1. Latin America
Dr. Fernando A. Rodriguez
2. Latin America
• “Latin” America consists of two parts:
– Middle America which includes Mexico,
central America, and all of the islands of the
– South America which includes twelve
independent countries and one colony.
3. Defining the Realm
• Although middle America is part of Latin
America, this section of the world belongs
to the north American continent.
• Physiographically, north America
terminates at the river basin in Columbia,
4. Population of Middle America
• Mexico – 96 million.
• Central America – 32 million.
• Caribbean America – 36 million.
• Thus, the total population for this realm is
approximately 164 million.
5. Urbanization and Natural
• Over 70% of the population is already
• In the mid-1990s, the rate of natural
increase for Mexico and Central America
was 2.3% with a potential of doubling every
• For the Caribbean islands, the rate was
1.4% every 51 years.
6. Racial/Ethnic Composition
• Indians – they live in the highlands of Mexico
and central America.
• Mestizos – individuals with Indian and Spanish
ancestry. They live in the highlands of Mexico
and central America.
• Europeans – they are individuals of Spanish,
French, or English ancestry. The Spaniards live in
the highlands where they found the Indians and
where the climate is temperate as in Europe. The
English and French live in the Caribbean islands
while the English also live in Belize.
7. Racial/Ethnic Composition
• Blacks – they live in the Caribbean islands and
coastal fringe of Central America or from Belize
• Mulattos – these are individuals of black and
white ancestry. They live in the Caribbean Islands.
• Zambos – they are individuals who live mainly in
the Caribbean Islands and are a result of a union of
Indians who lived in the mountains of Jamaica and
Hispanola and black slaves who escaped the island
8. The Physiography of Middle
• The physiography of middle America is
highly divided and fragmented. Its funnel-
shaped mainland consist of a 3800 mile
connection between the north and south
American realms, and it narrows to a 40-
mile ribbon of land in panama.
• Middle America is therefore an isthmian
link or a land bridge.
9. Physiography of Middle America
• Baja California consists of an 800 mile
peninsula which dominated by igneous
intrusive rocks with lava caps.
• The San Bernardino Mountains extend into
Baja but, here, they are known as the Juarez
10. Physiography of Middle America
• Draw Diagram of Baja California.
– This diagram shows the Colorado Delta which
is 150 miles long, but it has “mud volcanoes”,
swamps, and areas prone to flooding.
– Except for the international border, the
peninsula is sparsely settled.
– The people live from tourism, fishing, and local
mining of iron, lead, and zinc.
11. Physiography of Middle America
• Coastal Fringe of Western Mexico
– This area is effectively cut off from the interior of
central Mexico by the Sierra Madre Occidental.
– The area is relatively narrow, and it has finger-like
extensions of the mountains to form valleys where
– This area is utilized for agriculture and farmers grow
rice, sugar cane, wheat, oats, tobacco, cotton, and they
raise cattle and pigs for market.
12. Physiography of Middle America
• Sierra Madre Occidental
– This mountain range extends from the U.S. border to
approximately the 19th
– It is approximately 8-10,000 feet in elevation.
– This mountain range contains deep valleys or canyons
– One of these barrancas is known as La Barranca de
Cobre. It rivals the Grand Canyon in grandeur and
– Mining is important along this range. Gold is mined in
the City of Las Coloradas while silver is mined in the
City of Batopilas.
13. Physiography of Middle America
• Altiplano of Mexico
– The plateau of Mexico is divided into two
• Mesa del Norte, and
• Mesa del Sur.
– (Draw Diagram of this region.)
– Both sections contain a series of inter-mountain
basins called bolsones.
– These bolsones vary in elevation from 3,000 to
7, 500 feet.
14. Physiography of Middle America
• Sierra Madre Oriental
– These mountains are considered to be a
continuation of the Rocky Mountains.
– The elevation is approximately 8-10,000 feet.
– These mountains do not contain barrancas but
they do have deep valleys, with spurs that lead
into the eastern coastal plain.
15. Physiography of Middle America
• The Gulf Coastal Plain of Eastern Mexico
– This region begins north of Laredo and extends to a
narrow point north of Vera Cruz and, then, widens into
the coastal plain of the Yucatan Peninsula.
– South from Texas, the coastal plain increases in
precipitation and vegetation, leading to the rain forest
of southern Mexico.
– The area south of Matamores contains a Cfa climate,
and in the Tampico area it gives way to an Aw climate.
– Here, large ranches for fattening cattle proliferate.
16. Physiography of Middle America
• The Volcanic Axis of Mexico
– This is an area of great heights and ruggedness.
– The volcanoes are over 15,000 feet in elevation.
– These volcanoes may an important role in the
religion, art, and culture of the Indian cultures
who inhabit Central Mexico.
– Draw Diagram of this region.
17. Physiography of Middle America
• The Balsas Depression
– This depression is found south of the Volcanic Axis of
– It is 180 miles long and 30 miles wide. It is deep
enough so that when one reaches its bottom, one reaches
– This trough is deep enough for a lake to have existed
prior to capture of the lake by the river.
– This area has been mined for gold since pre-Columbus
time. It is the source of gold which was utilized by the
Indians for ornamental purposes and the Spaniards for
18. Physiography of Middle America
• Sierra Madre del Sur
– This mountain range begins in the State of Jalisco and
extends southward along the coast of southwestern
– This range is high and rugged, as high as the Sierra
– This range consists of pre-Cambrian and metamorphic
– This range contains spurs that extend to the sea, and
these spurs at times result in coastal indentations such
19. Physiography of Middle America
• The Oaxcan Highlands
– On the eastern side of the Sierra Madre del Sur,
we find the Sierra de Oaxaca. The area
between the two ranges we find an old Eros
ional surface which has reached maturity.
– The area is known as the Highlands because the
slopes of both mountains are steep, and it is due
to this slope that the mountains are referred to
as “The Highlands.”
20. Physiography of Middle America
• The Chiapas Highlands
– On the south side of the Oaxaca Highlands, we find a
steep escarpment, and it is this escarpment that cuts the
Highlands from the lowlands at the Isthmus of
– On the south side of this lowland area, we find the
Chiapas Highlands. This area consists of two
mountain ranges which are separated by the Valley of
– The mountains, north of the Valley, are known as the
Sierra de San Cristobal while the mountains to the
south are known as the Sierra de Chiapas.
