Latin America has long captivated the hearts and souls of North Americans and Europeans with an inexorable, unrelenting and perhaps almost mystical fascination. From the pursuit of the golden city of El Dorado by the Spanish conquistadors, to the countless expeditions to uncover the lost Inca city of Machu Picchu, to the obsession with Carmen Miranda’s fruit hat, Latin America to this day continues to conjure up bewilderment and excitement, fascination and wonder, curiosity and doubt. A continent whose coastlines may have been extensively drawn, but where what lies within remains a mystery. In the words of Joseph Conrad, a great “heart of darkness”.
But Latin America is also a very real place, with all its struggles and problems, whose global importance rises as its economic clout grows bigger. The region is home to nearly 600 million people, including the world’s fifth most populous nation and two of its ten most populous cities. The region spans 20 countries and over 100 degrees of latitude from its northern end at the Rio Grande to its southern extreme at the Tierra del Fuego. Its people speak two of the world’s five most spoken languages, plus a myriad of smaller native ones. Latin America is more urbanized than any other region of the world, with 80% of its people living in cities and 9 out of 10 expected to do so by 2050. It includes the world’s sixth-largest economy and its number one oil producer.
As Latin America’s influence continues to extend wider and farther than ever before, so grows its relevance to global affairs. From Mexico and Colombia’s wars on organized crime to the succession of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, from Argentina’s nationalization of a Spanish oil giant to Uruguay’s bold venture into legal marijuana, from Chile’s demonstrations for better public education to Brazil’s demonstrations at the height of the Confederations Cup, Latin America is constantly making headlines. But these headlines are often just the contours. This blog will aim to explore deeper into the heart of darkness, providing readers with a better understanding of a continent that only grows more fascinating the more one learns about it.