In this unit you will be visiting many places in Latin America. Keep a travelogue about your trip through this region. Before reading Unit 2, write a paragraph that describes the places in the photographs above. After reading Unit 2, write three or more paragraphs that describe how Latin America is a region.
Land and People of Latin America
Where can you find the longest river in Latin America?
Think About As You Read
1. What kinds of landforms and climates are in Latin America?
Which part of the world has the longest mountain chain? Which region has the most Spanish-speaking people? From where in the world do we get most of our coffee and bananas? The answer to all of these questions is Latin America.
Landforms of Latin America
Latin America includes all of the nations south of the United States. This region is called Latin America because most people speak Spanish or Portuguese. Both of these languages developed from Latin. Latin is a very old language that few people speak today.
Find Latin America on the map on page 41. Latin America has three parts. The islands in the Caribbean Sea form one part. Middle America is another part. This part includes Mexico and the countries of Central
America. The third and largest part is the continent of South America.
Mountains cover large areas of Latin America. Some of these mountains are volcanoes. The tall Andes Mountains are in the west of South America. The Andes mountain chain is the longest one in the world. Plains and plateaus cover other parts of Latin America.
There are important rivers in South America. The longest river in South America is the Amazon River. Other large rivers join the Amazon. Many people use these rivers for transportation.
Mountains cover large areas of Latin America. What large mountain chain can be found in South America?
The Equator divides Earth into the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere.
Most of Latin America is in a region called the tropics. This is a hot region near the Equator. The Equator is an imaginary line that divides the globe in half. The halves are called the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere. The Equator is the line of latitude that is 0°. The plains near the Equator have a tropical climate. A tropical climate is hot all
the time. It is hot because this region receives more direct sunlight for a longer period of time than other parts of the world. It is also very rainy in the tropics.
Latin America has the world's largest tropical rain forest. These thick forests are found near the Equator. They grow where the climate is very hot and very wet. The largest tropical rain forest is in South America. Smaller tropical rain forests can be found in Middle America and on islands in the Caribbean Sea.
Many parts of Latin America have cooler climates even though they are in the tropics. This is because of their elevation. Elevation tells you how high the land is above sea level. The climate becomes colder as the land's elevation gets higher. Some very tall mountains in the tropics are always covered with snow.
There are two other reasons why some parts of Latin America have cooler climates. First, the southern part of South America is very far from the Equator.
As you move away from the Equator, the climate becomes colder. The second reason is that ocean winds give the coastal plains and the islands in the Caribbean Sea milder climates.
These mountains in the tropics are always covered with snow.
An Indian weaver in Central America
History, People, and Culture
Indians were the first people to live in Latin America. Five groups of Indians built great nations in Latin America. They built good roads and large cities. Five hundred years ago people from Spain conquered most of Latin America. They forced Indians to be their slaves. Millions of Indians died while working for the Spanish. Then the Spanish brought slaves from Africa to work in Latin America.
Spain ruled most of Latin America. But Portugal ruled the huge nation of Brazil. Other countries in Europe also ruled smaller colonies.
In the early 1800s, Latin Americans fought to rule themselves. By 1826 most countries were free. Who are the people of Latin America today? Some are white people whose families came from Europe. Some people are Indians. Most people are mestizos. A mestizo is a person who has European
and Indian ancestors. There are also many black people in the Caribbean countries and in Brazil. The Spanish culture is important in most of Latin America. People in most countries speak Spanish. The Spanish brought the Catholic religion to the region. Today most Latin Americans are Catholics. Almost three fourths of the people in Latin America live in cities. Some of the world's largest cities are in Latin America. Most of the cities are found on the plateaus and the coastal plains of Latin America. It is hard to live in tall mountains or in tropical rain forests. So these areas of Latin America have small populations.
Subsistence farmers will usually only grow enough food to feed their families. Any extra crops will be sold in a local market.
Earning a Living
Most countries in Latin America are developing nations. A developing nation is a nation with a low standard of living and not much industry. In the cities most people work at service jobs. Some people work in factories. Many people in Latin America are farmers.
There are two kinds of farmers in Latin America. There are poor subsistence farmers who work on small farms. They try to grow enough food for their families. The second kind of farmer grows cash crops. Coffee, bananas, and sugarcane are important cash crops in Latin America. Cash crops are grown on huge farms called plantations. A very small part of the
population owns most of the plantations. Millions of poor farmers work on the plantations.
Latin America has many natural resources. Some countries have metals such as silver and copper.
In these countries many people work in mines. A few countries like Mexico and Venezuela have oil. But there is little iron and coal in Latin America. These two resources are needed to make cars, trucks, and other machines. This is one reason why there is not much industry in Latin America.
In the next chapters, you will learn more about the land, people, natural resources, and problems of different nations in Latin America. You will find out what people in these nations are doing to solve their problems.
Chapter Main Ideas
1. Many parts of Latin America are covered with mountains and tropical rain forests. The tropical rain forests grow where the climate is very hot and wet.
2. Most people in Latin America speak Spanish and follow the Catholic religion.
3. Most countries in Latin America are developing nations. Many people in Latin America are farmers.
Latin America has many natural resources. This iron mine is near the Amazon River.
Mine workers in South America
USING WHAT YOU'VE LEARNED
Match Up Finish the sentences in Group A with words from Group B. Write the letter of each correct answer on the blank line.
1. The is half of the globe.
2. A has European and Indian ancestors.
3. grow only enough food for their families.
4. means how high the land is above sea level.
5. The hot region of Earth near the Equator is the .