Latin America

File:Map-Latin America.png
This map shows the parts of the Americas where Spanish, Portuguese, and French are spoken. These countries are part of Latin America.

Latin America is a region of the Americas consisting of countries where the people speak Romance languages (languages that came from Vulgar Latin).

People do not completely agree as to which countries are in Latin America, but in most cases, it is made up of the parts where Spanish and Portuguese are spoken. This includes most of South America and Central America (sometimes also the Caribbean islands), and also Mexico in North America. Others consider the places in the Americas (except those in Canada and the United States) which speak French to be part of Latin America, because it is also a Romance language.[1]


Ethnic groups

People in Latin America are part of several ethnic groups and races. The majority of Latin Americans are Mestizo and some others are Mulatto, Black, Zambo, and Asian.

  • Native American or indigenous. The Native population in Latin America, came during the Lithic stage. There are more than sixty million of these people. They are the majority only in Bolivia, Peru, and Guatemala. In Ecuador they are a large minority of about 1/4 of the population. Mexico's Native American population is nearly 30%, and is also one of the largest American Indian population in the Americas in terms of absolute numbers. Most of the remaining countries have Native American minorities.
  • European. In the 1500s, many Iberian colonists came to what is now Latin America. Today, most White Latin Americans are of Spanish and Portuguese origin. The Iberians brought their language, religion, and culture to Latin America.
  • African. Millions of African slaves were brought to the Americas from the early 1500s onward. The majority went to the Caribbean and Brazil. Haiti is the only country in Latin America with a Black or Mulatto majority.
  • Asian. People of Asian descent number several millions in Latin America. The majority of Asian Latin Americans are of Japanese and Chinese heritage, and they mostly live in Peru and Brazil. The largest community of Japanese ethnicity living outside of Japan, resides in Brazil. There is also a growing Chinese population in Panama, as well as Costa Rica (though, Chinese Costa Ricans are a large minority). In the Dominican Republic, there is a place where large numbers of Japanese people came; most Japanese Dominicans live in towns such as Bonao and Santo Domingo.
  • Arab or Middle Eastern. Arabs in Latin America are also many, but they are mostly found among the Hispanic-Caribbean regions. In Cuba and Puerto Rico. In the Dominican Republic, the Arabs arrived sometime between the 19th and 20th century; (most are Morracians, Lebanese and East Indians).
  • NOTE: Most of these ethnic groups can be found anywhere in Latin America; but since most Latin Americans are of mixed-race, many of these ethnic groups do not reach 100%.
Ethnic distribution, in 2011[2] - Population estimates, as of 2010
Country Population Native American Whites Mestizos Mulattoes Blacks Zambos Asians
23x15px Argentina 40,134,425 1.0% 85.0% 11.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 2.9%
23x15px Bolivia 10,907,778 55.0% 13.0% 30.0% 2.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
23x15px Brazil 192,272,890 0.4% 53.8% 0.0% 39.1% 6.2% 0.0% 0.5%
23x15px Chile 17,063,000 6.2% 60.7% 34.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
23x15px Colombia 45,393,050 2.0% 38% 48% 0.0% 10.6% 0.0% 0.0%
23x15px Costa Rica 4,253,897 2.4% 82.0% 10.3% 2.0% 1.0% 0.0% 2.3%
23x15px Cuba 11,236,444 0.0% 34.3% 0.0% 35.4% 30.3% 0.0% 1.0%
23x15px Dominican Republic 8,562,541 0.0% 16.4% 30.0% 37.7% 21.5% 2.0% 0.4%
23x15px Ecuador 13,625,000 38.0% 10.3% 41.0% 5.0% 6.6% 0.0% 0.1%
23x15px El Salvador 6,134,000 2.0% 11.0% 87.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
23x15px Guatemala 13,276,517 43.0% 16.0% 40.0% 0.2% 0.0% 0.0% 0.8%
23x15px Honduras 7,810,848 7.7% 5.0% 82.9% 1.7% 0.0% 2.0% 0.7%
23x15px Mexico 112,322,757 14.0% 15.0% 70.0% 0.5% 0.0% 0.0% 0.5%
23x15px Nicaragua 5,891,199 9.0% 17.0% 69.0% 5.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.2%
23x15px Panama 3,322,576 8.0% 14.0% 51.0% 13.0% 5.0% 3.0% 6.0%
23x15px Paraguay 6,349,000 1.5% 25.0% 69.5% 3.5% 0.0% 0.0% 0.5%
23x15px Peru 29,461,933 45.0% 15.2% 32.0% 4.5% 0.0% 0.0% 3.3%
23x15px Puerto Rico 3,967,179 2.0% 72.1% 13.0% 6.7% 6.0% 0.0% 0.2%
23x15px Uruguay 3,494,382 0.0% 88.0% 8.0% 2.0% 2.0% 0.0% 0.0%
23x15px Venezuela 26,814,843 1.6% 42.9% 43.3% 7.7% 2.3% 0.0% 2.2%
Total 561,183,291 9.2% 39.1% 33.3% 14.3% 3.2% 0.2% 0.7%

Note: Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States.


Spanish and Portuguese are the most common languages in Latin America. Portuguese is the official language of Brazil, while Spanish is the official language of most other Latin America mainland countries, and of Cuba, Puerto Rico (along with English), and the Dominican Republic.

Many people speak Native American languages in Peru, Guatemala, Bolivia, Paraguay and Mexico. These languages are less common in other countries, but in some countries like Bolivia, they are considered official along with the main European language.

Other Indo-European languages spoken in Latin America include English (mainly in Puerto Rico but also in Guyana), French (spoken in Haiti and French Guiana), and Dutch (in Suriname). Although French is also spoken in the Canadian province of Quebec and the American state of Louisiana, these countries are not considered part of Latin America because they are mostly English-speaking. Guyana, French Guiana (one of the overseas territories of France), and Suriname, which are found the northern part of South America and known together as the Guianas, are the only places in South America that do not speak Spanish or Portugese.

Some African languages are also spoken in Latin America. The west African Yoruba language (known as Lucumi) is spoken in Cuba, where it is a ritual language used by the Santeria prayers.

In several nations, Creole languages are also spoken, especially in the Caribbean. Palenquero is the Spanish-based Creole language spoken in Colombia by some 3,000 people, it is Spanish with many African influences and some Portuguese influence. Other creoles in mainland Latin America have the same roots, blending Spanish with either African or Indigenous languages or both, as Cuban Spanish does. The island of Haiti also has a well-known creole language, called Haitian Creole.


Poverty and inequality

Poverty continues to be one of the biggest challenges for Latin American countries. According to estimates, Latin America is the most unequal regions of the world. According to a Country Studies Institute the poorest countries in the region (in 2011) were: Haiti, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Honduras. Undernourishment affects 72% of Haitians, 47% of Nicaraguans and Bolivians, and 32% of Hondurans.

Also, according to the Country Studies Institute, over 90% of Haitians, 75% of Bolivians, 70% of Nicaraguans, and 63% of Hondurans live in poverty.


Almost Latin Americans are Christians. A 2014 survey found that 69% of Latin Americans are Roman Catholic, while 17% are Protestants. Most Protestants are from Brazil or Central America.

Related pages


  1. Template:Cite book
  2. Lizcano Fernández, Francisco (May–August 2005). "Composición Étnica de las Tres Áreas Culturales del Continente Americano al Comienzo del Siglo XXI" (in Spanish) (PDF). Convergencia (Mexico: Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México, Centro de Investigación en Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades) 38: 185–232; table on p. 218. ISSN 1405-1435. 

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