Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University

Why the Latin American Region Matters to the U.S.

July 11, 2012

Latin America is a source of cultural, economic, and environmental opportunity for the U.S. Its proximity to the U.S. makes it a natural tourist destination, trade partner, and source of investment. Foreign direct investment to the region averaged $23.5 billion annually in 2010 and 2011. The U.S. accounts for approximately 18% of the FDI flows to the Latin American region. Total trade (imports and exports) between the U.S. and Latin America amounted to over $600 billion in 2010 and has grown consistently since at least 2005. Aside from being a destination for U.S. products Latin America is a source of prized raw materials for the U.S., especially oil. The total number of U.S. citizens that traveled to Latin America and the Caribbean in 2010 and 2011 reached 30 million, which means that the region accounted for half of all citizens travelling abroad.

More importantly, the region shares the same foundational values that are important to the U.S.: political liberty, economic freedom and democratic government. These can be traced back to the independence period when a majority of the emerging nations modeled their constitutions on that of the U.S., and more recently to the return to democracy and free markets of all Latin American countries (save one) during the 1980s. The cultural linkages between the region and the U.S. have deepened in the aftermath of the Cold War as the stream of Hispanic migrants seeking opportunities in the U.S. has skyrocketed. As a consequence, Spanish has become a dominant secondary language in the U.S. and Hispanics are now the largest ethnic minority in the country. Also as a consequence, money remittances from migrants to their relatives in the region have grown to exceed the flows of foreign aid and in many countries have become the primary source of foreign currency. These migrants, which tend to be younger on average than the U.S. population, have become an important source of labor that has helped maintain the dynamism of the U.S. economy. Their economic consolidation has also turned them into a substantial consumption force, and a source of entrepreneurship and employment through ownership of medium and small businesses. Their high birth rates and their concentration in urban centers are also transforming these communities into a significant political force.

But the relevance of the region is not only highlighted by positive factors. Latin America and the U.S. face common threats. In the globalized world in which we are living challenges to national security are eminently transnational and consequently cannot be addressed by single countries acting in isolation. Here are a few examples:

  • Drug trafficking: the Andean region in Latin America is a main source of drug production and multiple countries throughout the hemisphere have become important trafficking and distribution centers. But the main source of demand driving this industry is in the U.S.. The drug trade, estimated to be over $300 billion globally, is a source of domestic corruption and is linked to violence and other forms of criminality at its source and final destination.
  • Gangs: these highly complex and violent groups encompass multiple facets of criminal activity and through their highly effective networking span regionally and even globally. Their origins are traced to the deportation of illegal migrants who were schooled in the rituals and practices of violent U.S. street gangs through their mutual incarceration, particularly in the city of Los Angeles.
  • International crime: clearly related to the drug trade and gang activity but not limited to them, international crime involves human trafficking, arms smuggling, money laundering and other insidious threats that put human lives at risk and are terribly costly to control. It is estimated that the fight against crime can absorb up to 15% of a poor country’s GDP, resources that could otherwise be devoted to more productive purposes.
  • Migration: people migrate primarily in search of opportunities they cannot find in their home countries. For this reason, the underlying poverty and inequality that still characterize most of Latin America are a permanent incentive for migration. But so is the lure of employment opportunities in the prosperous communities to the north of the Rio Grande. If there is a growing population of undocumented migrants in the U.S. it is at least partly due to the chasm between the actual demand for Latin American laborers and the ability of the existent regulatory framework to accommodate them. Among other implications, this situation raises delicate issues in the areas of human rights and the criminal justice systems.
  • Environment: the effects of environmental degradation do not respect international boundaries. Largely because of this, polluters can impose part of their costs on others. Those in a position to provide solutions have little incentive to do so as long as they bear all of the costs without capturing the benefits. Latin America is in a position to improve carbon sequestration and storage through reforestation and the preservation of tropical forests, but it needs the support of the U.S. and other developed countries to do so.

