Latin America: why nobody cares?

I wonder why in the english-speaking people and media is so little curiousity and knowledge about Latin America.

It is just that I am wrong in thinking that only when something tragic happens (natural disasters, guerrillas, drug violence, etc.), outsiders remember the region exist?

I’m just going to assume you’re talking about the contemporary United States population and US media sources. You didn’t specify, but I hope my assumption saves time asking you again and again to be more specific. I’m guessing you feel that US media is more interested in internal affairs, or that the US is somehow very interested in events in Europe, politics in Russia, the social structure of the Middle East, and Far Eastern religions. Is that right? Where would you like to go with your initial statement, factually?

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A while back, someone else said that the US seemed to have no understanding of Buddhism. My question, is it really so hard to believe that a culture that is physically distant would be socially, culturally and intellectually poorly understood?

Not only with respect to the U.S., but also Britain, Canada, Australia and all the “Anglo-speaking world”. For instance, when I watch BBC, they mention events in Europe, North America, Australia, East Asia, Russia, India and Africa with complete reports, and very detailed. But they quite rearly have the same kind of interest in Latin America at all. It is like we don’t exist for them.

This is just my personal, subjetive impression.

I would like to know why there is not interest in our region, beside the tragical and touristic events. Are we so boring?

It seems people don’t know about the physical dimensions of Latin America and that its population is similar to Europe.

Since I see no likely single factual answer to the OP, let’s take opinions. Moved.

samclem Moderator

American news is heavily U.S. focused. It is a large and varied country with a lot going on and many people rarely if ever leave our borders in their lives. Lots of Americans don’t know much about other countries.

I question your presumed motivation for focusing this question on Latin America in particular. There is a sliding scale of worldwide awareness and Latin America is far from the bottom on that ranking especially if you include countries like Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama and those in the Caribbean. The only places that do better are Canada, Israel, Japan, China, Australia, some of western Europe, and wherever there is a U.S. war going on.

If you want compare true lack of awareness, quiz the typical American about the current situation in Laos or the Congo. Now that we mention it, what is your analysis of all the things happening in those countries? I happen to know a fair amount about Latin America because I studied it in college. There are lots of Latin American immigrants in almost all major cities and countries like the Dominican Republic get exposure due to their baseball talent while neighboring Haiti got attention because of a major earthquake.

I couldn’t tell you who the current Prime Minister of Canada is to save my life however nor could most Americans. You named a diverse region with lots of different cultural populations and different levels of development. What are you hoping for specifically?

The Beeb seems to have a rather distinct interest in following countries that the UK has historically been involved with. Which pretty much means historic allies, former colonies, and historic enemies (and there’s quite a bit of overlap between those categories). Every one of the regions you mention seeing coverage by the BBC falls in one of those categories. Fact is, the UK has had relatively little involvement anywhere in Latin America.

As I said, this is just my subjective oppinion. Nothing “rational” or that I could deffend against experts.

It is just my analysis by watching english-speaking media. For instance, if you watch CNN english almost never they mention Latin America, but if you see CNN in Spanish, that’s perhaps 50% of the time on air.

By contrast, in Latin America, the influence of the english-speaking world is huge, in arts, music, literature and culture. Besides the logical influence in science and technology, of course. Most Latin Americans that love to read could mention a hundred english speaking writers, but I can’t expect english-speakers could mention more than half a dozen. Besides Cervantes, Borges and Garcia Marquez, very few are known there.

Please, comment.

maybe because they only mention places that happen to either really matter or be “sexy” or be a lot of people’s obsession for no good reason?

Incidentally, here in the States they really like putting up photos of small African kids in the media. Probably for the diversity and globality factor. But should the Amerindians feel slighted over this, especially given that in reality they are the ones who are apparently the demographic future of the Western Hemisphere?

There aren’t many pure Amerindians left in the Western Hemisphere, I am afraid. Most of the people in Latin America are mixtures of diverse origins, mainly European and Indigenous mixtures in diverse degrees.

The UK had a huge influence in Latin America from the 19th century up to WW I. It is curious that country has forgotten it. In my country, for instance, the national “founding father” is called Bernardo O’Higgins (and not Bernardo Gonzalez, as you could expect).

I think this is purely confirmation bias. The OP could just as easily have been written about Africa instead of Latin America. When was the last time you heard any news story about Africa on BBC World that wasn’t about a coup, massacre, or unrest? Never. Bad news is interesting news. And right now, Latin America is probably the most stable it’s ever been (with the exception of Mexico) so there isn’t a lot of bad news to report. Being ignored is actually a good thing.

