5 Things about Latin America You Should Know
by Dash Harris
1. Not everyone speaks Spanish
There are many languages and dialects spoken even within countries where the official language is Spanish. We have English, Portuguese, Haitian Kreyol, and other creole languages and dialects as well as indigenous languages such as Quechua.
There were about a two thousand other languages spoken throughout what is now Latin America before the sixteenth century…the number of languages spoken by non-Conquest peoples (i.e., indigenous, “native” Americans) in the region of Latin America (excluding Anglo North American regions) now stands at about 500, many spoken by so few people that those languages will cease to be native languages during this course of this century.
2. Spanish, as it is spoken in the Americas, is not the same Spanish as spoken in Spain
They are different dialects of the same language, and Spanish in Latin America is referred to as Latinoamerica, and Spanish in Spain is referred to as castellano.
There are many influences in the various Spanish dialects. Ie- The African influence in Dominican Spanish can be heard in its sounds, syntax, grammar, vocabulary, idioms, and the hundreds if not thousands of words used in every day locally.
3. Latin America hosts the largest Arab diaspora in the world
According to Al-Ahram, over 17 million people in Latin America are thought to be of Arab origin. Other estimations calculate that Latin Americans of Arab descent could represent up to 5% of the region, or 25-30 million people. Most of them are descendants of immigrants who came fromSyria, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan, during the first decades of the 20th century.
Latin Americans of Arab descent have been disproportionately successful. Nowhere in the world more than in Latin America have the Arab migrants been able to thrive and be so successful. Over the last 60 years, eight Latin American presidents had Arab origin.
4. Latin America is part of the African Diaspora, The Arab Diaspora, The Jewish Diaspora, The Asian Diaspora among others
90% of Africans brought enslaved to the Americas went to Latin America and the Caribbean. Argentina has the seventh largest Jewish community in the world, Brazil also has a notable Jewish community (130,000). Latin America welcomed many Jewish people during the Spanish Inquisition and also later on (1930s/40s) in hopes of ‘whitening’ their country, Dominican Republic is notable:
"Only the Dominican Republic, led by dictator Rafael Trujillo, expressed a willingness to accept a significant number - between 50,000 and 100,000 Jews - an offer to which the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee jumped. Trujillo’s generosity probably stemmed mainly from his eagerness to have the Western nations overlook his brutal massacre of 25,000 Haitians in 1937 and his desire to “whiten” the people of his country, believing that the young European men would marry Dominican women and produce light-skinned offspring.”
5. Latin America is home to the largest Japanese population outside of Japan
Asians constitute the fourth largest ethnic group of Brazil, 2.1 million. The largest Asian ethnic group in the country is Japanese. Brazil has the largest population of Japanese outside of Japan. Others are Chinese, Taiwanese and South Korean.
Japanese-descended, Alberto Fujimori, served as President of Peru from 28 July 1990 to 17 November 2000. Japanese Peruvians comprise the second largest ethnic Japanese population in Latin America after Brazil (1.5 million). This ethnic group composes today approximately 0.3% of the total population of Peru.
Asian Latin Americans have a centuries-long history in the region, starting with Filipinos in the 16th century. The peak of Asian immigration occurred in the 19th and 20th centuries, however. There are currently more than four million Asian Latin Americans, nearly 1% of Latin America’s population.
Besides that, Latin America was part of the coolie slave trade;
"The word coolie, which refers to unskilled cheap labor from Asia, is believed to have its origin in India, Turkey, or Africa. Its translateration in Chinese means “bitter labor.” The term has been widely adopted to describe the Chinese who moved to foreign lands as contract laborers or indentured laborers in modern times. However, some scholars have rightly limited its use to the Chinese contract laborers who were brought to Latin America from the 1840s to the 1870s. The Chinese coolie trade was triggered by two events that occurred during the same period: the Opium War, which forced China to open several seaports to the West; and the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade, which drove many western countries to seek alternative sources of labor.
The coolie trade started in the mid- 1840s in southern China. It first flourished in Xiamen (Amoy) and then spread to other cities in southern and eastern China, including Hong Kong, Macao, Shantou (Swatow), Guangzhou (Canton), and Shanghai. Foreign companies monopolized the coolie trade, working through Chinese agents—the so-called coolie crimps, who were paid for each coolie they recruited. Countries whose territories or ships were involved in the trade included Britain, the United States, Spain, Peru, Italy, France, and Portugal. Cuba and Peru were the two largest markets for Chinese coolies. It has been estimated that from 1847 to 1874, 143,000 coolies were shipped to Cuba and 120,000 to Peru. Other destinations included the British colonies in Latin America, Brazil, Panama, Chile, and Ecuador.”