About the region

Latin America as seen from aboveWhat comes to your mind when you think of Latin America? Do you know how many countries are considered to be part of Latin America? Is Suriname also part of it? Where does the term comes from?

If we want to have a better perception about Latin America, these and many other questions are essential to be answered.

Because we are aware of the possible ambiguities related to the term, we as L.A. Voz, found it helpful and necessary to provide you with a proper definition of Latin America. After all we believe that it would be a missed opportunity, if the full extend the beauty of the region, would not be adequately represented and defined, by way of confusing definitions.

So let's get started...

Formation of South American countries since 1700Latin America is written and pronounced in the Spanish and Portuguese language as América Latina. Furthermore in the French speaking world, Latin America is written and pronounced as Amérique latin. The term itself, has been used in order to identify those places on the American continent where the primarily spoken languages derived from the Latin language (or Romance languages).

According to W. Mignolo (2005), the basic idea that a part of the Americas has a cultural affinity with the Romance cultures as a whole can be traced back to the 1830s, in particular in the writing of the French Saint-Simonian Michel Chevalier, who argued that this part of the Americas were inhabited by people of a Latin race, making itself suitable to ally itself with Latin Europe, instead of allying and identifying itself with the so called "Teutonic Europe," "Anglo-Saxon America" and "Slavic Europe." Furthermore A. McGuiness (2003) explains that in the mid-and late 19th century, an increasing amount of leading Latin American intellectuals as well as political leaders, started to propose and advance the idea that it was neither Spain nor Portugal, that should be taken as cultural models, but rather France instead. The origins of the actual term "Latin America" is believed to be coined in France under Napoleon III and the term was used to play a role in his campaign to imply cultural kinship with France, with the main purpose to transform France into a cultural and political leader of the area and install Maximilian I as emperor of Mexico on the 6th July 1832. (J.C. Chasteen, 2001).

Taking the term in its strict sense, results in 20 countries to be considered Latin American:

- Argentina
- Bolivia
- Brazil
- Chile
- Colombia
- Costa Rica
- Cuba
- Dominican Republic
- Ecuador
- El Salvador
- Guatemala
- Haiti
- Honduras
- Mexico
- Nicaragua
- Panama
- Paraguay
- Peru
- Uruguay
- Venezuela

In this list therefore Suriname and most Caribbean countries are not included, due to the fact the official language spoken in these countries is not derived from the Latin language.

Geography

Further additional data which is interesting to know about the region, is its absolute as well as its relative total land mass, being approximately 21,000,000 km². This corresponds to slightly more than 14% of the total landmass in the world. The population size of Latin America living on those 14% of the world’s land mass is estimated to be comprised of almost 570 million people. 

For those who were previously tormented by the insecurity associated with defining what exactly is regarded to be part of Latin America, we hope, this small clarification will  contribute to a better understanding about the region. And we hope this initial interest in Latin America, which brought you to read this small article, will only be a beginning in extending you knowledge and interest in Latin America, by participating in our International Student Association L.A. Voz.