As far as Americans’ lack of interest in foreign authors and translated literature, this complaint is just as often leveled (or more often leveled) by disgruntled Europeans than Latin Americans. The permanent secretary of the Nobel Prize jury said in 2008 that no Americans would be getting the prize for a while because we are too parochial and don’t read enough translated literature. I don’t think Latin America is especially ignored; in fact it’s probably better represented than Europe if you exclude Britain and Ireland.

In short, I don’t think Latin America is particularly ignored by either Europe (who are very far away) or by the United States (which is infinitely closer, but myopic as a whole).

Of course, Latin America is not ignored by Spain, France, Italy, Russia, Germany and Scandinavia at all. They know us, particularly Germany. It is methodically ignored by Britain, though. Just judging by the media presence.
The example of Africa and BBC is not correct. BBC has several programs on Africa, like Africa Business Report.
On Latin America, the only things you can ever see is about poverty in the upper Andes or something about drugs in Colombia, and that is it.

Aside from Chavez or the Mexican drug war, there isn’t much coverage in the US that I can think of.

Latin America is full of middle income democracies, and some of them (Mexico, Brazil) have big economies that will continue to grow rapidly. Because of that you’d assume they’d be taken more seriously by the US media. But right now I don’t know if there is any real appreciation of the role nations like Brazil can or will play in international affairs or economics.

There are concerns about the role a nation like China or Russia can play in the US’s foreign policy, economy, etc. No idea why a place like Brazil doesn’t get mentioned. Maybe part of it is just arrogance in the US, we’ve got a lot of american exceptionalism here, and the idea that nations like Brazil and China are rising while we decline isn’t easy to stomach. As a pure guess, I think in the US we may have a paternalistic view of latin america, like they are poor, destitute people who need us to save them from communism. That mentality isn’t compatible with the idea of nations as powerful, independent allies or competitors.

I have no idea how Latin America is seen in Canada, the UK, Australia, NZ, etc.

Like someone else said, you don’t hear much about Africa. But Africa doesn’t have the economic clout or political maturity that Latin America does.

And the current Prime Minister may change soon, as we’re having an election in early May.

I don’t expect Americans to know the candidates or the issues, though; as outside of the usual US-Canada issues (trade or border security, on which it’s expected to be business as usual, from what I can see), no party or candidate has taken a strong pro- or anti-American stance. No reason for Americans to pay much heed, in other words. The day after our election, the US will have pretty much the same neighbour that it had the day before. Of course, were we to have a candidate whose platform was to suspend the Constitution, close the borders, and establish a dictatorship for life; and if that candidate had a decent chance to win; then I expect the Americans would take notice. But we don’t, so they don’t.

To address the OP, this may be why those of us in the English-speaking world don’t seem to know or care much about Latin America: very little that happens in Latin America will directly affect us; thus, we hear very little about it. We did hear a great deal when the Sandinistas were active, when Panama took over the Canal Zone, and when Argentina had to stop pegging its currency to the US dollar; but I would suggest that all these had some relation to the English-speaking countries’ business interests. As it is at the present time, with little happening in Latin America that would affect those interests, little that is (to us) newsworthy happens there.

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Ah. You must be Chilean. See, I do know something. :slight_smile:

I’d never heard of Bernardo O’Higgins, so I had to look him up. He was the (illegitimate) son of a man who was (as far as I can tell) of a landed family in Ireland which lost their holdings, leading to his father becoming associated with the Spanish government, not the UK government. It doesn’t look to me as though Bernardo had any real connection to the UK, other than his father’s heritage, and some time spent in school in England. He was born in Latin America, and it sounds like he spent most of his life there.

You may consider that an example of the UK’s “huge influence in Latin America” (and, certainly, you likely know far more about O’Higgins than I do, from briefly skimming a few web articles), but it sounds pretty tangental to me, compared to the UK’s colonization in other parts of the world.

@Wesley Clark

Indeed. All countries in the region are in the process or already have switched to Asian countries as the major trading partners. I can percieve the interest of the region is switching to Europe, Russia, India, China and Japan, simply because they are ignored by the neighbours up north.
And curiously, the explosive economical growth of the “backyard” is not news beyond our borders.

He has strong links with Ireland.
Anyways, Lord Cochrane is also a big heroe for Chile and Brazil.
Now, the influence of Britain in post-colonial times was huge in the development of the industrial base of the region, particularly in shipping and mining.

Which, itself, hasn’t been a part of the UK for the better part of a century. :slight_smile:

(Sorry, I’m kidding around a bit. Clearly, you know the subject matter better than this admittedly ignorant American.)

That’s quite wrong. Latin America is the main importer of U.S. goods, for instance. A topic that is declining because the lack of care of Americans on theirs customers.