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Critically thinking about historical issues in Latin America

The conquest of Middle and South America by the Spanish and Portuguese transformed life in the region. Identify some of the lingering effects (social, economic, environmental, and political) of the conquest and colonization.

Rural-to-urban migration has fed the rapid growth of cities in the twentieth century. Do you see any parallels to rural-to-urban migration in the United States? For both regions, identify several environmental and social effects of this migration on both the places the migrants leave and the places to which they move.

The extended family is the basic social institution of Middle and South America. Discuss the likelihood that this type of family structure will persist in the future. What forces are pushing for change? What are the strengths of the extended family that have helped it persist so far?

. Religion has played a role in this region since pre-colonial times and was of special importance during the conquest. Often, religion reinforces the status quo in a society. Would you say that the present rise in various kinds of religious activity in Middle and South America is likely to bring social stability or change?


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2. The conquest of Middle and South America by the Spanish and Portuguese transformed life in the region. Identify some of the lingering effects (social, economic, environmental, and political) of the conquest and colonization.

Social: Both the Spanish and Portuguese were very conscious of family connections and lineage. A caste system was employed early on to maintain the bloodlines pure. This is especially true of the Spanish in Central America. Distinctions were made between Spaniards who had been born in Spain (peninsular), those of Spanish parentage but born in Mexico, those born to a Spanish father but Indian mother or those born to a Spanish father but either a black or Indian mother. So in Spanish America it lineage was very important. This seems to be less the case with the Portuguese. The Portuguese arrived primarily in Brazil and due to a lack of marriageable Portuguese women they began having children with and even marrying women from the native or slave populations. The result is that though 7 times more slaves were imported to Brazil than to the United States there has always been less of a racial problem in Brazil than in America. Rather than there being a black/white split there are dozens of shades from black to white and marriages are frequently between people of significantly different skin color. Though racism is still a problem in Brazil it is based more on poverty rather than skin color and is not nearly as much of a political problem as in America.

Economic: Neither Spain nor Portugal was much of an industrially minded nation. They were adventurers, brave and reckless at times. Neither nation was known for settling down and seeing out a long project. They were treasure hunters and fortune seekers. Though some Englishmen were like this as well, the majority seem to have just wanted to left alone to build their own place in the world. They didn't expect to get rich quick but thought that in three or four generations things might improve for their descendants. The reckless, adventuring spirit is alive and well in Brazil. Get rich quick schemes abound, few people have the vision to save money. Another economic reality that results from a lack of investment is that both Spanish and Portuguese tended to hire someone who had a certain skill rather than make sure that one of their people learned the skill. This is starting to change now. However, for centuries many Spanish countries and Brazil, in particular, had access to immense natural resources and potential but because of a lack of national technically skilled people they either hired foreigners or let the potential go to waste.

Political: One result of the desire to get rich quickly is a rampant political corruption. Court favors and patronage were a huge part of a Spanish and Portuguese culture that was transplanted to the New World. Today, many political theorists contend that political corruption is the ...

Solution Summary

This post addresses some social, political and religious issues in Latin America. Thinking critically is important if these issues are to be understood and resolved. Over 1,800 words of original text along with links to cited sources. Issues discussed include urban migration, religious influence, threats to the nuclear family and the impacts of colonization by the Portuguese and Spanish.