– The former mountains are made of igneous rock while
the latter mountains are made of sedimentary rock.
21. Physiography of Middle
America: Caribbean Islands
• Sierra de San Cristobal Sierra de
Cuchumantes Sierra de Santa Cruz
Cayman Islands Maestra Mts of SE
Cuba Cordillera Central of Hispanola
Cordillera Central of Puerto Rico.
• Sierra de Chiapas Sierra de las Minas
Islas de la Bahia Swan Islands Blue
Mts of Jamaica Peninsula of Hispanola
22. Physiography of Middle America:
The Central American Volcanic
• The volcanic axis of Central America is a
result of the Caribbean Plate overriding the
• The volcanoes are found on the western
coast of Central America.
• These volcanoes eventually closed the
Nicaraguan Trough which is a flora and
23. Legacy of Mesoamerica
• Middle America was the scene of the emergence
of a major, ancient civilization.
• Here, lay one of the world’s true culture hearth, a
source area from which new ideas radiate and
whose population contributed to material and
• This culture hearth is called Mesoamerica and
extends from Mexico City to Nicaragua.
24. Lowland Maya
• The Maya civilization in the only one on the world
culture map that arose in the lowland tropics.
• It experienced successive periods of glory and
decline, and it reached its zenith between the third
and tenth centuries A.D.
• This civilization was ruled by religious leaders,
and it produced skilled artists, writers,
mathematicians, and astronomers.
25. The Highland Aztecs
• This civilization began in the fourteenth
century with the founding of a settlement on
an island in the many lakes within the
valley of Mexico. This city was known as
Tenochtitlan which became the greatest city
in the Americas, namely, Mexico city.
26. The Highland Aztecs
• Aztec cities became centers of commerce
and trade but it was the Aztec farmers,
including other Mesoamerican farmers, who
produced the greatest accomplishments of
the Aztecs, namely, plant and animal
27. Domestication of Plants and
Animals in Middle America
• According to Carl Sauer, plant and animal
domestication in the new world occurred in
two distinct areas:
– The northwest corner of Columbia in south
– Central Mexico and central America, otherwise
known as Mesoamerica.
28. Domestication of Plants and
Animals in Middle America
• The Arawak and the Carib Indians
developed a root agriculture which is called
the cunuco farming system, a farming
system that is still utilized extensively in the
Hispanic west Indies.
29. Domestication of Plants and
Animals in Middle America
• In this farming system, the Indians would
heap soil into a round mound that was knee-
high and several feet in diameter. The basic
planting in the mound was starchy root
crops, chief of which were manioc or
cassava, sweet potatoes, arrow root, and
peanuts. All of these plants were placed
together in the same mound and they,
jointly, provided protection from erosion.
30. Domestication of Plants and
Animals in Middle America
• Other plants that were domesticated in
northwest Columbia were:
– Pineapple*, and
– *These plants came from Brazil.
31. Plant and Animal Domestication
in Middle America
• The rapid and catastrophic collapse of the
Indian population in the west Indies and
northwest Columbia brought about by the
conquest resulted in the loss of numerous
32. Plant and Animal Domestication
in Middle America
• The only domesticated animals in NW
Columbia were the duck (patos caseros or
household duck) which were domesticated
by the Muica Amerindians and the guinea
pig which was raised for food. Other
animals included the llama, alpaca, vicuna,
including a small dog which was raised for
33. Plant and Animal Domestication
in Middle America
• In Mesoamerica, the domestication of plants
focused on seed agriculture rather than root
agriculture. Women selected the seeds by
size, color, and nutritional value; And,
therefore, women selectively chose the
plant off-springs that they wanted to have in
their farm plots.
34. Plant and Animal Domestication
In Middle America
• The dominant plants of middle America
– Beans, and
• These three plants, jointly, comprise the
farming system known as the milpa farming
35. Plant and Animal Domestication
in Middle America
• These three crops are known as the Trilogy of
Crops. In this farming system, the farm plots are
square or rectangular. Moreover, all three seeds
are planted in one hole so that the first plant to
sprout is the maize, then, the bean ivy which
climbs the maize plant, followed by the squash
plant which spreads its leaves throughout the plot,
protecting the soil from the harsh sun rays and
powerful rain drops.
36. Plant and Animal Domestication
in Middle America
• In this farming system, other crops which
were domesticated were:
– Kidney beans,
– Chile peppers,
– Bell peppers, and.
– Navy beans.
37. Plant and Animal Domestication
in Middle America
• Another farming system that developed in
Mesoamerica was the chinampa farming
system. This farming system consists of the
milpa farming system and the “floating
38. Plant and Animal Domestication
in Middle America
• Chinampa cultivation refers to the use of artificial
islands constructed of alternate layers of
vegetation and mud in shallow freshwater lakes.
Special features include the use of seed beds to
shorten the growing season (permitting a
continuous succession of crops in a single year);
frequent fertilization by using mud from the lake
bottom and lake vegetation; and constant
39. Plant and Animal Domestication
in Middle America
• Because this farming system resulted in two
or three harvests per year, the Amerindian
population of Mesoamerica grew rapidly so
that by 1519 the Amerindian population of
Mesoamerica consisted of 25 million
inhabitants. In addition, the chinampas
were constructed in the form of narrow
rectangles to facilitate bucket irrigation and
40. Consequences of the Conquest
• In middle America the confrontation between
Hispanic and native cultures lead to disastrous
– A drastic decline in native population.
• 1532 – 16 million.
• 1548 - 6.3 million.
• 1568 – 2.3 million.
• 1580 – 1.8 million.
• 1608 – 1.1 million.
– Rapid deforestation by the Spaniards who used wood
and charcoal for cooking, heating, and smelting.
41. Consequences of the Conquest
• Excess pressure on native vegetation from
livestock which competed for the available
• Substitution of wheat for maize and the
eventual replacement of cropland which
was once used by the natives for food
42. Consequences of the Conquest
• The removal of the Amerindian from the
rural communities to nucleated villages and
towns where the Spaniards could exercise
more control over the Amerindians.
