Hisotry of Latin America
History of the region from the pre-Columbian period and including colonization by the Spanish and Portuguese beginning in the 15th century, the 19th-century wars of independence, and developments to the end of World War II.Latin America is generally understood to consist of the entire continent of South America in addition to Mexico, Central America, and the islands of the Caribbean whose inhabitants speak a Romance language. The peoples of this large area shared the experience of conquest and colonization by the Spaniards and Portuguese from the late 15th through the 18th centuries as well as movements of independence from Spain and Portugal in the early 19th century. Even since independence, many of the various nations have experienced similar trends, and they have some awareness of a common heritage. However, there are also enormous differences between them. Not only do the people live in a large number of independent units, but the geography and climate of their countries vary immensely, and their social and cultural characteristics differ according to the different constitution of the inhabitants before the Iberian conquest and the different timing and nature of European occupation.
Since the Spanish and Portuguese element looms so large in the history region, it is sometimes proposed that Iberoamerica would be a better term than of the Latin America. Latin seems to suggest an equal importance of the French and Italian contributions, which is far from being the case. Nevertheless, usage has fastened on Latin America, and it is retained here.
The independence of Latin America
After three centuries of colonial rule, independence came rather suddenly to most of Spanish and Portuguese America. Between 1808 and 1826 all of Latin America except the Spanish colonies of Cuba and Puerto Rico slipped out of the hands of the Iberian powers who had ruled the region since the conquest. The rapidity and timing of that dramatic change were the result of a combination of long-building tensions in colonial rule and a series of external events.
The reforms imposed by the Spanish Bourbons in the 18th century provoked great instability in the relations between the rulers and their colonial subjects in the Americas. Many Creoles (those of Spanish parentage but who were born in America) felt Bourbon policy to be an unfair attack on their wealth, political power, and social status. Others did not suffer during the second half of the 18th century; indeed, the gradual loosening of trade restrictions actually benefited some Creoles in Venezuela and certain areas that had moved from the periphery to the centre during the late colonial era. However, those profits merely whetted those Creoles' appetites for greater free trade than the Bourbons were willing to grant. More generally, Creoles reacted angrily against the crown's preference for peninsulars in administrative positions and its declining support of the caste system. After hundreds of...