Latin America: Overview
As the name itself suggests, the continent owes much of its history and names to the Latin traditions and languages (predominantly, Spanish and Portugese) spoken overtime. The Latin American continent comprises of 21 countries having shared historical experiences, shared culture, values and belief systems. The continent stretches from the South of the United States to Chile and Argentina in South America. Latin American continent epitomizes the blending of diverse culture and ethnicities into a unified and a common identity as Latin Americans. The Latin American continent is not only culturally and ethnically diverse but also a potent economic and political force. Vast discrepancies in the Latin American population entails cross fertilization of cultures and cultural synthesis mirrored in the sheer diversity of its art, music, dance, festivals, literature, sports, cuisine, religion and polity. The continent deserves to be studied beyond its
stereotypically poor colonial history to its gradual path to the process of development and modernization to the far raging current socio-political and economic trends. The region is geographically diverse and abundant natural resources. The lush green Amazon forests, the mountainous stretch across Andes, the grasslands of the South offers a serene landscape to behold. The people of Latin America are hospitable and warm welcoming. Religion and family are an important part of their lives. Catholicism and Protestantism are the dominant religions in Latin America.
The history of Latin America dates back to the 16th century conquests of the European Powers, the Spanish and the Portugese. While, the Spanish and the Portugese have a strong cultural hold on the majority of Latin American population, it is astonishing to learn that much before the European conquests the continent was a host to the bourgeoning native population that is the indigenous tribes. The hunting and gathering techniques of the indigenous population transformed into the complex civilization to what came to known as Mexico. “Bolivia” is the largest group of the descendant Native Americans thriving on their ancient customs and traditions. The indigenous population of the Latin American continent survived the colonial onslaughts in comparison to the natives of the United States, thereby forming a significant proportion of the people of Latin America. The ethnic composition of the Latin Americans also includes the people of mixed race and descent that is, the “Mestizos”, the people of European and Native American descendants. Apart from the Mestizos, another mixed group the Afro- Latin Americans or “Mulattos” that is the mixed African and Latin American population are substantial in numbers particularly in southern belt of Cuba, Haiti and Ecuador. The African population was imported to the continent as slaves. In the aftermath of the process of de- colonization, the nascent autonomous states of Latin America opened its doors to the immigrants all over the world. Like the United States, immigrants fleeing the poor socio-economic conditions in their own lands embarked on the journey to Latin America in search of employment and other opportunities. Coffee, banana and sugar plantations were attractive avenues for the foreigners. As a consequence, in the 18th and the 19th centuries Latin America became subject to consecutive waves of British, German, Swiss, Irish, France, Poland, Russia,
Chinese immigrations who eventually settled across the continent and at the same time preserved their unique culture and identity.
Culture, Arts and Ethnicity
Latin America derives its name from the Spanish and Portugese speaking community and groups in the Caribbean and Americas. The foundation of the Latin American continent rests on Linguistic principles. The Latin American history came to be drafted by imperial conquests, numerous freedom struggle from colonization, civil wars and immigration. Besides, Spanish and Portugese as the predominant Latin American languages, numerous indigenous languages are still spoken today. Mayan and Quechua, the two predominant indigenous languages are spoken by millions of people across the continent. The varied diversity is reflected in the artistic landscape of the continent as well. Latin American art is a blend of both traditionality and modernity, deriving from the artistic tradition of the indigenous population to the modern artistic imports from Europe. Diego Rivera, Fernando Botero, Frieda Kahlo, Orozco are some of te famous Latin American artists for their spell bounding works. Latin American movies have a strong appeal among the international audiences. Latin American cinema is a perfect mix-match of different genres ranging from drama, comedy, science fiction, evolving around as well as beyond the Latin American societies. Despite being filmed in Spanish, it does not stand as a hurdle for the enthusiastic audience to acquaint themselves with Latin American culture and traditions. Amores Perros, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Shape of Water are some of the highly influential Latin American movies. Latin American popular culture is reflected in its culturally rich and diverse dance forms. These dance forms mirrors the Latinos way of life. Mambo, Salsa, Samba and Tango are the highly popular and energetic Latin American dances which everyone has performed or witnessed at some point of time.
Latin American continent epitomizes a closely knitted society where myriad cultures are coexisting to form the cultural mosaic. Latin America is both ethnically and culturally diverse which is reflected in its customs, traditions, arts, literature, music and dance and the Latin American way of life. Both family life and religion are an important part of the people living
there. Latin America is grappling with the problems of illegal trade and drugs, yet its continuing to emerge