In Latin America, people prefer to be addressed by their heritage rather than any one identifying term. Common cultural traits for all countries include European influence, Roman Catholic religion, close-knit families, soccer, and urbanization. The main tensions that are common for most countries in the region are political instability and inequality. Details of these findings have been provided below.
- Latin America spans from Mexico to Argentina and has a population of over 600 million people.
- The most common ethnicity in the region is mestizos “a mixture of European, indigenous, and African ancestors.”
- Common descriptors of people in the entire region include the terms “Latino” and “Hispanic,” however, these are terms used in the United States. In addition, Brazilian people are never referred to in these terms. In general, however, people in Latin America prefer to be addressed by their individual heritage rather than either of these terms.
- In general, the region is known for the “sensuality of their dancing, their varied and tasteful dishes, and their beautiful tropical landscapes.”
- European influence and ethnic diversity is a huge part of Latin American culture with the majority influenced by Spain and Portugal. Most Latin American people refer to themselves as mestizos.
- The European influence feeds into every other part of the Latin American culture including religion, language, and food.
- The main religion in the entire Latin American region is Roman Catholic with a mix of native and African traditions.
- Large families are very common in the region with a strong belief in family connections and sometimes a focus on male influence.
- Soccer is the most popular sport in the entire region.
- Latin America is the most urbanized area in the world with 80% of the population living in cities.
- Political tension is a common issue in recent years across all of Latin America. While it takes different forms in different countries, political issues have been spreading across the region with democracy reformation, protests, economic reformation, immigration, and leadership tensions in countries such as Bolivia, Chile, Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico.
- Inequality is a common social issue that has grown in the past 20 years due to population growth in the entire region.
- The main struggles for Latin American societies are as follows:
Cultural Facts: Mexico
Culture in Mexico was influenced by the Mesoamerica, Spanish and European rule. The cultural focus in Mexico surrounds religion, diversity, music, dance and tradition.
- Despite Mexico being a secular country, surveys show that over 100 million people are Catholics.
- After Brazil, Mexico is the second-largest Catholic community in the world. 76.5% of the Mexican people are Catholics, Protestants are about 6.3%, Pentecostals are 1.4%, and Jehovah’s Witnesses 1.1%. 14.7% are non-religious or belonging to other faiths.
- Catholicism was first introduced in the 16th century during the Spanish revolution. Since then, the country has recorded a boom in the construction of new churches.
- Historical sites such as the Basílica of Guadalupe was built between the 16th and 18th centuries to honor Mexico’s patron saint; this is located in Mexico City. The Basilica of Guadalupe is often regarded as the national shrine and “one of the most visited Catholic pilgrimage sites in the entire world.”
- Furthermore, there are “thousands of other churches, convents, pilgrimage sites, and shrines existing throughout the country.”
- The diversity in Mexico is evident across different points, including language. There are “68 recognized national languages, of which 63 are indigenous, with about 350 different dialects of those languages.”
- Spanish is spoken by 92% of the population, while 6% of the people there speak Spanish as well as other indigenous languages, such as Nahuatl, Mixtec, and Yucatec Maya.
- Despite Spanish being the most spoken language in Mexico, the indigenous speaking Mexicans make up about 15% of the population.
- Fun fact, Mexico has no official language. Additionally, some words originated and spoken by indigenous Mexicans have become popular among English-speaking countries; examples include coyote, tomato, and avocado.
- It is worthy of note that Mexico, alongside 11 other countries is among the world’s most bio-diverse countries. 70% of the world’s species of flora and fauna are housed in Mexico. Also, Mexico houses 10% of the world’s biological diversity.
Music and Dance
- Mexican culture is very vast and diverse. Traditional Mexican music is an integral part of Mexican culture. The country’s music and dance scene are quite popular because of its unique patterns of the Mariachi, Ranchero, and Norteño.
- The Ranchero is the most famous music genre in Mexico, “symbolizing the new national consciousness and focuses largely on love, patriotism, and nature.”
- Unique themes, styles, and rhythms of the Ranchero have led it to be the most popular pattern among the Mariachi musicians. The mariachi groups are easily distinguished in their “customary silver-studded charro (cowboy) outfits and wide-brimmed hats. This group has enjoyed notable commercial success and is often featured at festivals, banquets, and weddings.”
