Latin America often is often perceived in academic discourses and scientific studies as one whole unit. Given that all the countries that fall under the ‘umbrella’ of Latin America share some geographical, political and economic similarities, this seems logic. However, differences in the history of Latin American countries, including the differences in the experience of fighting for their independence, play an important role in the formation of uniqueness of these countries. Moreover, the comparative analysis of current development of Brazil and new Spanish American nations illustrates some significant differences. More specifically, because of the differences in receiving international investments, and differences in the cultural diversity of Portuguese and Spanish American, Brazil and new Spanish American nations experience different processes of development.

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The successful development of post-colonial countries is often very dependent on international investments, and some of African countries are a proof. Tasar claims that ‘the entire continent of South America requires major investment in infrastructure – from roads to power plants to restoration projects – to reverse the ravages of past investments and development strategies’ (23). Latin American countries are a very popular target for international investors. More specifically, ‘according to ECLAC, in 1998 Latin America and the Caribbean countries received approximately 41 percent of total FDI flows destined to developing world’, which is a remarkable tendency. However, international investments are not spread evenly among Latin American countries. The majority of funds is regularly received by Brazil. For example, some experts argue that 78% of all investment directed to Latin American countries goes to Brazil (The Brazil Business). Even Argentina, a country that is often considered the most economically developed among all Spanish American nations, has difficulties attracting foreign investors. A big number of international investments received by Brazil contributes to a relatively high economic development of this country, if to compare with other Latin American countries. More specifically, it is often argued that Brazil is the most powerful country it terms of its economical and political development in the entire Southern America. The World Bank institution claims that because of international investments ‘Brazil experienced a decade of social progress from 2003-2013 in which over 26 million people were lifted out of poverty and inequality was reduced significantly’ (World Bank). Former Spanish colonies, like Argentina or Venezuela, do not show such remarkable economic growth, despite the fact that they own very valuable natural resources. However, social and economic inequality still remains a big issue for Brazil. In comparison, Spanish American countries are less unequal, with the exception of Colombia and Bolivia (United Nations Development Programme), which also illustrates differences in the development of two regions.

Cultural and ethnic diversity of Brazil and relatively ethnically similar Spanish American countries are often the cause of difference in development between two. Brazil, just like the USA, is often referred to as ‘melting pot’ due to its cultural, ethnic and racial diversity. Freyre claims that ‘Portuguese men had been predisposed culturally to miscegenate with women of color and to adapt to foreign customs’ (Bieber 52) and ‘association between blacks and whites on the slave plantations of the north-east had led to a racial democracy in Brazil’ (Bieber 53). As a result, Brazilian identity is often seen as a mix of different identities. In the meantime, Spanish American countries are not so diverse and rather ethnical homogenous. Partly it is due to the fact that a big number of native population was killed during Spanish colonization. Apart from this, Spanish American countries did not receive as much immigrant population throughout their history, as Brazil did. Given that diversity is closely intertwined with the chances of economic development, this is one of the reasons why development of Brazil and Spanish American countries are different. Ofodile claims that ‘the hypothesis that ethnic diversity should be added to the determinants of economic growth is supported’ by many studies. She goes further to explain it: ‘ethnic diversity creates social barriers that hinder the positive spillover encountered through knowledge creation as a result of investment’ (28). This thesis is also supported by Montalvo and Reynal-Querol who argue that ‘several papers documented the negative effect of ethnic fractionalization on economic development’ (317). However, they explain this tendency not by the lack of social capital in culturally diverse societies, but by the assumption that ‘high degree of ethnic fractionalization increase potential conflict, which has negative effect on economic growth’ (317). Given everything described above, ethnic, racial and thus – cultural diversity is an important factor that contributes to the differences in the process of development of Brazil and former Spanish colonies.

In conclusion, development process in Brazil and new Spanish nations (Argentina, Chile, Colombia etc) is different due to at least two factors – differences in receiving international investments and differences in the level of ethnic, racial and cultural diversity. International investment contribute to the economic growth of the country, while cultural diversity has a negative effect on economic flourishing because of the high risk of social conflict and lack of social cohesion and social capital. Nonetheless, currently there is a very little number of scientific works researching on the topic of differences between Portuguese and Spanish America. Latin American is still perceived by international academia as one unit without significant differences within the Latin American countries. Therefore, there is a need for further research that would stress a focus on the discovery of the differences in political, economic and social development among Latin American countries.

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  • Adora, Ofodile. “The Impact of Ethnic Diversity on Economic Growth.” Econ.duke. Edu. Web. 5 June 2015.
  • Bieber, Judy. “Race, Resistance, And Regionalism: Perspectives From Brazil And Spanish America.” Latin American Research Review 32.3 (1997): 152. Web.
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