Issues in Latin America Latin America Day 1 Notes
Where is Latin America? • Latin America is defined as Central and South America. • The term “Latin” stems from the language spoken in the region being of Latin descent (Spanish, Portuguese, French)
A Brief History of Latin America before WWII… • Home of indigenous tribes like the Maya in central America (250 A.D), and the Aztecs in Mexico and the Inca in Peru (both around 1200). • Conquered by the Europeans in 1500’s to 1700’s, especially Spain, Portugal, and France. • Independence was first achieved in Haiti in 1808, and this inspiration (and an end to European colonialism in the new world) led to independence for most Latin American nations by 1825. • Following the exit of the Europeans, the Americans had tremendous influence on the region……
Key Issues in Modern Latin America in the 20th Century • Developing Economies – Nations struggle in how to shift from agricultural society to developed nations following WWII. • Issues with Industrialization – As nations industrialize, challenges with population growth, the environment, and social classes take hold. • Political and Social Issues – Shifting from autocratic to democratic nations is a long and often bloody process.
Developing Economies • Many countries have monocultures, or are based on just one or two crops. • Venezuela and Mexico = Oil • Colombia and Central America = Coffee • Leads to economic roller coaster when prices rise and fall. • Debt is a large economic problem in Latin America. • Trying to expand their economies, many nations like Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil have taken large loans and struggled to repay them in the past. • Governments are forced to produce more money. • This leads to inflation and social class struggles.
Becoming Economic Allies • Many Latin American countries depend on the U.S. and each other for trading. • The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) took effect in 1994. • Mexico, the U.S., and Canada all trade free of tariffs. • Has led to many multinational corporations, or foreign-owned businesses. • Many other countries in Latin American have similar agreements to reduce dependency on larger nations.
Key Question… • What are some of the effects of having multinational corporations? • Who do they really benefit?
Industrialization • Before industrialization, most nations have a high birthrate and high death rate. • Industrialization lowers death rates as living conditions improve. • Generally leads to a population boom. • Latin America’s population has more than tripled since WWII to almost 590 million people. • Leads to increased poverty and a move to cities to find employment. • Leads to the building of makeshift towns on unowned streets. • Leads to the cutting of rainforests to develop more land for people to live in.
Key Question: • Is overpopulation a problem that should be addressed, or is it just life? • Slums in Sao Paulo, Brazil….
Political and Social Issues • Military led dictatorships and wealthy rulers have long been very influential in Latin America. • Latin America has the sharpest divide between wealthy and poor in the world. • Latin America was also a battleground of political ideas during the Cold War. • Communism vs. Capitalism leaders. • Example of Fidel Castro in Cuba. • Today, many countries remain with unstable leadership.