Geographic Influences on Migration in the Caribbean, Central & South America

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  • 0:01 Migration
  • 1:04 Colonization
  • 2:44 Climate
  • 4:09 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson explores how physical geography has affected migration in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. It specifically highlights the effects of natural resource distribution and climate.


People don't often just pick up and move for no reason. They usually do so to escape a bad situation or to look for a better life. Often times, geography has a bunch to do with their desire to move. Geographical factors, like climate, impact their decision-making process. For instance, my parents are always threatening to migrate to the West. The warm winters in Arizona are calling their names!

My parents aren't the only ones who let geography influence their movement. To prove my point, let's take a look at how geography has influenced migration in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America.

For starters, let's define migration. Keeping things really simple, migration is the movement of people from one place to another. In the Caribbean, Central America, and South America, two of the main geographical influences on migration have been the availability of natural resources and climate. To prove this, all we need to do is look at European colonization!


At the end of the 15th century CE, a few Europeans began descending on our three areas of study. Attracted by what they saw, it didn't take long for word to reach back home that there were treasures and land to be had! Soon, a few Europeans turned into many as people from countries like Spain and Portugal began migrating to the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. Hoping to profit from the natural resources of the land, some Europeans mined for gold and silver in the Andes Mountains, while others farmed the grasslands of Argentina.

Of course, this all sounds well and good for the conquering Europeans. However, European migration proved deadly for the native populations of the area. As Europeans descended on the lands they annihilated, enslaved, or uprooted most of its native inhabitants.

In places like Argentina, those of European descent forcibly removed those of Native American descent from the fertile grassland. This is referred to as forced migration - the forced movement of a people group out of an area. With the native people groups out of their way, the Europeans were free to make a financial killing off the land and its natural resources.

When looking a bit deeper into history, we find that Europeans weren't the only ones migrating to get a piece of the regions' natural resources! Asia also got involved! Yep, during the 1800s, many Chinese migrated to places like Peru and Bolivia in order to work in the gold and silver mines. No wonder why modern Lima, Peru, has its very own Chinatown!


Of course, migration in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America didn't end with colonization, nor is it only affected by the desire for natural resources. Climate has also played a huge role in the area's migratory patterns.

For instance, in South America the heaviest population concentration is found to the East, from the mouth of the Amazon in Brazil to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and its surrounding grassland region. Why? A geographer would most likely tell you because people migrated there to escape the scorching climates of places like the Atacama Desert in the West. After all, who would want to migrate to an oven! This pattern of migration to more moderate climates is seen all over the continent, as major cities like Caracas in Venezuela, Santiago in Chile, and Montevideo in Uruguay have sprung up much closer to the coast than in the interior of the continent.

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