• The use of slave labor in mining activities
of gold, silver, and copper.
43. Mainland and Rimland
• After centuries of European colonial rivalry
in the Caribbean basin, the united states
(along with England, France, and the
Netherlands) made its influence felt by
introducing large-scale banana plantation
agriculture in the coastal areas of central
44. Mainland and Rimland
• Because European diseases decimated the
Amerindian population in the islands and
mainland, the labor shortage that resulted in the
plantations was supplemented by an active
African-slave trade that transformed the
• When labor was needed in the mainland,
thousands of black laborers were brought to the
mainland from Jamaica and other islands.
45. Mainland and Rimland
• These contrasts between the middle
American highlands and the coastal
areas/Caribbean islands were
conceptualized by john Augelli into the
46. Mainland and Rimland
• Augelli recognized:
– Euro-Amerindian Mainland consists of continental
Middle America from Mexico to Panama, with the
exception of the Caribbean coast from mid-Yucatan
• Here, European (Spanish) and Amerindian influences are
highest and include mestizo influences.
• The mainland economy is focused on the Hacienda where
Amerindian lived on the land which may have been their own
and had plots where they could grow their subsistence crops.
• On the other hand, the Haciendas are still owned by people
people of European ancestry who live lives of social prestige
and comfortable lifestyles.
47. Mainland and Rimland
• An Euro-African Rimland includes the coastal
strip of Middle America (from the Yucatan to
Panama) and the islands of the Caribbean.
• In the Rimland area, a black population
predominates while the economy still focuses on
commercial agriculture. Sugar cane is still grown
in the islands while banana plantations cover most
of the coastal areas of the Central American
48. Mainland and Rimland
• Robert West and John Augelli list five
characteristics of the Rimland area:
– Plantations are located in the humid tropical coastal
lowlands of the realm.
– Plantations produce for export – usually – a single crop.
– Capital and skills are imported often so that foreign
ownership and outflow of profits occur.
– Labor is seasonal and it has been imported due to the
scarcity of Amerindian workers.
– With its “factory-in-the-field” operation, the plantation
is more efficient in its use of land and labor than the
49. Political Differentiation
• Middle America is divided into 8 countries,
all but one (Belize) have Hispanic origins.
Today, Belize is being transformed as
thousands of Spanish-speaking immigrants
arrive from war-torn countries.
• Mexico is the largest country in this realm.
It contains 70% of the realm’s entire land
area. It now has 102 million inhabitants.
50. Political Differentiation
• In the Caribbean area, Cuba is the largest island
and the largest population (11.3 million).
• Although Cuba has Spanish heritage, Jamaica has
British influence; Haiti has strong African and
French influences; Puerto Rico, although has
Spanish influence, it is a commonwealth of the
• The A-B-C islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao)
have Dutch influence.
51. Problems of Widespread Poverty
• All of the crops grown in the Caribbean
area are constantly under severe, global
competition; and they are not important
enough to alleviate great hunger and
poverty in the region.
• Food supplies are inadequate because the
best land is used to grow cash crops instead
of staples for local consumption.
52. Problems of Widespread Poverty
• Minifundia (the ownership of small plots of
land) is prevalent throughout the Caribbean
• Soil erosion and deforestation plague many
of the nations in the Caribbean basin.
53. African Heritage
• The human geography of the Caribbean islands
resemble the cultural landscape of west and
equatorial Africa. The similarities are found in:
– The construction of village dwellings.
– The operation of rural markets.
– The role of women in rural life.
– Preparation of the food.
– Methods of cultivation.
– Artistic expression and family life.
54. African Heritage
• Despite the general dominance of African heritage
in Caribbean basin, the white population, followed
by mulattos, actually hold a disproportionate share
of economic and political power.
• The islands also have large number of Chinese and
eastern Indians. Cuba has a very large number of
Chinese while Jamaica, Guadeloupe, Martinique,
and Trinidad, jointly, received 250,000 East
55. Tourism: The Irritant Industry
• Although tourism is big business in the Caribbean
basin, it has serious drawbacks:
– The invasion of poor communities by affluent tourists
result in a rising sense of local anger and resentment by
– The intervention of local governments and
multinational corporation removes opportunities from
local entrepreneurs in favor of large operations and
major resorts, e.g., Club Med.
56. Regional Cooperation
• Due to regional interests, 25 nations created
the association of Caribbean states (ACS) in
order to achieve closer trading ties among
the 25 nations and to protect their trading
ties to the U.S. In light of Mexico’s
competitive edge in the U.S. Market
• Mexico is the largest country in land area
and population in middle America.
• It now has a population of 102 million and
74 percent of this population is urbanized.
• Today, its population is 60 percent mestizo,
20 percent predominantly Amerindian, and
10 percent full-bloodied Amerindian; And
only 9 percent European.
• Mexico city is largest city in Latin America,
with 26 million inhabitants and with 25
percent of its national population.
59. Revolution and Its Aftermath
• Mexico’s revolution of 1910 led to the
redistribution of approximately 8,000
haciendas into parcels of public land that
are handed over to villages and, in turn,
handed over to individuals for cultivation.
60. Revolution and Its Aftermath
• In spite of the reforms that have occurred,
tensions are still volatile as it has been seen
in the 1994 revolt in the State of Chiapas.
This revolt was led by Amerindians who
still remain disenfranchised from the main
land reforms that have occurred in other
parts of Mexico.
61. Revolution and Its Aftermath
• The reform movement is led by a radical
group of Amerindians who have organized
their activities within the Zapatista National
Liberation Army (ZNLA), and their
demands for “autonomy” and land reform
may lead to the decentralization of powers
from the federal to the state government
that allows the latter more local control.
62. Revolution and Its Aftermath
• The ZNLA’s crusade has not been resolved
and may eventually lead to further armed
confrontations and eventually spark a
nationwide civil rights movement for all
63. The Changing Geography of
• Energy resources-
– As we have seen Mexico’s ranks quite high in
its allotment in crude oil reserves.
– These reserves are found in the Gulf of Mexico:
• Around the Tampico area and offshore.
