Latin America is a group of countries from the Americas, comprised of countries scattered across North America, South America, Central America and the Caribbean. The countries are characterized by their use of the Romance languages Spanish, French, Creole and Portuguese. Latin America is one of the most urbanized regions in the world, with the majority of residents living in cities. Made up of 20 countries and 13 dependencies, the estimated population of the area in 2016 is over 626 million.
Latin America is made up of a total of 33 countries and dependencies spread across the Americas. The total area of what is defined as Latin America stretches across 7.142 million square miles, or 19.197 million square kilometers. While official numbers are difficult to come by, as different regions hold their official censuses during different years, 2015 estimates put the population of Latin America at 626,741,000.
A broad definition of Latin America is that all of the Americas south of the US are included, which includes Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico and other areas located in South America and the Caribbean. The region is considered to be one of the most diverse in the world, as it is home to a blend of races, ethnicities and ethnic groups. The primary languages spoken throughout Latin America include French, Spanish, Portuguese, Creole or variants of these languages, although Spanish and Portuguese are the predominant languages. About ninety percent of people in Latin America are Christians, with about 69% identifying Catholicism as their religion of choice.
Most Populous Countries in Latin America
With an overall population of 626 million spread across just 33 countries and dependencies, it only makes sense that some of these countries have massive populations that add to this total number. The top five most populous countries in Latin America according to July 2015 estimates include:
In terms of area, Brazil is not just the most populous country but it is the largest by area, measuring over 8.5 million square kilometers. Despite being the 2nd most populous country, Mexico is just ranked 3rd by area, while Argentina (which has the 4th largest population) is the 2nd largest country by area.
Least Populous Countries in Latin America
While the most populated country in Latin America, Brazil, has an astounding population of over 200 million, there are also regions that have smaller populations, with the smallest population registered under 10,000 residents. The five countries or dependencies with the lowest population include:
- Saint Barthelemy: 7,237
- Saint Martin: 31,754
- French Guiana: 269,000
- Martinique: 396,000
- Guadeloupe: 468,000
Despite having the smallest population, Saint Barthelemy is the most densely populated in Latin America, as it covers just 53.2 square kilometers.
Largest Cities in Latin America
With a total population so large, it is no surprise that some of the largest metropolitan cities in the world are located in Latin America. Mexico City, Mexico, and Sau Paolo, Brazil, have nearly identical populations, which makes sense as Mexico and Brazil are two of the largest and most populous countries in the region. The third most populous city, Buenos Aires, Argentina, is ranked third by a long shot -- it has over 7 million fewer people than 2nd-ranked Sao Paulo. The five most populous metropolitan areas in Latin America are:
- Mexico City, Mexico: 20,976,700
- Sao Paulo, Brazil: 20,847,500
- Buenos Aires, Argentina: 13,381,800
- Rio De Janeiro, Brazil: 12,460,200
- Lima, Peru: 10,674,100
Population Growth of Latin America
The 2016 population of over 626 million people may seem like a lot of people, but recent events show that people are beginning to leave the countries that make up Latin America for a number of reasons. A slowdown in the economies of Brazil, Venezuela and other large, populous areas has slowed down the growth rate of Latin America. Recent economic and social crises have led many experts to worry about future growth. The economic downturn of the countries that make up this area led to millions of people being stricken by poverty, and another one million added to the region's unemployed residents. Policymakers are pushing for reforms that would help turn around these economies that are in crisis and to help pull residents out of poverty and make Latin America thriving again.
Estimates for the area remain optimistic as far as population growth, with an estimated 2020 population of 665 million. Only time will tell how close Latin America will get to that number over the next few years.