- Most of their songs are about country, history, legend, oppression, passion, and love, among many other things.
- Like any aspect of the culture, the dance style of individuals in Mexico was influenced by Mesoamerica, Spanish, and European rule. The three popular patterns, Danza, Mestizo, and Bailes Regionales, are all mix of self-expression and art.
- The Danza style is prevalent at religious events, symbolizing unity, community, and life, while the Bailes Regionales dates back to the 18th century. In Jalisco, “the Jarabe Tapatio hat dance is a very popular and iconic courting dance that is usually performed by several people.”
- According to UNESCO, the Los Voladores de Papantla is one of Mexico’s intangible cultural heritage. This involves participants launching themselves off a 30-meter pole, playing flutes, and dancing. The myth surrounding this dance pattern is that it was used to beg the gods to end a severe drought.
- People in Mexico prioritize traditions in several parts of the country. “Día de los Muertos” often regarded the day of the dead is the most popular tradition celebrated all across Mexico. This celebration takes place on the 1st and 2nd of November and is also celebrated in some US states.
- Mexicans believe the dead can travel back to the world of the living for 24 hours on this celebration. Food is prepared for both the dead and the living.
- The celebration originated in Mexico as far as 2000 years ago from both the Aztec and Toltec people, as well as other Nahua people. In the Yucatan peninsula, this celebration is also known as the Hanal Pixan, meaning “food for souls.”
- In the 20th century, La Calavera Catrina an elegant skeleton woman, has become an icon for this celebration. Offerings to honor deceased relatives are offered at the Ofrenda.
- The big parade in Mexico City in honor of the dead started in 2016 and has attracted millions of spectators.
- Other notable traditions include the Mexico boxing tradition, reputable for fighters including Carlos Zarate, Vincente Saldivar, and Julio Cesar Chavez. In an arena spanning over 40 meters in diameter, “Mexican cowboys and cowgirls wearing traditional charro (cowboy) clothing participate in a series of events involving bulls and horses.“
- In modern society, business people, professionals, ranchers all share an interest in preserving the charreada traditions.
Cultural Facts: Colombia
The Colombian culture focuses on tradition, family life, religion, and etiquette. Key cultural facts regarding individuals in Colombia have been provided below.
- People in Colombia prioritize and uphold their traditions. One important tradition particularly in the rural areas is ‘Pot Gathering.’ The custom encourages Colombian families to meet at a local river and share ‘sancocho’, a traditional Colombian dish, which consists of chicken, pork, or beef ribs that are served together with plantain, avocado, rice, cilantro, and cassava. The aim of the tradition is to reunite friends and family and share their accomplishments.
- Colombians value traditional ‘grandmother’ remedies and many in the country believe that there is a cure for almost every ailment. Some of the traditional remedies include spearmint teas that are used for pains and aches and a chamomile concoction for insomnia.
- In addition, Colombians have Christmas traditions where they eat ‘natilla’, ‘bunuelos’, and recite prayers. During this time, the novena is prayed nine nights before Christmas to honor the Wise Men, Baby Jesus, St. Joseph, and the Virgin Mary.
- Family life is an important part of the Colombian culture. Many Colombians believe that family plays a significant role in the community. “In Columbian culture, families can be conservative and protective of their children, no matter how old they are.”
- Colombians have large families; therefore, children share rooms. Many children remain at home until they get married. Also, Colombian families share house chores among themselves.
- In Colombia, men play a dominant role in the household. They are the disciplinarians and breadwinners. They are responsible for “maintaining family pride and position within the community.”
- Approximately 95% of people in Colombia are Roman Catholics. More than 85% of Catholics in urban areas attend mass regularly.
- Individuals in rural areas are considered more devout than their counterparts in the cities; however, their Catholicism is not the same when compared to that of the urban middle and upper class. In the rural areas, Catholic beliefs and practices are combined with African, indigenous, and sixteenth-century tradition.
- The Catholic Church has a significant influence on the way of life in Colombia. As it stands, there are approximately 260,000 Protestants, which make them a minority. There are also small groups of Jews and Muslims.