• In the Bay of Campeche where very large of oil
pools are found in very deep layers of sedimentary
64. The Changing Geography of
– Mexico’s iron and steel industry if centered in
the northeastern state of Nuevo Leon.
– The city of Monterrey is the leading industrial
city of Mexico. It obtains iron ore from local
sources and coal from the Sabinas Basin.
– Another iron and steel city is Monclova which
also receives iron locally and coal from the
65. The Changing Geography of
• The most significant development in Mexico’s
manufacturing geography is the growth of
Malquiladora plants in the northern border zone.
Malquiladoras are factories (half of these are
U.S. owned) that assemble imported duty-free
components and raw materials into finished
industrial products. Approximately 80 percent of
these goods are eventually re-exported to the U.S.
whose import tariffs are limited to the value added
to products during fabrication stage.
66. The Changing Geography of
• There are approximately 1,800 assembly
plants which employ half a million
67. The Changing Geography of
• Among the things that are being assembled
– Electronic equipment.
– Electrical appliances.
– Auto parts.
68. Altitudinal Zonation
• In 1932, Dr. Karl Sapper, a German climatologist,
published his now famous textbook The Climate
of Middle America.
• In this textbook, he described the concept of
altitudinal zonation and climate change as one
climbs up the mountains in the tropic of Middle
and South America.
• Refer to the altitudinal zonation diagram on page
228 in your textbook.
69. Altitudinal Zonation
• The temperature in the tropical environment
(Tierra Caliente) is approximately 30 degrees
Celsius at sea level which is the normal
temperature in the tropics.
• For every 1,000 meters (or 3,000 feet) in altitude,
there is a –6 degree drop in temperature.
• For example, if the average temperature at sea
level is 30 degrees, this temperature converts to 86
70. Altitudinal Zonation
• F = 9/5 C + 32, when C=30, then, F=86.
• F = 9/5 C + 32, when C=24, then, F=75.
• For temperature decline in Fahrenheit, we get a –
11 degrees per 3,000 feet or 3.67 degree change
per 1,000 feet.
• Let us consider the two following situations:
• T = 30 – 6H
• 0 = 30 – 6H
71. The Central American Republics
• Guatemala: A Phantom Peace?
– Guatemala’s population is approximately 12.3 million
inhabitants, with mestizos (or ladinos) comprising the
majority (58 percent) and Amerindians the minority (42
– This country has experienced civil war since 1960 and
it has claimed more than 200,000 lives.
– Unfortunately, the end of armed conflicts are not in
sight, and this situation will hamster any economic
gains that may arise from the country’s natural
72. The Central American Republics
• Belize: Changing Identity.
– Until 1981, this country was a colony of Britain and it
was known as British Honduras.
– Slightly larger than Massachusetts, this country of
240,000 inhabitants (many of African descent) has
similarities to the Caribbean islands than to other
Central American states.
– The population dynamics of this country has changed as
thousands of Creoles have left for the U.S. and they
have been replaced by thousands of Spanish-speaking
immigrants who are mostly escapees from Guatemala,
San Salvador, and Honduras. Consequently, their
proportion of the Belizean population has risen from 33
to 50 percent between 1980 and 2000.
73. The Central American Republics
• Honduras: Deluged by Disaster
– This country was devastated by a very destructive
hurricanes, Mitch, in 1998.
– It proved to be one of the costliest disasters in modern
history of the Western Hemisphere.
– The hurricane killed approximately 15,000 inhabitants
and destroyed the infrastructure of the country.
– This country is well known for it sweat shops that
produce clothes for global markets.
74. The Central American Republics
• San Salvador: Postwar Reconstruction
– This is the smallest country in Central America, but the
most densely populated country of this area. Ninety-
four percent of the population is mestizo.
– Between 1980 and 1992, this country was devastated
by civil war in which 75,000 people were killed.
– This country produces coffee in plantations that utilized
peasant labor for their profits.
– Besides coffee exports, this country also has a growing
clothing industry that is becoming more important as
we enter a new millennium.
75. The Central American Republics
• Nicaragua: Mired in Misfortune
– This is the first country to have been ruled by a
Communist or Sandinista regime in Central America.
– As a result of the civil conflict, this country now ranks
as the poorest country in Middle America.
– Its economy is based on coffee plantations in its
– Presently, economic recover after hurricane Mitch and
the Sandinista revolution remains a difficult outcome.
76. The Central American Republic
• Costa Rica: Durable Democracy
– Costa Rica is very unlike its neighbors in that it is the
oldest democratic country in the area.
– Most of the population lives in the tierra templada zone
where coffee plantation predominate the landscape.
– This country contains the region’s highest standard of
living, literacy rate, and life expectancy.
– Agriculture continues to dominate, with coffee,
bananas, cut flowers, sugar, and beef the leading
– This country is known as the “Switzerland of Central
77. The Central American Republics
• Panama: Strategic Canal, Reorganizing Corridor
– The Panama Canal was opened in 1914, and it was
operated by the United States until approximately 1977.
But, officially, final withdrawal will occur on
December 31, 1999.
– This country has a population of 2.9 million and is
about 2/3’s mestizo, with a substantial black, white, and
– This country produces bananas, coffee, sugarcane, and
78. Chapter 5: South America
• South America is the fourth largest
landmass in the world, with 7,000,000
square miles of land surface.
79. Chapter 5: South America
• Of the 7,000,000 square miles, 2,000,000
are not populated so that the population
concentration of 46 persons per square mile
is unevenly distributed.
80. Chapter 5: South America
• The continent extends from 13 north
latitude to 55 degrees south latitude (or
4,700 square miles long in a north-south
direction) and 35-80 degrees west longitude
(3,100 miles long in an east-west direction.)
• There approximately 324,000,000
inhabitants in South America; and if we
include the population of Middle America,
the total population of Latin America is 488
million, with a growth rate of 1.8 percent.
81. South America
• Total population centers are along the
mountains in the eastern coastline and,
principally, in the Andes Mountains on the
• In some areas of the Andes, population
concentrations have become so high that
extreme soil erosion has occurred.
• Draw diagram of the Andes Mountains.
