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Portal:Latin America

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Introduction

Latin America (orthographic projection).svg

Latin America is a group of countries and dependencies in the Western Hemisphere where Romance languages such as Spanish, French and Portuguese are predominantly spoken; it is broader than the terms Ibero-America or Hispanic America. The term originated in the Napoleon III French government in the mid-19th century as Amérique latine to consider French-speaking territories in the Americas, (French Canadians, French Louisiana, French Guiana, Haiti, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Martin, Saint Barthélemy) along with the larger group of countries where Spanish and Portuguese languages prevailed, including the Spanish-speaking portions of the United States (Southwestern United States and Florida) Today, areas of Canada and the United States (with the exception of Puerto Rico) where Spanish, Portuguese and French are predominant are typically not included in definitions of Latin America.

Latin America consists of twenty sovereign states and several territories and dependencies which cover an area that stretches from the northern border of Mexico to the southern tip of South America, including the Caribbean. It has an area of approximately 19,197,000 km2 (7,412,000 sq mi), almost 13% of the Earth's land surface area. As of 2016, its population was estimated at more than 639 million and in 2014, Latin America had a combined nominal GDP of 5,573,397 million USD and a GDP PPP of 7,531,585 million USD.

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The Ruins of Sacsayhuamán
Credit: Martin St-Amant

Panorama of The Ruins of Sacsayhuamán, a main sight in the City of Cusco, the historic capital of the Inca Empire and Peru. It is a major tourist destination and receives almost 1.5 million visitors a year.

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A dome-shelled Galápagos giant tortoise
The Galápagos tortoise or Galápagos giant tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra) is the largest living species of tortoise, reaching weights of over 400 kg (880 lb) and lengths of over 1.8 meters (5.9 ft). With life spans in the wild of over 100 years, it is one of the longest-lived vertebrates. A captive individual lived at least 170 years. The tortoise is native to seven of the Galápagos Islands, a volcanic archipelago about 1,000 km (620 mi) west of the Ecuadorian mainland. Spanish explorers who discovered the islands in the 16th century named them after the Spanish galápago, meaning tortoise. Shell size and shape vary between populations. On islands with humid highlands, the tortoises are larger, with domed shells and short necks. On islands with dry lowlands, the tortoises are smaller, with "saddleback" shells and long necks. These island-to-island differences played a role in the inception of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. Tortoise numbers declined from over 250,000 in the 16th century to a low of around 3,000 in the 1970s. The decline was caused by hunting for tortoise meat and oil, habitat clearance for agriculture, and introduction of non-native animals such as rats, goats, and pigs. Seven subspecies of the original ten survive in the wild. An eighth subspecies (C. n. abingdonii) has only a single living individual, in captivity, nicknamed Lonesome George. Conservation efforts beginning in the 20th century have resulted in thousands of captive-bred juveniles being released onto their home islands, and it is estimated that numbers exceeded 19,000 at the start of the 21st century. Despite this rebound, the species as a whole is classified as "Vulnerable" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).


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Hands at the Cuevas de las Manos upon Río Pinturas, near the town of Perito Moreno in Santa Cruz Province, Argentina
Credit: Mariano

Cueva de las Manos (Spanish for Cave of Hands) is a cave or a series of caves located in the province of Santa Cruz, Argentina, 163 km (101 mi) south of the town of Perito Moreno. It is famous for (and gets its name from) the paintings of hands. The art in the cave dates from 13,000 to 9,000 years ago.Several waves of people occupied the cave, and early artwork has been carbon-dated to ca. 9300 BP (about 7300 BC). The age of the paintings was calculated from the remains of bone-made pipes used for spraying the paint on the wall of the cave to create silhouettes of hands.

The site was last inhabited around 700 AD, possibly by ancestors of the Tehuelche people. It was entered on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1991.

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