Latin America consists of countries that have a common colonial past and that have languages originating from Latin.
The Latin America is a part of the American continent located between Rio Grande ( the border between the United States and Mexico ) and Tierra del Fuego (group of islands located in the southern tip of South America ). In this portion of the American continent, about 586 million people live. The total area is 21,060,501 km2 , which results in a demographic density of 27.8 residents per km2 .
This regionalization takes into account history and cultural characteristics. The American continent is then divided into Anglo-Saxon America (United States and Canada) and Latin America, which gets its name because it is made up of countries that have as their official languages that derive from Latin, such as Portuguese, Spanish and French. For that reason, Mexico is also included in Latin America.
The Latin American countries have a colonial past in common. The colonization of exploitation was the hallmark of the past of these countries. Most of these current nations served their metropolises and had their economies focused on exports, which prevented the establishment of a consolidated domestic market and caused losses that remain today. This characteristic also significantly differentiates Latin America from Anglo-Saxon America.
Another historical characteristic that is common to Latin American countries is the concentration of land in the hands of the elite, even after decolonization. This factor is one of the factors responsible for the marked social and economic inequalities present in these countries. However, despite many similarities, this set of countries has differences that allow us to group them into large regional sets:
- Central America and Guyana
The Central America is the region formed by two sets of countries: the portion isthmus (connected to the mainland) and the portion insular (composed of islands).
Suriname and Guyana – independent countries – and French Guiana (French overseas department), although in South America, have socioeconomic characteristics more similar to those of the Caribbean countries (Central America).
- South America:
→ Andean America
It is marked by the presence of the Andes. The countries that make up this Latin American sub-region are called Andean: Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and Chile.
→ Platinum America
The platinum countries are those bathed by the La Plata Basin (Plata, in Spanish), which is formed by the Paraná, Paraguay and Uruguay rivers. The countries that make up this sub-region are: Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.
It is the most extensive country in Latin America and with the largest population. Brazil is the only country that has Portuguese as its official language. It borders almost all countries in South America, with the exception of Chile and Ecuador.
Physical aspects of Latin America
The main elements of Latin American relief are: Sierra Madre Occidental, on the Mexican plateau; the Andes Mountain Range, located in the western portion of South America; the Guianas Plateau and the Brazilian Plateau; and the Orinoco Plain, Amazonian Plain and Plateau Plain, located in the central portion of South America.
Latin America is rich in water resources and has extensive hydrographic basins, such as the Orinoco Basin, the Amazon Basin and the Platinum Basin.
Latin America is located in the intertropical zone, where hot climates predominate, with the exception of the extreme south ( Argentina and Chile) and mountainous areas (Andes).
Its great extension in the north-south direction, the different latitudes and the climatic variation give Latin America an enormous diversity of plant formations. The main landscapes stand out: the Amazon Forest, Cerrado, Caatinga, Pampa or Steppes and deserts (Mexico, Atacama and Patagonia).
- The ABBREVIATIONFINDER provides most commonly used abbreviations and initials containing the continent name of South America.
French Guiana, Guyane Française, French department, ie. part of France and of the EU located in South America; 83,533 km2, 250,100 residents (2013). Capital Cayenne (57,200 residents). French Guiana has two seats in the National Assembly in Paris; with neighboring countries Brazil and Suriname there is not much contact.
French Guiana was formerly known primarily as a penal colony; this business finally ceased in 1953. Actual colonial development with the production of export goods has never characterized the area. Fishing is the main export industry, followed by forestry and gold mining. Since the 1970’s, a single company has been dominant: the European Space Agency (ESA) spaceport at Kourou. Guyana was chosen as the launch site because of its equatorial location, which facilitates the placement of geostationary satellites in space.
French Guiana consists predominantly of low river plains covered by tropical rainforest; only to the south are low mountains, which form the border with Brazil. The population lives predominantly along the Atlantic coast, while the interior of the country has few and scattered settlements attached to the many rivers. Only a few are engaged in agriculture; since 1982, however, France has supported various development projects, and the agricultural area is greatly expanded, but is still vanishingly small, and the vast majority of the food supply is imported, like almost everything else from France. Timber production is also growing, but in relation to the huge reserves, the utilization is small. All forms of development are hampered by the very small population and the lack of infrastructure; French Guiana has no railways and only a few hundred km of roads.