82. Population Characteristics
• Urbanization and Ethnic Composition: As I
mentioned above, South America is settled
on the fringe. The patterns are based on
culture, attitude, and accidents of history.
• Spaniards always have had a predilection
for communal life. To a Spaniard, a city
represents culture, politics, and “where the
83. Population Characteristics
• The population of all countries is highly nucleated.
Cities such Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, and Rio de
Janeiro have populations over 8 million, and the
growth of these cities has resulted in the
encirclement of slums around the cities which go
by different names.
• For example, in Lima approximately ¼ of the
population live in barridas; in Brazil slums are
known as favelas; in Columbia as ranchos; and in
Argentina as barrios.
84. The Human Sequence
• The south American continent was
inhabited by ancient people who migrated
to south America via Middle America more
than 5,000 years ago.
• Thus, for thousands of years indigenous
Amerindian communities and societies
have been developing in South America.
85. The Human Sequence
• The Inca Empire
– This empire was forged from a series of elongated
basins called altiplanos. From their home base –
Cuzco– the Incas (or Quechua) extended their authority
over peoples of coastal Peru and other altiplanos.
– At their zenith, the Inca Empire contained more than 20
million subjects, and they strictly controlled the life of
the empire’s subjects so that there was little personal
freedom. The empire was controlled so tightly that a
takeover at the top was enough to gain power over the
empire --- as the Spaniards soon found out.
86. The Human Sequence
• A word about the Amerindians:
– The number and distribution of the Amerindians
during the period of exploration played a
significant element in the settlement of south
America. (In some areas, they form the
dominant racial group as in the Amazon basin,
Peru and Bolivia.).
– Being an Indian in many of these countries (as
in Mexico) results in a bad situation because
they are socially discriminated.
87. The Human Sequence
– They usually lead a life of misery, only
elevated by an occasional religious ceremony
and market shopping.
– To relief their troublesome lives, they use
quinine and chicha which is made from
decayed potatoes which are spat out of the
mouth into a bowl. This ritual is a family
affair, and YES, the incidence of tuberculosis is
very high throughout the Andes.
88. The Human Sequence
• The Iberians:
– The Spaniards, under the leadership of Francisco
Pizzaro, rode victorious into the city of Cuzco. Soon
after their conquest, they placed the Amerindians into
serfdom and formed haciendas by land alienation or by
disenfranchising the Amerindians off their land.
– As the wealth of Peru was siphoned to Spain, the city of
Lima became a viceroyalty. And, from this city they
extended their conquest to the north –Columbia and
Venezuela– and to the south –Argentina and Uruguay.
89. The Human Sequence
– The Portuguese took possession of eastern
South America because the Treaty of
Tordesillas (1494) gave Portugal possession of
all lands to the east of 50 degrees West
– Eventually, they extended their control beyond
this longitude to include the Amazon Basin and
a good part of the Panama-Paraguay Basin.
90. The Human Sequence
• The Africans
– When the Portuguese began to develop their
New World territory, they turned to the
cultivation of sugar and the use of black slave
labor. Consequently, million of Africans were
brought to the New World. For this reason,
Brazil has the largest black population of South
91. The Human Sequence
– Racial mix of Spanish and Indian cultures, this
group forms 85 to 90 percent of all of the
people of South America. The mestizo is
fundamentally the “Matrix of South America.”
92. Cultural Fragmentation
• South America is a continent of plural
societies where Amerindians of different
cultures, Europeans from Iberia, blacks
from Africa, and Asians from India, Japan,
and Indonesia cultures form a mosaic of
cultural and economic spheres.
93. Cultural Fragmentation
• These spheres, as defined by John Augelli,
are discussed below:
– Tropical-Plantation Region: This area is found
along the humid Brazilian coastline, including
four more areas in the Atlantic-Caribbean areas
of the continent. The region resembles the
Rimland’s culture and economic characteristics.
94. Cultural Fragmentation
• European-Commercial Region: The area
includes the southern countries, including
southern Brazil; and it consists of an area
that is economically more advance that the
rest of the country.
95. Cultural Fragmentation
• Amerindian-Subsistence Region: The
region focuses on the high Andes where
most of the inhabitants are Amerindian who
live in minifundias.
96. Cultural Fragmentation
• Mestizo-Transitional Region: This area is a
mix of the three major culture groups,
namely, the Europeans, Amerindians, and
mestizos. This area surrounds the
Amerindian Subsistence Region, and it is
less commercial than the European sphere
but less subsistent in orientation than the
dominantly Amerindian areas.
97. Cultural Fragmentation
• Undifferentiated Region: This region
consists of the Amazon Basin. It is an area
that is hard to classify because it is remote
and exhibits limited economic development.
98. Economic Integration
• Most of South America’s republics have
replaced old policies that protected
domestic economies with new ones that
embrace market-oriented reform and the
expansion of trading partners.
99. Economic Integration
• The following list shows the new economic
organizations that have developed in order to
forge new trading zones.
– Mercosur – This trading area consists of the Southern
Cone Common Market which includes Argentina,
Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay.
– Andean Community – The members of this trading
group include Bolivia,Columbia, Ecuador, and Peru.
– Group of Three (G-3) – This free-trade agreement
involves Mexico, Venezuela, and Columbia.
100. Economic Integration
– North American Free Trade Agreement
(NAFTA) – This free-trade agreement includes
Canada, Mexico, and the United States. This
group hopes to include Chile in the
organization very soon.
– These organizations represent only an
intermediate step toward a much grander goal:
the creation of the Free Trade Area of the
• Today, seventy-six percent of the South
American population now resides in urban
areas, and this trends will continue for the
foreseeable future. Moreover, the urban
population is growing at a faster rate than
rural populations, that is, the urban
population has grown annually by 5% since
1950 while the increase in rural areas has
been 2 %.
• Brazil is the largest country in South
America (3.3 million square miles), and it
ranks fifth in size. It is smaller than Russia,
Canada, China, and the United States. Its
population size is larger than another state
in South America, with 167 million
inhabitants as of 2000 (estimate).
• Its population is very diverse. Brazil has
approximately 8.5 million blacks, 67
million of mixed-race, with African-
European-Amerindian ancestry, and 91
million of European ancestry.
