views updated May 23 2018

1 Overview

A. Overview of the Publishing Industry in the Chinese Mainland

B. Overview of the Publishing Industries of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau

C. Chinese Publishing Outside China

D. Copyright Protection in the Chinese Mainland

When Patrick J. McGovern, Founder and Chairman of the International Data Group (IDG) visited Beijing for the first time in 1978, he was greatly impressed by the sight of people crowding into bookstores. In 2002, when German book dealer Reinhard Neumann visited bookstores in Beijing, he also saw crowds of people buying books.

Twenty-five years ago, the annual book output in the Chinese mainland was less than 15,000 titles and the per-capita GDP was only about US$130. By 2002, the annual book output had increased to 170,000 titles, and the GDP per capita reached about US$963, eleven and seven times higher respectively. Meanwhile, the bookstores have remained full of people buying books.

The crowds of people in bookstores reveal an undeniable truth: the publishing industry in the Chinese mainland is very large, and will continue to expand moving forward.

The market potential is even more encouraging. In 2003, the GDP per-capita in the Chinese mainland reached US$1,090 compared to US$35,401 (2001) in the United States of America. In 2002, book sales were about US$5.3 billion, i.e. more than US$4 per person, compared to the U.S., where book sales were US$26.8 billion, i.e. more than US$90 per person. The U.S. figures are about 5 and 20 times higher respectively, and the German statistics are 1.7 and 27 times higher respectively.

The large difference indicates that the country has lagged behind but it also shows that the publishing market will have vast potential with continued rapid economic development. One can make an estimate: if expenditure on books increases by US$0.10 per person, the Chinese mainland book market would grow by US$130 million. In fact, in recent years, the average increase in book sales has grown to US$300 million per year.

More importantly, this market is now opening up to the rest of the world. Nowadays, you can see hundreds of thousands of Chinese publishers at the Frankfurt Book Fair. So far, more than 70 foreign publishing companies have established subsidiaries or offices in the Chinese mainland. IDG, which arrived 25 years ago, now owns about 80 various companies around the country.

The total population in the Chinese mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau is about 1.315 billion, living in a total area of 9.6 million square kilometers. In terms of social forms, China is one country with four regions and two systems. The four regions refer to the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan, and the two systems refer to the socialist system in the Chinese mainland and capitalist system in the other three areas. There are four different currencies, Ren Min Bi, Hong Kong Dollar, Macau Pataca, and Taiwan Dollar.

The Chinese mainland, Taiwan, and Hong Kong are the three major bases of Chinese language publishing in the world. Combined, the industry as a whole has more than 9,000 book publishing houses, more than 17,560 magazine titles and more than 2,820 newspapers titles, with an annual book output of over 216,000 titles (including 133,000 new titles per year) and total annual sales of about US$7.5 billion. In recent years, these three markets have become increasingly integrated, moving toward becoming one large open market. The largest of the three—the Chinese mainland—has attracted the most attention due to its large size and rapid growth.

A. Overview of the Publishing Industry in the Chinese Mainland

1. The Basics of the Chinese Mainland

It is necessary to have some knowledge of the country’s structure in order to fully understand its publishing industry.

In 2002, the population in the Chinese mainland was 1.284 billion, of which 484 million lived in cities and towns and about 800 million in rural areas. More than 900 million were aged between 15 and 64 years old.

There are about 1.17 million educational institutions with over 318 million students, of which about 0.5 million are graduate students, 14.63 million undergraduate students, 95.96 million middle school students, 122 million primary school students, 20.36 million kindergarten (including pre-school) students, and 374,500 in-school disabled children. In addition, there were about 12.68 million self-taught students who registered for the national higher education examination. (See Figure 1.2.)

Administrative divisions are based on a loose three-tier system, dividing the country into provinces, counties and townships; with provinces being the equivalent of states in the United States. In fact, between most province and county tiers, there are municipal cities. Generally, people are inclined to consider provinces, municipalities, and counties as the three administrative tiers with townships having little bearing.

The provincial tier includes provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities directly under the central government, such as Guangdong Province, Liaoning Province, the Tibet Autonomous Region, Guangxi Zhuangzu Autonomous Region, Beijing municipality, and Chongqing municipality. In total, there are 34 administrative divisions at the provincial level including 23 provinces, five autonomous regions, four municipalities directly under the central government, and two Special Administrative Regions. (Refer to Figure 1.3 for Map of China.)

There are 660 cities in China, of which 25 have a population of more than 2 million (including 8 with more than 4 million), 141 between 1 and 2 million, 279 between 0.5 and 1 million, and 217 less than 500,000 (including 37 with less than 200,000 people).

In 2002, the average net income in the rural areas was about US$298 per capita, and in the cities and towns the figure was approximately US$928, three times higher. In 2003, the national GDP reached about US$1.4 trillion, and the income per capita reached about US$1,090—for the first time surpassing the US$1,000 mark. However in Shanghai, the average income was even higher at approximately US$1,791 per capita.

There are 2,698 public libraries in the Chinese mainland. The National Library of China in Beijing is the largest in Asia, and the Shanghai Library is the largest among the provincial libraries.

In 2002, the basic import duty was about 12%, but in 2005 it is expected to decrease to a level below the average level of other developing countries, and the average duty for imported industrial products is expected to drop to about 10%. By 2002, more than 400 of the 500 top companies in the world had invested in the country and it is ranked sixth in the world in terms of international trade volume. Its top trade partners are Japan, America, the European Union, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), South Korea, Australia, Russia, and Canada.

At present, the RMB to USD exchange rate is fixed at 8.3 to 1.

2. Basic Statistics in the Publishing Industry

The Chinese mainland is the largest market with the fastest growth and most exciting potential among all Chinese language publishing markets. The acceleration of reforms in China, especially those required for entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO), has been gradually increasing the overall capacity of the publishing industry.

According to statistics from the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP), in 2002 the Chinese mainland published 17,000 titles, of which 100,700 were new. The total output volume reached 6.87 billion copies with a total marked price of RMB53.51 billion (approximately US$6.45 billion), and total sales came to RMB43.5 billion (about US$5.24 billion) with 7.027 billion copies sold.

In 2002, the Chinese mainland printed 2.951 billion magazines, 36.783 billion newspapers, and produced 226 million audio items with 12,300 titles, and 218 million video products with some 13,600 titles. The total title output of electronic publications amounted to 4,700, with a total production of 96.81 million items. There were in total 568 book publishing companies, 9,029 magazine titles, and 2,137 newspaper titles, in addition to 292 audio-video publishing companies, and 102 electronic publishers. The number of authorized book and magazine printing companies reached 1,155 and 78 companies produced and duplicated CD-ROMs.

At present, there are about 80 various publishing groups, of which nearly 20 are book publishing groups, more than 40 newspaper groups, and more than 10 magazine groups.

Of the three sectors of the industry, content editing (publishing), printing, and distribution, the first sector is the most profitable, accounting for 66% of the total profit, followed by distribution, accounting for 26%, and printing, accounting for 8%.

In 2002, the average expenditure on publications per capita was RMB33 (about US$3.98), or about 5.5 books, 2.3 magazines, and 28.63 newspapers per year. A survey of citizens’ reading habits provided by the China Publishing Science Institute showed that more than 60% of people read books at least once a month, while nearly 40% do not read at all.

There is a substantial imbalance in publishing capacity among the different regions in the Chinese mainland due to differences in economic development and population density. Generally speaking, the east coast is well developed, while the central part of China is less well developed and the Western regions lag far behind. The most developed places are Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu, Guangdong, Zhejiang, Shandong, Liaoning, Hunan, Hubei, and Sichuan. In short, Beijing, the Pearl River Delta, and the Yangtze River Delta are the leading regions of the publishing industry.

3. The Structure and Organization of the Publishing Industry

Compared with many other industries, the publishing industry is still firmly in state control. However the 16th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2002 accelerated reforms.

With the Regulations on Management of Publications promulgated by the State Council, government permission must first be obtained before starting a publishing business. The government formulates an overall plan for the total number, structure and deployment of all publishing establishments and it imposes general control and adjustment.

The industry is divided into three major sectors: content editing (publishing), printing, and distribution. Of the three, the government exerts the strictest control over the first, especially over the formation of publishing units, leaving the other two sectors relatively unrestricted. Presently, all publishing houses are state-owned, and there has been no major difference in the total number of publishers. For instance, in 1992 there were 519 book publishing houses, and in 2002 the number was 568, showing only marginal growth.

A current principle guiding the formation of publishing establishments is based on trade and industrial systems (tiao, vertical line) and administrative regions (kuai, block), and thus it is called the “tiao-kuai” arrangement principle. The arrangement based on tiao means that the central government considers each ministry, the ruling party and its major subdivisions, each of the other political parties, every major industrial system, and a large mass organization as a tiao (they all have vertical organizational layers and thus from the top to the bottom there is a vertical connection and delegation of responsibility and accountability from the top down to the bottom) and approves the establishment of one or more books, newspaper, magazine, audio-video, and electronic publishing units within each tiao. For instance, the Ministry of Commerce owns one publishing house, China Commerce Publishing House, one magazine (China Commerce), and one newspaper (China Business Herald). It is similar for other ministries.

By similar arrangements, subdivisions of the Communist Party of China such as the Department of Publicity of the Central Committee of CPC and the United Front Work Department, democratic parties such as China Zhi Gong Party (Public Interest Party) and China Democratic League, and mass organizations such as the All-China Women’s Federation, can all have one publishing house, one newspaper, and one magazine. For instance, the China Democratic League has Qiushi Publishing House and publishes the Qunyan magazine, and the All-China Women’s Federation owns the China Women’s Publishing House, the China Women’s News newspaper, and the Women of China magazine.

In addition, major industrial systems and government organizations directly under the State Council (with an administrative status of sub-ministerial level) also have set up publishing units using the same structure. For instance, the electric power industry has China Electric Power Publishing House, the China Electric Power magazine, and the China Electric Power newspaper. The publishing house, magazine and newspaper belonging to the Chinese Academy of Sciences are the Science Press, China Science, and Science Times.

Most of the publishing units set up by the ministries and major industrial systems are located in Beijing and are national publishers, also known as central level publishing units. Their names generally are composed of two parts, the name of the ministry or industry plus publishing house or press, such as China Commerce and Trade Press, China Zhi Gong Publishing House (belonging to China Zhi Gong Party), China WaterPower Press (belonging to the Ministry of Water Resources), and China Seismology Publishing House (belonging to the National Seismological Bureau), and China Three Gorges Publishing House (belonging to the China Three Gorges Project Development Corporation). From their names, people can tell to which ministry or industrial system they belong and what their respective publications specialize in.

The Kuai (block) arrangement is mainly based on provincial-level divisions including provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities under direct control of the central government. The government grants approval for each division to set up a similar number of books, newspapers, magazines, audio-video, and electronic publishing houses. For instance, Jiangsu Province has formed one publishing house in each of the following subjects: politics, law, education, literature, science and technology, ancient classics, and fine arts. It also has one provincial newspaper (Xinhua Daily News), several magazines, and some audio-video and electronic publishing houses.

The publishing houses set up at the provincial level are regional publishers, generally known as provincial-level publishers corresponding to the central-level publishers, and their names are also similarly composed, i.e. name of the provincial division plus coverage of publishing subject(s) plus publishing house or press. For instance, in Jiangsu Province, there are the Jiangsu People’s Publishing House, Jiangsu Education Publishing House, Jiangsu Literature and Art Publishing House, Jiangsu Science and Technology Publishing House, Jiangsu Children’s Publishing House, Jiangsu Ancient Classics Publishing House, and Jiangsu Fine Arts Publishing House. When the word “People’s” is placed in the name of a publishing house, it means that the focus is on politics and law. The other provinces have similarly organized publishing industries.

Publishing companies at the provincial level, including the book, magazine, audio-video and electronic units, are generally located in the capital city of the province. As for the publishers mentioned above, most are located in Nanjing, the capital city of Jiangsu Province. With the exception of newspapers, generally no publishing units are allowed in an administrative area below the provincial level. Every city or prefecture within the province has its own newspaper. For instance, in Jiangsu Province, the cities of Nanjing, Suzhou, and Yangzhou, have the Nanjing Daily, Suzhou Daily, and Yangzhou Daily. The other provinces have similar arrangements. In addition, a few counties issue their own newspapers.

Other than the provincial capitals, some large cities such as Dalian (Liaoning Province), Shenzhen (Guangdong Province), and Xiamen (Fujian Province), also have one book publishing unit and one audio-video publishing unit each. In Dalian, there is the Dalian Publishing House and the Dalian Audio-Video Publishing House. In addition, some special administrative regions also have set up their own book and audio-video publishing units, such as the Zhuhai Publishing House and Shantou Ocean Audio-Video Publishing House in the cities of Zhuhai and Shantou.

There are more than 55 ethnic minority groups in China and in order to promote the development of the press and publishing in these minority regions, the central government approves the formation of publishing units in the autonomous prefectures in addition to their establishment at the provincial level. For instance, in Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture of Jilin Province there are the Yanbian People’s Publishing House and Yanbian Education Publishing House. In Yili of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, there is the Yili People’s Publishing House. An important mission of these publishers is to publish books in the minorities’ native languages.

Currently, the government continues to restrict the topics covered and limit the publication types among publishers. When the appropriate government body in charge of publishing approves the formation of a publishing unit, it is made clear what topics and publication types the publisher can engage in. The publisher must operate within the approved limits. For instance, a book publisher is not allowed to issue magazines or produce audio-video publications, and vice versa. If a book publisher wants to issue magazines, audio-video, or electronic publications it must apply for another permit. In addition, according to the Regulations on Management of Publications, the publisher is required to have a government organization act as a sponsor and supervisor for the would-be publisher when permission is applied for.

Nevertheless, changes are taking place. The reforms in publishing, which started in the mid-1990s, have moved into a significant stage. For example, the government no longer imposes strict restrictions over the publishers on their publication coverage, and the publishers are claiming more autonomy.

Unlike the publishing sector, printing and distribution face few governmental restrictions. Both sectors allow for the participation of private business and have been open to foreign investment (see Chapter 10), and now there are more private companies than state-owned enterprises engaged in printing and distribution. Especially in printing, there are so few restrictions that both domestic and foreign companies have enough room to operate as they wish, with a management environment not much different from that of many other industries. For distribution, restrictions are focused on chain bookstores and wholesale rights but, as a whole, market forces have taken over. Private companies account for half of the entire distribution capacity in the Chinese mainland.

4. Laws, Administrative Management, and Awards

The supreme legislative body in the Chinese mainland (the National People’s Congress) has not established laws specifically governing publishing. Currently, the most important publishing law is the Regulations on Management of Publications, promulgated by the Chinese central government (the State Council). In addition, the State Council and GAPP under the State Council have issued some other related regulations and laws which constitute the basic framework of publishing laws.

In addition to the Regulations on Management of Publications, other important laws and regulations governing publishing in the Chinese mainland include the Regulations on Management of Audio-Video Publications and the Regulations on Management of the Printing Industry both promulgated by the State Council, and the Provisional Rules on Management of Internet Publications, the Regulations on Management of the Publication Market, and the Preparatory Measures on Choosing Important Topics of Books, Periodicals, Audio-Video Products, and Electronic Publications, all promulgated by GAPP. For foreign investment, GAPP and the Ministry of Commerce co-issued Administrative Measures on Foreign Investment for Distributing Books, Newspapers and Periodicals.

On copyright protection, so closely related to publishing, the National People’s Congress issued The Copyright Law of the People’s Republic of China, and the State Council promulgated The Rules on Implementation of Copyright Law and The Rules on Protection of Computer Software.

The above laws and regulations constitute the major legal documents governing the publishing industry in the Chinese mainland.

The Regulations on Management of Publications stipulates that government publication administrative bodies have responsibility to govern all publishing activities in the Chinese mainland (if the publisher is in dispute with the government, the court steps in to solve the issue). The government oversight is divided into three levels: the state council, the provincial bureaus, and city or prefecture offices. The GAPP is the highest authority governing publishing, and there are press and publication bureaus at the provincial level as well as some at the under-provincial city or prefecture level.

The major functions of GAPP include: designing the development plan for the national press and publishing industry; imposing macroscopic adjustment to the industry and policies, and providing advice on their implementation, formulating regulations on publications and copyright management, and supervising the implementation of these regulations; accepting applications for the formation of new publishing, distribution, joint-venture establishments; managing and coordinating import and export of various publications; and leading the work on collecting and publishing ancient books. By a decision from the State Council, the National Copyright Administration of China (NCAC) is responsible for copyright issues.

The NCAC and GAPP are actually one government apparatus with two different names, and the director of GAPP also serves as the director of the NCAC. The Copyright Administration Department of GAPP is especially designated to take charge of copyright-related work.

There are many departments within GAPP, such as the Books and Publications Administration Department; the Newspaper and Periodicals Publication Administration Department; the Audio-visual, Electronic and Network Publications Administration Department; the Publication Issuance Administration Department; and the Printing and Reproduction Administration Department. (See Figure 1.4.)

Regional press and publication bureaus adopt a similar organizational structure as GAPP, and the regional administrative departments responsible for copyright enforcement also share a similar arrangement as the NCAC.

However, exceptions exist in the audio-video publishing industry. According to a division of work mandated by the State Council, two bodies co-govern the publishing, copying, and distribution of audio-video products. The Press and Publication

Administration governs the publication and reproduction, and the Cultural Administration is responsible for the management of the audio-video market and imports of licensed audio-video products.

Publications can be divided into two types: formal publications and internal publications. All formal publications must be issued by authorized publishers, and internal publications must abide by The Rules on Management of Internal Material Publications.

Professionals in the publishing industry should meet certain qualifications. Under The Provisional Rules on Management of the Qualifications for Publication Professionals, all personnel engaging in editing, publishing, proofreading of books, magazines, audio-video and electronic publications, must participate in examinations and obtain the Certificate of Professional Publishers of the People’s Republic of China.

In order to encourage the publication of scientific and technological books and promote innovation, some government organizations, science research institutes, and industrial associations have established publication foundations. Prominent examples include the Publication Foundation for National Academic Works, Publication Foundation for Excellent National Minorities Books, Publication Foundation for Works on Electronic Information and Technology, Publication Foundation for Works on Oceanic Technology, Publication Foundation for Works on Surveying and Mapping Technology, and the Beijing Publication Foundation for Theoretical Works of the Social Sciences.

There are many publication awards established mainly by the government and industrial associations. The most prestigious awards are granted by GAPP, including the National Book Award, the National Periodical Award, the National Audio-Video Publication Award, and the National Electronic Publication Award. Leading awards sponsored by professional associations are the China Book Awards, the China Taofen Publication Awards, and the China Taofen News Awards. In addition, the highest propaganda organ—the Department of Publicity of the Central Committee of CPC offers the “Five-One Project Awards” which includes a book award.

