The question of Latin America

Cultural Insights — By on October 25, 2006 at 2:09 pm

Is Latin America an integratedÂregion, or a diverse group of peoples and cultures? 

There are those, such as Simon Bolivar and Che Guevara, who have dreamed in the past of unifying all the peoples of Latin America.  That sentiment was given expression again in the 2004 movie The Motorcycle Diaries (a nice travel movie, by the way), when the character of a young Guevara states his growing belief that there is a single Latin American culture stretching from Mexico to Patagonia.

However, the dream never did become a reality.  That is why the following quote caught my eye this morning, buried in a larger story about Latin America:

Kenneth R. Maxwell, a senior fellow at the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard, said he believed there was a “tectonic shift” that was dividing Latin America three ways – a northern sphere encompassing Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean; a southern part based in the large countries of South America; and an Andean stretch where indigenous leaders were coming to power.

If history had been different, all of Latin America might well have become one country, and there is certainly a great deal of common cultural ground across the region.  Still, there are also differences among these nations – from the more Europeanized cultures of Argentina and Chile in the south to the indigenous peoples of Peru and Bolivia in the central Andes to the Mexicans in the north, who are most influenced by proximity to the United States.  It’s an interesting region, unified to a large degree by language, religion and culture, but still different enough to have remained separate nations.

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