• Japanese immigrants recently have joined
the ranks, and they live in farming
communities throughout southern Brazil.
104. Brazil-Regional Areas
• Brazil can be divided into six regions:
– The Northeast
– The Southeast
– The South
– The Interior and
– The Amazonian North.
105. Brazil-The Northeast
• The NORTHEAST is the cultural heart of Brazil,
and it is an area which is highly populated.
• The economy is essentially commercial
agriculture, with an emphasis on sugar cane along
the wetter coastal areas. But, unfortunately, this
economy is depressed and the area experiences
• Here, the Portuguese quickly imported African
slaves to work the sugar fields.
106. Brazil-The Northeast
• The area inland is known as the sertao, and
it is often impacted by serious droughts.
• This is why it is referred to as the Polygon
of Drought. Precipitation patterns are quite
erratic here. The vegetation is called the
Caatinga which is comparable to our semi-
arid vegetation of cactus and small thorny
107. Brazil-The Northeast
• The major cities are Recife which is the
oldest city in the region and San Salvador
which is the area’s most economically
diversified city, with a major petrochemical
complex in its vicinity.
108. Brazil-The Southeast
• The SOUTHEAST consists of the States of
Bahia, Espirito Santo, and Minas Gerais.
This area is richly endowed with gold,
bauxite, manganese, nickel, and many
precious and semi-precious stones. The
State of Minas Gerais means General
Mines, and it derives its name from the
more than 100 different mines that are
found throughout the state.
109. Brazil-The Southeast
• In fact, it was the lure of gold what brought people
to this area. But, it is iron ore (around Lafaiete)
that now makes this area, one of the most
productive areas in Brazil.
• Brazil now ranks second, next to Russia, in the
total production of iron and steel, and Belo
Horizonte, the Capitol, is the leading metallurgical
center of Brazil. Volta Redonda, close to Rio de
Janeiro, contains the second largest steel mill in
110. Sao Paulo
• The State of Sao Paulo is the leading industrial
producer and a very important agricultural region
that specializes in coffee (grown in coffee
plantation known as fazendas), soybeans, and
citrus fruits (for orange concentrate). The area is
well known for its fertile Terra Roxa or “Red
• The City of Sao Paulo is the leading
manufacturing city in all of South America, and it
has a very active automobile industry.
111. The South
• THE SOUTH consists of the southern states of
Parana, Santa Catarina, and Rio Grande do Sul.
This area is characterized by numerous farming
communities which were settled by European
immigrants, especially Germans, Italians, and
Portuguese farmers. (The staple crops are corn,
potatoes, dairying, and vineyards. Recently,
tobacco has been come an important cash crop for
American tobacco companies.).
112. The South
• This area, unfortunately, has been
experiencing a separatist movement that is
fueled by people who want to keep
European cultural lifestyles intact and who
do not want to mix with the non-European
citizens from the North.
113. The South
• Main industrial activity focuses on Tubarao where
South America’s single largest steel-making plant
opened in 1983. It obtains its coal from the states
of Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul.
• During the 1990’s an internationally significant
center of the computer software industry was
established in Florianopolis, the island city and
State Capital, of Santa Catarina.
114. The Interior
• THE INTERIOR focuses on the region that
surrounds the capital city of Brasilia which was
deliberately located in the savanna region of the
Centro-Oeste of the interior of Brazil.
• The City of Brasilia, the forward capital, of Brazil
is located in this region; and this region has been
integrated into the nation’s economy through the
exploitation of the cerrado– the fertile plains that
blanket the Central-West. This area is one of the
world’s most promising agricultural frontiers.
115. The Amazonian North
• THE AMAZONIAN NORTH was the
scene of the great rubber boom at the turn
of the century, but with the discovery of
synthetic rubber, the industry ended rapidly
116. The Amazonian North
• This area contains the world’s largest rain forest
reservoir, and it is now receiving a massive
infusion of immigrants from the coast, that is,
immigrants who seek gold and cheap land, just for
the clearing. Unfortunately, the clearing of the
land has lead to a great environmental catastrophic
in which the rain forest is being destroyed at
alarming rates which may lead to global warming
and desertification of vast areas of the world.
117. The Amazonian North
• Today, it has a major industrial project. It
is the Grande Carajas Project in eastern
portion of the State of Para. This is a huge
industrial scheme which focuses on one of
the world’s largest deposits of iron ore in
the Serra dos Carajas hills.
118. The Amazonian North
• This project is referred to as a growth-pole
concept. A growth-pole is a location where a set
of industries, given a start, will expand and
generate widening ripples of development in the
• Another important project includes the
Polonoroeste Plan which is an attempt to settle the
western Amazonia via the Trans-Amazon
• The name “Venezuela” comes from the Spanish
word for “Little Venice.” The name was derived
when early Spanish explorers saw Indian huts on
stilts on the shallow “Lake Maracaibo.”
• Petroleum was found in this “lake” during the
1920s, and it has flowed since then.
• Two-thirds of the national output comes from oil
pools found under Lake Maracaibo.
• The capital of Venezuela is Caracas, and it is
located approximately 3,000 feet above sea level.
Caracas fills a narrow valley 15 miles wide by 30
miles long and it has a population of
approximately 3.2 million.
• The elevation of Caracas gives the city a
temperate climate. Comparatively, the city’s port
of La Guaira sits six miles away on a desert
coastline, and its is extremely hot, dry, and
• The Guiana Highlands lie north of the
Amazon Basin, and it remains the least
explored area of South America. The
highlands consist of high tabular mesas, the
biggest is Mt. Roraima, with an elevation of
• In the 1920s, an American flyer, Jimmy Angel,
accidentally discovered the world’s highest
waterfall --- Angel’s Fall. It drops 3,212 feet.
• The Guiana Highlands are very important
economically because they contain large deposits
of iron ore, bauxite, and gold.
• Iron ore has been found south of Ciudad Bolivar,
in Cerro de Bolivar. Huge deposits of bauxite had
also been found near the City of Guayana which
refines bauxite ore into alumina, raw aluminum.