5. Major Features of the Publishing Industry

At the start of the new century, the publishing industry of the Chinese mainland presents the world with the following:

i. The effort to build a legal system in the publishing industry has achieved preliminary results and has created an environment advantageous to law-abiding business operations. The previous situation in which no formal rules regulated the publishing industry started to change in the 1990s, and the emergence of regulations such as The Copyright Law and the Regulations on Management of Publications marked an important step in the construction of the legal infrastructure in the publishing industry. The enactment of the leading “One Law and Four Regulations” has built a basic legal framework for the publishing industry. Moreover, the implementation of The Administrative Re-discussion Law and The Administrative Permission Law, which regulate government functions in law enforcement, has further paved the way for increased legalization of the publishing industry.

ii. Profound reform has begun. Despite the fact that among various industries publishing lags behind in reform and is less market-oriented than many, changes have taken place and deep-rooted reforms are afoot. The 16th National Congress of the Communist Party of China made it clear that key attributes of culture, including publishing, contain industrial business in need of an organizational framework. Now, the publishing industry has been geared towards market competition, and publishing houses are moving towards becoming company-like in organizational structure, like large conglomerates in operational scope, and market-oriented in management practices. All publishing houses need to redefine their identities (mostly choosing between state-owned organization and quasi-private industrial/business enterprises), and many have chosen to be identified as industrial enterprises. Those keeping state-owned organization status are also forced to operate within the market rules and compete with others. Many publishing houses are emerging and developing rapidly. All these changes lead to not only the repartition of publishing resources and market share but also a fundamental transformation in the publishing industry.

iii. Building distribution channels and exploring the market potential of small and medium cities remain an imperative task. There are insufficient highly effective distribution channels in such a vast land, and this has greatly impeded the rapid development of the publishing industry. One obvious example is that many books with sales potential of millions are well short of such an achievement because of a lack of distribution channels. There are over a dozen huge bookstores with an area of over 100,000 square meters, but they are concentrated in a few big cities. Such a concentration, from a different perspective, reveals problems in the structure of bookstores. Chain bookstores have just opened in the Chinese mainland and there is in urgent need of big chain bookstores such as America’s Barnes & Nobles and the Borders Group to increase distribution. Also, modern distribution systems are just at an early stage and thus far no such system has been able to prove its effectiveness. In addition, sellers of professional books and books with a small target audience should adopt better data management and make more use of electronic technology.

Presently, publications sell mainly in the big cities with populations of more than two to three million. Small and medium cities with a population of less than two million possess only limited sales networks, and these networks are not technologically updated and it is hard to distribute new books and magazines in a timely manner. Also, it is inconvenient to buy books through mail order in these cities. In total, there are about 450 cities each with 200,000 to 1 million people and a total population of 290 million. Therefore, there is great market potential in these small and medium cities that is waiting to be harnessed.

iv. The problems of regional monopolies and rampant piracy still await effective solutions. The planned economy determined that Chinese publications were generally distributed based on provincial divisions, and currently only a few publishers are able to distribute their publications nationwide. Meanwhile, some provincial governments try to protect local interests and thus create many barriers for book distributors that already suffer from a serious lack of distribution channels. In addition, piracy is rampant in many regions. The Chinese government has made considerable progress in reducing piracy (for instance, more than 100 illegal CD-ROM production lines have been destroyed, and the government rewards informers with RMB300,000, about US$36,145), but piracy still casts long shadows on today’s publishing industry and stronger and tougher measures are needed.

v. The market is growing rapidly. As the largest developing country, the Chinese mainland possesses a fast growing publication market. Take as an example the 10-year development of the book market between 1992 and 2002. In 1992 more than 90,000 book titles were issued, with a total printing volume of 6.338 billion copies (sheets), using 665,700 tons of paper, and having a total list price of RMB11.08 billion (about US$1.33 billion). By 2002, the total book titles were 170,000, with a printing volume of 6.87 billion copies (sheets), using 1.074 million tons of paper, and having a total list price of RMB53.51 billion (about US$6.47 billion), showing increases of 90%, 8.4%, 61.4% and 383.2%, respectively.

In terms of market sales, book sales in 1992 were worth RMB4.2 billion (approximately US$506 million), and in 2002 they reached RMB43.5 billion (about US$5.24 billion), increasing over ten-fold in 10 years. In recent years, book sales increased by US$300 million each year with annual growth of 7%. If this trend continues, by 2010, book sales could amount to nearly US$8 billion, i.e. in the coming seven to eight years, the book market in the Chinese mainland has potential growth of US$2.5 billion.

vi. This market is opening to the world. Printing in the Chinese mainland had been largely opened before its entry into the WTO, and after entry, its distribution market will be further liberalized. Foreign investment in various forms has entered into different sectors of the Chinese publishing industry. (See Chapter 10.) Some preliminary estimates show that currently more than 70 foreign publishers have established subsidiaries or offices in China. The foreign investment shares in the growth of the market, and it also sharpens the competitive edge of Chinese enterprises and facilitates the local publishing industry to transition to a market-based economy. It is a win-win situation.

B. Overview of the Publishing Industries of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau

Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau have populations of 23 million, 6.82 million, and 440,000 respectively.

In terms of output, Taiwan and Hong Kong rank second and third as Chinese publishing bases, but in terms of competitive capacity, Taiwan and Hong Kong are the most developed regions of the Chinese publishing industry.

These two regions share similarities in many respects such as their social systems, economic strength, and legal framework. Both of their publishing industries are completely market-oriented and corporate registration is a main requirement for entering the publishing business. Private companies dominate all sectors, be it in terms of production capacity or in total number of companies. Also, they both have high volumes of publication imports and exports. Average incomes in both regions amount to more than US$10,000 and people living in the two regions have similar modes and levels of consumption.

But differences exist between them, especially with regard to their cultural backgrounds, population size, and land area. Chinese culture dominates Taiwan and the Chinese language is dominant. British rule of over 150 years brought Western culture into Hong Kong and as a result, it was subject to a combined influence of Western and Chinese culture with use of both Chinese and English, with English being slightly preferred. Taiwan has three times the population of Hong Kong, and the people in Taiwan are educated in a Chinese cultural environment, hence Taiwan is much stronger than Hong Kong in terms of publishing capacity. Hong Kong, with a total area of 1,098 square kilometers, and Taiwan, with a total area 30 times larger than that of Hong Kong, have developed their publishing industry in different territorial environments, one based on a city and the other based in a larger area. Due to these factors, the publishing industries in these two regions have evolved their own unique characteristics.

1. Taiwan

The publishing industry in Taiwan displays five major characteristics:

i. The market is saturated and competition is extremely intense. With a population of 23 million, Taiwan supports about 8,000 book-publishing houses and almost the same number of magazine publishers, with an annual book output of over 36,000 titles, and these figures continue to rise. As many new companies enter the market, many publishers and bookstores are squeezed out of business. In recent years, tough competition in the Taiwan publication market has been clearly reflected in the collapse and bankruptcies of some large publishing groups and companies such as Chin Show Cultural Enterprise, Kwang Fu Book Enterprises Co., Ltd, and the Senseio Bookstore.

ii. Taiwan is densely covered with bookstores serviced by distribution channels that appear sound and mature. Publications are well served by various highly developed distribution channels, including wholesale, sales through publishers’ own distribution networks, direct, and online sales. Effective distribution channels facilitate publication sales since it is very convenient for people in Taiwan to make purchases.

iii. The market is readily open to world trade and imports a large number of publications. With few restrictions on foreign investment in Taiwan, foreign capital can enter into every sector of the publishing industry, and foreign companies are engaged in book and magazine publishing as well as audio-video production. In the copyright trade, Taiwan has brought in a large number of publications with foreign copyrights. The acquired foreign titles now account for 40% of the annual new title output in Taiwan, and for children’s publications, foreign titles acquired from overseas represent half of the entire output.

iv. More shareholding companies and conglomerates are emerging. In order to enhance competitiveness in the hostile market, publishers are inclined to restructure themselves into these forms. Many publishing companies once owned by a sole owner or several partners began to distribute shares to employees to encourage their contribution and loyalty to the company. Now most publishing companies in Taiwan are limited companies. Forming conglomerates shows another way to compete with the tough competition. In recent years, more and more publishing groups and strategic conglomerates have been formed through mergers and share acquisitions.

Publishers are aggressive in promoting their businesses outside the island and exploring new opportunities. The market saturation in Taiwan has forced local publishers to turn their eyes elsewhere. Major areas they are exploring are Singapore, Malaysia and some other Southeast Asian countries with Chinese-speaking populations, as well as the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong. The Chinese mainland, the biggest market in the Chinese publishing industry, is undergoing marketization, which has generated a lot of business opportunities, and therefore Taiwan publishers have established various branches there. At present, the market is still in the process of opening up, otherwise, the number of Taiwan companies would have doubled.

2. Hong Kong

The publishing industry in Hong Kong, though based in a city, operates similarly to its counterpart in Taiwan due to their many common features such as a saturated market, intense competition, sound distribution system, and the tendency to form shareholding companies and conglomerates. Nevertheless, it has its own unique characteristics.

i. The Hong Kong market is highly internationalized, with both the Chinese and English languages in use. As a freely trading port, Hong Kong is known for its open investment environment, freedom from trade barriers, easy and free capital circulation, sound legal system, and clearly defined and low taxes. Now it is the tenth largest trader in the world, the seventh largest foreign exchange market, the twelfth largest banking center, and one of the four major gold commodity markets. For many years running, traditional American foundations have listed Hong Kong as the most economically free region. Meanwhile, since both Chinese and English languages are official languages there, Hong Kong has a bilingual market, differing from many other markets. All of these factors have laid a solid foundation for the further development of the publishing industry in Hong Kong.

ii. Hong Kong publishing professionals have an outstanding ability to explore and design new projects and are strongly competitive in the international market. The small population and very limited territorial environment where a free economy dominates has nurtured many Hong Kong publishers with strong business acumen and professional skills. In some publishing companies, only one or two people are responsible for the editing, printing, and distribution, yet the companies still operate smoothly and successfully. Moreover, the existence of many international companies enhances the competitive capacity of the local enterprises, and the small internal market and high degree of internationalization also help many publishers develop business practices and abilities well suited for competing internationally. Some publishers have directed their business towards overseas markets even from the very beginning. Southeast Asia, North America, the Chinese mainland, Taiwan, and Macau have all been long-time targets.

iii. Hong Kong remains a gateway for Chinese publications and also as an important import and export hub. Its advantages as an open market enables Hong Kong to have the greatest number of Chinese publications. Beyond being a consumer and producer, Hong Kong is also a transfer station for publications. In 2002, of all the imported books in the Chinese mainland, 23% came from Hong Kong, the largest supplier of imported publications. Many of these imported publications are produced by branches or subsidiaries of foreign companies in Hong Kong. Since there is no direct trade relationship between Taiwan and the Chinese mainland, both are heavily reliant on Hong Kong to trade with the other.

iv. Hong Kong has one of the best printing industries in the world and produces excellent publication design. Printing in Hong Kong is known for its high standards, superior quality, and excellent service. With about 5,000 printing companies, and easily accessible support from two printing bases—Shenzhen and Dongguan of the Chinese mainland, the printing industry in Hong Kong is strongly competitive and occupies an important position among its different manufacturing industries. In 2002, the total value of the books, magazines and other printing products produced in Hong Kong and later exported was worth US$500 million. Refined printing encourages high levels of publication design. Hong Kong publications have received many international prizes. The strong printing sector also propels and facilitates the development of other sectors of the industry such as publishing and editing.

Macau and Hong Kong are similar in many ways such as their social systems, laws, history, and market management. However, due to the much lower population (5% of Hong Kong population) and very limited area (2.5% of the area of Hong Kong), and a different cultural background, Macau has not developed a strong Chinese publishing industry. However, since Macau’s return to China in 1999, considerable progress has been made.

C. Chinese Publishing Outside China

Chinese publishing is not limited to the Chinese mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau. In some countries and regions outside China, Chinese language publishing exists. In order to provide an overall image of Chinese publishing in the world, it is necessary to briefly touch on these other markets.

Preliminary estimates show that about 500 Chinese newspapers and magazines exist in the world besides those in the Chinese mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau, and annually about 1,000 Chinese titles are widely published outside China. In addition to the existence of about 50 Chinese websites in these other regions, there are also some Chinese radio and TV stations. The readers of these publications live in many places in the world. The total sales of the Chinese books and magazines outside China exceed US$100 million, and the market mainly consists of four blocks: North America accounts for about 50% of total sales, Europe accounts for about 10%, and Northeast Asia (e.g. Japan) and Southeast Asia (e.g. Singapore and Malaysia) together represent the remaining 40%. (See Figure 1.5.)

Outside China, North- and Southeast Asia, and North America are the two regions where Chinese publishing is the most active.

1. Malaysia, Singapore and Other Asian Countries

Outside China, Chinese publishing is most active in Malaysia and Singapore, and to some degree with their large production scale, the two countries are possibly becoming the fourth Chinese publishing base after the Chinese mainland, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.

At present, the annual Chinese book output in these two countries comes to about 600 titles with sales of US$25 million (according to Poh Seng Titt). Prominent publishing companies include SNP Panpac Pte. Ltd., Shinglee Publishers Pte. Ltd., Federal Educational Publishers, World Scientific Publishing Co., The Shanghai Book (CNPIEC) Co., (Pte) Ltd., Mentor Bookstore, The Commercial Press Bookstore, The Commercial Press (Malaysia) Ltd, and Xuelin Publishing. Popular Holdings Ltd. in

Singapore owns a bookstore chain with nearly 100 outlets and also engages in publishing books in Singapore, Malaysia, Canada, Hong Kong and Taiwan. SNP Panpac and Federal Educational Publishers also operate in other overseas markets.

Altogether, there are about 150 Chinese bookstores, of which about 100 are located in Malaysia. Singapore has a famous book center at the Bras Basah Complex. Both countries host annual international book fairs where Chinese books occupy an important position. The World Book Fair in Singapore showcases both Chinese and English books, while the Kuala Lumpur International Book Fair in Malaysia is the biggest Chinese book fair organized outside China.

Compared to book publishing, Chinese newspaper publishing in these two regions is even more developed. Lianhe Zaobao is a major media player and Singapore Press Holdings Ltd., Malaysia’s Nanyang Press Holdings Berhad, and the Sinchew Group are prominent press groups. Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. owns Lianhe Zaobao, Lianhe Wanbao, and Shin Min Daily News, and Nanyang Press Holdings Berhad controls Nanyang Siang Pau, China Press, 12 magazines, and one publishing company. In addition, some Chinese websites are operated out of both countries.

Southeast Asia and some other countries also have Chinese newspapers and a few Chinese bookstores, but not on a large scale. World Journal in Thailand, with a circulation of over 30,000, should be considered an important Chinese newspaper in that region. Every year, Japan imports the greatest number of Chinese books.

2. North America and Other Regions

Chinese publishing in the Americas is concentrated in North America, and the publishers are mainly from the Chinese mainland, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. These publishers and the local publishing houses together have launched a young yet well-organized Chinese publishing network.

Chinese publishing establishments in the United States (U.S.) are concentrated in the east and west in cities such as New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, while in Canada they are mainly in Vancouver and Toronto. The China National Publications Import & Export (Group) Corporation (CNPIEC), China International Book Trade Corporation, China National Publications International Trade Corporation, Science Press, and Tianjin Press and Publishing Bureau all have branches or bookstores in these American cities, and the Liaoning Publishing Group has a bookstore in Toronto. The Sino United Publishing (Holdings) Ltd., the most influential Hong Kong publisher in North America, has opened bookstores in Vancouver, Toronto, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco, and among its subsidiaries, Oriental Culture Enterprises Co., Inc. and Eastwind Books & Arts, Inc. are both doing very well in the U.S.

Taiwan has the strongest publishing and distribution networks in North America. The World Journal, sponsored by the United Daily News Group, is the most influential Chinese newspaper in North America. The company owns more than 20 chain bookstores and has distribution networks based in New

York and Los Angeles. Some other Taiwanese companies also have established branches in the U.S., for example, Li Ming Cultural Enterprise Co., Ltd. set up Li Ming Culture and Art Company.

There are independent Chinese publishing companies and bookstores in North America, and most of them are established by Chinese immigrants and operate on a small scale, such as Evergreen Publishing & Stationery, Oriental Culture Books, King Stone Bookstore, and Jieli Inc., of which both the Evergreen and Oriental Culture Books are among the few prominent Chinese bookstores in America.

Other than the World Journal, there are nearly a hundred other Chinese newspapers published in North America, and the influential ones include The China Press (America edition), Sing Tao Daily (America and Canada editions), Ming Pao Daily (America edition) and Liberty Times. Many Chinese newspapers are issued as weeklies.

In spite of sharing many similarities with North America, Chinese publishing in Europe exists on a smaller scale, and most of the publishing entities are set up by publishers of the Chinese mainland, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. The CNPIEC has subsidiaries or offices in Britain, Germany, and Russia, of which the Germany subsidiary is the largest publishing entity established by Chinese mainland publishers in Europe. Taiwan’s Cheng Chung Book Co., Ltd. and Li Ming Cultural Enterprise Co., Ltd. have bookstores in London and Paris, while Hong Kong’s Sino United Publishing has a branch in London. In addition, there are some independent Chinese bookstores, of which the most prominent ones are You-feng Bookstore and Phoenix Bookstore in France, opened by M. Kim Hun, a Chinese immigrant from Cambodia, and a Frenchman, Philippe Meyer, respectively. Youfeng Bookstore even engages in publishing. Of Chinese newspapers in Europe, the Europe Daily, published by the United Daily News group of Taiwan, is most influential.

While a majority of Chinese newspapers and magazines in North America and Europe are published and distributed locally, other types of publications such as books and electronic books mainly come from the three main publishing regions of China. In recent years, the number of Chinese websites in North America have increased rapidly. So far, dozens of various Chinese Internet companies have been established. Many Chinese newspapers there also operate their own Chinese websites, providing various online information and services.

Australia and South America also have some Chinese publishing activities. In Australia, Chinese publishing is growing as Chinese is becoming a more important language.

D. Copyright Protection in the Chinese Mainland

China’s first copyright law, The Copyright Law of the Great Qing, was promulgated in 1910, and in 1915, the Beijing government issued the second copyright law in Chinese history. The third copyright law was enacted in 1928 by the Nationalist government, which was in force in the Chinese mainland until October 1949.

With the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949, all laws promulgated by the former government were abolished in the Chinese mainland including the copyright laws, which are still used in Taiwan to this day. In Hong Kong, British copyright law was used between 1949 and 1997.

In September 1990, 40 years after the previous copyright law, a new copyright law, The Copyright Law of the People’s Republic of China, was drawn up in the Chinese mainland and came into effect on June 1, 1991. Some other related regulations were also issued, including the Rules on Implementation of the Copyright Law, the Rules on Protection of Computer Software, and the Rules on Custom Protection of Intellectual Property. In October 2001, the copyright law and its related regulations were first amended.

