into a round mound that was knee-high and several feet in diameter. The basic planting in the mound was starchy root crops, chief of which were manioc or cassava, sweet potatoes, arrow root, and peanuts. All of these plants were placed together in the same mound and they, jointly, provided protection from erosion.
Domestication of Plants and Animals in Middle America • Other plants that were domesticated in northwest Columbia were: • Strawberries • Yams • Cocoa* • Pineapple*, and • Tomatoes. • *These plants came from Brazil.
Plant and Animal Domestication in Middle America • The rapid and catastrophic collapse of the Indian population in the west Indies and northwest Columbia brought about by the conquest resulted in the loss of numerous plant/vegetable varieties.
Plant and Animal Domestication in Middle America • The only domesticated animals in NW Columbia were the duck (patos caseros or household duck) which were domesticated by the Muica Amerindians and the guinea pig which was raised for food. Other animals included the llama, alpaca, vicuna, including a small dog which was raised for food.
Plant and Animal Domestication in Middle America • In Mesoamerica, the domestication of plants focused on seed agriculture rather than root agriculture. Women selected the seeds by size, color, and nutritional value; And, therefore, women selectively chose the plant off-springs that they wanted to have in their farm plots.
Plant and Animal Domestication In Middle America • The dominant plants of middle America were: • Maize, • Beans, and • Squash. • These three plants, jointly, comprise the farming system known as the milpa farming system.
Plant and Animal Domestication in Middle America • These three crops are known as the Trilogy of Crops. In this farming system, the farm plots are square or rectangular. Moreover, all three seeds are planted in one hole so that the first plant to sprout is the maize, then, the bean ivy which climbs the maize plant, followed by the squash plant which spreads its leaves throughout the plot, protecting the soil from the harsh sun rays and powerful rain drops.
Plant and Animal Domestication in Middle America • In this farming system, other crops which were domesticated were: • Pumpkins, • Kidney beans, • Chile peppers, • Bell peppers, and. • Navy beans.
Plant and Animal Domestication in Middle America • Another farming system that developed in Mesoamerica was the chinampa farming system. This farming system consists of the milpa farming system and the “floating islands.”
Plant and Animal Domestication in Middle America • Chinampa cultivation refers to the use of artificial islands constructed of alternate layers of vegetation and mud in shallow freshwater lakes. Special features include the use of seed beds to shorten the growing season (permitting a continuous succession of crops in a single year); frequent fertilization by using mud from the lake bottom and lake vegetation; and constant irrigation.
Plant and Animal Domestication in Middle America • Because this farming system resulted in two or three harvests per year, the Amerindian population of Mesoamerica grew rapidly so that by 1519 the Amerindian population of Mesoamerica consisted of 25 million inhabitants. In addition, the chinampas were constructed in the form of narrow rectangles to facilitate bucket irrigation and natural seepage.
Consequences of the Conquest • In middle America the confrontation between Hispanic and native cultures lead to disastrous results: • A drastic decline in native population. • 1532 – 16 million. • 1548 - 6.3 million. • 1568 – 2.3 million. • 1580 – 1.8 million. • 1608 – 1.1 million. • Rapid deforestation by the Spaniards who used wood and charcoal for cooking, heating, and smelting.
Consequences of the Conquest • Excess pressure on native vegetation from livestock which competed for the available food. • Substitution of wheat for maize and the eventual replacement of cropland which was once used by the natives for food production.
Consequences of the Conquest • The removal of the Amerindian from the rural communities to nucleated villages and towns where the Spaniards could exercise more control over the Amerindians. • The use of slave labor in mining activities of gold, silver, and copper.
Mainland and Rimland • After centuries of European colonial rivalry in the Caribbean basin, the united states (along with England, France, and the Netherlands) made its influence felt by introducing large-scale banana plantation agriculture in the coastal areas of central America.
Mainland and Rimland • Because European diseases decimated the Amerindian population in the islands and mainland, the labor shortage that resulted in the plantations was supplemented by an active African-slave trade that transformed the Caribbean’s demography. • When labor was needed in the mainland, thousands of black laborers were brought to the mainland from Jamaica and other islands.
Mainland and Rimland • These contrasts between the middle American highlands and the coastal areas/Caribbean islands were conceptualized by john Augelli into the Mainland-Rimland framework.
Mainland and Rimland • Augelli recognized: • Euro-Amerindian Mainland consists of continental Middle America from Mexico to Panama, with the exception of the Caribbean coast from mid-Yucatan southeastward. • Here, European (Spanish) and Amerindian influences are highest and include mestizo influences. • The mainland economy is focused on the Hacienda where Amerindian lived on the land which may have been their own and had plots where they could grow their subsistence crops. • On the other hand, the Haciendas are still owned by people people of European ancestry who live lives of social prestige and comfortable lifestyles.
Mainland and Rimland • An Euro-African Rimland includes the coastal strip of Middle America (from the Yucatan to Panama) and the islands of the Caribbean. • In the Rimland area, a black population predominates while the economy still focuses on commercial agriculture. Sugar cane is still grown in the islands while banana plantations cover most of the coastal areas of the Central American countries.
Mainland and Rimland • Robert West and John Augelli list five characteristics of the Rimland area: • Plantations are located in the humid tropical coastal lowlands of the realm. • Plantations produce for export – usually – a single crop. • Capital and skills are imported often so that foreign ownership and outflow of profits occur. • Labor is seasonal and it has been imported due to the scarcity of Amerindian workers. • With its “factory-in-the-field” operation, the plantation is more efficient in its use of land and labor than the hacienda.
Political Differentiation • Middle America is divided into 8 countries, all but one (Belize) have Hispanic origins. Today, Belize is being transformed as thousands of Spanish-speaking immigrants arrive from war-torn countries. • Mexico is the largest country in this realm. It contains 70% of the realm’s entire land area. It now has 102 million inhabitants.
Political Differentiation • In the Caribbean area, Cuba is the largest island and the largest population (11.3 million). • Although Cuba has Spanish heritage, Jamaica has British influence; Haiti has strong African and French influences; Puerto Rico, although has Spanish influence, it is a commonwealth of the U.S. • The A-B-C islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao) have Dutch influence.