The Countries That Make Up Latin America

By Antonia Čirjak on June 5 2020 in Geography

The countries that fall under the term Latin America are mostly found on the continent of South America.
The countries that fall under the term Latin America are mostly found on the continent of South America.
  • The Brazil national soccer team is the most successful national team in the history of the sport, winning the FIFA World Cup five times.
  • Many of the Latin American countries are considered megadiverse countries, meaning they harbor an extremely large number of various species, as well as some endangered animals.
  • Scientists believe that Peru has one of the longest histories of civilization out of all the countries on our planet.

Latin America is a term used to describe countries found in the Western Hemisphere, where people mostly speak Romance languages such as Portuguese, French, and Spanish. All of these languages originated from the Latin language, which is where the term got its name from.

The countries that fall under the term Latin America are mostly found on the continent of South America, although some can be found in North America. The term was used for the first time in 1856 by the Chilean politician Francisco Bilbao, and it stuck ever since. The cultures in these countries are so rich and varied. Exploring them would require several books filled with interesting data, so we will only focus on the largest ones in this article.


Aerial view of Rio de Janeiro with Christ Redeemer and Corcovado Mountain  D

Aerial view of Rio de Janeiro with Christ Redeemer and Corcovado Mountain.

With the surface area of 3.2 square miles (8.5 square kilometers), Brazil is the largest country in both South and Latin America. The population of Brazil is equally as impressive, with over 211 million people living in the country. The capital of Brazil is Brasília; however, the most populous city in the country is São Paulo. Brazil is known as being one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world. It is also extremely multicultural, which makes sense seeing as how people all over the world migrated to Brazil throughout history. Portuguese is the official language spoken in Brazil, which is interesting because it is the only country in Latin America where that language is spoken predominantly. 

Brazil has an extremely diverse land area, with many different ecological systems and natural resources. It is also home to a large number of protected natural habitats and varied wildlife. Due to all this, Brazil is a country that is often mentioned when deforestation and the protection of the environment are the topics of discussion. The cultural heritage of Brazil is also extremely well-known, drawing from its rich tribal history. The country is especially known for its strong national soccer team that has achieved numerous successes throughout history. 


Mexico City. Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Mexico City. Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. 

Mexico is the third-largest Latin American country by land area, and unlike Brazil, it is located in North America. The population of Mexico is 128, 932, 753 people making it the second most populated Latin American country. The official language in Mexico is Spanish, and it is the biggest Spanish-speaking country in the world by population. The capital of Mexico is Mexico City, and it is also one of the 31 states that comprise the country. Mexico is often recognized as one of the six cradles of civilization. 

The country was home to many tribes that left huge marks on our shared human history, such as the Aztecs and the Mayans. The history of Mexico is extremely rich and interesting. Of course, it is also filled with tragedy, and many nations that attempted to colonize it brutally exploited its natural resources and inhabitants. Mexico is still considered to be a country in development, despite leaving such a huge mark on our planet’s history. The culture of Mexico is incredibly rich, but the country has huge problems with poverty, crime, and social inequality. The conflict between the various drug trafficking organizations and the government is an issue that caused numerous deaths. Despite all this, the country is still a famous tourist destination, and for good reasons, the rich culture and diverse ecology being just the tip of the iceberg.


Bogota capital of colombia
Bogota, capital of Colombia.

The Republic of Colombia is located in the north of South America, with several territories in North America. Its land area is 440,831 square miles, making it the fourth largest South American country. The official language spoken in Colombia is Spanish. Just like the previous two countries, Colombia is considered a megadiverse country. What this means is that these countries all harbor a large number of Earth’s species, as well as many endangered species. This just goes to show how large the incredible natural diversity of these countries actually is.

The capital of Colombia is Bogotá, and it is also the largest city in the country. The population of Colombia is almost 51 million people, which makes it the third most populous Latin American country. Just like the previous two countries on the list, it is extremely diverse and has a multicultural heritage. This makes it a popular tourist destination and a country whose culture has influenced people all over the world. There are many reasons why this country is so diverse, but it is mostly a combination of the tribal civilizations that lived there, the European immigrants, and forced African labor. The territory of Colombia is incredibly rich with many grasslands, highlands, deserts, and the Amazon rainforest, making up a large part of it.


National Congress Building of Buenos Aires
National Congress Building of Buenos Aires.

In the southern half of the South American continent, we will find Argentina, the second-largest Latin American country by land area. However, its population is just a bit over 45 million people, which is behind Mexico and Colombia, so it is placed fourth on this list. The capital of the country is Buenos Aires, and there is actually no official language. However, Spanish is recognized by the vast majority of people as being the “unofficial official language,” since it is used basically in all of the most important organizations, as well as education.

Argentina was home to the Inca Empire in the past, which gives it a unique cultural identity. Spanish colonization in the 16th century played a major role in the formation of this country as well. One other factor that greatly influenced the culture of Argentina were Italian immigrants. The country still continues to have strong ties to Italian culture. This gives it a unique identity when compared to other Latin American countries. Throughout its history, Argentina also saw a huge rise in prosperity. However, in the second half of the 20th century, the country was subject to a lot of political instability combined with economic decline. Currently, it is considered a developing country and has the second-largest economy in South America.


LIMA, PERU: Panoramic view of Lima from Miraflores.
Lima, Peru: Panoramic view of Lima from Miraflores.

With a population of about 32 million people and a land area of 0.5 million square miles, Peru is considered the fifth largest Latin American country. Just like several other previously mentioned countries, it was home to a number of ancient cultures. Researchers determined that Peru actually has one of the lengthiest histories of civilization out of all the countries in the world. The heritage of this country can be traced as far back as the 4th millennia BCE.

Just like other Latin American countries, it was conquered by the Spanish Empire, which greatly influenced its culture and the way the country functions today. Peru’s history in the 20th century was marked by several coups, disputes over territory, and internal conflicts. However, its economy saw long periods of stability, which is strange when combined with the previously mentioned issues. Its largest sources of economic activity are agriculture, mining, fishing, and manufacturing. Peru is an extremely diverse country, with many Europeans, Africans, and Asians living there, and Spanish is the official language.

The richness and diversity of the countries in Latin America do not stop with these five countries. There are many other countries worth mentioning and visiting. You have all probably heard of Venezuela, Chile, Haiti, and Cuba. All of these countries are culturally significant and are extremely popular tourist destinations. Cuba, especially, is a unique place to visit. Of course, the list does not stop there. The countries of Latin America placed all over the continent of South America, all deserve to be explored, and their cultures are so diverse that getting to know them can offer unique perspectives on the world for all of us.

The Countries That Make Up Latin America

RankNameArea (km²)PopulationCapital
2Mexico1,972,550128,932,753Mexico City
4Argentina2,780,40045,195,774Buenos Aires
8Guatemala108,88917,915,568Guatemala City
10Bolivia1,098,58111,673,021Sucre and La Paz
13Dominican Republic48,44210,847,910Santo Domingo
17El Salvador21,0406,486,205San Salvador
18Costa Rica51,1005,094,118San José
19Panama75,5174,314,767Panama City
21Puerto Rico9,1042,860,853San Juan
24French Guiana83,534298,682Cayenne
25Saint Martin2538,666Marigot
26Saint Barthélemy539,877Gustavia

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