China joined the World Intellectual Property Organization in 1980 and became a member of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works and the Universal Copyright Convention on October 15 and 30, 1992, respectively. On March 27, 1993, the Chinese mainland became a signatory of the Convention for the Protection of Producers of Phonograms against Unauthorized Duplication of their Phonograms, and with entry into the WTO on December 11, 2001, the Agreements on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights began to be implemented.

Copyrights in the Chinese mainland are protected by both legal and administrative measures.

According to the copyright law, Chinese citizens, legal entities, and other organizations enjoy copyright protection for their works, whether published or not. The copyrights of foreigners and stateless persons are protected by Chinese law according to bilaterial agreements concluded between China and the country to which they belong or in which they reside, or according to international treaties to which both countries are signatories. Also, foreigners and stateless persons whose country or residing country has not concluded any agreement treaty with China or is not a party to any international treaty to which China is a party can also enjoy the protection of Chinese law if their work is first published in a member country of an international treaty to which China is a signatory, or simultaneously published in a member country of the treaty and in a non-member country.

The copyright law stipulates that acts of infringement, such as publishing a work without permission of the copyright owner, publishing a work of joint authorship as a work created solely by an individual without the permission of the co-author(s), or having one’s name mentioned in another person’s work in which the one has not contributed to the creation, will bear civil liabilities including ceasing the infringement, eliminating the bad effects of the action, making an apology, and paying compensation for damages.

For serious acts of infringement such as reproducing, distributing, performing, presenting, broadcasting, disseminating through information networks, and publishing works of others without the permission of the copyright owner, besides bearing civil liabilities, the infringer shall also submit to the disciplinary actions taken by the administrative department for copyright enforcement such as confiscating unlawful gains, confiscating and destroying copies of the material, and confiscating tools and equipment used to produce copies of infringement.

Under The Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China, for serious acts of infringement aiming for unlawful gains and having made a large sum from such gains, or involving other serious acts of infringement, criminal liabilities shall be investigated, and the infringer is subject to a punishment of under seven years in prison and liability to pay fines.

The Copyright Law also indicates that the Chinese government takes partial responsibility in the implementation of the copyright law. The NCAC is responsible for the administration of copyright protection nationwide, and the administrative departments for copyright under the governments of provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities directly under the central government are responsible for the administration of copyright protection in their respective administrative regions. (See Chapter 1-A-4 for the structure of the copyright protection apparatus.) If a dispute occurs over administrative enforcement and penalties, the involved party may take legal action in a People’s Court.

Different copyright laws have been applied in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau, and since their return to China, Hong Kong and Macau have adopted a new copyright law. The copyright laws in these three regions are similar to that of the Chinese mainland; yet, if dispute over copyright or infringement occurs, there is only one legal path to settle the dispute.

In the past 10 years, China has made some substantial changes in copyright protection. The current situation is neither as good as some people claim nor as bad as others may say. The reality is that piracy still exists and is a serious problem in some regions, but in the meantime, violators are punishable by law and the Chinese government has been taking strong measures against piracy. Otherwise, there would not have been more than 10,000 titles licensed from overseas annually, representing 10% of all new book titles. Without such strong measures, Harry Potter books, whose retail price is twice the norm would not have sold more than five million copies in the Chinese mainland.

In short, there has already been much done to fight piracy and great efforts are continuing.


views updated May 29 2018


A map does more than represent physical space. It situates space in time and in a particular social, political, cultural, and scientific context. Geographic maps make select elements of natural spaces into cultural places whose physical features have meaning for humans who use them, among other purposes, to navigate voyages and claim land or govern peoples. Mapping in the Americas existed before the arrival of Europeans in 1492, but, as Argentine urban historian Jorge Hardoy noted in 1983, there is no history of Latin American cartography, perhaps because of distinct national and imperial histories and multiple mapmaking traditions derived from and sometimes combining Amerindian and European practices.


Pre-Columbian mapping to represent space was most developed among the Nahua and Aztecs (Mexica), a people without a word for map because their pictorial representation on paper, cloth, and hides of landholdings, territories, routes, war plans, and rivers did not differ significantly from their image-based writing. Although the Maya are reported to have created similar maps, only pre-Columbian cosmographical maps representing sacred space survive. Scholars identify Andean peoples as representing secular and religious space using abstract images on ceramics and textiles, but only Mexica scribes are known to have made maps to facilitate conquistadors' travels, confirming not only their expertise but their ability to make representations legible to heirs of a different symbolic tradition.


From initial sketches to methodically constructed and lavishly illustrated maps, European cartography from Columbus's earliest expeditions not only depicted geographical space but claimed literal and figurative control over land and inhabitants and reflected Europe's changing understanding of the globe. Europeans were the first to map the Americas as a unit comprising the Caribbean and North, Central and South America, setting the stage for justifications for controlling this unit. The Portuguese, under Prince Henry the Navigator, were perhaps the most advanced cartographers in Europe, but the Spanish-sponsored Columbus expeditions were the first to map American lands. Initial maps identifying Central America's coast as part of Asia were soon replaced with more accurate renderings of continents that undermined the medieval understanding that only water separated Western Europe from Asia to the west. They also highlighted claims by European states to control specific territories by naming or renaming places, using saints' names (San Salvador), names of metropolitan centers (New Spain), or geographic features (Buenos Aires), applying hybrid names (San Luís Potosí) to existing villages. In this way they largely inscribed European territorial control across American places.

Iberian Manuscript Maps

Few detailed Spanish or Portuguese maps, particularly city plans or maps of shores, harbors, and sea routes, were published in the sixteenth century, for fear of use by rival European powers, particularly France and England, whose pirates, privateers, and naval vessels sought to hijack bullion and develop contraband trade. Instead, pilots' reports and maps were likely to be held in manuscript form in government archives. Such maps might include navigational innovations, such as scales of latitude and longitude that put locating grids on rhumb lines or formerly empty space, transforming medieval-style maritime charts, such as the 1500 portolan world map by Spanish cartographer Juan de la Cosa, into precursors of modern maps. Or they might include navigational charts, such as Lisbon cartographer João Teixeira's 1630 manuscript atlas of secret maps of Portugal's empire that, among other things, pushed the line separating Spanish from Portuguese possessions to the west. So foreigners such as Britain's Sir Walter Ralegh were particularly delighted to collect "a secret mappe of those partes made in Mexico … for the King of Spaine" (Harley 1988, p. 64).

Published World Maps and Atlases

Outside Iberia, New World discoveries prompted multiple innovations in cartography, as mapmakers who had never visited the New World developed and published maps for European consumption, based on explorers' reports. In 1507, cosmographer Martin Waldseemüller published the first map to label the continents as the Americas, probably due to Amerigo Vespucci's identification of this "unknown land" as a continent unheard of by Ptolemy and the classical world, and to show the Pacific Ocean as a separate body of water. The Eurocentric world map, with north on top, would remain a standard (and seemingly objective) representation until twentieth century cartographers not only flipped the world upside down, but also made Afrocentric or Asia-centric maps, revealing how this seemingly neutral map actually symbolized and naturalized Western European power.

Abraham Ortelius published the first full world atlas, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (1570, Antwerp), a map in book form made for transport, not walls; Cornelius Wytfliet's first atlas of the Americas, Descriptionis Ptolemaicae augmentum (1597, Louvain), followed, along with Gerardus Mercator's cylindrical projection, which is still used for navigation charts and world maps. By 1601, with information widely available, the chronicler of Spain's Council of the Indies, Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas, published Spain's first official atlas of fourteen folding maps of its American territories as part of his four-volume Historia General de los hechos de los castellanos en las islas i tierra firme del mar océano (1601, Madrid).

Despite extensive exploration and mapping, lacunae remained in early imperial cartography; California was occasionally represented as an island, and the fabled city of Cíbola and the Northwest Passage sometimes appeared as real places. In addition, shores, bays, and rivers connecting coastal settlements were more accurately depicted than the interiors, which Europeans had neither settled nor fully controlled. Early European maps of the New World thus showed a progression in understanding basic geography and topography, and the limits of control over territorial interiors (which served as refuges for many indigenous peoples as well as maroon, or runaway slave, communities).


As colonization followed exploration, early Latin American cartography developed a syncretism in which both American and European world views mixed in maps by both groups, maps meant to make policy as well as represent territory.

Syncretic Cartography

One European hybrid map is the 1524 woodcut of Tenochtitlán, the Aztec capital on whose ruins Hernán Cortés founded Mexico City. The art historian Barbara Mundy believes the woodcut's sources is one of two maps, now lost, that Cortés sent to Charles V to promote his conquest: a detailed city map of Tenochtitlán of unknown authorship and "a cloth with all the coast painted on it, and … a river which ran to the sea" (Mundy 1998, p. 25). Mundy makes a convincing case that the European representation "translated" Mexica towns into Renaissance villages, showing both how "civilized" and "well-ordered" this society was and its "barbaric" practice of human sacrifice, seen in the city's temple precinct and skull rack, which justified Spain's conquest. A public domain image of this map can be found on the Web site of the History Project at the University of California, Davis; a black-and-white image is also available from the Library of Congress.

In Mexico, caciques (chieftains) and other holders of pre-Columbian documents converted manuscripts of primarily historical or genealogical content into "written maps" by adding text to indicate boundaries, probably for use as evidence in Spanish courts, and continued to use footprints for roads and bell shapes for communities on postconquest maps. Native authors also integrated their own symbols into maps commissioned by Europeans. The most well-known examples of hybrid cartography are the surviving 160 maps (of 191) produced (relaciones geográficas) in the 1570s in response to Spain's demands for information from all parts of the Americas, a process dubbed "mapping by questionnaire" (Edwards 1969). The Crown asked for details on demographics, political jurisdictions, languages, physical terrain, and native vegetation, as well as city plans, to provide data for metropolitan scholars including Juan López de Velasco author of the 1571–1574 manuscript Geografía y descripción universal de las Indias. Relación geográfica plans of Mexican towns such as Cholula and Culhuacán depict a Spanish grid pattern but add Tlaxcalan glyphs and mountains next to Spanish churches or footprints to indicate pathways, hinting that indigenous informants and authors were as prevalent in this project as in previous and subsequent inquiries into geographic, ethnographic, and natural history.

European Mapping

As Europeans' control and knowledge of the Americas increased, their methods and techniques came to dominate maps produced for and by colonial and later national governments whose elites shared Western values and education. Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, British, and French officials in the Americas mapped the towns and land of colonial districts; individuals and town councils commissioned cadastral surveys of private land claims and property; governors asked for maps of proposed new roads; mariners took soundings and charted bays and shores; priests and missionaries issued statistical and geographical information from their parish and bishopric visitas; engineers drafted plans of cities and fortresses, and architectural renderings of new buildings accompanied reports to colonial and metropolitan military, commercial, and administrative authorities. Neither the Spanish nor their competitors seem to have expended much energy mapping mining centers, which may have been a strategic decision. European audiences without access to such official maps might turn to books published by the occasional traveler to Spanish or Portuguese America. The Briton Thomas Gage lived as a Dominican friar in Mexico and Central America before returning to England, where he published a critique of Spanish colonialism with maps based on first-hand observations.

Eighteenth-Century Mapping

Eighteenth-century mapmaking continued as part of a larger project of collecting and disseminating encyclopedic information about a region, and as well as extending power over territory by placing particular regions, landmarks, and borders, on an imperial power's map. Military engineers and civilians with training in mathematics, astronomy, and geometry mapped to answer scientific questions. If Latin America did not develop novel cartographic science, it once again proved important to its advancement. Famous maps emerged from surveys done by scientists such as Charles de la Condamine and his associates who traveled to the Audiencia of Quito in 1736 to determine the length of a degree of latitude, and so settle the question of the shape of the earth. Spanish experts on the expedition, Jorge Juan and Antonio de Ulloa, contributed not only scientific measurements but commentary on problems with colonial society. The most famous cartographer of late colonial Spanish America was, however, the Prussian naturalist Alexander von Humboldt, who explored South America, Cuba, and Mexico with French naturalist and illustrator Aimé Bonpland from 1799 to 1804. Like sixteenth-century chroniclers, Humboldt carried not just scientific instruments but "sacks of verbiage" with which to inscribe peoples and places on maps, in copious illustrations, tables, and charts, and in his multivolume travel narratives describing political, social, economic, and cultural as well as geographic, climatological, and biological elements (Burnett 2000, p. 94). Among his other contributions to geographic knowledge, Humboldt was the first to suggest that the Americas and Africa might once have been joined, and his four-month, 1725-mile trip down the Orinoco led to confirmation of the communication of the Orinoco and Amazon River water systems. In a way, Humboldt's work extended the cartographic syncretism of the early colonial cartogra-phers, as he relied on local knowledge as well as his own scientific investigation; however, he drew not from Aztec lords but Creole elites.

Spanish naval officers, including Alejandro Malaspina and José de Bustamante, continued to map for political purposes as part of imperial cartography's emphasis on defending claims to poorly explored areas, such as the Pacific Northwest and South America's interior, which had dense forests, difficult mountains, and challenging climates, and lacked easily exploitable natural resources and labor pools. As Europeans moved inland, notional boundaries, such as the 1494 division of Spanish and Portuguese South America under the Treaty of Tordesillas, came to need real markers. As a result, after 1750 and 1770 treaty attempts proved fruitless; the Portuguese and Spanish mounted joint expeditions starting in 1778 to determine the boundaries between their South American colonies.


By the early nineteenth century, as most Spanish and Portuguese territories became independent of their European metropolises, the new national governments harnessed cartography (much as did other governments of the time) to fill in blanks, set boundaries, catalogue natural and human resources, and project an image of the legitimacy and authority of their states for both internal and external audiences.

Defining Countries

Who mapped in this period? National governments worked assiduously to create maps that would define their territorial boundaries in what historian Raymond Craib has called "state fixations": attempts to control "fugitive landscapes" in which competing forces—individual landowners, village elders, military officials, tax agents—fought over boundaries, water or drilling rights, and other issues. Such mapping projects continued the colonial tradition of seeking to improve knowledge and accuracy of representation of topographic features, and resulted in locally authored atlases, such as Miguel Rivera Maestre's 1832 atlas of Guatemala's seven departments and a national map and Antonio García Cubas's 1858 General Map of Mexico. Maps were compiled using information from expeditions and surveys, colonial records, and even vignettes from nineteenth-century travel accounts, to provide not just a topography but a more complex physical and political geography that incorporated distant and sometimes autonomous populations into the new states, fixing them on the map and, symbolically, under the control of national elites, while providing a catalogue of local customs, costumes, products, flora, and fauna. Agustín Codazzi, an Italian-born military officer and engineer, was hired in the 1830s by Venezuela with a mandate that shows just how closely the new republics correlated having an accurate map with good governance. Codazzi was to "facilitate military operations, further the knowledge of provincial limits, determine what the exact tributary contributions should be, aid in the development of agriculture, facilitate the opening and construction of roadways, help in the drainage of lakes and swamps and facilitate the navigation of rivers" (Del Castillo 2004, n. 5).

International Borders

Marking national and international boundaries motivated a significant part of nineteenth-century Latin American cartography, because the outer limits of the colonial administrative districts forming most present-day Latin American states were often unclear. For example, Rivera Maestre's 1832 Guatemala atlas left its border with Mexico undefined while claiming parts of Honduras far beyond colonial boundaries. Codazzi later directed Colombia's Chorographic Commission (1849–1859); his recommendations for where to set the country's borders in the Caquetá region with Ecuador and Brazil largely hold. In general, as in the case that settled the Honduran-Nicaraguan border in 1906 using (among other sources) nineteen German, Dutch, and British maps dated from 1597 to 1777, historical maps of varying accuracy were called on to support both sides. Such disputes also prompted new surveys. The British government sent Robert Schomburgk to Guyana in the 1830s to explore the colony's backlands, as Venezuela, Brazil, and British colonial authorities disputed its national boundary (much as independent Guyana and Venezuela still do, despite U.S. arbitration in 1899). Schomburgk, like Codazzi, used the traverse survey that Humboldt favored, which allowed a small group to chart altitude and latitude and longitude positions, transcribe their route and sight lines, and later create a map that provided detail on the colony's rivers, mountains, and territory. The trigonometric survey technique, while more accurate, required unfeasibly larger and more expensive teams of surveyors.

Nineteenth-century conflicts created additional cartographic demands, from the War of the Pacific to the Mexican-American War. After the latter, a Mexico Boundary Commission demarcated the border after it had been described and agreed upon in the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Changing riverbeds and water rights disputes led to the creation of a permanent body, the International Boundary Commission (1889; as of 1944, the International Boundary and Water Commission), to address disagreements and preserve the boundary at the Rio Grande and Colorado River. As the post-independence civil wars largely drew to a close by the late nineteenth century, governments institutionalized national cartography by creating geographical and statistical institutes charged with mapping political boundaries, populations, mineral resources, and road and river systems; they also established military institutes that mapped for military purposes, with cartographers trained in U.S. and European techniques and schools. Mexico's Geographic Exploration Commission, created by Porfirio Díaz, was one such institution. Business, academic, and leisure travelers, too, grew in numbers and supplemented official maps with cartography about themes that interested them: plans of Maya ruins, geological surveys of valleys with mining potential, charts locating ethnic groups or volcano chains.


Twentieth- and twenty-first century Latin-American cartography has been affected by changing technologies and international organizations. After World War II, aerial photography enabled cartographers to combine ground observations and remote sensing to increase the accuracy of maps, and in the 1970s and 1980s computers allowed databases of information to be stored in geographic information systems (GIS) in which there are multiple ways to store, analyze, and display georeferenced information. These techniques have resulted in more complete and accurate maps produced by government agencies and private companies. By the 1940s many states had established national geographic institutes, eventually combining cartographic offices with other statistics-gathering agencies to create institutions such as Brazil's Institution Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IBGE, 1937) and Mexico's INEGI (Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Geografía, e Informática, 1980), which produce not only maps but demographic and other important population and economic statistics. Equally important, America's nations created regional organizations which promoted multinational and regional geographical and cartographic advances. The twenty-two-member Instituto Panamericano de Geografía e Historia (1928) based in Mexico City became a specialized agency of the Organization of American States (1948) in 1949, and has spent eighty years funding, promoting, and coordinating cartographic, geographic, geophysical, and historical studies.

