Focus on Latin America

Every year, Berea College’s Center for International Education (CIE) has a region of the world that they showcase. The CIE’s programs include special campus-wide events related to the area of focus, including arranging for interdisciplinary special lectures and forums, planning cultural events (such as dance and music performances), hosting Fulbright scholars, and holding religious ceremonies. This year the focus region is Latin America.


Map of Latin America

Latin America is a region in the Western Hemisphere, south of the United States. The term Latin America is used to describe the countries in South America, Middle America, and the Caribbean that speak Latin languages, also known as the “Romance languages.” These languages include Spanish, Portuguese, and French. Latin America extends from Mexico in North America and down through Central America, parts of the Caribbean and all of South America down to the bottom of the continent. While it is a very diverse region, the people of these countries share similar historical experiences, languages and cultures.


Latin America came to fruition in the 1500’s after European “discovery” of the New World. Countries such as Spain, France and Portugal colonized the region. Although most of Latin America was colonized by Spain, the countries of Portugal and France also had major influences on the region. Due to war and disease, native populations were decimated. The European countries’ demand for free labor led them to engage in the African slave trade. Millions of Africans were brought over from Africa, which resulted in the African diaspora being so prominent in Latin America. During the late 18th and early 19th century the people of Latin America began fighting for independence. By 1898, all Latin American countries had become independent nations.


Latin America is a huge melting pot of different cultures. Indigenous, African and European people make up the bulk of this culture. As a result of intermixing, religions such as Santeria in Cuba, and Candomble in Brazil have been created. These religions have African roots but also contain elements of European Catholicism. Another example of intermixing can be found in Mexican son music. The term “Son” is given to a category of Mexican folk music which covers a variety of styles that vary by region. However, these styles share a number of common characteristics in its rhythms, lyrics and dance. The music is a mix of Spanish, African and indigenous elements, which mingled at least as far back as the 18th century.

Events: Join us in the Woods-Penn Commons for:

  • Mundo Monthly: An evening series on interesting topics related to Latin America, typically every third Monday of each month.
  • TGIF: Think Globally–It’s Friday!: This popular Friday lunch series happens at noon and includes international food. Students who are from other parts of the world and students who have traveled abroad will present.