Chapter 10,Latin America

Map of Latin America

LANIC: Latin America Network Information Center


  The name "Latin" America is based on Spanish and Portuguese cultural traits and colonial relationship. These include language (Spanish is the dominant language) and religion (Roman Catholicism is the dominant religion). Other major colonial legacies include land tenure, governmental practices, legal systems, social structures, and economic systems.
Majority: periphery, few: semiperiphery 
Process of development slowed by factors linked to colonial era, natural environment

Catholic church in Chile


Macchu  Pichu
Geographic Contrasts

  Population size (Brazil 162 million, islands in West Indies 100,000)
Economic productivity, incomes, diversity, involvement in global market
  Contrasts within countries (i.e., between core and periphery --> shantytowns)
  Very noticeable: contrast between rich and poor
  Contrasts in rural areas: commercial vs subsistence farming

Geographic Cooperation
Free-trade area: grouping of countries that lower the tariffs and trading restrictions between them
Customs union: takes a further step by blending economic policies and business laws
Common market: combines the features of a customs union with establishing a common business environment through the existence of a central authority that may override national government decisions

  Attempts in Latin America slow until 1990s

       - Brazil & Mexico large enough to stand on own
       - Central America
       - West Indies
       - Northern Andes
       - Mercosul: Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay

  Boundary disputes (e.g., Ecuador & Peru, Venezuela & Guyana, Guatemala & Belize, Chile, Bolivia & Peru, Paraguay & neighbors)

  Expansionist tendencies or geopolitical ambitions (Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Venezuela


  Native American people: decimation, under class status
  After colonial era: ethnic strife, inherited habits & attitudes, slowed economic growth 

Pre-European Peoples

Maya pyramid at Chichen Itza

  maize base
  eastern lowlands of modern south Mexico, Guatemala, western Honduras
  200s-900s A.D.



  part of tribes from north (1100s)
  modern Mexico City - Tenochtitlan
  by 1400s - ruled most of Middle America

Aztec death mask (c. 1400)
Inca sun god  Incas

  based in southern Peru - mountain city of Cuzco
  wars on neighbors
  controlled Quito (modern Ecuador) to Paraguay and Chile
  gold and silver mining
  sophisticated, organized infrastructure

  some more rural, remote tribes managed to avoid colonial takeover


  Spanish administration, Spanish language, Roman Catholic religion
  local inhabitants provided cattle, crops, labor for mines
  legacy of underdevelopment: entrenched in mining & large landed estates, feudal system
  history of resentment, inequality

Brazil/Patagonia, detail: indians, Diogo Homen ,1558

Christopher Columbus' Concept the New World's Location
(in yellow) Bartholomew Columbus/Alessandro Zorzi, sketch map
Occupation & Spanish Control
1492- Columbus from Spain
  1494- Treaty of Tordesillas: demarcation line between Spanish and Portuguese territories
within 50 years- region generally conquered, occupied
  lure of riches led to takeover of Aztecs, Incas, expansion southward from Middle America
encomienda system: lasted approx 200 years, inefficient, corrupt, left splits in society on account of it stratification of race: peninsulares at the top, Criollos and mestizos in the middle, Amerindians at the bottom

  colonization slower
  gold near Rio de Janiero


  French, Dutch, British
  Caribbean islands
  northeast South America

South America, 1595

  wealth to Spain, Portugal slowed in 1700s
  Napoleon - 1790s
  independence to many in early 1800s
  Middle America, Andean states
  boundaries based on Spanish viceroyalties - not well defined --> root of future border conflicts
  other post-colonial problems: political instability, mineral exploitation, large estates, poor infrastructure, resentments
economic colonialism

Christopher Columbus displays his cartographic prowess with this map of the West Indies

  moves toward modernization, self-sufficiency
  1823- Monroe Doctrine
  loan woes
  global economy - policies
  trends toward regional cooperation, interaction
  North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) - 1993


  predominantly tropical 
  Andes- 2nd highest mountain system
Amazon- world's largest river
  90o latitude= variety of climates, vegetation, soils
pronounced differences in elevation and topography

Andes Mountains

Range of climate/ biome types:

- tropical rainforest: 
southern Mexico, Amazon
- tropical savanna: between Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer
- humid subtropical: pampas in Argentina 
- Mediterranean: central 
- marine west coast: 
southern Chile
- desert: Atacama Desert

tierra caliente: tropical rainforest, tropical savanna; 
plantation agriculture
tierra templada: commercial agriculture
tierra fria: frost; subsistence agriculture; potatoes
tierra helada/paramos: large-scale mining

Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on the planet
 Dry Climates and Factors That Produce Them

Andes Mts. block moisture bearing air masses; rain shadow effect
Precipitation depends on whether the land faces the direction from which moist air arrives
Atacama Desert

Hurricanes and tropical storms

El Niño

El Niño Theme Page
What is an el Niño?


Fishing is an important source of income for Peru. In what way might El Niño affect coastal fishing in Peru? 

Plate Tectonics: Andes, Middle America, Caribbean

Latin American rain forest largest in world; least cut
approx. 20 million acres (7%) cleared
world's most diverse ecosystem
nutrients: in biomass

Typical structure of a tropical rainforest

impact of clearing
impact of commercial agriculture, logging, cattle ranching, boom cycles, large projects, Trans-Amazon HWY
impact of settlement policy


 Coffee plantation in Brazil

Slash and burn agriculture is used to clear land for agriculture and for grazing cattle

Deforestation in Amazon Basin in Brazil

Satellite Images of Para State, Brazil  (images from Dr Mausel's Amazon research, ISU/UI) 

 Deforestation: The Global Assault Continues

Other Environmental Problems: soil erosion; air and water pollution


marginalization and shantytowns
indigenous peoples; role of diseases
rapid population growth and urbanization
demographic transition: Latin America is now 70% urban
urban migration:  push - pull factors

A shantytown in Lima, Peru clings to a bare hillside with houses made of reed mats. More than one third of Lima's population is believed to live in such makeshift settlements.

Chilean copper mine 

Problem:  Those who own the land are not the people who farm the land. 
 Two problems impact land reform in Latin America: 
One is historical, since colonial times. Large landholdings (latifundia) are efficient ways of doing business and accumulating wealth. 
The second problem concerns the minifundia; breaking up small plots into ever smaller landholdings satisfies a desire to own land but is less efficient at doing business as time passes.
ejidos (communally owned farms) account for 50% of cultivated land in Mexico and produce 70% of beans, rice, and corn, a success story in land reform.
minerals and mining:  distribution and benefits

History of Chiapas
Zapatista movement in Chiapas


Core and  Periphery 

many Latin American countries are heavily in debt: Brazil, Mexico
many nations of Latin America do not have sophisticated, high technology industrial capabilities and must rely on exports of raw materials (minerals) and cash crops as sources or revenue.
NAFTA agreement 1993
Mexican monetary crisis 1994

Maquiladoras - Recent Growth Trends
Chiapas Reaction to NAFTA


Political Geography:  Fragmentation and Instability

core area spatial separation
infrastructure underdeveloped in terms of railroads, international road system 
contrasts to USA and Canada
role of the USA
-- economic development
-- Panama Canal
-- repeated military intervention based on Monroe Doctrine
(and the 20th century Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe  Doctrine) Panama, Grenada
role of military advisors 


insurrection as a governing norm: Guatemala, Panama, Chiapas, Haiti
illegal immigration to USA; Proposition 187