Maps and Travel

The twentieth century also produced two relatively novel kinds of mapping projects. First, starting in the early part of the century, there was a boom in mapping for business travelers and tourists who could choose road, rail, or air travel to visit modern cities, ancient ruins, sunny beaches, or folkloric villages. National touring clubs promoted the travel business and developed specialized maps and guidebooks for a new group of map consumers, travelers who scheduled their own flights and hired their own cars to visit formerly difficult-to-access places on newly paved roads. In Mexico, the result was the Guia Roja series, and in Brazil, the Guía Rodivaria of the Río de Janeiro branch of the national auto club. In the United States, Rand McNally and General Drafting, among other companies, provided maps for foreigners planning driving tours on parts of the Pan-American Highway. Such maps, in addition to including practical information such as distances and driving times, might include icons of sombreros or happy tourists throwing beach balls in water, emphasizing the tourists' interest in Latin America as a place for pleasure and entertainment, and one in which natural wonders—whether agricultural export items or caves and rivers to explore—abounded. In the early twenty-first century it is not unusual for a tourist center such as Antigua, Guatemala, to distribute maps of its colonial center ringed with advertisements for the hotels, restaurants, and boutiques that underpin the local economy.

Indigenous Knowledge and Cartography

Until the late twentieth century, state and private mapping followed late colonial and early national precedent, often ignoring indigenous knowledges and methods of representing or marking space. More recently, the political success (with international support) of indigenous movements has resulted in the second mapmaking novelty, indigenous participation in cartographic projects from Belize to Panama and from Venezuela to Guyana and Brazil to secure land titles, sometimes in coordination with conservationists. Quechua- and Aymara-speakers living near Lake Titicaca use maps that blend both Western and Andean representational precepts in negotiations with Peruvian officials, and there are foreign-funded GIS labs in both Bolivia and Perú. In the early 1990s, Colombia launched a mapas parlantes (speaking maps) project, intended to recover and promote history as recalled and spoken by indigenous peoples. Activist geographers have fostered such projects. Peter Herlihy and Bjorn Sletto, among others, have returned to a syncretic cartographic tradition and work with native groups using new technologies, including GIS, to allow these groups to create their own representations of the territory they occupy. In the Honduran La Mosquitia region (the Mosquito Coast), Herlihy developed a form of "participative cartography" that invited Garifuna, Miskito, Pech, and other indigenous populations to give interviews to help "ascertain their popular geographical conceptions" in the 1990s. In 2001, sponsored by the Honduran and German governments, the same team worked on "participatory research mapping" to develop a zoning and management plan for Central America's oldest biosphere reserve, "transforming cognitive knowledge of local peoples into standard maps and data, seeking to catalyze partnerships for conservation" (Herlihy 2001).


Cartographers, official and unofficial, were not the only authors of influential maps of Latin America. Artists have used maps across the centuries to create and display knowledge and challenge power. In the colonial period, portraits of viceroys and explorers might locate the subject standing next to or seated at a table on which a map of newly conquered or visited territory symbolized control. In 1943 Uruguayan artist Joaquín Torres-García inverted a map of South America by flipping the continent so that Patagonia and the "South Pole" were at the top, drawing in white on a black background to emphasize the oppositional politics of his message. Nestling the map in between a sun and moon that appear to be derived from Inca iconography, the "upside-down" continent seems to propose a world in which North America and Mexico are not even on the map. Why? Some argue that the image promoted a Latin American art with indigenous as well as European roots, one intended to displace Northern artistic production with Southern creativity. Such a map, combining scientific and artistic aspects, is a reminder that cartography of and from this region is part of a long tradition of using representations of physical space to claim and contest power.

See alsoAmerica; Bonpland, Aimé Jacques; Codazzi, Agustín; Colonialism; Columbus, Christopher; Cortés, Hernán; Díaz, Porfirio; Explorers and Exploration: Brazil; Explorers and Exploration: Spanish America; Gage, Thomas; Guadalupe Hidalgo, Treaty of (1848); Herrera y Tordesillas, Antonio de; Humboldt, Alexander von; Malaspina, Alejandro; Mexico, Wars and Revolutions: Mexican-American War; Rivera Maestre, Miguel; Torres García, Joaquín; Ulloa, Antonio de; Vespucci, Amerigo; War of the Pacific.


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Harley, J. Brian. Maps and the Columbian Encounter. Milwaukee: Golda Meir Library, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 1990.

Herlihy, Peter H. "Indigenous and Ladino Peoples of the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve, Honduras." In Endangered Peoples of Latin America: Struggles to Survive and Thrive, edited by Susan C. Stonich, 100-120. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2001.

Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística. Online at http://www.ibge.gov.br/.

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Lewis, G. Malcolm, ed. Cartographic Encounters: Perspectives on Native American Mapmaking and Map Use. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.

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Mundy, Barbara E. "Mesoamerican Cartography." In Cartography in the Traditional African, American, Arctic, Australian Societies, edited by David Woodward and G. Malcolm Lewis (Vol. 2, Book 3 of The History of Cartography, edited by David Woodward and J. B. Harley). Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.

Mundy, Barbara E. The Mapping of New Spain: Indigenous Cartography and the Maps of the Relaciones Geográficas. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996, 2000.

Mundy, Barbara E. "Mapping the Aztec Capital: The 1524 Nuremberg Map of Tenochtitlan, Its Sources and Meanings." Imago Mundi 50 (1998): 11-33.

Padrón, Ricardo. "Mapping Plus Ultra: Cartography, Space and Hispanic Modernity." Representations 79 (2002), 28-60.

Planos de ciudades iberoamericanas y Filipinas existentes en el Archivo de Indias. 2 Vols. Madrid: Instituto de Estudios de Administración Local, 1951.

Rebert, Paula. La Gran Linea: Mapping the United States-Mexico Boundary, 1849–1857. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2001.

Reinhartz, Dennis, and Gerald D. Saxon, eds. Mapping and Empire: Soldier-Engineers on the Southwestern Frontier. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2005.

Sletto, Bjorn. "Mapping the Gran Sabana." Américas (Nov.-Dec. 2005): 6-13.

Stocks, Anthony. "Too Much for Too Few: Problems of Indigenous Land Rights in Latin America." Annual Review of Anthropology 34 (2005): 85-104.

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Whitehead, Neil L. "Indigenous Cartography in Lowland South America and the Caribbean." In Cartography in the Traditional African, American, Arctic, Australian Societies, edited by David Woodward and G. Malcolm Lewis (Vol. 2, Book 3 of The History of Cartography edited by David Woodward and J. B. Harley). Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.

Woodward, David, and G. Malcolm Lewis. Cartography in the Traditional African, American, Arctic, Australian Societies. Vol. 2, Book 3 of The History of Cartography, edited by David Woodward and J. B. Harley. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.

                                          Jordana Dym


views updated Jun 11 2018


Latin American countries have a long tradition of settling boundary disputes peacefully. Approximately seventeen border conflicts have been effectively resolved, more than in any other region of the world, since the Independence era. These were concluded through arbitration and mediation by European nations, the United States, Latin American countries, and tribunals of jurists. Generally these conflicts have been adjudicated as a response to immediate crises. In addition, the Inter-American System since the turn of the century and the Organization of American States (OAS), founded in 1948, created mechanisms for the peaceful conclusion of border controversies. Several pending boundary disputes in the late twentieth century are still based on the diverse claims of a colonial legacy. However, they have taken on new dimensions because the territories with rival claims contain energy and economic resources of great value. Strategic areas, too, are sources of future conflict, as are tensions arising between states from the migration and dislocation of people.


Boundaries in Latin America have been shaped by the colonial heritage of the Spanish and Portuguese empires in the New World. Independent states inherited demarcation lines that were once administered by Portuguese and Spanish ecclesiastical, civil, and legal bodies, each of which influenced the establishment of independent countries. Boundaries were confirmed by the principle of uti possidetis juris, which holds that new nations adopt the same boundaries as the colonial entity they replace. Since Independence in the early nineteenth century, there have emerged numerous boundary conflicts which reflect confusion over the jurisdiction of colonial viceroyalties and their subdivisions, such as captaincies-general, presidencies, and audiencias. The boundaries of these smaller administrative units were frequently as vague as the larger entities of which they were once a part. As of 2007, at least twelve countries from Mexico to the Antarctic have unsettled boundary issues and territorial claims against one or more of their neighbors. Each of them can be traced back through three hundred or more years of history, beginning with the competing imperial interests of Spain, Portugal, and their European rivals for domination of the American continent.


At the northern tier of South America, boundary issues occupy a major portion of the diplomatic activity of the region's nations. For most of the nineteenth century and on into the twentieth, Colombia and Venezuela struggled to establish an acceptable boundary. An agreement in 1881 gave Colombia the entire Guajira Peninsula, which juts out into the Caribbean Sea. In 1894 Bogotá agreed to cede the eastern portion of this territory, but Venezuela rejected the compromise and demanded that the matter be submitted to arbitration. Since the 1920s partial boundary markings have been agreed on, but a definitive demarcation line including the Guajira Peninsula has yet to be established. In the late twentieth century, sea rights in the Gulf of Venezuela, the entryway from the Caribbean to Venezuela's petroleum fields in Lake Maracaibo, with possible oil resources of its own, have been a major issue in a boundary dispute between these nations. A 1980 accord gave 75 percent of the Gulf and an archipelago at its mouth to Venezuela and set up provisions for sharing equally any oil that might be found there.

Since the mid-nineteenth century, Venezuela has had a border dispute with Guyana (formerly British Guiana) in which it claims a 53,000-square-mile area west of the Essequibo River—well over half of Guyana's territory. The area contains bauxite, aluminum, timber, potentially vast hydroelectric power, and possible oil deposits off the northern coast. Since 1966 several attempts have been made to establish a boundary. Both countries have agreed to use diplomatic means to resolve the conflict, namely the good offices of a mediator. Venezuela has suggested the secretary general of the United Nations, and Guyana had proposed that the International Court of Justice rule in the matter. Like Venezuela, Guyana has an unsettled boundary with its eastern neighbor, Suriname. The dispute originates from a late-eighteenth-century conflict between British and Dutch settlers. The issue centers on the validity of a boundary formed by the Courantyne-Kutari rivers and the New River.


Most of South America's Andean countries have as yet been unable to establish definitively accepted boundary lines. Disagreement has arisen over vast unsettled lands of earlier colonial powers and newfound mineral and sea resources in the region.

The War of the Pacific (1879–1882), one of the great conflicts in South American history, arose from vague boundaries. Chile, Bolivia, and Peru vied for the vast nitrate and guano resources in the Atacama Desert. The conflict also had roots in a disputed boundary between Bolivia and Chile that stemmed from their imperial colonial legacy. Territory belonging to the Bolivian department of Atacama on the Pacific Ocean had been designated as part of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata (with its capital Buenos Aires) in 1776. When Bolivia became independent, the area in question joined the new nation.

In the 1840s Peru issued licenses to companies exploiting resources in its territory of Tacna, Arica, and Tarapacá. Chile meanwhile claimed territory up to twenty-three degrees south latitude, a claim Bolivia rejected outright, saying it was an encroachment into its domain. In 1874 Chile and Bolivia established their boundary of 24 south latitude while agreeing to share resources between the twenty-third and twenty-fifth parallels through a condominium arrangement. When Peru nationalized all private mines in its nitrate-producing area of Tarapacá in 1875 to create a national monopoly, Chilean mine owners in the territory resisted the action. Bolivia in turn proposed a new tax on nitrates exported from its Atacama region in 1878. The Anglo Chilean Nitrate and Railroad Company, which had been granted a concession by Bolivia, refused to pay an export tax on its nitrate exports.

The intense rivalry among the Andean states for the vast resources in the Atacama along with a Bolivian-Peruvian treaty alliance resulted in war. When Chile ended Peru's control of the sea and defeated its army, Bolivia could no longer remain in the conflict and lost its Atacama territory. The Treaty of Ancón (1883), which ended the conflict, stipulated that Chile could hold Tacna and Arica for ten years. A plebiscite would decide the future disposition of the two areas. In 1929 Arica was ceded to Chile and Tacna to Peru. Bolivia lost its outlet to the sea.

Bolivia continues to look for access to the Pacific Ocean through territory it lost to Chile. It wants a free port on the Pacific Ocean and unimpeded access to it without paying compensation to Chile. Bolivia has presented its case for resolution before the OAS as a "hemisphere problem." This conflict is further complicated by the fact that the only corridor that Chile feels would be feasible is located along its northern border with Peru and consists of territory taken from the latter in the War of the Pacific. Peru has a treaty right, dating from 1929, to approve any arrangement involving its former territory should Chile decide to cede it to a third party. In 2007, Bolivia offered an economic incentive by promising to export its natural gas to Chile in return for access to the coastline; Chile refused the offer.

Peru and Colombia had conflicting claims to Leticia, a 4,000-square-mile area near the Putumayo River in the northeastern Peru-southeastern Colombia region. The dispute emerged from the confusion of boundaries between the colonial viceroyalties of Peru and New Granada and the existence of rubber in the region. The borders agreed upon in 1924 gave Colombia much of the disputed area between the Putumayo and Amazon rivers, including the town of Leticia. Although both sides ratified the treaty, Peru—resenting the loss of land—invaded Leticia in 1932. The League of Nations created a Commission of States (Spain, Cuba, the United States, and Brazil) to regulate the disputed region. In 1934 both nations accepted the boundaries set by the 1924 agreement, and the disputed area was then ceded to Colombia.

Vague colonial jurisdiction in a 100,000-square-mile jungle, bounded by the eastern slopes of the Andes, the Ecuadorian-Colombian border, and the Marañon River, brought Peru and Ecuador to war in 1941. Oil and rubber resources made land claims in this area valuable. The Rio Protocol of 1942, drawn up by mediators (the United States, Argentina, Brazil, and Chile as guarantor powers) and signed by both countries, gave most of the disputed territory to Peru. In 1960 Ecuador, smarting under the 1942 accord, formally declared the Rio Protocol null and void. That same year, fighting broke out in a still-unmarked area between the two states that was believed to have oil resources. Again in 1981, armed conflict erupted in the same region, known as the Cordillera del Condor. Ecuador called for the OAS to convene a meeting of its foreign ministers to deal with the issue. The four guarantor states of 1942 again arranged a cease fire in 1981. In the mid-1990s, Ecuador still demanded that the 1942 Rio Protocol be renegotiated. Peru asked that only the remaining unmarked border of 125 miles be established. After another conflict in 1995, the same guarantor states brokered another agreement, which Peru and Ecuador signed in 1998.

Paraguay and Bolivia lost substantial territory in two nineteenth-century conflicts: Paraguay in the Paraguayan War (1864–1870), or War of the Triple Alliance, and Bolivia in the War of the Pacific. They had conflicting territorial claims in the Chaco, an area of 150,000 square miles believed to have oil deposits. Boundaries were not established in the area either during the colonial era or after independence. Although both nations lay claim to the Chaco under the principle of uti possidetis juris, Paraguay began colonization projects in the 1930s to assert effective occupation, or uti possidetis actual. The three-year Chaco War (1932–1935) ended with that nation occupying a substantial part of the Chaco. In 1938 a peace treaty establishing boundary lines did not give Bolivia the access to the Atlantic by way of the Río de la Plata waterway system that it wanted. However, the mediating powers did give some of the territory under Paraguayan military occupation to Bolivia. A buffer zone of approximately 60 miles was established to separate Paraguay from Bolivia's oil deposits in the Camiri region in the Chaco.

Boundaries between Argentina and Chile were settled rather easily in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Great Andean Range, stretching 2,900 miles and separating the two states, was considered an easily recognizable divide. Between 1881 and 1905 the boundary along the northern portion of the Andes was set at a point "that divided the waters." Later erosion by rivers flowing eastward toward Argentina pushed the watershed west of the Andes to Chile. Consequently, Argentina pressed for the water divide, while Chile favored the crest. By 1905 arbitration had set a boundary line agreeable to both countries.

Further south, a more contentious boundary dispute erupted between Argentina and Chile over the ownership of three islands, Lennox, Picton, and Nueva, in the Atlantic mouth of the Beagle Channel, north of Cape Horn. The key issues were whether the channel entered the Atlantic north or south of the islands and where the channel ended and the Atlantic Ocean began. The dispute also included jurisdiction over surrounding waters, which involved potential offshore rights to rich fishing areas and undersea oil as well as strategic access to the Antarctic.

Both states agreed to submit the issue for arbitration by the British crown. A special tribunal selected by Argentina and Chile from the World Court assisted England in six years of study that resulted in awarding the three islands to Chile in 1977. Argentina rejected the decision. Three years later, under the good offices of the Vatican, Chile would receive all the disputed islands but only limited offshore rights in the Atlantic meridian passing through Cape Horn. Both countries would share scientific and economic ventures in the archipelago as well. Chile, which owned 12 miles of territorial waters east of the islands, would have to share resource development in the outer 6 miles of that strip. Argentina, sovereign in a 200-mile area into the Atlantic, would have to allow Chile to take part in resource development there, too. In 1984, with still no resolution to the issues, Pope John Paul II drafted a friendship pact, signed by both countries, which provided for continued mediation of this boundary and territorial issue. Later in the year, both countries accepted a treaty that was essentially the same as the 1980 proposal.

Brazil concluded boundary settlements with all of its neighbors (mostly Spanish American states) in the first decade of the twentieth century. Since the colonial era, Brazil had been expanding in all directions either through treaty agreements with Spain or later through occupation in the vast unchartered lands of the southern continent. In the so-called Age of Territorial Diplomacy (1880–1900), Brazil fixed its borders with countries contiguous to it mostly through the latter method.

In 1903 boundary settlements with Bolivia concerning the rubber-producing Acre region gave the territory to Brazil. In return Brazil paid about $10 million to Bolivia for the construction of a railroad to the sea by way of the Amazon River. Other boundaries were fixed in a treaty agreement with French Guiana (1900), in a convention with Argentina (1910) ratifying a treaty concluded in 1898, and in treaties with Peru (1904), Colombia (1928), Venezuela (1929), and Dutch Guiana (1931).


Boundary disputes in Central America have been similar in origin to those in the Southern Hemisphere. Conflicting territorial claims and the existence of valuable economic resources have been prominent among the sources of these disputes. When the Central American Federation broke up in 1838, disputes over boundaries occurred throughout the region. Yet in the twentieth century, demarcation lines have generally been established peacefully. There have been exceptions to this trend, most notably the El Salvador-Honduras War (Soccer War) in 1969. Honduras claimed territory corresponding to the colonial bishopric of Honduras. El Salvador asserted its sovereignty based on administrative areas established during Spanish rule. When Honduras expelled Salvadoran migrants from the disputed area, war broke out. The OAS was called upon to step in and mediate the issue. It took ten years for it to do so, but the result was a peace treaty signed in 1980. The agreement established a boundary for 135 miles. A commission of representatives from both nations was formed to determine the remaining areas for demarcation, mainly in the Chalatenango, La Unión, and the Goascoran River delta.