- The Catholic Church, after being institutionalized by the Spanish in the country, destroyed many religious customs and indigenous rituals. Local priests are viewed as key authority figures in small towns.
- In Colombia, men greet each other by shaking hands and maintaining direct eye contact. On the other hand, women, grasp forearms as opposed to shaking hands.
- Greetings between friends are warmer and hands on. Men pat each other on the shoulder and embrace each other while women kiss each other on the right cheek.
- A majority of Colombians have paternal and maternal surnames and use both. “The father’s name is listed first and is the one used in conversations.” People should be addressed using their surname and appropriate honorific title.
- Colombians give gifts during Christmas and birthdays. Furthermore, a girl’s 15th birthday is viewed as a huge milestone.
- Dining etiquette in Colombia is formal because people give importance to presentation and decorum.
Cultural Facts: Argentina
The culture in Argentina is rather diverse spanning from Native, Spain, Italy, and other European influences. The main cultural focuses in the region include religion, etiquette, urbanization, and social stratification. Details of each have been provided below.
- According to the country’s constitution, Argentina has freedom of religion, however, the main religion in the region is Roman Catholic.
- The ethnic background in the country is complex but heavily influenced by European culture. Due to the historical influence, Roman Catholicism became the official religion of the country.
- Currently, 92% of the population identifies as Roman Catholic, however, only 20% actively practice. Other religions include Protestant (2%) and Jewish (2%).
- Argentina has the highest Jewish concentration in Latin America.
- Catholicism is integrated into daily life in the country and it is common to see catholic symbols. In addition, all Catholic holidays are nationally observed.
- There is a slight difference in religious practice based on social status with more Protestant concentration in lower status and higher church attendance in higher status.
- Fun fact, the current pope is Argentinian.
- The etiquette in Argentina is rather unique and is a big part of the culture there. Argentinians are generally direct and blunt and generally communicate in close proximity.
- When meeting someone new, a handshake with eye contact is common, however, one should wait to be introduced before addressing additional parties.
- If invited to a home, there are several common practices including dressing up in a tie or dress and arriving 30-40 minutes late with a small gift. Gifts that are sharp like knives or scissors symbolize cutting ties and are not considered friendly.
- Dining is formal, guests should wait to be seated by the host, never put elbows on the table, keep hands visible, and wait for a toast before drinking.
- Additional etiquette rules include the following:
- Remove hats in buildings.
- Greet familiar people with a kiss on the cheek.
- Offer public seats to the elderly and pregnant.
- Share tea.
- Bring a dish when eating Asado (BBQ).
- Approximately 92% of the population in Argentina lives in Urban areas. These areas can be broken into 4 main groups: the Andes, the North, the Pampas, and Patagonia.
- Rural is used as a term to describe those living in the interior regions of the country rather than the coast.
- While modern travel has decreased the cultural differences between the two areas, it is common for “urban” (or coastal) inhabitants to be viewed as wealthier, less formal, and have a sense of superiority.
- Urbanization in the area does not necessarily mean compact. The culture still values a lot of the rural values that made them wealthy in the past such as farming and agriculture. It is common to see gaucho-themed ranches, large museums made from old mansions, French, Spanish, and Italian architecture, and botanical gardens.
- Argentina used to be mainly middle class, however, in recent years, there has been a greater divide between social casts. This has shown in housing situations with upper-class families living in private neighborhoods and lower-class living in shanty-towns.
- The most important factor in social status is land ownership with some families still encouraging women from upper-class families to marry an estanciero in order to maintain the social status and grow the family land.
- In the middle-class it is common for families to save in order to purchase their own property, however, it is becoming more common for young people to find jobs abroad.
- Education can also be an indicator of class.
Cultural Facts: Brazil
Four key cultural facts regarding individuals in Brazil include prioritizing the status symbol as it dictates the kind of respect accorded to people in the country. A study of 15,105 Brazilians from universities and research institutions also found that the racial composition of an area of residence was associated with the probability of self-declaring as white, black, or brown. According to Hofstede Insights, people in Brazil prioritize belonging to groups that help to take care of them, especially the extended family, which is considered important for people to maintain strong ties with others. The details are below.