Historically, Latin America has been within the U.S. sphere of interest, not always in the most felicitous of ways, but always at a high level of relevance. Most recently, however, particularly in the aftermath of 9/11 and the global financial crisis, the U.S. has shifted its attention to other world regions. In the meantime, Latin America has undergone a transformation of its own. No longer seen merely as a testing ground for American policies, it has gained recognition for innovation in the areas of social policy, political participation, biofuels, and others. While poverty and inequality remain high they have fallen significantly. Together with sound economic management and growing investment this is swelling the ranks of the middle class across the region. To enhance its regional and even global standing, the U.S. must rediscover the relevance of Latin America and embrace it as a full partner.

Why the Latin American Region Matters to the U.S.

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Film Screening: El Súper with filmmaker Iván Acosta

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The 1979 film version of Cuban filmmaker Ivan Acosta’s award-winning play El Súper, which gained critical and international success for its depiction of exiled Cubans in New York City, will be screened. Mr. Acosta will be in attendance and a discussion in English will follow. Iván Acosta is a playwright, filmmaker, and creative director originally from Santiago de Cuba, now in New York City. His creative endeavors include documentaries, plays, films, and books, and he’s served as writer, director, and producer, among other roles.

A small reception will follow the screening. Seating may be limited. Admission is free and open to the public. For questions email ccsi@tulane.edu.

For further reading visit: https://www.nytimes.com/1979/04/29/archives/the-screen-el-super-a-cubanamerican-tale-the-cast.html


Collaborators of these events with the New Orleans Hispanic Heritage Foundation and Tulane’s Cuban and Caribbean Studies Institute include Beatriz Ball, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana, the Newcomb Art Museum, Park View Historic Hotel, and St. Mary’s Dominican High School.

Equity speaker series to host panel on navigating immigrant relations in the current political climate

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The Center for Academic Equity at Tulane University is proud to present Border Li(n)es: Excluding, Extracting, and Expelling Immigrants in the Southern U.S. on September 25, 2018 at 7:00 PM as part of the Equity Speaker Series.

Following a summer of turbulent immigration relations in the United States, the Fall 2018 Equity Speaker Panel will focus on immigration on our Southern border and will feature specialists whose experiences vary from grassroots to professorial work. Panelists will include Josiah Heyman, Director of the Center for Inter-American and Border Studies, Ronald Martinez, New Orleans immigrant activist and spokesperson for the Congress of Day Laborers, Hiroko Kusuda, Clinical Professor and Director of Immigration Law at the Smith Law Clinic and Center for Social Justice at Loyola, and Laila Hlass, Clinical Professor of Law at Tulane Law School and the Stone Center for Latin American Studies.

These four distinguished speakers will share the stage of Freeman Auditorium to discuss the drastic variation in immigrant relations across the national, regional, and local spaces and ways that members of American society may become engaged in or change the now toxic and polarized political climate. This inaugural discussion will be followed by a question and answer session.

See also Tulane New Wave for more information and a description of the event.




Cover photo from CNN story What the US-Mexico border looks like before Trump’s wall.

Mexican Cultural Institute's new exhibition features Hispanic women artists' empowerment and identity

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The Mexican Cultural Institute in New Orleans in collaboration with the New Orleans Hispanic Heritage Foundation is proud to announce the opening of the groundbreaking exhibition Hispanic Women Making Art: Creative Empowerment and Identity. The exhibition will feature artists Verónica Bapé, Belinda Flores-Shinshillas, Ana Hernandez, Josephine Sacabo, Laura Velez and Luba Zygarewicz and is curated by Marcela Correa, MFA.

The opening reception will be held on September 26 from 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM. The exhibition will be open beginning September 26 and continue through November 24, 2018. For more information, please visit the Mexican Cultural Institute website.

Cover photo is a work by Verónica Bapé from the series ABUNDANTE COSA 1 MES 1 ARTISTA.