A Guatemala-Belize (formerly British Honduras) dispute as well as a Nicaragua-Colombia conflict over several Atlantic islands reflect more than border issues. They involve territorial claims of each state. As has been common in all of Latin America, conflicting colonial jurisdictions have been the main cause of the dispute between Nicaragua and Colombia over nine islands off the former's eastern coast. Nicaragua claims sovereignty over five of them. The dispute began when Spain gave the viceroyalty in New Granada (Colombia) responsibility for defending San Andrés and Providencia islands in 1803. This order was rescinded in 1806, and similar authority was given to the captaincy-general of Guatemala, of which Nicaragua was a part. During the U.S. military intervention in Nicaragua, Managua was persuaded in 1928 to recognize Colombian sovereignty over San Andrés, Providencia, and Santa Catalina islands. Nicaragua abrogated the treaty in 1980. The dispute continues unresolved. As of 2007, the dispute was before the International Court of Justice for a final settlement.

The Guatemala-Belize controversy originated with Great Britain's effective occupation of Spain's eastern Central American territory in the seventeenth century. Guatemala claims the area on the principle of uti possidetis juris, asserting sovereignty based on colonial jurisdiction. When British Honduras (later Belize) declared its independence in September 1981, it became a member of the British Commonwealth and the United Nations over Guatemala's protest. In a Heads of Agreement (Britain, Belize, and Guatemala) document drawn up the same year, Guatemala yielded on the territorial claim and Belize granted it permanent and unimpeded access to its isolated port of Puerto Barrios on the Gulf of Honduras. However, negotiations have not yet resolved this dispute definitively, and Guatemala still maintains its claim to about half of Belize's territory.

The Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo (1848), ending the Mexican-American War (1846–1848), established the middle portion of the Rio Grande as the boundary between Mexico and the United States. Floods and torrential rains in 1864 forced the river southward around an area in the El Paso-Ciudad Juárez vicinity called the Chamizal. This left Mexican territory on the north bank. The United States assumed the boundary had changed by erosion. Mexico in turn claimed the course of the Rio Grande had altered suddenly, leaving its land on the north bank of the river. A subsequent boundary dispute in 1884 over the Morteritos Island at the Texas-Tamaulipas border concluded that the demarcation line would move if the river shifted gradually. An International Border Commission was created in 1889 to implement the new guideline and deal with future disputes of this kind.

The commission was unable to resolve the disputed Chamizal area, as both states recognized that its proximity to the expanding urban centers of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez made the area valuable. Yet Mexico and the United States agreed to arbitrate the issue in 1910. The appointed commission concluded that the Rio Grande had changed course in a sudden and violent shift in 1864. Therefore, the boundary was to be reestablished as it existed in 1864. Although Washington rejected the decision, various governments attempted to resolve the controversy.

Finally, in 1963 the Kennedy administration concluded that Washington's rejection of the commission's decision had been a mistake. The dispute was resolved so that Mexico received 630 acres of the Chamizal area, including Córdova Island, an area that juts into United States territory. The latter, in turn, received 193 acres. A final agreement was signed by presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Gustavo Díaz Ordaz in October 1967. The resolution of this protracted controversy was cited as a model for the peaceful settlement of border disputes by American states. Washington, therefore, created the Chamizal National Memorial and Mexico built a park in Ciudad Juárez commemorating the settlement. While the official border has been settled, the increased immigration into the United States from Mexico has caused U.S. politicians to focus on border security. Some U.S. politicians have called for a wall to be built on the border to keep out Mexican labor, but others hope to establish a guest worker program for Mexican migrants.


Causes of the Argentine-British Falklands-Malvinas War (1982) over a group of disputed islands go back to the sixteenth century, when both Spain and England made claims of discovery. England, France, and Spain established settlements there in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. After independence Buenos Aires claimed the islands, located some 300 miles east of the Patagonian city of Río Gallegos. However, Britain took effective control of them in 1833. Argentina seized the islands in April 1982, but Britain recaptured them two and a half months later after a brief war. Although diplomatic relations were restored between the two countries in 1990, as of 1994 there was no final settlement.

Several Latin American countries, namely Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, and Peru, have laid claim to territory in Antarctica. They have done so because of the area's geological and political continuity with the South American mainland. These states have asserted interest in a quadrant between longitude 0 and 90 west in which they have overlapping claims. But issues such as sovereignty, resources, and the presence of non-Western Hemisphere countries pose a threat to their claims there.

Chile, Argentina, and Brazil have also viewed their interests in the Antarctic as part of a wider strategic role in the South Atlantic. The Antarctic Treaty of 1959, ratified by mid-1961 by the twelve states named in the preamble (thirty-nine states by 1994) might prevent a Latin American power struggle there, but a confrontation was considered a possibility.

See alsoWar of the Pacific; War of the Triple Alliance.


Gordon Ireland, Boundaries, Possessions, and Conflicts in South America (1938).

William J. Dennis, Tacna and Arica: An Account of the Chile-Peru Boundary Dispute and of the Arbitrations by the United States (1967).

Peter Calvert, Boundary Disputes in Latin America (1983).

Jack Child, ed., Maintenance of Peace and Security in the Caribbean and Central America (1984).

Jack Child, Geopolitics and Politics in South America: Quarrels Among Neighbors (1985).

William I. Krieg, Ecuadorian-Peruvian Rivalry in the Upper Amazon, 2d ed. (1986).

J. R. V. Prescott, Political Frontiers and Boundaries (1987).

Jorge Gumucio Granier, The United States and the Bolivian Seacoast (1988).

Alan C. Lamborn and Stephen P. Mumme, Statecraft, Domestic Politics, and Foreign Policy Making: The El Chamizal Dispute (1988).

Stephen P. Mumme, The United States-Mexico Boundary (1991).

Marshall Bertram, The Birth of Anglo-American Friendship: The Prime Facet of the Venezuelan Boundary Dispute (1992).

Paul Ganster and Eugenio O. Valenciano, eds., Mexican-U.S. Border Region and the Free Trade Agreement (1992); and Ronald B. St. John, Boundaries, Trade, and Seaports: Power Politics in the Atacama Desert (1992).

Additional Bibliography

Domínguez, Jorge I., and David R Mares. Boundary Disputes in Latin America. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 2003.

Farcau, Bruce W. The Ten Cents War: Chile, Peru, and Bolivia in the War of the Pacific, 1879–1884. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2000.

Moraes, Antonio Carlos Robert. Bases da formação territorial do Brasil: O território colonial brasileiro no "longo" século XVI. São Paulo: Editora Hucitec, 2000.

Parodi, Carlos A. The Politics of South American Boundaries. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2002.

Passarelli, Bruno. El delirio armado: Argentina-Chile, la guerra que evitó el Papa. Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana, 1998.

Simmons, Beth A. Territorial Disputes and Their Resolution: The Case of Ecuador and Peru. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 1999.

Stoddard, Ellwyn R. U.S.-Mexico Borderlands Issues: The Binational Boundary, Immigration, and Economic Policies. El Paso, TX: The Promontory, 2001.

Van Dijck, Pitou et al. Cruzando fronteras: Reflexiones sobre la relevancia de fronteras históricas, simbólicas y casi desaparecidas en América Latina. Quito: Ediciones Abya-Yala, 2004.

Winders, Richard Bruce. Crisis in the Southwest: The United States, Mexico, and the Struggle over Texas. Wilmington, DE: SR Books, 2002.

                                           Thomas Dodd


views updated May 29 2018


Education in Latin America today is largely a product of what the Spanish began in the colonial period. Yet, there were pre-Conquest institutions and organized modes of learning. Indigenous people learned from their parents and acquired skills through a system of apprenticeship. The Aztecs also required youth at age 15 to attend school. The majority attended the telpochalli, for military education and the elite went to the calmecac, for advanced study of writing, astronomy, and theology, among other topics. As part of the destruction of indigenous governments and institutions, the Spanish replaced these schools with European-style education systems.

The first schools established in the sixteenth century were aimed at Christianizing the local population. These were established by the Catholic Church, particularly the Dominican and Jesuit orders, who worked largely with children of privileged families. Jesuits opened and staffed numerous schools and colleges, wrote about historical matters and the various regions of the empire, and came to dominate the intellectual life of the times. The order administered ranches and forest rights, and used their considerable resources to train peasants in horticulture, weaving, reading, and writing. By the seventeenth century there were universities in Santiago de Chile, Córdoba, La Plata, Cuzco, and Quito, most of which trained clergy as well as some doctors and lawyers. By the eighteenth century chairs of classical and Indian languages were added to natural science and after the expulsion of the Jesuits for fear of their dominance in the New World, higher education exhibited a new secularism that reflected the philosophy and influence of the Enlightenment.

The dominance of scholasticism was being challenged by a new introduction of science and the empirical method. The effort to rationalize the doctrines of the church by wedding philosophy and theology yielded to the new ideas which rejected the notion of using reason to justify faith. When the Jesuits departed, they left a legacy of some twenty-five institutions of higher education in Latin America. The importance of some of these continued for at least two centuries. While most of the population during the colonial period could neither read nor write, the cultural life of the times produced a number of celebrated intellectuals. Among these notables may be included Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas (1474–1566), author of History of the Indies, and Bernal Díaz Del Castillo (1492–1584), known for his True History of the Conquest of New Spain.

After the Independence movement the Catholic Church remained a dominant influence in education but gradually this control was eroded by the demands of citizens for a more enlightened intellectual atmosphere and by the end of the century secularism dominated schooling in the area. Major advances in education were made particularly in Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay, where a combination of citizen demand and the need for more technical training eroded the rigidity of church doctrine. Under President Domingo Sarmiento, Argentina became the educational leader in Latin America. But the introduction of more scientific studies at the expense of humanism also brought an increase in state control of education. Idealism was replaced by positivism and the curriculum no longer required Latin. In Mexico President Benito Juárez's educational reform commission, influenced by Comte's philosophy, aimed at a new way to train elites. In Argentina the Escuela Normal de Panana, created in 1870, provided a training ground for the new leaders of society. By the end of the nineteenth century secularism had overtaken Catholic control in all of Latin America and was codified by the Argentine law of 1884, which settled the matter.

Educational indicators in Latin America
Primary school enrollment as a percentage of population age 6-11Secondary school enrollment as a percentage of population age 12-17University enrollment as a percentage of population age 20-24Illiteracy rate as a percentage of population age 15 and older
Source: World Bank, Development Data Book, 2nd ed. (n.d.); UNESCO, Statistical Yearbook (1993); United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report (1993). USAID, Latin American and the Caribean: Selected Economic and Social Data (2004); World Bank, EdStats, (2005).
Argentina10110811228708665 (2005)2.8 (2004)
Bolivia739111318378640 (2005)13.3 (2004)
Brazil108104140163510523.8 (2005)11.4 (2005)
Chile12410910334698947.8 (2005)4.3 (2005)
Colombia8411711117507429.3 (2005)7.2 (2005)
Ecuador9111411717556129.0 (1987)9 (2004)
Paraguay10210110413316324.5 (2005)6.5 (2005)
Peru9912211325659133.5(2005)12.1 (2005)
Uruguay106110109447010540.5 (2005)2.3 (2004)
Venezuela9410810527457241.2 (2005)7 (2004)
Costa Rica10610111124417725.3 (2005)5.9 (2004)
Cuba12110510023859261.5 (2005).2 (2004)
Dominican Republic8712411212506832.9 (2005)13 (2005)
El Salvador827011417246319 (2005)19.4 (2005)
Guatemala5076113817489.5 (2005)30.9 (2005)
Haiti50785181.2 (1985)48l1 (2003)
Honduras8010211310366516.4 (2005)20 (2005)
Mexico9211510917557924 (2005)8.4 (2005)
Nicaragua6910111214396317.8 (2005)23.3(2005)
Panama10210511234597043.9 (2005)8.1 (2004)
Table 1

What appeared at the end of the nineteenth century was a varied system of education that reflected diverse European influences. Argentina was influenced by the British system, Chile by the German, and many other Latin American countries by the French. National governments established ministries of education to run the schools, and a system of hierarchical levels of administration created a pattern that is only now being seriously challenged. Though literacy grew, the rigid class divisions that characterized Latin American society remained. Both internal as well as external developments helped to influence change in early-twentieth-century schooling. In Córdoba in 1918 the new middle classes succeeded in making the university more democratic by including research and student participation in university affairs. Here, too, improved teaching and a new curriculum was influenced by radical ideas inspired by the Mexican and Russian revolutions. Militant student strikes led by the student union incited an examination reform, an end to nepotism, and social accountability.

This new radicalism was reflected in Mexico during the 1930s, when left-leaning teachers were urged to become social reformers by playing a role in rural uplift. They were asked to help the peasants struggle for land and to help the workers struggle for wages. President Lázaro Cárdenas demanded a school in every village; while the program proved successful in Oaxaca, in other areas teachers often faced popular indifference and even hostility. Despite these changes all over Spanish America, a centralized and standardized form of primary education persisted and was promoted from the 1930s onward. Municipalities lost control of schools to the ministries of education, which assumed control of teacher recruitment, training, and placement and inspection. This policy was justified in the name of using education to develop the nation and establish national identity. Despite these national efforts, fully half the population of Latin America remained illiterate in 1964. In all countries after World War II the attraction of education was a force that increased enrollments substantially, and resources were poured into schools.

In Brazil there were 2.1 million students in 1932, with 2 million in primary schools, 103,000 in secondary, and 22,000 in higher education. By 1985 there were 30 million students, with 1.5 million in higher education. While questions of enrollment, resources, and national development are still important concerns of educators and politicians in Latin America, the more recent global competitive environment has added new dimensions to traditional views of education.

Global political and economic changes have altered traditional views of education in Latin America and throughout the world. The increasing interdependence of trade, commerce, and finance now challenges the conventional view of education as an exclusive function of sovereign states and leads to a reassessment of the broader objectives of education in an internationally competitive environment. Organizations such as the United Nations, the Organization of American States, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development routinely play significant roles as advisors and consultants to national ministries. This development has brought about the in clusion of new educational concepts, such as gender issues, environmental problems, human rights, the cultural integrity of indigenous people, and the disparity between the technical and scientific work forces in poor versus developed economies. With these increased demands have come the recognition that government resources are inadequate. International lending institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank insist that officials find ways to curtail expenditure, increase taxes, and consider user fees and more privatization of schooling. However, these policy reforms have met resistance. For instance, in 1999, the rector of the National Autonomous University of Mexico tried to raise fees, but a group of students launched a strike disrupting classes for several months. While many Mexicans found the strikers' demands unreasonable and the federal government arrested the protesters, the activities did limit privatization attempts.

The South Commission (1990), for example, pointed to the widening "knowledge gap" between developed countries and the third world. In their report, they found that "unless the South learns to harness the forces of modern science and technology, it has no chance of fulfilling its developmental aspirations or its yearning for an effective voice in the management of global interdependence." The information age, with its requirements for technical and scientific workers, demands a more competitive population six to fifteen years old than was ever required in the past. Latin American ministries of education are now called upon to emphasize basic science and mathematics preparation as never before.

This emphasis is not just for an elite, but rather for a much wider population of children. The World Education Report issued by UNESCO in 1993 calls for making education for all a universal reality, not just a universally recognized right. Many nations have moved forward in providing primary schooling for most of their eligible population. However, Bolivia, El Salvador, Guatemala, and others have not succeeded in providing even this minimal level of education for all children. At the secondary level, usually considered appropriate for ages twelve to seventeen, no country in Latin America reported very high enrollment ratios. Cuba led the list with 85 percent, followed by Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay, but many countries barely had a third of eligible students enrolled. Other statistics underline the severe diversity that characterizes educational attainment in Latin America. The illiterate population of persons over fifteen years of age rises from single-digit percentages in Argentina, Costa Rica, and Uruguay to very high rates in Guatemala and Nicaragua. Countries with the highest college and university enrollment ratios have the smallest number of illiterates, and those countries with the lowest ratios have the highest rates of illiteracy. These national figures do not reveal the kinds of disparities between rural and urban areas or among marginalized indigenous populations.

More important, perhaps, than the numbers of children receiving instruction is the changing philosophical outlook of government, from a traditional acceptance of exclusive governmental responsibility to a broader social mandate for meeting educational needs that includes the family, the workplace, the media, and other community organizations. The traditional role of schooling as an instrument for molding social personality and work-force training for human capital are being eroded by a new focus on alternate agencies of education.

The Chilean Ministry of Education enunciated a program in 1992 to improve the quality of primary schools by inviting the community to participate actively in the education of their children. Some educators see this development as an opportunity for greater democratization whereby citizens help establish their own priorities. The International Institute for Educational Planning sponsored a study of decentralization in Latin America in which the older view of exclusive governmental responsibility is altered by the need for broader citizen participation in education. This trend is also evident in the development of rural women's education in the Andean subregion, as reported by the International Bureau of Education. It is increasingly recognized that the rights of indigenous people have been neglected in many countries, and that they have legitimate cross-national concerns that need to be addressed by local and international agencies. In Peru, for example, the 1979 Constitution established that peasant and native communities are autonomous in their organization and community work, although these populations do not feel that they have equal rights to education, health, and other government services. Efforts are currently under way to institute bilingual schools, train teachers in their native language, and provide expanded instruction for the indigenous population.

By the 1960s and 1970s a new genre of educational criticism had emerged in North and South America, taking as its starting point the apparent inability of governments to make schools alter social injustice and poverty. Critics such as Everett Reimer, Paulo Freire, and Ivan Illich carefully detailed the ways that schools served to perpetuate privilege in general and specifically in Latin America. They concluded that the formal school system could not be saved and instead called for a whole new "informal" system that would educate children outside the regular classroom.

See alsoDíaz del Castillo, Bernal; Dominicans; Freire, Paulo; International Monetary Fund (IMF); Jesuits; Las Casas, Bartolomé de; Literacy; United Nations; Universities: Colonial Spanish America; Universities: The Modern Era; World Bank.


John Johnson, Political Change in Latin America (1958).

Harold R. W. Benjamin, Higher Education in the American Republics (1965).

Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1968).

Everett Reimer, School Is Dead: Alternatives in Education (1970).

Joseph Maier and Richard W. Weatherhead, eds., The Latin American University (1979).

Mary Kay Vaughan, The State, Education and Social Class in Mexico, 1880–1928 (1982).

United Nations, Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989).

South Commission, The Challenge to the South (1990), pp. 227-228.

World Declaration on Education for All (conference in Jomtien, Thailand, 1990).

Chilean Ministry Of Education, "Programme to Improve the Quality of Primary Schools in Poor Areas," in Bulletin of the Major Project of Education in Latin America and the Caribbean, no. 27 (1992): 30-31.

Beatrice Edwards, "Linking the Social and Natural Worlds: Environmental Education in the Hemisphere," in La Educación, no. 115 (1993).

International Bureau of Education, Innovation and Information (December 1993): 4.

Nelly Stromquist, "The Political Experience of Women: Linking Micro and Macro-Democracies," in La Educación, no. 116 (1993).

UNESCO, Statistical Yearbook (1993).

