4 1Historical OverviewAztecs, Mayas, and Incas established civilizations in Mexico and South America.Spain and Portugal carved out empires in which cultural convergence combined Native American, European, and African traditions.After independence in the early 1800s, democracy did not follow.In the 1900s, many countries moved toward democratic reforms.Latin Americans worked to achieve substantial economic gains in the 1900s.
6 Physical Characteristics 2Physical CharacteristicsMountain ranges that form part of the Ring of Fire run the length of Latin America, and earthquakes and volcanoes are common.The Amazon Basin and the pampas in southeastern South America are the largest lowland areas of Latin America.Caribbean islands are either the tops of underwater mountains or cays formed by the accumulation of coral.
8 Atmospheric and oceanic currents affect climate in Latin America. 3ClimatesAtmospheric and oceanic currents affect climate in Latin America.Tropical wet and tropical wet and dry climates cover most of Central America, the Caribbean, and northern South America.Humid subtropical climate covers much of Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay.The west coast of Peru and northern Chile is drier, with mostly arid and semiarid climate zones.Mediterranean and marine west coast climates run along southern Chile.
10 4EcosystemsThe largest ecosystems in Latin America are the tropical forests and tropical grasslands.Tropical rain forests and tropical grasslands cover much of South America, Central America, and the Caribbean islands.The arid areas to the west of the Andes and in northern Mexico are mostly desert.In higher elevations, vegetation varies with altitude.
11 5People and CulturesMost people in Latin America have ancestry of European, Native American, or African descent.Most people in South America live on the coasts or along rivers.Brazilian cities have grown dramatically as people have migrated in search of jobs.Migration patterns have created great ethnic and cultural diversity.
12 Economies, Technology, and Environment 6Economies, Technology, and Environment
13 Economies, Technology, and Environment 6Economies, Technology, and EnvironmentLatin American economies are based on agriculture, but they are diversifying to include industry.Traditionally, Latin American economies have been based on cash crops.Most mining is done in the Andes and in the highlands of Mexico and of Central America.Increased farming in the Amazon is reducing the rainforest.Most oil is extracted in Mexico and in northern South America.
14 7DatabaseAs the number of state-owned businesses in Mexico’s market economy has dwindled, the GDP per capita has steadily grown.Cuba’s command economy declined significantly after the loss of aid from the former Soviet Union.Brazil’s economy was boosted by the launch of MERCOSUR, but excessive spending resulted in rising debt and budget deficits.Honduras’s traditional economy was growing at a moderate pace until the country was devastated by Hurricane Mitch in 1999.