Chapter Introduction
Section 1: History and
Section 2: Cultures and
Visual Summary
Regions Common threads of
language and religion unite Latin
America. Once claimed as
European colonies, Latin American
countries today are primarily
Roman Catholic, and most still use
either Spanish or Portuguese as
the official language. These two
languages are based on Latin,
which is how the region gets its
name. In what ways can
language and religion both unite
and divide a region?
Section 1:
History and Governments
All living things are dependent
upon one another and their
surroundings for survival. Native
American civilizations of Latin
America developed ways of living
that used the resources of their
environment. People who lived in
different areas depended on trade
to obtain the goods they wanted. In
colonial times, the people of Latin
America exchanged goods with
Section 2:
Cultures and Lifestyles
The characteristics and
movement of people impact
physical and human systems.
The different groups who have
settled Latin America include Native
Americans, Europeans, Africans,
and Asians. These groups have
influenced the cultures and
lifestyles of the region.
All living things are dependent upon
one another and their surroundings
for survival.
Content Vocabulary
• maize
• empire
• jade
• cash crop
• obsidian
• caudillo
• hieroglyphics
• communist state
Academic Vocabulary
• complex
• transform
• stable
• revolution
A Mayan village in Guatemala remembers its
dead in a spectacular way. For their Day of
the Dead celebration—when people
remember relatives and friends who have
died—villagers create enormous kites of
tissue paper, bamboo, and wire. Finished
kites can reach 40 feet across! Sailing above
local cemeteries, the kites create a symbolic
link between the living and the dead. Read
this section to learn more about the historical
traditions that have shaped Latin America.
Do you do anything special to honor
loved ones that have passed away?
A. Yes
B. No
A. A
B. B
The Aztec people of central Mexico used cacao
seeds—from which chocolate is made—for money. The
government accepted the seeds as tax payment, and
business owners accepted them as fair trade for their
wares. It is even speculated that Aztec crooks made
counterfeit seeds!
Early History
Some Native Americans
developed advanced
civilizations in the region.
Europeans later conquered
much of the region and set up
Early History (cont.)
• The Olmec civilization of southern Mexico
lasted from 1500 B.C. to 300 B.C.
– Some Olmec cities specialized in
farming, growing maize, or corn, and
squash and beans.
– Others controlled important mineral
resources such as jade and obsidian, a
hard, black, volcanic glass.
Early History (cont.)
• The Maya lived in Mexico’s Yucatán
Peninsula and surrounding areas between
A.D. 300 and A.D. 900.
• They used hieroglyphics to record their
• About A.D. 900, the Maya civilization
mysteriously collapsed.
Native America Civilizations
Early History (cont.)
• Next, the Toltec seized what is now
northern Mexico, building the city of Tula
and conquering lands all the way to the
Yucatán Peninsula.
• Around A.D. 1200, the Aztec people from
the north moved into central Mexico and
captured Tula.
• Tenochtitlán was the Aztec
Native America Civilizations
Early History (cont.)
• During the 1400s, the Inca empire, in what
is now Peru in South America, stretched
more than 2,500 miles (4,023 km) along
the Andes.
– The Inca ruler put in place a complex
system of record keeping.
Native America Civilizations
Early History (cont.)
• In 1519 a Spanish Army led by Hernán
Cortés marched to Tenochtitlán, Mexico,
and overtook the Aztec.
• In 1532 Francisco Pizarro attacked the
Inca, killed the ruler, and conquered that
Early History (cont.)
• The Aztec and Inca conquests allowed
Spain to build an empire that included
much of South America, the Caribbean,
Middle America, and parts of present-day
United States.
• Portugal took control of what is today
• France, Britain, and the Netherlands
overtook some Caribbean areas and parts
of North America.
Early History (cont.)
• The arrival of the Europeans transformed
the populations of these lands by settling
the land, setting up colonial governments,
and spreading Christianity among the
Native Americans.
• They also used Native Americans as
workers to grow cash crops.
• Eventually, European landowners brought
enslaved Africans for labor.
