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Portal:Latin America

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Latin America was a name coined by "Emperor of Mexico" Maximilian I in an effort to gain legitimacy, since his patron, Napoleon III, spoke French, a Latinate tongue like Spanish and Portuguese. Maximilian did not last, but the coinage of "Latin America" is one of the most successful of all time. Latin America is traditionally defined as the regions of the Americas where Spanish, the language of Spain, and Portuguese, the language of Portugal, were spoken -- in other words, every part of the Western Hemisphere, with the exception of Suriname and a few small islands that speak Dutch, that was not Anglo America. (English is a Germanic language.) Therefore, virtually all of the Western Hemisphere except the United States, Canada, and the non-Hispanophone countries of the Caribbean and South America have tended to come under the heading of Latin America. Other areas where languages derived from Latin, such as Papiamento and Creole, predominate are sometimes included and sometimes excluded from Latin America, depending on the speaker.

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Buenos Aires
Credit: Luis Argerich

Skyline of the City of Buenos Aires, capital and largest city in Argentina, and the most visited city in South America. This picture shows specifically the district of Puerto Madero.

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A dome-shelled Galápagos giant tortoise
The Galápagos tortoise or Galápagos giant tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra) is the largest living species of tortoise, reaching weights of over 400 kg (880 lb) and lengths of over 1.8 meters (5.9 ft). With life spans in the wild of over 100 years, it is one of the longest-lived vertebrates. A captive individual lived at least 170 years. The tortoise is native to seven of the Galápagos Islands, a volcanic archipelago about 1,000 km (620 mi) west of the Ecuadorian mainland. Spanish explorers who discovered the islands in the 16th century named them after the Spanish galápago, meaning tortoise. Shell size and shape vary between populations. On islands with humid highlands, the tortoises are larger, with domed shells and short necks. On islands with dry lowlands, the tortoises are smaller, with "saddleback" shells and long necks. These island-to-island differences played a role in the inception of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. Tortoise numbers declined from over 250,000 in the 16th century to a low of around 3,000 in the 1970s. The decline was caused by hunting for tortoise meat and oil, habitat clearance for agriculture, and introduction of non-native animals such as rats, goats, and pigs. Seven subspecies of the original ten survive in the wild. An eighth subspecies (C. n. abingdonii) has only a single living individual, in captivity, nicknamed Lonesome George. Conservation efforts beginning in the 20th century have resulted in thousands of captive-bred juveniles being released onto their home islands, and it is estimated that numbers exceeded 19,000 at the start of the 21st century. Despite this rebound, the species as a whole is classified as "Vulnerable" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).


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Guna woman selling Molas in Panama City
Credit: Leuo

The mola or molas, forms part of the traditional outfit of a Kuna woman, two mola panels being incorporated as front and back panels in a blouse. The full costume traditionally includes a patterned wrapped skirt (saburet), a red and yellow headscarf (musue), arm and leg beads (wini), a gold nose ring (olasu) and earrings in addition to the mola blouse (dulemor).

In Dulegaya, the Kuna's native language, "mola" means "shirt" or "clothing". The mola originated with the tradition of Kuna women painting their bodies with geometrical designs, using available natural colors; in later years these same designs were woven in cotton, and later still, sewn using cloth bought from the European settlers of Panamá.

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