Latin America Empires

History Questions

Before the Western hemisphere was named “America” or “Latin America,” the indigenous empires had their own self-designated names such as Anahuac for what is today known as Central Mexico, and Tawatinsuyu for the Andes region of Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador. An Italian cartographer realized that he was sailing along the coast of a continent and named it after himself, “America,” thus creating the fourth continent known to Europeans.

By the middle of the nineteenth century, citizens of the United States had begun to refer to themselves as “Americans” and Los Americanos who spoke Spanish had begun to refer to themselves as “Latin Americans” (rather than Americans or Spanish Americans) with encouragement from France (Review the term Latinidad. See pg. 58-59 in Mignolo’s Chapter 2).

Talk about the significance of names such as “American,” “Spanish American,” “Creoles” and “Latin Americans.” Why choose one identity over another? Which countries are traditionally included in the designation “Latin American”? Why? Which countries are excluded?

Prepare and Submit

Write a well-organized essay with a minimum of 1000 to 1200 words (3 to 4 pages double-spaced) in which you address the following:


Analyze and discuss the material that has been assigned, and address the following statement: “Those countries south of the United States which speak languages derived from Latin, such as Spanish, Portuguese or French have a common heritage and identity and should be included in the phrase ‘Latin America’.” Discuss if you agree or disagree with the statement.

Some issues to consider:

  • Should English-speaking countries such as Belize and Jamaica be included in Latin America? What about Dutch-speaking countries such as Surinam?
  • Should Puerto Rico be included in Latin America since it is not an independent country?
  • What about Bolivar and Jose Martí’s idea of calling all the countries part of “Nuestro América” instead of dividing the hemisphere between North, South, and Central?
  • Some Brazilians do not like to be included in Latin America. Do they have a point? Would “Ibero-America” be a better term?
  • Haiti has traditionally been included in Latin America by some scholars but excluded by others. What about Quebec?
  • If your family is from Latin America or a Spanish-speaking country you prefer to refer to yourself as “Latino”? or “Hispanic?” or just American?

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