Who built Latin America’s first
A. Aztec
B. Inca
C. Maya
D. Olmec
Forming New Nations
Most of Latin America gained
independence in the 1800s,
but hardships followed for
many of the new nations.
Forming New Nations (cont.)
• In 1804, enslaved Africans under FrançoisDominique Toussaint-L’Ouverture threw off
French rule in Haiti.
• Haiti became the only nation ever created
as a result of a revolt by enslaved people.
History at a Glance
Forming New Nations (cont.)
• Despite many battles, Mexicans did not
gain their independence until 1821,
becoming a republic in 1823.
– That same year, the countries of Central
America won their freedom from Spain.
History at a Glance
Forming New Nations (cont.)
• In 1819 Simón Bolívar won freedom from
the Spanish for the present-day countries
of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, and
• In 1817 José de San Martín liberated
• A few years later, San Martín
and Bolívar jointly defeated the
Spanish in Peru.
History at a Glance
Forming New Nations (cont.)
• By the end of the 1820s, all of Spain’s and
Portugal’s colonies in Latin America had
won their independence.
• Many of the new Latin American countries
ended slavery.
History at a Glance
Forming New Nations (cont.)
• Many Latin American nations hoped their
countries would become stable
democracies with prosperous economies.
– Obstacles arose, however, including
conflict over the role of religion in their
society, boundary lines, tensions
between the rich and poor, and leaders
known as caudillos who often
ruled as dictators.
History at a Glance
Forming New Nations (cont.)
• During the late 1800s, businesspeople
from the United States and Europe set up
companies throughout Latin America,
exporting such products as bananas,
sugar, coffee, copper, and oil.
History at a Glance
Forming New Nations (cont.)
• Some Latin American countries decided to
grow only one or two key products.
• Prices and profits increased as a result,
but a decline in demand caused prices to
drop, followed by losses in income
and jobs.
History at a Glance
Forming New Nations (cont.)
• Benefits to Latin America’s dependence on
exports included foreign investors who
built ports, roads, and railroads; in turn,
these caused city growth and the creation
of a middle class.
History at a Glance
Forming New Nations (cont.)
• In 1898 the United States and Spain
fought a war over Spanish-ruled Cuba.
Spain was defeated, and Cuba became a
republic under U.S. protection.
• The United States also gained control of
Puerto Rico.
History at a Glance
Forming New Nations (cont.)
• In 1903 the United States helped Panama
win its freedom from Colombia and gained
permission to build the Panama Canal.
• Over the next 25 years, American troops
landed in Haiti, Nicaragua, and the
Dominican Republic to protect U.S.
political and economic interests.
History at a Glance
Forming New Nations (cont.)
• In the mid-1900s, Latin American leaders
borrowed heavily from banks in other
countries, acquiring a large debt that
weakened their economies.
– Prices rose, wages fell, and people
lost jobs.
History at a Glance
Forming New Nations (cont.)
• Dissatisfied political and social groups in
some countries rebelled against leaders
who ruled ruthlessly or were in power
too long.
• In 1959 a young lawyer named Fidel
Castro carried out a revolution in Cuba
and set up a communist state.
History at a Glance
Forming New Nations (cont.)
• In El Salvador, fighters supported by
Castro battled government troops armed
by the United States.
History at a Glance
Forming New Nations (cont.)
• Difficult economic and political reforms in
the 1980s helped strengthen many Latin
American countries, but these changes
were often harsh and turned many Latin
Americans against dictators.
• During the 1990s, democratic movements
succeeded in several countries.
History at a Glance
Forming New Nations (cont.)
• Latin America’s population is growing
rapidly, but resources are limited.
• Growing trade in illegal drugs has
increased crime and corruption, and
tensions still exist between rich and poor.
History at a Glance
Forming New Nations (cont.)
• In the early 2000s, angry voters in
Venezuela, Bolivia, Peru, Mexico, and
Chile elected new leaders who promised
changes that would weaken the power of
the wealthy and benefit the poor.
History at a Glance
Who defeated the Spanish in 1819
and won freedom for the present-day
countries of Venezuela, Colombia,
Ecuador, and Bolivia?
