Latin American Culture: Facts, Food & Traditions

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  • 0:04 Latin America Facts
  • 1:59 Religion & Family
  • 2:54 Latin American Food
  • 4:19 Music, Movies, & Literature
  • 5:20 Traditions & Festivals
  • 6:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Juliao

David has a bachelor's degree in architecture, has done research in architecture, arts and design and has worked in the field for several years.

In this lesson, learn about one of the most colorful and diverse regions of the world: Latin America! Explore some relevant aspects of its culture, its delicious and diverse gastronomy, as well as some of its most important traditions.

Latin America Facts

Latin America is a large region extending from Mexico in the north to Argentina in the south. It's full of diversity, culture, and traditions and is known for the hospitality and happiness of its people. Latinos are also famous for the sensuality of their dancing, for their varied and tasteful dishes, and their beautiful tropical landscapes.

Until the 19th-century, most Latin-American countries were colonies of Spain and Portugal. This European influence was very important and contributed to the language and religion, as well as the culture and food. Latin America is a combination of European and indigenous customs and practices, along with traditions brought by Africans to the continent during colonial times.

Let's review some quick facts:

  • The region has a population of over 600 million people.
  • Portuguese is spoken in Brazil, but Spanish is the main language in most Latin American countries. However, different accents, words, and phrases create local adaptations and identities.
  • The population is a mixture of different ethnicities. The majority identify themselves as mestizos, a mixture of European, indigenous, and African ancestors.
  • Chile and Argentina are large wine producers.
  • Brazil is the world's largest coffee and sugar producer.
  • Colombia produces about 90% of the world's emeralds.
  • Venezuelan women have won more beauty titles than any other country.
  • Soccer is really popular in the region, and there is strong, passionate support for the local and national teams.

With so many different influences and local variations, the many traditions, foods, and cultural elements of the entire region can be overwhelming. Therefore, an overview of some important aspects will help in better understanding Latin-America.

Religion & Family

Catholicism is the main religion in Latin America. The religion was brought by the Spanish conquerors and combined with native and African beliefs, giving origin to a diversity of religious festivals. Religion is an important part of life, and individuals often pray and light candles to specific religious figures in order to obtain specific favors.

Latino families are usually large, and it's very common for family groups to include uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents. Latino families spend time together very often and help raise and educate the younger members.

Machismo is common, based on the traditional perception of the role of men and women in society, alongside a strong religious influence. It has made it difficult for women and sexually diverse minorities to be treated as equals, although younger generations seem to be getting over the old ideas.

Latin American Food

Latin American food is varied, tasty, and colorful, with delicious ingredients as diverse as the culture itself. Each country has many famous dishes. Some relevant examples are:

  • Mexican food is probably the best-known worldwide, with delicious classics like tacos and burritos. Authentic Mexican food is really spicy, and various hot peppers are a popular ingredient.
  • In Central America, pupusas are very popular. They are thick tortillas filled with cheese, pork belly, or beans, usually eaten for breakfast.
  • The bandeja paisa is a typical Colombian dish that contains pork belly, ground meat, eggs, avocado, rice, sausage, and beans.
  • Venezuela is famous for arepas, a round, flat corn patty, usually grilled or fried, and served with a variety of fillings.
  • Ceviche is a famous Peruvian food made from raw fish, cured in a mix of lemon, onions, and spices.
  • Argentina and Chile are known for their empanadas, hot flour-based patties which are baked and filled with meat, cheese, or beans.
  • Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil eat plenty of grilled meat and are famous for their sausages and many meat products. Brazilian churrascarias, which are restaurants that sell grilled meat dishes, are becoming famous worldwide.

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