Three quarters of the population are Creoles, descendants of African slaves, while the European population in Kourou and Cayenne counts approximately 17,000. The native Native American population makes up only 4% and lives mainly in the interior of the country. Healthcare and education operate at the land level in the coastal towns, while many small communities in the rainforest have only sparse contact with the outside world. Most of the residents are Catholics, but there are smaller groups of Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims with a background in immigration from ancient French colonies, especially Indochina.
The economy is completely dominated by transfers from France and by the large space center in Kourou. Since virtually all goods are imported, French Guiana is an expensive place to visit, and only recently has a sparse tourism begun. It is especially the memories of the time as a penal colony that attract, not least the Devil’s Island, whose world fame was founded by the famous prisoner Alfred Dreyfus and strengthened by Henri Charrière’s novel Papillon (1969, then 1970, filmed 1973).
The official language is French. In addition, as in other French overseas departments, French Creole is spoken. Along the coast and in certain parts of the country, Native American languages are spoken, especially Arabic and Caribbean. See South America (language).
At the arrival of the Europeans in the 1500’s. the area was inhabited by several different Native American groups. The first attempts at colonization failed, but by the Treaty of Breda the area became French in 1667. In the 1700’s and 1800’s. rivaled Britain, the Netherlands, Portugal and France for power, and only by a treaty ratified in Paris in 1817 was the area ratified as French. Slavery was finally abolished in 1848. In 1852, the first of several penal colonies was established, and until 1945, Guyana was primarily a penal colony. In 1946, the country gained the status of an overseas province, and in 1968, ESA’s center was established in Kourou. In the 1970’s, an independence movement emerged, and the 1980’s were marked by attacks on French power and by border conflicts with Suriname. Economic problems in 1990 ‘ led to unrest and accusations against France for not providing sufficient assistance. Despite the desire for increased autonomy, there is no support for independence. The population has grown significantly through immigration since the 1970’s.
Browse a collection of reference and political maps of the South American continent.
MSN Encarta Maps – South America
Peruse a finely-detailed map of South America, combining both its topographical characteristics with the identification of countries and cities.
National Anthems – Clickable Map of South America
Check out this unique map of South America, and click on any one of the countries to view the flag and hear the national anthem.
South America – 2GoGlobal.com Map
Large, detailed color map of South America shows the continent’s physical and political make-up. Locate capitals and key cities.
South America – Brock University Map
Offers a black and white outline map of the South American continent with only the borders and names of countries represented.
South America – Capital Cities Map
Peruse a simple graphical map of the continent with the borders of each nation outlined and every capital city identified. Ideal for learning.
South America – Infoplease Map
Large, color-coded map of the United States with detail on states and markers for key cities. Good for educational lessons at elementary level.
South America – Kauai Fine Arts
Offers antique maps of the South American continent for sale. Includes several samples for downloading.
South America – Magellan Map
View a medium-sized map of South America detailing the continent’s physical characteristics and pinpointing countries and cities.
South America – MapQuest
View a small, physical map of this large continent. Find the Amazon Basin, Andies Mountains and the Falkland Islands.
South America – National Geographic Map Machine
See where the mountainous regions of the continent are via dynamic map that allows visitors to zoom, move and print maps.
South America – Owl & Mouse Educational Software Map
South America – Southwind Adventures Map
Provides a high-end graphical map of South America, detailing the continent’s countries and cities, river systems and mountain ranges.
South America – Travel.com Map
Features a large, graphical map of South America with the borders and names of each country revealed. Click on any country for an overview.
South America – World Travel Guide Map
Features a multi-colored map of South America with each country clearly defined. Click on a country to view a travel guide loaded with details.
South America – Xerox Map Viewer
Simple map displays only the political borders and the locations of rivers. Click on a specific area and zoom in.