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Latin American Culture

western hemisphere, official language, Belize, Netherlands, Guyana

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Latin America, in the broadest sense, the entire western hemisphere south of the United States. In a more restricted sense Latin America comprises those countries of the Americas that developed from the colonies of Spain, Portugal, and France. Because these European powers used languages derived from Latin, the term Latin America was devised to designate the parts of the New World that they colonized. The areas that are now Belize and Guyana were colonized by the British, and the official language of those countries is English. Suriname was colonized by the Netherlands, and Dutch is the official language. These countries’ histories differ from those of others in the region and are generally treated differently by scholars.

This article is limited to a discussion of the emergence and history of the people inhabiting Latin America from the European discovery of the western hemisphere to the present day. For the physical characteristics of the area, see Central America, North America, South America. See also separate articles on individual countries.


Latin America

Burkholder, Johnson A. Colonial Latin America. 4th ed. Oxford University Press, 2000. Comprehensive study of European exploration and colonization in Latin America.

Chasteen, John Charles. Born in Blood and Fire: A Concise History of Latin America. Norton, 2000. An introduction to the complexities of an immense continent.

Crow, John A. The Epic of Latin America. 4th ed. University of California Press, 1992. Vivid history of Latin American civilizations, from pre-Columbian to contemporary.

Galeano, Eduardo. Memory of Fire. 3 vols. Pantheon, 1985-1988. Presents Latin American history in anecdotal format.

Hanke, Lewis, and Jane Rausch, eds. People and Issues in Latin American History. 2 vols. 2nd ed. Wiener, 2000. Brief essays on influential people and events from the colonial era to the present.

Keen, Benjamin, and Keith Haynes. A History of Latin America. 6th ed. Houghton Mifflin, 1999. A primer on Latin American history.

Macdonald, Scott B. Fast Forward: Latin America on the Edge of the 21st Century. Transaction, 1997. A study of Latin America's current economy and potential development.

O'Brien, Thomas F. The Revolutionary Mission: American Enterprise in Latin America, 1900-1945. Cambridge University Press, 1996. How U.S. corporate culture changed Latin America during the first half of the 20th century.

Skidmore, Thomas E., and Peter H. Smith. Modern Latin America. 5th ed. Oxford University Press, 2000. Historical survey.

Tenenbaum, Barbara A., ed. Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture. 5 vols. Scribner, 1996. More than 5,000 entries.

Williamson, Edwin. The Penguin History of Latin America. Penguin, 1992. Synthesis of Latin American history for general readers.

Central America as a whole

Arnold, Caroline. City of the Gods. Clarion, 1994. A photographic journey through the ancient Aztec city of Teotihuacan; for younger readers.

Booth, John A., and Thomas W. Walker. Understanding Central America. 3rd ed. Westview, 1993, 1999. A thorough guide to the political and social complexities of the region.

Bunson, Stephen M., and Margaret E. Bunson. Encyclopedia of Ancient Mesoamerica. Facts on File, 1996. Guide to the people, places, and history of the region.

Dominguez, Jorge I., and Marc Lindenberg, eds. Democratic Transitions in Central America. University Press of Florida, 1997. A study of the transition from civil war to democracy as experienced in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.

Drew, David. The Lost Chronicles of the Maya Kings. University of California Press, 2000. This study provides new evidence on the ruin of the Maya empire.

Reddish, Paul. Spirits of the Jaguar: The Natural History and Ancient Civilizations of the Caribbean and Central America. BBC/Parkwest, 1997. An illustrated companion to the popular BBC-PBS television series on the natural history of the region.

Sieder, Rachel, ed. Central America: Fragile Transition. St. Martin's, 1996. Explores the nature of democratic transition following the abatement of civil wars in the region.

Wallace, David Rains. The Monkey's Bridge: Mysteries of Evolution in Central America. Sierra Club, 1997. The biological and geological evolution of the land bridge between the Americas.

Weaver, Frederick Stirton. Inside the Volcano: The History and Political Economy of Central America. Westview, 1994. Central America's colonial past and its effect on current political and social structures.


Robinson, David J., B.A., Ph.D. Dellplain Professor of Latin American Geography, Syracuse University. Director of Latin American Studies Program, Global Affairs Institute, Maxwell School, Syracuse University. Editor of Migration in Colonial Latin America and other books.

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western hemisphere, official language, Belize, Netherlands, Guyana, Suriname, Portugal, people, France, history, South America, North America, Central America, United States, Latin America, New World, histories, Dutch, region, area, Americas, countries, articles, languages, scholars, parts, areas

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