World Bank, Development Data Book, 2d ed., n.d.

United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report (1993).

International Institute for Educational Planning, IIEP Newsletter XII, no. 1 (1994).

British Comparative Education Society, Conference on Education Beyond the State, September 1994.

Additional Bibliography

Babb, Sarah L. Managing Mexico: Economists from Nationalism to Neoliberalism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001.

Ball, Stephen J., Gustavo E. Fischman, and Silvina Gvirtz. Crisis and Hope: The Educational Hopscotch of Latin America. New York: Routledge Falmer, 2003.

Britton, John A., ed. Molding the Hearts and Minds: Education, Communications, and Social Change in Latin America Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 1994.

Castro, Cláudio de Moura, and Daniel C. Levy. Myth, Reality, and Reform: Higher Education Policy in Latin America. Washington, DC: Inter-American Development Bank, 2000.

Cortina, Regina, and Nelly P. Stromquist, eds. Distant Alliances: Promoting Education for Girls and Women in Latin America. New York: Falmer Press, 2000.

Di Gropello, Emanuela, Rossella Cominetti, and Roberto Bisang. La descentralización de la educación y la salud: Un análisis comparativo de la experiencia latinoamericana. Santiago: Naciones Unidas, 1998.

Puiggrós, Adriana. Neoliberalism and Education in the Americas. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1999.

Reimers, Fernando, ed. Unequal Schools, Unequal Chances: The Challenges to Equal Opportunity in the Americas. Cambridge, MA: David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Harvard University, 2000.

Reunión Regional sobre la Educación Superior de los Pueblos Indígenas de América Latina (Guatemala City, 2002). La educación superior indígena en América Latina. Caracas: UNESCO: Instituto Internacional de la Educación Superior en América Latina y el Caribe (IESALC), 2003.

Téllez, Magaldy, ed. Educación, cultura y política: Ensayos para la comprensión de la historia de la educación en América Latina. Caracas: Universidad Central de Venezuela, Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Sociales, Facultad de Humanidades y Educación, 1997.

                                            Joseph Di Bona


views updated May 18 2018


The study and teaching of philosophy in Latin America was established early in the period of Iberian colonial rule, when Spain and Portugal established imperial control over the region (sixteenth through the nineteenth century). It therefore occupies an important place in the history of the region, as many of the discipline's central themes developed in close contact with larger issues concerning the history and culture of Latin America. Philosophy not only has enjoyed continuity through five centuries of study and teaching but also has played a significant role in the discussion of contemporary social and political events. Philosophers in different periods have been prominent cultural, educational, social, and political figures. Various political movements, educational experiments, and cultural theories have been rooted in philosophical sources. Therefore, an understanding of the evolution of philosophy in Latin America is essential for the historian.

Although philosophy can and should be seen in the larger context of society, an understanding of the discipline also requires that it be viewed as an enterprise that poses its own methodological problems and questions, maintains a dialogue with issues and thinkers across chronological periods and geographical boundaries, and develops in the rather protected walls of the academy. The student of Latin American philosophy especially confronts a constant tension between the weight that should be given to the significance of philosophy for the larger society and that given to the field's character as a discipline of universal validity.

Another dimension of importance for understanding the evolution of philosophy in Latin America concerns the question of whether there is a philosophy that can be called "Latin American." Since the 1940s scholars have intensely debated whether philosophy can be understood independently of culture or nationality. They have thus utilized the discipline in an attempt to define a Latin American identity that in turn can provide the basis for an original Latin American philosophy. Scholars who understand philosophy as a discipline concerned with thought in its most general sense have strongly rejected any culturally or nationally bound interpretations of philosophical activity. Although this debate has not and probably will not be settled in the near future, it is apparent that philosophy in Latin America has historically engaged intellectuals to a very significant degree.


Philosophical studies during the colonial period were primarily the province of clerical institutions. Although the debates between the Dominican friar Bartolomé de las Casas and the theologian Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda in the sixteenth century regarding the humanity of the Indians were by no means disinterested philosophical speculation, their frame of reference was Aristotle and the larger tradition of scholasticism. In Brazil, the Jesuit priest Antônio Vieira put his rigorous training to use in order to defend Indians and slaves, and to oppose the Dutch occupation in the seventeenth century.

Scholasticism, which dominated the thinking of scholars during the colonial period, produced some fairly specialized philosophical treatises. Immersed as they were in a European climate of ideas, texts such as Alonso de la Vera Cruz's Recognitio summularum (1554) and Dialectica resolutio (1554), and Juan de Espinosa Medrano's Logica (1688), are fairly difficult to place in the context of contemporary social and political events in the Iberian colonies. But they demonstrate that philosophy played an important role in the training of civil and ecclesiastical personnel. Philosophy, in fact, was central to the curriculum of the colonial university. Its purpose was to provide students with scholastically inspired methods of thinking. Latin American philosophers discussed medieval scholastics such as Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225–1274) and Duns Scotus (c. 1266–1308), and Iberian commentators such as Francisco de Vitoria, Petrus Fonseca (1528–1599), and Francisco Suárez (1548–1617). In some cases, their intellectual endeavors could be applicable to concrete legal problems and issues concerning Spaniards and Indians, but by and large they were concerned with themes such as individuation and the nature of universals.

Scholasticism had declined somewhat by the 1750s, coinciding with the Bourbon reforms, but its influence on logic and law remained paramount. Reflecting the Bourbon period's emphasis on enlightened thinking and scientific inquiry, Manuel Antonio Talavera's Triennalis phylosofici cursus (1792) contains remarkably current discussions on physics. In Brazil, where prominent families sent their children to the University of Coimbra, intellectuals such as José Bonifácio de Andrada absorbed the modernized curriculum introduced by the reforms of Pombal. Some scholars have argued that the roots of independence might be traced to the developing humanism of colonial thinkers, but philosophy overall was at best a contributing factor rather than a primary cause.


The process of independence in the early nineteenth century and the steady rise of liberalism as a dominant political force brought about the increasing secularization of society in general, and philosophy in particular. Philosophy, in fact, became a vehicle for the promotion of secular values, in the school curriculum, the periodical press, some literary societies, and even congressional debates. Initially, Latin American thinkers carefully crafted a secular philosophy that was not offensive to Catholic doctrine. While ostensibly confirming the fundamentals of Catholicism, thinkers increasingly incorporated secular authors into their discussions. Prominent among them were Juan Egaña Risco and Ventura Marín (1806–1877) of Chile, the Spanish emigré José Joaquín de Mora (1783–1864), and Félix Varela y Morales of Cuba. The most distinguished philosopher of nineteenth-century Latin America, the Venezuelan Andrés Bello, respectfully nodded to Catholic doctrine, but systematically introduced the work of secular authors such as James Mill (1773–1836) and Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832) in his influential discussions on jurisprudence. He also brought the study of logic and psychology to unprecedented levels of philosophical sophistication, as shown in his posthumously published Filosofía del entendimiento (1881).

Other thinkers became increasingly less concerned about the intricacies of philosophical analysis and realized the potential of the discipline for promoting social change. Although not philosophers in the strictest academic sense of the word, intellectuals such as José María Luis Mora, Juan Bautista Alberdi, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, José Martí, and José Victorino Lastarria often discussed major philosophical movements and authors. Their primary concern, however, was not speculation but social change. Similarly, the emphasis on social change led an entire generation of Latin American thinkers to positivism during the second half of the nineteenth century. Intellectuals openly challenged Catholicism and sought to replace it with the "scientific" premises of positivism. Indeed, Latin American positivism stood for orderly social development and modernization—hence the movement's motto "order and progress." Positivism predominated in Latin America, although not to the exclusion of Catholic doctrines, or spiritualist movements such as Krausismo. Positivism itself was divided between those who followed different aspects of the philosophy of August Comte (1798–1857)—that is, between those who adhered to his scientific social program and those who followed his late religious inclinations and even founded positivist temples. Some positivists developed a form of social Darwinism (which never materialized into a coherent movement) by selectively reading authors such as Herbert Spencer (1820–1903), Ernst Haeckel (1834–1919), and Gustave Le Bon (1841–1931) in order to address racial issues from a generally negative, sociobiological standpoint.

Throughout the period, the study of philosophy was firmly enthroned in the secondary-school curriculum and in higher education. Positivist-oriented "scientific" philosophy became particularly influential in Mexico, Brazil, and Chile, where it informed the educational system, the military, and the platforms of some political parties. Prominent thinkers of a positivist bent were Gabino Barreda and Justo Sierra Méndez of Mexico, Benjamin Constant Botelho de Magalhães and Luis Pereira Barreto (1840–1923) of Brazil, Enrique José Varona y Pera of Cuba, Mariano Cornejo of Peru, José Ingenieros of Argentina, and Valentín Letelier Madariaga of Chile.


The positivist agenda of social and economic modernization remained largely unfulfilled by the 1920s. Latin American intellectuals who became aware of European reactions to positivism launched a movement against the predominance of this school of thought and ushered in philosophical currents that emphasized spiritual development, aesthetic concerns, and a hierarchy of human values in which the allegedly materialistic concerns of the positivists occupied the lowest position. Such anti-materialist concerns were also a response to the rise of mass politics and Marxism. A generation of thinkers between 1920 and 1950 attempted to guide society through philosophy by affirming the centrality of human values. Known as the fundadores because of their knowledge of current European philosophy and to some extent because of the originality of their contributions, these philosophers included Antonio Caso y Andrade and José Vasconcelos Calderón of Mexico, Alceu Amoroso Lima of Brazil, Carlos Vaz Ferreira of Uruguay, Alejandro Korn of Argentina, Enrique Molina Garmendia of Chile, and Alejandro Deustua of Peru. Some of the major themes of Latin American philosophy, such as the human person, values, and cultural identity, are associated with this generation. Although more versed in current trends on philosophy, these thinkers retained some of the traditional social concerns of their predecesors.

In contrast, the new generation that became established in the 1950s fundamentally changed the nature of philosophical activity in the region by emphasizing scholarship and shunning social advocacy. This is the period of professionalization of the discipline, bolstered in important ways by the arrival of several European scholars in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War and World War II. During this period the first university departments of philosophy were established, philosophical journals appeared, and national and international congresses convened regularly. A strong academic orientation successfully separated philosophy from social and political concerns. Classical philosophy became central to the curriculum, as had been the case in colonial times. Strong emphasis was placed on commentary and textual analysis of traditional philosophical sources. German philosophy as expounded by Max Scheler (1874–1928), Nicolai Hartmann (1882–1950), Edmund Husserl (1859–1938), and Martin Heidegger (1889–1976), and as disseminated by the Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset (1883–1955), dominated the terms of discussion and the writings of Latin American philosophers. Other philosophical currents included existentialism, neoscholasticism, and to a lesser extent, analytical philosophy. The range of subjects of philosophical interest became as wide as it became specialized, although few philosophers achieved recognition beyond their own countries. Those who did tended to emigrate to Europe or the United States, because neither the academic climate nor the resources available in Latin America were conducive to competitive research in the field. Yet the majority of philosophers retained a professionalist emphasis, and continued to look toward Europe and the United States for models of philosophical activity.

The professionalist version of philosophical activity did not go unchallenged. Some philosophers questioned the entire academic philosophical enterprise. Beginning in the 1940s, scholars engaged in discussions concerning the nature and purposes of philosophical activity. The debate polarized between those who, like the Argentines Francisco Romero and Risieri Frondizi, viewed the discipline as a professional field that generated its own epistemological problems, and those who, like Mexico's Leopoldo Zea, argued that philosophy had to be grounded on sociocultural realities. Such debates were reformulated in the 1960s, when Marxism received stronger theoretical attention as a result of the ascendancy of leftist political parties and the continuing Cold War. A critical current of philosophers including Zea, Carlos Astrada (1894–1970) of Argentina, Juan Rivano (b. 1926) of Chile, and Augusto Salazar Bondy (1925–1974) of Peru criticized the detached and antipolitical cultivation of the discipline and called for a stronger emphasis on social and political issues. In the 1970s a movement known as the "philosophy of liberation" developed in response to the perceived need to maintain a specialized disciplinary focus while addressing wider social concerns. Originally developed in Argentina, the movement flourished in Mexico, where many of its major representatives resided.

The fundamental tension between the academic and the critical views of philosophy remains strong. As a result of the wave of military rule that swept Latin America in the 1970s and early 1980s, philosophers discovered to their dismay that philosophical activity could not function as usual in a context of repression and radical economic change. Chilean philosopher Jorge Millas, who had been a major contributor to the establishment of philosophical professionalism, now became a critic of military rule and economic neoliberalism. During this period, philosophy lost not only much of the social stature that allowed philosophers in the past to articulate influential social and political views, but also the means to cultivate the most specialized aspects of the field. The return of most Latin American countries to democratic rule in the last two decades of the twentieth century brought some relief and new opportunities for dialogue among embattled philosophers. With the advent of the twenty-first century, Latin American philosophers are confronting important questions about their social and educational relevance. Although a strong professionalist current persists, thematically, philosophers have shown more willingness to look into a variety of contemporary Latin American problems, including the impact of globalization, human rights, environmental issues, and various demands for the recognition of diversity.

See alsoAlberdi, Juan Bautista; Anarchism and Anarchosyndicalism; Andrada, José Bonifácio de; Arguedas, Alcides; Barreda, Gabino; Bello, Andrés; Communism; Cornejo, Mariano H; Egaña Risco, Juan; Frondizi, Risieri; González Prada, Manuel; Hostos y Bonilla, Eugenio María de; Indigenismo; Ingenieros, José; Korn, Alejandro; Krausismo; Las Casas, Bartolomé de; Lastarria, José Victorino; Letelier Madariaga, Valentín; Liberalism; Liberation Theology; Lima, Alceu Amoroso; Martínez Estrada, Ezequiel; Martí y Pérez, José Julián; Millas Jiménez, Jorge; Molina Garmendia, Enrique; Mora, José María Luis; Neoliberalism; Pombaline Reforms; Positivism; Romero, Francisco; Sarmiento, Domingo Faustino; Sepúlveda, Juan Ginés de; Sierra Méndez, Justo; Talavera, Manuel; Varela y Morales, Félix; Varona y Pera, Enrique José; Vasconcelos Calderón, José; Vaz Ferreira, Carlos; Veintemilla, Marietta; Vera Cruz, Alonso de la; Zea Aguilar, Leopoldo.


Aldridge, A. Owen, ed. The Ibero-American Enlightenment. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1971.

Gracia, Jorge J. E., ed. Latin American Philosophy in the Twentieth Century: Man, Values, and the Search for Philosophical Identity. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1986.

Gracia, Jorge J. E. "Latin American Philosophy Today." Philosophical Forum 20, nos. 1-2 (1988–1989): 43-61.

Gracia, Jorge J. E., and Mireya A. Camurati, eds. Philosophy and Literature in Latin America: A Critical Assessment of the Current Situation. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989.

Gracia, Jorge J. E., and Elizabeth Millán-Zaibert, eds. Latin American Philosophy for the Twenty-first Century: The Human Condition, Values, and the Search for Identity. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 2004.

Nuccetelli, Susana. Latin American Thought: Philosophical Problems and Arguments. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2002.

Recaséns Siches, Luis, et al. Latin American Legal Philosophy. Translated by Gordon Ireland. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1948.

Salles, Arleen, and Elizabeth Millán-Zaibert, eds. The Role of History in Latin American Philosophy: Contemporary Perspectives. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2005.

Sánchez Reulet, Aníbal, ed. Contemporary Latin American Philosophy. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1954.

Schutte, Ofelia. Cultural Identity and Social Liberation in Latin American Thought. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993.

White, Kevin, ed. Hispanic Philosophy in the Age of Discovery. Washington, DC: Catholic University Press, 1997.

Zea, Leopoldo, ed. Pensamiento positivista latinoamericano, 2 vols. Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1980.

                                                 IvÁn JaksiĆ


views updated May 11 2018


Although several special types of credit institutions emerged in Latin America in the late colonial period, it was not until the third quarter of the nineteenth century that modern banks and banking practices became permanently established in the hemisphere's republics. At that time the expansion of trade and the financial requirements of national governments impelled the creation of new types of credit institutions and the reform of monetary systems throughout the area. By the end of the century there existed a broad variety of banks, both domestic- and foreign-owned, mostly concentrated in commercial and mortgage banking as opposed to industrial finance.

In the 1920s the trend toward greater specialization in banking accelerated, a process reflected in the creation of central banks in most nations. The establishment of state development (industrial, agricultural, and foreign trade) banks was perhaps the characteristic feature of Latin American banking during the 1930s and 1940s. In subsequent decades private banking was diversified on a local and regional basis, foreign banks multiplied in various financial centers, and new types of banking instruments and institutions linked to burgeoning capital markets were developed.


Historians have not yet satisfactorily explained the impact of banking on the overall processes of economic development in Latin America, concentrating instead mainly on institutional histories. It is should be emphasized, however, that, during the nineteenth century, the birth of banking was the result of a slow process of expanding and maturing credit markets that served the needs of agriculture, ranching, mining, manufacturing, and, of course, trade. In addition, the larger banks served the financial needs of governments, always a critical function.

The first banks, which were not destined to survive, were closely tied to government finance. Neither the first Banco Do Brasil, established in 1808, nor the Banco de Buenos Aires, founded in 1822, nor the Banco De Avío of Mexico, created in 1830, was able to weather the financial crises generated by deficit-ridden governments. Only in Brazil did commercial banking begin to flourish with the establishment of banks in Rio de Janeiro (1838), Maranhão (1844), and Bahia (1844). After the 1850s, however, banking institutions began to multiply in other nations, some of which were to prove more durable. Among the more important national banks were the Banco de la Provincia de Buenos Aires (1854), the Banco Nacional de Chile (1865), the Banco del Perú (1863), the Banco Español de la Isla de Cuba (1856), and the Crédito Inmobiliario y Fomento Cubano (1857).


The first regionwide banking crisis occurred as a result of the world recession that began in 1873. Numerous banks in Chile, Peru, Argentina, and Brazil failed, thinning the ranks of the financial institutions in many cities. However, in the 1880s a new banking boom took place, a reflection of the general process of economic modernization in most Latin American nations. This development included the building of railway systems, the introduction of tramways, establishment of telephone and electrical enterprises in the larger cities, and the expansion of the leading export sectors: agriculture, ranching, and mining. To finance these activities it became necessary to create many new banks, not only in the capitals but also regionwide. The leaders in this process were the larger state banks—the Banco Nacional (Argentina), the Banco Nacional de México, and the Banco do Brasil—which began to engage heavily in branch banking and to dominate the commercial credit markets through their branches in both the capital and many secondary cities. In the late 1880s provincial governments began to stimulate the establishment of regional banks, modeled to a large degree on the U.S. free banking system. This new practice, carried out with great speed, combined with the rapid expansion of burgeoning stock markets in Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, and Santiago de Chile to spur a wave of feverish financial speculation.

