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Latin America and North America: 16th - 20th century

Spanish and Portuguese colonists and administrators, settling in central and south America during the 16th century, are soon followed by the French, Dutch and English staking a claim to north America. A clear pattern becomes established. The two Atlantic seaboard countries of southern Europe concentrate on the southern part of the newly found continent, while their three European neighbours to the north struggle between themselves to dominate north America.

The story of the continent becomes divided into distinct parts - Latin America and north America.

The America of the Latins

The term Latin America, first used in the 19th century, is something of a compromise. The region consists, with just one exception, of those parts of the American continent colonized by the Spanish. But the exception is too large to overlook - mighty Brazil, belonging in colonial history to Portugal. Spanish or Hispanic America is therefore inadequate.

So Latin America comes into use, at a time when almost all regions south of the USA speak Spanish or Portuguese (Latin-based romance languages) and are Roman Catholic - while the north of the continent is largely Anglo-Saxon and Protestant.

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