Economics: Latin American Development


Figure 1.--

The Spanish and Portugues began settling the New World in the 16th century. The Spanish colonies in particular proved to be imensly profitable because of the gold and silver bullion which made Spain the richest country in Europe. There were by the 17th century sophisticated cities in both Mexico, Peru, and other areas. This included cities with universities and printing presses decades before the English founded their first primitive settlements in Virginia and Massahusetts. The English colonies never produced the gret bonanza of bullon the Spanish found. The various Spanish and Portuguese colonies evolved differently. Some had large Native Ameica populations. Others were primarily populated by Ruropean settlers. Some were populated by substantial shipments of African slaves. The Latin American countries have also developed differently economiically. Some have been more successful than outhers. None of the Latin American countries, however, have achieved the level of success of the two English colonies--Canada and the United States. Most of Latin America continues to be economically poor where individuals eake out very poor livings. Only one Latin America country has approached entering the developed world of Europe and North America. Argentinawas close to doing this aftet World War II, but then Argentine society faltered. Many Latin American countries. attempt to emigrated to the United States, either legally or illegally. The question arises as to why the two regions have developed so differently.

European Voyages of Discovery

The great European voyages of discovery of the 15th and 16th centuries were fundamentally economic enterprises. They were conducted by the European countries of the Atlantic coasts to establish direct trade contacts with China and the Spice Islands (Indonesia) that was being blocked by Byzantium/Venice and the Arabs. At the time, trade in silk, porcelin, and spices from the East carried over the Silk Road had to pass through Turkish, Arab, Byzantine, and Italian middleman, making them enormously expensive. The crusaders failed to break the Islamic wall separating still primitive Europe from the riches of the East. Circumventing the land Silk Road and the sea Spice Route would have profound economic consequences for Europe and the world. The ballance of power would shift from Eastern to Western Europe and eventualkly to northern Europe. Two nations led the early explorarions in the 15th century--Spain and Portugal. These two countries pioneered the sea routes that would lead Europeans to Asia and the Americas, but the Dutch, English, and French were to follow in the 16th century.

Spanish Settlement

The Spanish and Portugues began settling the New World in the 16th century. The Spanish colonies in particular proved to be imensly profitable because of the gold and silver bullion which made Spain the richest country in Europe. There were by the 17th century sophisticated cities in both Mexico, Peru, and other areas. This included cities with universities and printing presses decades before the English founded their first primitive settlements in Virginia and Massahusetts. The English colonies never produced the gret bonanza of bullon the Spanish found.

Individual Countries

The various Spanish and Portuguese colonies evolved differently. Some had large Native Ameica populations. Others were primarily populated by European settlers. Some were populated by substantial shipments of African slaves. The Latin American countries have also developed differently economically. The Caribbean islands became valuable producers of sugar. The Native American population was exterinated and Black Africans imported as a slave work force. The Native Amerixcan populations on the mainland were desimated by Europan dsaases. The survivors became a basically fedudal work force. Many of the Latin American countries developed ecoomies centered on the export of raw materials and expeienced boom and nust economies. The cycles varied from country to country. Some have been more successful than others. None of the Latin American countries, however, have achieved the level of success of the two English colonies--Canada and the United States. Only one Latin America country has approached entering the developed world of Europe and North America. Argentina was close to doing this after World War II, but then Argentine society faltered.

Different Development

Most of Latin America continues to be economically poor where individuals eake out very poor livings. Many Latin Americans have and others attempt to emigrated to the United States, either legally or illegally. The question arises as to why the two regions have developed so differently. Both regions had rich natural resources so the differences have resulted from government policies and social patterns. Various factors have been identified. Attitudes toward work varied eminating from the colonial era. Colonial administrative systems were also very different. There were also differeing attitudes toward educational and academic inquiry. The Catholic and Protestant traditions were also factors. Perhaps the most factor is the differeing legal systems. A factor affecting modern Latin america is the appeal of scocialist ecomomics, depite the abysamal failure of socialist economics around the world.







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Created: 11:25 PM 12/17/2006
Last updated: 11:59 PM 7/17/2014