Immigration in Latin America

Jose C. Moya

in Latin American Studies

ISBN: 9780199766581
Published online October 2011 | | DOI:
Immigration in Latin America

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Immigration is arguably the most distinguishing historical feature of Latin America, and of the Western Hemisphere in general. Although it can be said that every region of the planet outside of East Africa—the cradle of Homo sapiens—is a region of immigrants, that label applies to the Americas in a particular way. The American continent/s (it is perceived as a single continent in Latin America and as two in the United States) has functioned as a receptacle for the population of every other continent. Its aboriginal population could be described as the first (Asian) immigrants, since they arrived not from humanity’s cradle but from northeast Asia, and did so twenty thousand years after much of the rest of the planet had been settled. The Americas are a New World not only in the usage of the term associated with the Eurocentric notion of “discovery” but also in relation to the history of humanity. The other immigrants arrived even more recently. Sixty million Europeans, eleven million Africans, and five million Asians arrived in the Western Hemisphere after 1492, with close to one-third of the Europeans (or 18.5 million), half of the Africans, and one-sixth of the Asians going to Latin America. These transcontinental migrations shaped the ethnic geography of the Americas. The first migrants from Asia settled mainly on the highlands that run along the western side of the hemisphere, particularly what has been called “nuclear America,” or Mesoamerica and the central Andes. These regions contained the vast majority of the Amerindian population before the conquest and continue to do so today. Africans were taken mainly to the tropical and semitropical islands and coastal lowlands of the Americas. Europeans dispersed to a greater degree but nonetheless concentrated, particularly during the postcolonial period, in the temperate regions on the northern and southern ends of the hemisphere. Since other articles in this collection treat the Amerindian and African population, this article will center on immigration from Europe and Asia and on international migrations within Latin America.

Article.  26673 words. 

Subjects: Regional and Area Studies ; History of the Americas

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