• Gold is the most recent element discovered in the
Guiana Highlands near the Brazilian border.
Unfortunately, would-be gold prospectors are now
indiscriminately ravishing the countryside to mine
• The Orinoco Lowlands extends for about 400-mile
long plain along the Orinoco River. This area is
devoted to ranching activities that satisfy the
needs of numerous large cities in the mountains.
• Although this country contains a physical
geography so varied that it produces crops
ranging from the temperate to the tropical
and is richly endowed with energy
resources, it has been ravished by civil
unrest and violence, and its future is
• It recent unrest began in 1970s when groups
opposing the power-sharing monopoly
between the political parties began a
campaign of terrorism, damaging the
developing infrastructure of the country. In
addition, drug cartels formed in response to
the U.S. market for narcotics increased.
• Although its future is uncertain, the country has
some very interesting characteristics:
– It has a population that is predominately mestizo, it
population size is approximately 40 million (2000 est.).
– Most of the population is concentrated in the western
and northern portions of the country.
– The largest city is Bogota, the capital, which has a
population of 5.6 million and an elevation of 8,500 feet.
– The second largest city is Medellin, with a population
of 1.7 million and an elevation of 5,500 feet. This city
is also famous for its coffee plantations which produce
the most flavorful coffees.
– Coffee is now Columbia’s main export crop,
but it is coca leaves that accounts for
Columbia’s leading unofficial export to the
– The city of Cali, on the Cauca River,has a
population of 1.8 million, and it is the focal
point where tobacco and sugar are produced
and cattle raised for the larger cities of
– Another major export is oil which was first
found in the Casanare oilfield of northern
Columbia, but a larger field was found in the
Cusiana oilfield in 1991. Both oilfields allow
Columbia to be a major exporter of oil in South
– A major source of coal is located in the Guajira
Peninsula which is adjacent to the Maracaibo
Lowlands. The mining activities centers in the
• The coastal Columbian area along the
Pacific coastline of a rain forest climate and
vegetation. In fact, one station in the
mountains on the Pacific coast report 400
inches of rain a year.
• This coastal areas is sparely populated, and
it has a large number of blacks who live in
Buenaventura and other small villages.
• Commercial agriculture dominates, with banana
and cocoa plantations.
• Finally, the Caribbean coastline is highly
populated with three major cities, Barranquilla
(975,000). Cartagen (525,000), and Santa Marta.
• In fact, Cartagen is now the Columbian
headquarters for illegal, export trade in cocaine
• Ecuador is the second smallest country in
South America, that is, after Uruguay.
• It has a population of 12.7 million, with 40
percent of the population of Amerindian
• The capital is Quito which is located in the
tierra fria zone.
• This country is divided into three physiographic
parts: 1) the coastal zone, 2) the Andes, and 3)
– The coastal zone consists of two parts: a) a belt of low-
lying hills which are utilized for the production of
coffee, rice, and cotton; b) the lowlands which produce
bananas, making Ecuador the world’s largest producer
of bananas, and cacao.
– The Andes form two parallel north-south ranges. Crest
elevations are very high, with some volcanic peaks
reaching heights of 15,000-20,000 feet; it is here where
the majority of the people live. They in turn, cultivate
small farm plots, which is characteristic of minifundia.
– El Oriente, located east of the Andes, is sparsely
populated and has a rain forest canopy, but the forest is
quickly disappearing due to large scale logging. Here,
large oil fields have been discovered, and it is piped
over the Andes to the city of Emeraldas.
– Presently,Ecuador is second, next to Venezuela, the
largest oil producing country in South America.
• Peru is the third largest country in South America.
It has a population of 27 million. Its territory is
divided physiographically into three sub regions:
– The desert coast, the European-mestizo region;
– The Andean highlands or Sierra, the Amerindian
– The Oriente, which includes the eastern slopes of
Andes, or montana, the sparsely populated Amerindian-
• The capital, Lima, is situated several miles inland
from a good harbor, Callao. The location of Lima
is favorable in light of its productive sea that
produces vast amounts of fish and sardines.
• The city is also close to 40 oases, along the arid
coast, which produce cotton, sugar, rice,
vegetables, fruits, and wheat for export.
• The Amerindian population lives in
clustered, isolated villages or in haciendas
where they practice subsistence agriculture
in the Andean mountains.
• In either case, they grow corn, barley, and
potatoes in tierra fria or tierra helada zones.
• The minerals produced for export include
• The most important mining area focuses on Cerro
• In the rain forest of the Oriente, the focal is the
city of Iquitos which looks to the east rather than
the west, and it can be reached by oceangoing
vessels from the Atlantic ocean.
• Oil was discovered west of Iquitos in the 1970s,
and it is piped to the seaport of Bayovar. This
area also contains natural gas deposits which are
now being developed.
• Bolivia is the second poorest country in South
America, and it has a population of 8.4 million
inhabitants, half of which are Amerindians while
mestizos comprise approximately 35 percent of
• This country is landlocked because it lost its
corridor to the sea in a war with Chile in 1903.
Consequently, this condition has limited its
economic development .
• The Andes form two large, paralleling
ranging which are over 20,000 feet in
elevation, and a large altiplano, or high
plain, has been formed between them.
• On the boundary between Peru and Bolivia,
freshwater Lake Titicaca – the highest large
lake on Earth – lies at 12,507 feet above sea
• Bolivia’s de facto capital is La Paz which is
situated on the Altiplano at an elevation of
11,700 feet, making it the highest capital in
the world. (La Paz contains only the
Legislative and Executive departments.)
• Bolivia’s legal capital, however, is Sucre
which still holds the Judicial branch or the
• Bolivia has tremendous mineral wealth. The city
of Potosi, in the eastern cordillera is the center of
silver mining industry. In 1544, the Spanish
conquerors of Peru discovered the Cerro Rico, a
conical mountain which stands above the city of
Potosi. The bulk of this mountain is made up of
one of the richest ore bodies known to man – an
ore so rich that it not only contains rich deposits of
silver but tin, bismuth, and tungsten.
• However, out of the mountain, between
the its discovery and the beginning of the
seventeenth century, came about one half of
all of the silver produced in the world
during the 56 years of discovery. This was
the “royal fifth” which poured into the
Spanish treasury which played a vital role
in shaping the course of European history.