In 2018 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico established the Mexican Cultural Institute in New Orleans. The primary objective of the Mexican Cultural Institute is to promote the image of Mexico by supporting cultural expressions in its broadest and fullest sense, including multidisciplinary forms like visual arts, music, performing arts, film, literature and gastronomy. The mission of the Cultural Institutes is to be protagonists of the cultural scene in their different host cities.


Iván Acosta book presentation: With A Cuban Song in the Heart / Con Una Canción Cubana en el Corazón

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Iván Acosta will present his memoir, With a Cuban Song in the Heart/ Con Una Canción Cubana en el Corazón, published by Un-Gyve Press, 2017. At this event, Mr. Acosta will incorporate his favorite Cuban songs in a musical and historical journey. His book features artwork from 280 album covers in his private collection and weaves a rich narrative combining real life experiences from his childhood in Santiago, Cuba along with tidbits of local lore and historical references. His favorite songs will be performed by local performers during the presentation.
This fascinating presentation, starting at 6:00PM, will be held at Tulane University in the Freeman Auditorium of the Newcomb Art Building (in Newcomb Circle) New Orleans, LA, 70118. A book signing and reception will follow on Woodward Way, right outside the Freeman Auditorium and in the Newcomb Art Museum. The book will be available for purchase for $60.00.

This event is free and open to the public. For questions email ccsi@tulane.edu.

For further reading visit: https://www.nytimes.com/2001/08/16/nyregion/public-lives-cuba-on-his-mind-the-dual-life-of-an-artist-exile.html


Collaborators of these events with the New Orleans Hispanic Heritage Foundation and Tulane’s Cuban and Caribbean Studies Institute include Beatriz Ball, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana, the Newcomb Art Museum, Park View Historic Hotel, and St. Mary’s Dominican High School.

K-12 Educator Workshop Celebrating 25 Years of the Américas Award with 2018 winners Ibi Zoboi and Duncan Tonatiuh

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This year marks the 25th year that the Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs and CLASP will honor the work of the many authors, illustrators, publishers, educators, and readers of the award with 2018 award winners Ibi Zoboi and Duncan Tonatiuh.

Zoboi’s book, American Street is a complex and multi-layered story anchored around relationships and questions of loyalty. She will share her experiences writing this book and provide context for teaching this book in a high school classroom.

The second 2018 award winner by Duncan Tonatiuh, Danza is a magnificent celebration of Amalia Hernández, the dancer and choreographer who founded the famed Mexican dance company, el Ballet Folklórico de México. Tonatiuh will share with educators his unique illustrative style and engage participants in an exploration of Amalia Hernández and her impact in the world of dance. This picture book is the perfect book for every library.

The workshop will explore this year’s winners, providing guidance and resources that span the 25 years of the award. This special 25th anniversary workshop will focus on diversity and the role of community.

Co-sponsored by the national Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs (CLASP), Howard University, and Teaching for Change. Organized by the Center for Latin American Studies, Vanderbilt University and the Stone Center for Latin American Studies at Tulane University.

Celebración Latina at the Audubon Zoo

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In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, please join us at the Audubon Zoo for the 2018 Celebración Latina family festival to explore and celebrate the rich diversity of Latin America. Celebración Latina, presented by Pan-American Life Insurance Group, will be held at the Zoo’s Capital One Stage and Field. It will offer a true taste of the Latin American culture with live music, children’s activities, and authentic Latin cuisine prepared and sold by local restaurants. Local artisans will sell hand crafts, and local social service, health, and education organizations will offer wellness, education, and social service information.

Celebración Latina is included with Zoo admission or Audubon membership. No outside food, beverages, or tents allowed. Portable chairs and blankets are welcomed.

Don’t forget to check out photos from past celebrations!

For more information, please visit the Audubon Zoo website.

Celebración Latina is sponsored in part by the Stone Center for Latin American Studies and Ron Austin & Associates.