A second great financial crisis shook many Latin American capitals in the early 1890s. In Argentina virtually all the state-owned banks were forced to close in the midst of a general financial panic that brought the government to its knees. In Brazil the financial craze (Encilhamento) that marked the transition from empire to republic in 1889 soon led to financial crisis and banking retrenchment. In Chile the banking boom of the late 1880s was cut short by the civil war that toppled the administration of President José Balmaceda in 1891.


From 1900 to 1914 there was a new stage in the history of banking in Latin America as specialization became more important. The largest domestic banks concentrated on lending to the government but also participated in commercial banking, providing loans to merchants and landowners. At the same time, there emerged a large number of specialized mortgage banks that helped finance the rapid development of cities such as Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Mexico City, and Havana. The mortgage banks also provided funds to rural property owners, who prospered with the expansion of exports. There simultaneously developed additional and different specialized banking institutions: cooperative banks; a few mining and industrial banks; many private financial companies (mostly involved in real estate speculation); and a large number of foreign banks.

Foreign banks had actually begun playing an important role in the 1860s with the establishment of British-owned commercial banks in Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Lima, Santiago, and Mexico City. Some of these expanded rapidly—for example, the Bank of London and the Río de la Plata, which quickly established branch offices not only in various cities in Argentina but also in Uruguay and Paraguay. British banks dominated foreign banking in Latin America until the 1890s, when a number of German-owned banks were established in the principal cities of the region. In contrast to the British banks, which tended to be independent companies, the German banking firms were direct subsidiaries of the biggest German commercial banks, the Deutsche, Disconto, and Dresdner banks. In any case, the foreign-owned banks in Latin America tended to specialize principally in the financing of foreign trade, in foreign exchange transactions, and in providing loans to such foreign-owned enterprises as railways, mines, and public utilities.

In 1914 the outbreak of World War I provoked a brief financial crisis in many Latin American countries, but subsequently most banks prospered with the export boom generated by war demand. A new development at the time was the penetration of U.S. banking houses in the region, particularly in the Caribbean but also in several South American capitals. Here the National City Bank took the lead, controlling most of the new branches.


During the 1920s central banks began to be established in various Latin American nations. The first such banks were created largely as a result of financial advisory missions led by Edwin W. Kemmerer, a Princeton University professor, to Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Colombia, all of which established central banks in the 1920s through his direct inspiration. In Mexico the central bank, the Banco de México, was set up in 1925 under the guidance of local financial and legal experts, such as the lawyer Manuel Gómez Morín, who later played an important role in conservative political circles. In Argentina central banking came more slowly: it was not until 1935, after the onset of the Great Depression and the mission to Buenos Aires of Bank of England director Sir Otto Niemeyer in 1932, that the government decided to establish the Banco Central de la Repúblic Argentina, the first president of which was the illustrious economist Raúl Prebisch. In Brazil the Getúlio Vargas administration (1930–1945) adopted a different banking strategy, deciding to continue using the services of the Banco Central da Republica do Brasil to manage most government finance. Not until 1965 was the Brazilian central bank established.

The state took an even more direct role in the banking sector in the 1930s and 1940s in most Latin American nations, creating a great array of specialized agricultural, industrial, and mining credit institutions. In Mexico this was the period of the founding of the Nacional Financiera (1934), the Banco de Crédito Ejidal (1935), the Banco Nacional de Comercio Exterior (1938), and several other financial agencies. In Peru the Banco Agrícola was set up in 1931, the Banco Industrial in 1937, and the Banco Minero in 1941. In Argentina the Banco de Crédito Industrial, set up in 1941, was transformed into the Banco Nacional de Desarrollo in 1971. In Chile the Corporación de Fomento de la Producción (CORFO) was set up in 1939, and in Brazil the Banco Nacional do Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social was established in 1952; there also were several state-promoted regional development banks, such as the Banco de Crédito da Amazônia, set up in 1942, and the Banco do Nordeste, in 1952. In Venezuela the role of the Corporación Venezolana de Fomento (CVF) must be underscored because it has been the main agency for promoting public investment in basic infrastructure, as well as in the industrial and agricultural sectors, since the 1950s.


A major innovation in the 1960s was the establishment of regional, multilateral development banks, the most important being the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), headquartered in Washington, D.C. This bank pooled the resources of many Latin American countries and also tapped the international capital markets for additional funds. Under its first president, Felipe Herrera, the IDB established a new financial strategy consisting of providing long-term loans to governments and state agencies to help modernize infrastructure, agriculture, education, and selected industries. As a multilateral institution it has proved as durable and successful as its elder colleague, the World Bank, and has provided the region with a high volume of development financing on reasonable terms. Other regional development banks have been established by governments in Central America and the Caribbean, although they remain relatively small.

Whereas the commercial banks dominated Latin American credit markets until World War II, in the second half of the twentieth century many different specialized companies developed to provide financing for private enterprise and investment. The growth of private financial institutions other than commercial banks began in the 1950s and 1960s. In the mid-1960s the assets of the private financial companies (financieras) equaled those of the commercial banks and later surpassed them. Nonetheless, it should also be kept in mind that many financieras and insurance firms are owned or controlled by a banking group, a fact that confirms both the trend toward financial specialization and the traditional high level of concentration of banking capital in most of Latin America.


The 1980s were a period of dramatic change in the Latin American banking world. Following an enormous wave of financial speculation fueled by a foreign debt boom in the late 1970s came a series of economic crises that deeply affected the solvency of many Latin American banks, including a major drop in petroleum prices in the early 1980s, a foreign debt crisis that began in 1982, and domestic economic recessions that plagued most Latin American economies during the decade. As a result, several governments took measures to restructure their banking systems.

In August 1982 President José López Portillo of Mexico announced the nationalization of virtually the entire commercial banking system and the expropriation of dollar deposits from tens of thousands of depositors. The losses suffered by private citizens were on the order of several billion dollars, but the government absorbed the external debts of the banks, which surpassed $10 billion. The former stockholders of the commercial banks were subsequently compensated with approximately one-third of the stock of the state-owned banks and with facilities for the establishment of many new private financial companies, mostly involved in stock market operations.

In Peru in 1987 President Alan García announced the nationalization of commercial banks, but the uproar and opposition were so great that his action helped spur the political campaign of the writer Mario Vargas Llosa against the García administration. Eventually the Peruvian authorities were forced to water down their measures and begin a gradual process of reprivatization. In 1989 Brazilian President Fernando Collor de Mello announced the nationalization of all commercial bank deposits, which were then valued at more than $100 billion. Despite great opposition, the government maintained this control for eighteen months, after which there began a renewed process of liberalization of the banking system. Meanwhile, in Mexico the government of Carlos Salinas de Gortari began a process of reprivatization of the Mexican commercial banks in 1990, which for some time proved a financial success and a source of considerable income for the government.

See alsoBanco Comercial y Agrícola (Ecuador); Banco de Avío; Banco de la República (Colombia); Banco de Londres y México; Banco de México; Banco de San Carlos (Potosí); Banco de San Carlos (Spain); Banco do Brasil; Economic Development; Inter-American Development Bank (IDB); World Bank.


Inter-American Development Bank, Annual Report (1961–1991).

David Joslin, A Century of Banking in Latin America (1963).

Centro De Estudios Monetarios De Latinoaméricos (CEMLA), Annual Report (1980–1990) and specialized country studies.

José Manuel Quijano, La banca: Pasado y presente (problemas financieros mexicanos) (1983).

Javier Marquez, La banca mexicana: Septiembre de 1982–junio de 1985 (1987).

Barbara Stallings, Banker to the Third World: U.S. Portfolio Investment in Latin America, 1900–1986 (1987).

Paul W. Drake, The Money Doctor in the Andes: The Kemmerer Mission, 1923–1933 (1989).

                                   Carlos Marichal


views updated May 14 2018


When did human beings begin to eat fish? This question is an endless source of speculation. What can be said with confidence is that our very distant ancestors, if they lived near sea, lake, or river, would have picked up the idea quickly enough; watching the activity of diving birds, and finding fish trapped in rockpools or in naturally formed barriers in rivers, would have been sufficient prompts.

In prehistoric times, the availability of fish as food was distinctly limited. Of the marine species, only inshore ones ran any risk of being caught; deep-sea species, save for the occasional stranding on a beach, were not seen, much less caught and eaten. Even the most accessible of inshore species were relatively safe. So many fish, so few humans. And, to judge by archaeological evidence, humans found it easier to prize mollusks off rocks than to chase darting fish; witness the huge deposits of bivalve shells found in coastal Stone Age communities. Some of these deposits, for example those at Skara Brae in Shetland, are well known; but they are found in many parts of the world.

Freshwater fish enjoyed less immunity. Even before the arrival of nets and harpoons and fishing rods, they could be caught in fish traps made from simple, natural materials such as beavers used for making their dams.

Moving forward in time, it is clear that, at the dawn of recorded history, fishing and eating fish were well established practices. William Radcliffe's highly readable and wide-ranging Fishing from the Earliest Times (1926) shows that in most regions of the Old WorldChina, the civilizations of India and the Middle East, classical Greece and Romefish were a significant feature of the diet.

It is also abundantly clear that in early historic times the art of fishing and the scale of consumption developed rapidly. The works of early Chinese writers and of classical Greek authors, although some survive in mere fragments, exhibit a sophisticated range of specific fishing techniques and considerable discrimination among the species. Radcliffe observes that fishing techniques, at least for freshwater fish, have changed less over the centuries than corresponding techniques in, say, hunting (changed by the introduction of the gun); and that the spear, the line and hook, and the net remained preeminent fishing implements.

Special Attributes of Fish as Food

Early humans may have known instinctively that fish constituted a beneficial food. There are many reasons for this. One reason, which no one would have been likely to articulate until recent times, is that fish need a less elaborate skeleton than land animals, since their weight is supported by the water in which they live, providing them more flesh in relation to body weight. They are therefore an excellent source of low-fat protein. (Incidentally, not all species of fish have true, bony skeletons. The category of certain important groups, notably sharks and rays, as "non-bony" indicate they have a skeleton of cartilaginous substance, not bone.)

There are other ways in which fish are unique among the categories of food. First, they constitute by far the largest resource of wild food in the world. Second, the huge number of species of edible fish distinguishes them from other foods. Not even the citizens of Norway orSingapore (the top two countries worldwide in per-capita consumption) could hope to sample them all.

In addition, humanitarian considerations have been applied only rarely and selectively to fish and other marine or freshwater creatures, in contrast to the land animals (especially mammals) and birds. True, it has recently become unseemly for anyone except the Inuit (Eskimos) to eat marine mammals, and concern is sometimes shown over how to kill lobsters and crabs painlessly; but compassion rarely extends to fish. Nonetheless there may be a gradual change of attitude on this matter; indeed the first signs have already emerged of campaigns to include fish in "animal rights."

This last point would fit in with the reverence that in many cultures has been accorded to fish, and with the symbolic importance they have enjoyed. It is common knowledge that a fish was the first symbol of Christianity, that several disciples of Jesus were fishermen, and that some of his best-known miracles involved fish as well as bread and wine.

In other religions and cultures too fish have had a special place. In ancient Egypt and elsewhere, fish were sacrificed for the gods. They could also take on the role of "scapegoats" or sin bearers. Thus in ancient Assyria people gathered on New Year's Day by a lake or stream and, if they found numerous fish, took this as an omen for the expiation of human sins, and cast their clothes into the water for the fish to bear away, and their sins with them.

Fish could also be used, in Babylon and classical Rome, for auguries and oracular responses, based on a study of their movements. However, it was in Christian cultures that the religious role of fish led to practical consequences. In medieval times the demand for fish, stimulated by the Christian Church's insistence on meatless days, combined with realization that abundant stocks of fish such as cod existed in northerly waters, stimulated voyages of exploration and the development of techniques for fishing in distant waters.

So, at least in Europe, fishing and trade in fish took a new turn as the medieval period began. Northerly peoples such as the Scandinavians emerged from relative obscurity. The powerful Hanseatic League, centered on the Baltic Sea, was based to a considerable extent on its near monopoly of the trade in salted and dried fish; these fish came from the huge stocks of the North Atlantic. Indeed, the subsequent colonization of North America was certainly stimulatedsome would say largely causedby the search for ever more effective ways of exploiting these stocks and by the competition between the maritime powers for them.

The effects of all this activity are still with us. The salted and dried cod of medieval times survives today as an important article of commerce, under Scandinavian names such as klippfisk. In many parts of the world people who now have better means of preserving fish, notably freezing, continue to eat these products because they have acquired a taste for them. The same applies to the famous lutefisk which Swedes, for example, devotedly eat at Christmas despite all the bother involved in preparing it. Indeed it applies to many kinds of cured fish, including the hundred and one forms of cured herring such as kippers and bloaters, red herring and rollmops.

All this activity implies a recognition of fish as a valuable food resource. Indeed in the Orient, the Chinese have a consistent record, stretching back for more than four thousand years, of recognizing the nutritional (and often the medical) value of most seafoods, and of honoring fish. Bernard Read in his invaluable "Chinese Materia Medica" comments that:

Owing to its reproductive powers, in China the fish is a symbol of regeneration. As fish are reputed to swim in pairs, so a pair of fish is emblematic of connubial bliss. As in water fish move easily in any direction they signify freedom from all restraints, so in the Buddha-state the fully emancipated know no restraints or obstructions. Their scaly armour makes them a symbol of martial attributes, bringing strength and courage; and swimming against the current provides an emblem of perseverance. The fish is a symbol of abundance or wealth and prosperity, because they are so plentiful in the seas and rivers.

In the Western world, however, attitudes have been more ambivalent. Although the fish was a symbol of Christianity and prescribed as Lenten fare, opinions were divided on its merits, even on its suitability, as food. In Britain, for example, the evidence of eighteenth-century cookbooks indicates increased consumption of fresh fish from the sea, but the literature of dietetics shows a countervailing current among some medical authorities. As recently as 1835 the respected author of a manual on "modern domestic medicine" declared that fish "affords, upon the whole, but little nourishment, and is, for the most part, of difficult digestion, and this appears to be the general sentiment of intelligent medical men." One author even devoted a lengthy book to arguing that the fundamental cause of leprosy was "the eating of fish in a state of commencing decomposition." These examples remind us that it is only in the present century that seafood has been fully accepted in the West as an admirable source of nourishment. More specifically, it is only in recent decades that the importance of fish oils for health has been fully recognized. The recognition of fish as a valuable article in the diet has led to a flowering of books devoted to fish cookery. The prominence given by authors and by the media generally to fish as food, especially in the English-speaking world, is a new phenomenon which has its effect on demand.

The question arises: what are the future prospects for supplies of fish, and will they be adequate for the growing world population? There are many considerations involved here. Perhaps the most important is the development of aquaculture. Colin E. Nash has shown that there is a wealth of evidence from early sources in Egypt, China, and the Mediterranean region to show how the primitive origins of the industry led long ago to relatively sophisticated practices.

In classical Rome, for example, there were numerous vivaria (fish tanks), which served in part as status symbols for the wealthy but were essentially devoted to the production of food. Later, from the early Middle Ages onwards, fishponds became almost ubiquitous in Europe, particularly in association with religious institutions such as monasteries. It does not need a genius to perceive the benefits, and it is not surprising that there is an ancient and strong tradition of constructing and stocking fishponds in Asia also. These, of course, are for freshwater fish, especially carp and (more recently) tilapia. However, even in classical Rome there were vivaria for marine species and progress was already being made in taking advantage of saltwater lagoons and suitable parts of estuaries to create enclosures in which seafish could be raised to maturity. Carol Déry has demonstrated that the Romans had progressed amazingly far in this sort of activity, perhaps further than modern people until the last quarter of the twentieth century. Now, however, the pace is quickening. Techniques for raising salmon in sea lochs or similar environments and for dealing with the attendant risks (pollution, infections, etc) are constantly improved. The number of species involved is growing as trials show that more and more can be successfully brought to marketable size in protected surroundings. Atlantic cod are being raised in Norwegian fjords, catfish are brought up in "farms" in the southern states of the United States, and so on. The future looks promising.

As for the sea fisheries, it is difficult to be equally optimistic, since so many fishing grounds are now being exploited up to and beyond the sustainable limits, and some stocks, for example cod in the northwest Atlantic, have already been overfished to the point of extinction. Politics enter into the matter in a big way. To put it very mildly, not everyone in the fishing industry is willing to sacrifice short-term gains for long-term benefits. The same applies to consumers, and it is significant that at the beginning of the present century a new international organization, the Marine Stewardship Council, set about establishing a broad set of Principles and Criteria for Sustainable Fisheries. A system of "eco-labeling" is advocated, whereby special labels will indicate to people buying fish whether these are from an endangered source or not.

Progress may be slow but it is being made, and there is one comforting thought. Humans are now better equipped than ever before to harvest the waters, and also better informed about the ways in which harvests can safely be maximized.

See also Aquaculture ; Christianity ; Crustaceans and Shell-fish ; Fishing ; Mammals, Sea ; Mollusks.


Déry, Carol A. "Fish as Food and Symbol in Ancient Rome." In Fish: Food from the Waters, edited by Harlan Walker, Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery. 1997 Totnes, Devon, U.K.: Prospect Books, 1998.

FAO Fisheries Department. The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2000. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization, 2000.

Heen, Eirik, and Rudolf Kreuzer, eds. Fish in Nutrition. London: Fishing News, 1962.

Lee, Mercédès. Seafood Lover's Almanac. Islip, N.Y.: National Audubon Society, 2000.

Nash, Colin E. "Aquatic Animals." In The Cambridge World History of Food, edited by Kenneth F. Kiple and Kriemhild Coneè Ornelas, vol. 1. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Radcliffe, William. Fishing from the Earliest Times, 2d ed. London: John Murray, 1926.

Read, Bernard E. "Chinese Materia Medica: Fish Drugs." Peking Natural History Bulletin (1939).

Alan Davidson


views updated May 29 2018


Between 1492 and 1870, at least 10 million Africans, representing hundreds of ethnic groups, were carried as slaves to the islands of the Caribbean and the Atlantic coasts of South, Central, and North America. Many thousands more were taken after the close of legal slavery or induced to emigrate as indentured servants. Despite the harshness of life both in slavery and after emancipation, they were more or less able to reconstruct a cultural identity on the basis of the elements of the African cultures that they carried with them and the social environments in which they found themselves.

Among the many cultural skills that Africans brought to the Americas were patterns of spiritual beliefs and practices that varied with each ethnic group. Some of the slaves were trained priests and priestesses of African spirits who carried with them powers of enchantment and healing. Thrown into the maelstrom of Atlantic slave societies, they found these skills to be valuable in meeting the challenges of plantation and urban life. In most cases the specific ethnic context of the beliefs and practices was lost, but in others sufficient numbers of Africans from the same region were able to reconstitute themselves as "nations" within the multiethnic societies to which they were taken. Through these nations, or communities, African beliefs and practices were preserved and developed in dialogue with the non-African traditions in their milieu.