A. Hidalgo
B. Morelos
C. Bolívar
D. San Martín
The characteristics and movement of
people impact physical and human
Content Vocabulary
• migration
• carnival
• mestizo
• mural
• pidgin
Academic Vocabulary
• element
• comment
• style
Teenage girls celebrate their African heritage
during Trinidad’s Children’s Carnival
Competition. Carnival is celebrated in the
days before Lent begins. Lent is a time of
prayer and fasting in the Roman Catholic
Church. During Carnival, both young people
and adults dress in costumes. Costumes
include characters from nursery rhymes and
movie superheroes. As you read this section,
you will learn about the different cultures of
the people of Latin America.
Are you familiar with your cultural
A. Yes
B. No
A. A
B. B
Families of the dead in Guanajuato, Mexico, must pay a
yearly grave tax, or the remains of their loved ones will
be removed. Occasionally, cemetery workers discover
a body that has naturally mummified, probably because
of the dry air in the region. Recognizing a good source
of income, the city opened the Mummy Museum with
now more than a hundred mummies on display. This
attraction draws 800,000 people a year to Guanajuato.
The People
Latin Americans come from a
variety of cultures, but many
share common characteristics.
The People (cont.)
• Latin America’s highest birthrates are in
Central America.
• Guatemala and Honduras are expected to
double in population by 2050.
• Most Latin Americans live in the favorable
climates along the coasts of South
America in an area reaching from Mexico
into Central America.
The People (cont.)
• Migration to Latin America has included
Europeans, Africans, and Asians, either
willingly or by force.
– Some Latin Americans migrate to the
United States.
– All of these new arrivals bring elements
of their culture with them.
The People (cont.)
• Latin Americans also move within their
country or the region.
– In certain rural areas, population growth
has resulted in a shortage of fertile land,
and smaller farms cannot support large
– People often leave to find jobs
elsewhere, usually in cities, resulting in
The People (cont.)
• Today most Latin Americans live in rapidly
growing cities.
• In South America, about 80 percent of
people live in cities, but in Central America
and the Caribbean, only about 65 percent
are urban dwellers.
The People (cont.)
• Most Latin Americans leave villages for the
cities to find better jobs, schools, housing,
and health care.
• As city populations grow, jobs and housing
become scarce and many people find
themselves in miserable conditions.
The People (cont.)
• Latin America’s people include Native
Americans, Europeans, Africans, Asians,
and mixtures of these groups.
– Most of Latin America’s Native
Americans live in Mexico; Central
America; and the Andes countries of
Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia.
The People (cont.)
• Since the 1400s, millions of Europeans,
mostly Spanish or Portuguese, have
settled in Latin America. Italians, British,
French, and Germans have come as well.
– In the 1800s, many Spanish and Italian
immigrants settled in Argentina,
Uruguay, and Chile, so these three
nations today are mainly populated by
people of European descent.
The People (cont.)
• African Latin Americans form a high
percentage of the populations in the
Caribbean islands and northeastern Brazil.
– They are descended from enslaved
Africans brought as laborers during
colonial days.
The People (cont.)
• Large Asian populations live in the
Caribbean islands and some countries of
South America.
• In Guyana about one-half of the population
is of South Asian or Southeast Asian
• Many people of Chinese descent make
their homes in Peru, Mexico, and Cuba.
• About 1 million people of Japanese
descent live in Brazil.
The People (cont.)
• In countries such as Mexico, Honduras,
El Salvador, and Colombia, mestizos, or
people of mixed Native American and
European descent, make up the largest
part of the population.
• In Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and
Brazil, people of mixed African and
European descent form a large percentage
of the population.
The People (cont.)
• Spanish is the most widely spoken
language in Latin America, but Brazilians
mostly speak Portuguese.
• Native American languages are still
spoken in many countries.
• Quechua, spoken centuries ago by the
Inca, is an official language of Peru and
The People (cont.)
• In the Caribbean, English and French are
widely spoken.
• In some countries, people have developed
a pidgin language by combining parts of
different languages.
