Latin America is generally understood to include the continent of South America, as well as Central America, Mexico, and several islands in the Caribbean Sea; as such, the term Latin American refers to any of the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries or communities in the Americas. The history of Latin America involves the history of these regions from the pre-Columbian period, to the first occupation and colonization by the Europeans in the late 15th and early 16th centuries, the wars for independence during the 19th century, and socio-political developments throughout World War II and into the modern era.
As a historical field it focuses strongly on the cultural and nationalistic perspectives of the peoples within these geographic regions, particularly how they shared a traumatic experience of conquest, colonization, and cultural appropriation by the Spanish and Portuguese during the colonization of the Americas. Latin American history studies the development of societies in the Latin American region, involving everything from the negotiation of new national identities in face of foreign imposing cultural values, degrees of political participation, cultural representation, and differences in geographical autonomy.
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