• Bolivia is an important producer of tin. Tin
was discovered at the end of the nineteenth
century, and it is centered in the cities of
Oruro and Unica. But, today, declining tin
reserves and falling world prices has force
much of the industry to shut down.
• Bolivia also produces zinc, lead, copper,
tungsten, and antimony.
• The Oriente produces natural gas and oil
which are exported to Brazil and Argentina.
• Soybeans are now becoming an important
source of revenue, accounting for Bolivia’s
most important export item.
• Cattle ranching is also an important activity
around the city of Santa Cruz.
• Argentina is the second largest city in
southern South America. It contains
approximately 37 million inhabitants. A
vast majority of these people live in the sub-
region which is referred to as the Pampa, a
word meaning “plain.”
• This area is the most intensely utilized area
of Argentina. This area is also dominated
by large estancias (latifundia) that raise
thousands of cattle, sheep, and pigs for
market. They also raise soybeans, alfalfa,
wheat, corn, and other grains for animal and
• All of these products are shipped to market
via hundred of miles that dot the
countryside. Most of the industry in the
Pampa focuses on manufacturing of
agricultural products such as vegetable oils,
beef hides, woolen clothes, and fruit
• Outside of the Pampa, the population is
sparse and agricultural activities focus on
pastoralism while sheep ranching and fruit
farming are dominant features in the
Patagonia plateau which is quite dreary
during the winter months. For this reason,
Patagonia is called “Argentina’s Siberia.”
• In the area known as “Mesopotamia of
Argentina” or “Entre Rios” or “Between
Rivers”, the area is primarily utilized for
agriculture, mainly corn, cotton, and wheat.
• Here, flax is grown for flaxseed oil and
linen while yerba mate, a local tea, is
grown. Another product is the quebracho-
tree extract used for tanning leather.
• In the north of the Mesopotamia region,
Paraguay and Argentina are currently
building the world’s largest hydroelectric
dam; it is called the Yacyreta Dam which is
located on the Parana River which is
designed to enhance the economic potential
of this area. This dam is even larger than
the Itaipu Dam which is located upstream
on the Parana.
• This country is a small, compact country
which has an agricultural economy and a
population of 3.3 million inhabitants of
• Montevideo is the capital of this country, and it
contains 40 percent of the country’s population.
As in Buenos Aires, railroads and roads radiate
outward into the agricultural interior (This city is
the administrative capital for Mercosur.).
• Around the capital, market gardening dominates
the landscape, but this activity gives way to cattle
and sheep ranching, with beef products, wool, and
• This country has 5.5 million inhabitants, and it has
a mestizo majority of 95 percent.
• As for languages, Amerindian Guarani is so
widely spoken alongside Spanish that the country
is completely bilingual.
• Paraguay’s landlocked position has had much to
do with its modest economic development. These
opportunities have not been realized because of
the fact that exports must be shipped through
Buenos Aires via the Paraguay-Parana Rivers.
• Soybeans products, cotton, timber,
vegetable oils, and beef hides are important
export items for this country.
• In the dry Chaco area, cattle ranching and
oil mining are the most important activities,
besides a large peanut crop that is grown by
a Mennonite colony in this area.
• Chile extends for 2,500 miles along the
western coastline of South America, but it
is, on the average, approximately 90 miles
wide and rarely 150 miles wide.
• It has approximately 15 million inhabitants, and it
capital is Santiago, the largest city in Chile.
• Chile is a mestizo country. Its population has
none of the profound racial divisions found in the
lands to the north. Only 5 percent of the
population is pure Amerindian while Europeans
form approximately 30 percent of the population.
The remaining 65 percent consist of mestizos.
• This country is divided into three parts:
– The arid north
– The central Mediterranean area
– The southern Marine West Coast area.
• Northern Chile or the Arid North
– The northern third of Chile consists of the
Atacama Desert which consists of the driest
place on earth. The wealth of the Atacama lies
in its bolsones which contain valuable caliche
which is composed of sodium nitrate, and a
variety of other salts that include iodine salts.
• Sodium nitrate has been used traditionally as a
fertilizer but it was also used for the production of
explosives, but with the discovery of synthetic
nitrates, the industry has declined considerably.
• Another very important natural resource is copper
which is mined near the city of Chuquimata. The
mine is the largest copper mine in the world,
making Chile the leading exporter of copper in the
world bar none.
• Middle Chile- This portion of Chile is the most
important economic area because this is where
most of the Chileans live.
• In central Chile, especially in the northern portion
of this area, haciendas dominate the landscape.
Here, wheat, corn, grapes, fruits, and vegetables
are the main crops while beef and beef byproducts
are the important export items.
• The most distinctive feature of middle Chile is its
climate which is the Mediterranean climate. Here,
one finds a transitional zone between the desert
and the continuously rainy climate of southern
• Because this climate has dry-summers, central
Chile produces some of finest wines in South
America, and they find markets throughout the
• Southern Chile- South of the Rio Bio bio,
the Mediterranean gives way to the Marine
West Coast climate. Here, instead of large
haciendas we find small or medium-size
farms that have been created on cleared
land; and Southern Chile has a rainy climate
and forests dominate the landscape.
• In spite of the abundance of trees, some of
which could be used for lumber, Chile does
not have a large lumber industry. Lumber
is is still imported while the forests of the
south are burned to make room for pasture
or crops such as fruits, vegetables, and
• As the 21th century opens, Chile is
emerging from a developing boom that has
established its reputation as South
America’s greatest success story.
• Since 1990, Chile has embarked on a
program of free-market economic reform
that brought stable growth and has attracted
massive foreign investment.
• Consequently, Chile’s newly international
economy has propelled the country to
forage a prominent role for itself on the
global trading scene.
• Thus, Chile was invited to join NAFTA in 1994,
but it is still waiting for U.S Congress to approve
• But, in the meantime, it is a member of Mercosur,
and this country is widely touted as the “economic
model” for all of Middle and South America to
• Consequently, developing nations of Latin
America aspire to follow in Chile’s footsteps in
order to become economicly successful.