• An example is Creole, spoken in Haiti.
Which area of Latin America has the
highest birthrate?
A. Central America
B. Mexico
C. South America
A. A
B. B
Daily Life
Many aspects of daily life in
Latin America reflect the
region’s blend of cultures.
Daily Life (cont.)
• During colonial times, most Latin
Americans became Christians, and
Christianity still has the most followers.
• Roman Catholics form the largest
Christian group, but in recent years
missionaries have encouraged many
people to convert to Protestant forms of
Daily Life (cont.)
• Many traditional Native American and
African religions thrive, often mixed with
Christianity and other faiths.
• Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, brought
by Asian immigrants, are practiced in the
Caribbean region and coastal areas of
South America.
• Judaism has followers in the largest Latin
American cities.
Daily Life (cont.)
• Soccer is popular throughout the region.
Baseball is popular in Cuba, the
Caribbean, Central America, and northern
South America.
• Cricket is also a favorite sport.
Daily Life (cont.)
• Each spring, many countries hold a large
festival called carnival on the last day
before the Christian holy period
called Lent.
• On Mexico’s holiday known as the Day of
the Dead, people honor family members
who have died.
Daily Life (cont.)
• The foods of Latin America blend the
traditions of the region’s many peoples.
– Corn and beans are important in Mexico
and Central America.
– Beans and rice are popular in the
islands of the Caribbean and in Brazil.
Daily Life (cont.)
– Fresh fish from the sea is also important
in those areas.
– Beef is the national dish in Argentina
and Chile.
Daily Life (cont.)
• Cuban music is famous for its use of
African rhythms.
– The music of Cuba and Brazil has
shaped American jazz.
Daily Life (cont.)
• During the 1930s, Mexican artists such as
Diego Rivera painted murals, or large
paintings on walls, that recall the artistic
traditions of the ancient Maya and Aztec.
• In Latin America, many writers have used
their work to comment on social and
political conflicts.
Daily Life (cont.)
• Latin American writers of the late 1900s
invented an influential style of writing
called magic realism that combines
fantastic events with the ordinary.
Which religion has the most followers
in Latin America?
A. Islam
B. Hinduism
C. Christianity
D. Judaism
Native American Civilizations
• The Olmec built the first
civilization in Latin
• The Maya created a
calendar and a complex
number system.
• The Aztec set up a large
empire in central Mexico.
• The Inca developed a
network of roads to unite
their territories.
Colonial Rule
• Spanish explorers
conquered the Aztec
and Inca Empires.
• Spain and Portugal
ruled most of Latin
America from the
1500s to the early
• Colonial rule brought a
mixing of different
Forming New Nations
• Most Latin American countries achieved
independence during the 1800s.
• Dictators, the military, or wealthy groups ruled
Latin American countries, while most people
remained poor and powerless.
• Many Latin American countries developed more
democratic systems in the 1900s.
• About 80 percent of
South Americans live
in urban areas.
• Most people in Latin
America are of
European, Native
American, or African
• Most Latin Americans
speak Spanish or
Portuguese, and most
practice the Roman
Catholic faith.
• Family life is important
to most Latin
• Soccer and baseball are
major sports in Latin
• Food, arts, and music
reflect the diverse ethnic
mixture of the region.
• Religious and patriotic
holidays are important
throughout Latin
shiny stone that comes in many
shades of green
hard, black, volcanic glass useful for
making weapons
system of writing that uses small
pictures to represent sounds or words
collection of different territories united
under the rule of one government
cash crop
farm product grown for export
Latin American ruler, often a military
officer or wealthy individual ruling as
a dictator
communist state
country whose government has
strong control over the economy and
society as a whole
highly developed
greatly change
firmly established; not likely to change
suddenly or greatly
one complete circuit around the sun;
sweeping change
movement of people
in Latin America, a person of mixed
Native American and European
pidgin language
language formed by combining parts
of several different languages
large festival held each spring in
countries in Latin America on the last
day before the Christian holy period
called Lent
large painting on a wall
part of something larger
talk about
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Chapter 08 - Burnet Middle School