Status Symbol is Important
- According to Hofstede Insights, status symbol is very important in Brazil’s society and indicates one’s social position and the respect they could receive.
- The Brazilian society believes that people should respect hierarchy, and they accept inequalities among people. It is widely believed that those who hold more power receive more benefits than the less powerful in society.
- As per Hofstede Insights, Brazil scores 69 for the “attitude of the culture towards inequalities.”
- According to Statista, about 38% of respondents in a 2018 survey in Brazil observed that they “belonged to the lower middle class, 29% said they were in the low class, and 25% defined their social class as middle class.”
- In Brazilian society, one must show respect to elderly people, and children normally take care of their elderly parents.
- Also, a status symbol is important in companies as one boss seems to have complete responsibility and control over all that happens in companies they are in charge of in Brazil.
- The Brazilian population is composed of a mixture of people who came from the interaction between European, African, and Amerindian populations. A study of 15,105 Brazilians from universities or research institutions in six Brazilian capitals that investigated the self-declared race or color found that the probability of one self-declaring as brown or black increased according to the proportion of African ancestry in one’s line and varied widely among cities.
- Most participants in the study self-declared as white (54.6%), whereas 29.4% self-declared as brown, and 16% self-declared as black. Only participants in Porto Alegre presented a higher proportion of European ancestry at 80%.
- In Porto Alegre, mostly inhabited by whites, the participants’ “odds of self-declaring as black increased 14 times, with every 10% increase in the proportion of African ancestry.” In Salvador, mostly inhabited by black or brown people, the increase was 3.98 times.
- Among those who self-declared as brown, the proportion of African ancestry varied “between 20% in Porto Alegre and 32.8% in Salvador. Among this group, the proportion of European ancestry was 58.9%, varying between 58.1% in Salvador and 67.9% in Belo Horizonte.”
- The study’s findings were that the racial composition of the area of residence was also associated with the probability of self-declaring as black or brown. Every “10% increase in the proportion of black and brown inhabitants in the residential census tract increased the odds of self-declaring as black by 1.33 times.”
- The median proportion of European, African, and Amerindian ancestry was 70%, 20%, and 10%, respectively, with participants in Salvador being the only ones to present a higher proportion of African ancestry at 40%.
People Prioritize Community Over Individuality
- According to Revista Cientifica, Brazil consists of a multicultural mix of ethnicities and religions.
- Hofstede Insights states that people in Brazil prioritize belonging to groups that help to take care of them. Brazilian prefer collective society, and the country scores a low 38 for individualism.
- The extended family is considered important, and people maintain strong ties with other extended family members. The Brazilian culture prioritizes living in a community, and people are very involved with what others do. Individuals organize their lives around and about others.
- Brazilians are integrated into strong and cohesive groups, mostly extended families like aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents, which protect its members in exchange for loyalty.
- Older and more powerful family members are expected to assist younger ones, for example, to find jobs in places they have influence.
Embracing Progressive Movements
- New progressive social movements have emerged in Brazil in recent years, and Brazilians are embracing them. The movements have been rooted in urban peripheries and have various links to more traditionally established social movements, progressive political parties, and labor unions.
- Examples of new progressive movements include the Homeless Workers’ Movement, progressive evangelical movements led by people like Mônica Francisco. This black feminist pastor was elected into the Rio de Janeiro state assembly in 2018.
- The EleNão movement was responsible for spearheading the largest women’s demonstrations in Brazil’s history weeks before elections were done and showed a strong spread of feminism into Brazilian society’s wider strata in the last decades, especially among the middle classes.
- The youth movement Levante Popular da Juventude that aims to rebuild sociopolitical activism in urban peripheries also became popular when it supported a huge uprising of secondary school students to occupy over 1,000 schools in 2016 to protest against reforms in secondary education and public spending cap bills.
- There has also been a quick spread of evangelical churches across the country, with around 22% of the population or 41 million Brazilians being linked to the community and psychological support related to religious activities. This is in addition to providing important social and economic services, such as providing training to help people acquire small business management skills.