The most influential African peoples in Latin America came from the coastal and forest zones of western Africa. Particularly notable were the Ashanti and Fanti peoples of present-day Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast); the Ewe- and Fon-speaking peoples of present-day Togo and Benin; the Hausa, Yoruba, and Ibo peoples of present-day Nigeria; and the many interrelated peoples of the former Kongo kingdom of present-day Zaire and Angola. Depending upon the conditions that members of each group encountered in the Americas, they were able to preserve more or less complex patterns of their spiritual beliefs and practices. Factors such as racial and ethnic demographics, agricultural and mercantile systems, and opportunities for manumission or escape all influenced the transplantation of African religions in the Americas.

Perhaps the most significant factor in the development of these traditions was the established European religion of a particular region. In the Roman Catholic colonies of Spain, Portugal, and France, slaves were baptized as a matter of law, and in some regions, particularly urban areas, the Catholic Church actively supported slave rights and manumission. The Catholic Church also accepted a wide variety of ethnic ceremonials as legitimate supplements to the orthodox sacraments. The Protestant chur-ches of the British and Dutch colonies, by contrast, did not legislate the baptism of slaves and lacked the political power to influence their legal or social status. Slaves and free blacks came to accept Christianity through nonconforming Baptist and Methodist churches, which emphasized local leadership, biblical foundations, and personal conversion.

The social and religious factors stemming from these European religious traditions were crucial in determining the ways in which the African religions developed in their particular milieus. While there are many exceptions, as a broad general rule, Africans and their descendants in Catholic regions developed religious institutions alternative and parallel to Christianity, such as Candomblé in Brazil, vodun (vodou, voodoo) in Haiti, or Santería in Cuba. In the Protestant regions, however, they created alternative forms of Protestant Christianity, such as Revival in Jamaica or the Spiritual Baptists of Trinidad. This dialogue of religious elements either by juxtaposition in Catholic regions or reinterpretation in Protestant regions has been the primary focus of researchers who see in African-derived traditions models for understanding culture change. More recently, researchers have looked to the traditions for light on issues of the multiple meanings of symbols and the coexistence of plural identities.

In the Latin American world, African religious traditions have been particularly influential in areas of intensive eighteenth- and nineteenth-century sugar production. The African-derived traditions of Haiti, northeastern Brazil, and Cuba have shaped the national cultures of those countries, and their emigrants have established the traditions in other Latin-and English-speaking countries. Perhaps the most famous of the traditions, Haitian vodou, owes its reputation to the role of devotees in the slave revolt that overthrew the French colonial authorities of Saint Domingue and established the "black republic" of Haiti in the midst of slaveholding colonies and the newly independent United States. Tales of voodoo barbarism were revived during Haiti's occupation by U.S. Marines in the twentieth century and continue to serve to discredit black spirituality in that country and elsewhere. Vodou means simply "spirit" in the Fon language of enslaved Dahomeans brought to Haiti in the eighteenth century, and the tradition centers on cultivating the spirits' protection and inspiration in meeting the harsh challenges of the lives of the Haitian poor.

In Brazil, particularly the Northeastern city of Salvador da Bahia, the African-derived traditions are called Candomblé. Due to Brazil's relative proximity to Africa, a thriving reciprocal trade brought not only slaves but free Africans to Bahia. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, they established a number of houses of worship based on the African traditions of the houses' founders. The prestige of these early houses formed the model for the veneration of African spirits throughout Brazil. While the old Bahian houses pride themselves on the purity of their African liturgies, others have wedded elements of their practices to European and Amerindian ideas, thus creating thousands of variants known collectively as Umbanda. It is largely through Umbanda's popularization of Candomblé that African spirits known as orishas (Orixás) are popular throughout the country. The festival of Iemanjá, the maternal spirit of the oceans, is attended by hundreds of thousands on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro and millions of others throughout the country.

Africans in Cuba, like those in Brazil and to a lesser extent in Haiti, were able to maintain ethnic identities through religious organizations. The most widespread tradition is often called Santería, a name deriving from the correspondences developed between the spirits of the Yoruba people and the Catholic saints. Kongo practices form the basis of another tradition, known alternately as Palo or Mayombe. The secret religious societies of the Efik and Ejaham peoples have been transplanted to Cuba, where they are known as Abakua. While these traditions never achieved the approval of the wider society, their influence in festivals and popular music brought elements of their spiritualities to every sector of the Cuban population.

The traditions of Haiti, Brazil, and Cuba are only the best-known of African-Hispanic traditions. All the countries of the Atlantic littoral have produced more or less developed spiritualities that have their origin in Africa. The Haitian, Brazilian, and Cuban traditions have become most important because they have been studied by scholars and because emigrants have carried these traditions to other countries, where they often act as models for a renewed African consciousness. Haitians have taken vodou to the Dominican Republic and the United States; Brazilians have established Candomblé houses in Argentina; and Cubans have taken Santería to the United States, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Venezuela, and Colombia.

See alsoCatholic Church: The Colonial Period; Lwa; Orixás; Protestantism; Rastafarians; Santería; Slavery: Spanish America; Syncretism; Vodun, Voodoo, Vaudun.


An extraordinary bibliography with nearly 6,000 entries may be found in John Gray, comp, Ashé: Traditional Religion and Healing in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Diaspora, a Classified International Bibliography (1989).

Other important studies include Melville J. Herskovits, The New World Negro: Selected Papers in Afroamerican Studies (1966); Roger Bastide, African Civilisations in the New World, translated by Peter Green (1972); Angelina Pollak Eltz, Cultos afroamericanos (1972); Leonard E. Barrett, Soul-Force: African Heritage in Afro-American Religion (1974); George Eaton Simpson, Black Religions in the New World (1978); Robert Farris Thompson, Flash of the Spirit: African and Afro-American Art and Philosophy (1983); Kortright Davis and Elias Farajajé-Jones, eds., African Creative Expressions of the Divine (1991); Joseph M. Murphy, Working the Spirit: Ceremonies of the African Diaspora (1994).

Additional Bibliography

Cros Sandoval, Mercedes. Worldview, the Orichas, and Santería: Africa to Cuba and Beyond. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2006.

Daniel, Yvonne. Dancing Wisdom: Embodied Knowledge in Haitian Vodou, Cuban Yoruba, and Bahian Candomblé. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2005.

Fernández Olmos, Margarite, and Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert. Creole Religions of the Caribbean: An Introduction from Vodou and Santería to Obeah and Espiritismo. New York: New York University Press, 2003.

Greenfield, Sidney M., and A. F. Droogers, eds. Reinventing Religions: Syncretism and Transformation in Africa and the Americas. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2001.

Sweet, James H. Recreating Africa: Culture, Kinship, and Religion in the African-Portuguese World, 1441–1770. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003.

                                      Joseph M. Murphy


views updated Jun 08 2018


Colombia's party system is the oldest in Latin America. Its two traditional parties, the Liberals and Conservatives, date back to the late 1840s and have controlled national politics until the 1990s, when their electoral dominance subsided notably. In the early twenty-first century, the Colombian party system is in a period of flux; the traditional Liberal and Conservative Parties continue to exist, but they have been challenged by a vibrant democratic left, as well as by more person-alist parties supportive of the highly popular president Alvaro Uribe Vélez (2002–).

Historically, the Liberal and Conservative parties were divided over significant policy issues. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Conservatives favored a strong centralized state in contrast to the Liberals' preference for a federal association of individually powerful states. Conservatives advocated close ties between church and state; the Liberals did not. And Conservatives wanted government involvement in economic policymaking, whereas Liberals championed a nineteenth-century laissez-faire view of the economy. These differences, along with regional rivalries and personal ambitions, characterized party conflict for a century.

While the parties were organizations of notables rather than forces for mass political participation, the leadership built strong support and loyalties that were strengthened by patron-client relationships. Liberal and Conservative leaders generated substantial backing for the succession of civil wars and uprisings that took place in the nineteenth century. The struggle for power was often violent and was only stabilized in the 1880s, when Rafael Núñez Moledo moved toward establishing a strong central government. This arrangement was legitimated by the Constitution of 1886, which drastically reduced the authority of individual states while also recognizing Catholicism as Colombia's official religion. By the time of Núñez's death in 1894, structures had been erected that would strengthen Conservative domination.

Civil strife was by no means ended: There was a brief insurgency in 1895 and then the War of the Thousand Days (1899–1902). Yet Conservative rule continued until 1930, when the Liberals returned to power. Four years later, when the Liberal Alfonso López Pumarejo won the presidency and instituted a number of reforms, the level of partisan debate rose. López and his followers sought an expansion of the state, greater activity in labor and welfare policy, and a redefined relationship with the Catholic Church. He met with fierce opposition from within his own party as well as from the Conservatives. These differences eventually led to a Liberal division in 1946, enabling the Conservatives to regain power under Mariano Ospina Pérez. The next few years saw a progressive deterioration of the party system, fueled by growing violence between Liberals and Conservatives in the countryside. This period of extremely bloody partisan conflict (known in the twenty-first century simply as La Violencia) brought a collapse of the civilian regime and the reluctant intervention by the armed forces in 1953.

Following the collapse of the military regime in 1957, Liberal and Conservative party leaders negotiated a power-sharing arrangement intended to bring an end to partisan violence. The resultant National Front (1958–1974) assured sixteen years during which congressional, ministerial, and other major positions would be divided equally between the Liberal and Conservative parties, while the presidency would alternate between them. These measures guaranteed that third parties were relegated to a minor position in the system, while traditional Conservative and Liberal elites could retain control of public policy.

With the return of competitive elections in 1974, the Liberals proved to be the majority party. From 1974 to 1998, they lost the presidency only once—in 1982 when two Liberal candidates divided the vote—and they consistently maintained control of both houses of Congress. At the same time, amendments to the original National Front provisions adopted in 1968 called for continuing participation in government by both parties, thus ensuring access to bureaucratic posts for the minority Conservative Party.

Meanwhile, the two party organizations had weakened internally, with national leaders increasingly relying upon local and regional bosses for votes and services. Customary elitist control over the traditional parties diminished. National Front rules also discouraged participation in elections, and abstention rates were high. Levels of public cynicism rose, increasing pressure for reforms and political modernization. In 1990, Liberal president César Gaviria Trujillo (1990–1994) backed a movement that eventually led to the new constitution of 1991. The 1991 Constitution weakened traditional party domination, with new electoral regulations sharply limiting the old control mechanisms of local leaders.

Poor governance further undermined two-party dominance after the 1991 Constitution. The Liberal Party suffered a significant blow to its image during the presidency of Ernesto Samper Pizano (1994–1998), who was accused of having accepted several million dollars from the Cali drug cartel to finance his campaign. Although Samper survived two impeachment processes in Congress, the Liberal Party was badly shaken and lost the 1998 presidential election to Conservative Andrés Pastrana Arango (1998–2002). Pastrana, in turn, proved to be highly unpopular when his efforts to achieve peace with the leftist FARC and ELN guerrillas failed utterly. In the 2002 presidential election, the Conservatives declined to run a candidate and the official candidate of the Liberal Party was soundly defeated by the dissident Liberal Alvaro Uribe Vélez. Having broken with the Liberal Party, Uribe governed as an independent; his immense popularity led to his re-election with 62.3 percent of the vote in 2006.

The two-party system was further weakened by a package of constitutional amendments approved in 2003 intended to establish more cohesive and responsible parties. In the 2006 congressional elections, the Liberal and Conservative parties together garnered only 35.3 percent of the seats in the Senate (down from 83.3 percent as recently as 1998) and 38.6 percent of the seats in the Chamber of Representatives (down from 81.4 percent in 1998). A democratic leftist party, the Polo Demo-crático Alternativo (Alternative democratic pole), won 9.8 percent of the seats in the Senate and 4.8 percent in the Chamber, and its presidential candidate came in second with 22.0 percent of the vote, nearly twice the votes of the official Liberal Party candidate. The other two major parties in Congress, Cambio Radical (Radical change) and the Partido Social de Unidad Nacional (National unity social party, known as el Partido de la U), were composed largely of former Liberals and Conservatives who had broken away to support President Uribe. It is unclear whether these parties will continue to exist after Uribe's presidency and, if not, whether their adherents will return to the folds of the Liberal and Conservative parties. The Colombian party system is unstable in the early twenty-first century, but the days of the exclusive two-party system appear to be definitively over.

See alsoColombia, Revolutionary Movements: Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC); Colombia, Revolutionary Movements: Army of National Liberation (ELN); Drugs and Drug Trade; Gaviria Trujillo, César Augusto; López Pumarejo, Alfonso; Núñez Moledo, Rafael; Ospina Pérez, Mariano; Violencia, La; War of the Thousand Days.


Archer, Ronald P. "Party Strength and Weakness in Colombia's Besieged Democracy." In Building Democratic Institutions: Party Systems in Latin America, edited by Scott Mainwaring and Timothy R. Scully. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1995.

Dix, Robert H. The Politics of Colombia. New York: Praeger, 1987.

Hartlyn, Jonathan. The Politics of Coalition Rule in Colombia. Cambridge, U.K., and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

Pizarro Leongómez, Eduardo. "La crisis de los partidos y los partidos en la crisis." In Tras las Huellas de la Crisis Política, edited by Francisco Leal Buitrago. Bogotá: Tercer Mundo: FESCOL: Instituto de Estudios Políticos y Relaciones Internacionales (IEPRI), Universidad Nacional, 1996.

Roll, David. Rojo Difuso y Azul Pá lido: Los partidos tradicionales en Colombia: Entre el debilitamiento y la persistencia. Bogotá: Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Facultad de Derecho, Ciencias Políticas y Sociales, 2002.

                                           John D. Martz

                                           John C. Dugas


views updated May 14 2018


In this survey, the term "nation" refers to a people politically organized into a sovereign state with a definite, internationally recognized territory. The number of such nations has almost tripled since the end of World War II. On the eve of the war there were 70 nations; by January 2002, there were 191. When East Timor proclaimed its status as the world's newest country on May 20, 2002, the number reached 192.

In 1990 and 1991 several important changes took place in the status of the world's nations. Two nations, Yemen and Germany, were formed in 1990, each by unification of two formerly separate nations. In the case of Germany, the former German Democratic Republic was subsumed by the Federal Republic of Germany. The Republic of Yemen was formed by union of the former Yemen Arab Republic and the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen. Also in 1990, Namibia finally realized its Independence; the UN had terminated its status as a South African mandate in 1966.

The year 1990 also began a period of turmoil in the former Soviet Union. The independence of the three Baltic States—Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—was recognized by the central Soviet government in August 1991. The United States established diplomatic relations with the democratically elected governments of the Baltic States in September 1991. In December 1991 the 12 former Soviet republics became separate sovereign nations.

With the breakup of Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence along with its neighbor Serbia and Montenegro in 1992. In 1993 Czechoslovakia dissolved into Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Also in 1993, Eritrea declared its independence from Ethiopia. In 2002, East Timor declared itself a nation after separating from Indonesia.

The magnitude of these changes, though noteworthy, is not unprecedented in recent history. The unsettled international situations following each of the World Wars fostered the creation of new nations without an equal dissolution of existing ones. As a result of World War I, three nations in Europe ceased to exist—Austria, Hungary, Montenegro, and Serbia—but they were replaced by four new nations: Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia. Poland reappeared on the map of Europe after an interval of almost a century and a quarter during which it had been partitioned among Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Russia.

In the early part of World War II, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania were forcibly incorporated into the USSR. Other nations disappeared temporarily from the world community during the period that led up to World War II. These include Ethiopia in 1936, Austria in 1938, and Czechoslovakia in 1939. In the aftermath of World War II, however, two new nations emerged through the partition of Germany, and Israel was created within the United Kingdom's Palestine League of Nations Mandate.

Proliferation of Nations

The dramatic increase in the number of nations since World War II has occurred primarily through the breakup of larger territorial entities, particularly in Africa, along the southern periphery of Asia, in the Caribbean, and in the Pacific Ocean. The dissolution of the Soviet Union follows this proliferation pattern.

Several periods since 1945 were marked particularly by the emergence of new nations from colonial powers. In 1960 alone, 14 new nations appeared from French-controlled parts of Africa. Of the 69 nations formed worldwide between 1961 and 1992, 42 had been wholly or partly under British sovereignty at some time in their history, including seven of the 11 new Pacificisland nations. Between September 1974 and November 1975, all five of Portugal's overseas provinces in Africa became nations.

Several exceptional situations since World War II have caused irregularities in the sovereignty structure. Syria in 1958 joined Egypt to form the United Arab Republic, a union that endured three years. In 1962 the West Indies Federation, just a few months before its scheduled independence, was dissolved in favor of sovereignty for Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.

In another instance in which nations unsuccessfully attempted to merge, Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika, and Zanzibar considered the creation of an East African federation with a single national government. These plans failed to materialize, but in April 1964 Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged to become one nation, Tanzania.

Geographical Attributes

The largest nation by size of territory is Russia, followed, in order by Canada, China, the United States, Brazil, and Australia, all with more than 5 million square kilometers of total area. The largest nation by population is China, followed, in order by India, the United States, and Indonesia, all with more than 190 million people. The Holy See (Vatican City) is the world's smallest nation, in both land area and population.

Of the 192 nations, 44 are insular, including parts of islands; 40 are landlocked; and the remaining 108 face one or more oceans or their embayments. As nations delimit their 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zones (EEZs) under the provisions of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, including negotiating maritime boundaries with neighboring nations, some may face the possibility of being "zonelocked."

Dependent Areas

Government control over land areas varies widely, from full sovereignty to none. The term "dependent areas" encompasses a broad category of political entities that fall in some way within the jurisdiction of a nation. In this survey, dependent areas are "overseas" territories associated with a nation; they do not include offshore islands that belong to or make up civil divisions of a nation. Australia, Denmark, France, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States maintain dependent areas. The level of political dependence ranges from self-governing in domestic affairs to administered directly from the national capital. The latter case often includes minor scattered islands with little or no permanent population.

Except for a sector of Antarctica, there are no significant land areas that are not either under the control of a nation or claimed by one. Antarctic claims have been made by seven of the 26 consultative nations to the 1959 Antarctic Treaty,* although the legal status of those claims remains in suspension under the provisions of the treaty. The unclaimed sector of Antarctica is between 90 and 150 degrees west longitude.

*Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway, and the United Kingdom are the seven signatories of the 1959 Antarctic Treaty which have claims in Antarctica. The 19 remaining consultative nations are Belgium, Brazil, China, Ecuador, Finland, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Peru, Poland, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, USSR, United States, and Uruguay.

The United States has asserted no claim of sovereignty in Antarctica, although it reserves the right to make one; it recognizes none of the claims within the Antarctic Treaty area (south of 60 degrees south latitude) made by other nations.

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