What is the ethnic background of singer Mariah Carey?

The Grammy-winning pop music star Mariah Carey was born in 1970 in New York City. Her father was a Venezuelan of African descent, her mother Irish. She is the latest in a long tradition of musicians of South American descent who made it big in the United States. Another is Bolivian violinist Jaime Laredo (born … Read more

What is Quechua and Where do the Quechuan languages come from?

Quechua is a family of Native American languages spoken in the Andes Mountains of South America. It includes the tongue spoken by the Incas in Peru before the Spanish conquistadors arrived. Quechuan languages are still spoken by Native Americans of Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, and other South American countries. Many Quechuan words have passed into Spanish … Read more

Where do the Latin Dances cumbia and tango come from?

Both Latin dances cumbia and tango come from South America. The cumbia comes from Colombia, where bands called vallenato ensembles play the music that goes with it. Instruments include a diatonic button accordion, drums, shakers, and scrapers. The music combines Spanish, Native American, and African influences. The tango is a graceful, romantic ballroom dance that … Read more

When was the civil war in Guatemala and How long did it last?

The civil war in Guatemala went on intermittently for thirty-six years, from 1960 to 1996, the longest civil war in Latin American history. Leftist guerrillas fought Guatemala’s ruling elite through several presidencies and two coups, in 1963 and 1982. The government was aided heavily by the United States, which considered the guerrillas communists. As in … Read more

How has the United States invested in Central American countries and Why?

Beginning in the 1840s, American companies invested millions of dollars to open mines and grow cash crops throughout Central America, especially bananas and coffee. More recently, American companies have been opening numerous factories there as well. Profits from these businesses have gone mostly into the pockets of American investors and a few wealthy Central American … Read more

Who are the Guarani and Where did the Guarani come from?

The Guarani are a Native American people who once lived widely in central and southern South America. Small populations still live in Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil; some still practice their traditional communal agriculture. In Paraguay, their influence has been especially strong. Ninety percent of the country’s largely mestizo population speak Guarani. Guarani songs, dances, … Read more

Why does South America produce so many architects?

The discipline of architecture is held in high esteem in South America. One example is Cesar Pelli, who was born in Argentina in 1922 and immigrated to the United States. In the 1960s and 1970s, he earned acclaim for such projects as the Vienna International Center and the World Financial Towers in Manhattan. In 1977, … Read more

Why isn’t Panama still part of Colombia and When did Panama become an independent nation?

In 1903, Panama revolted against Colombia and became an independent nation. Behind the revolt was American president Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt’s policy of intervening freely in Latin American affairs has already been evident in the history of Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic. Following his own advice to “speak softly and carry a big stick,” … Read more

Why has immigration from Central America gone up since 1950?

There are several reasons why immigration from Central America gone up since 1950, all related to Central America’s civil and economic disorder. People from Panama and Honduras were mostly responsible for the first wave of Central American immigration in the 1950s and 1960s. These were mostly skilled, middle-class people seeking a better living than they … Read more

What was the most recent civil war in El Salvador and When?

Civil disturbances between left-wing rebels and right-wing pro-government forces grew in the late 1970s. The conflict erupted into full-scale civil war in 1980. The spark was the murder that year of Archbishop Oscar Romero, a critic of the Salvadoran government. The leading rebel group was the Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN). The United States accused … Read more

What kind of work do most Central Americans do in the United States?

Many Central Americans do manual labor, as factory hands, farm workers, construction workers, gardeners, domestics, nannies, restaurant employees. But a number of middle-class, professional people of Central American descent also reside in the United States. They may be everything from a doctor or lawyer to a Disney animator, as in the case of Jose Zeliya, … Read more

What religion do most Central Americans practice and How many are Protestants?

Most Central Americans are Roman Catholic, but there are a fair number of Protestants, particularly Baptists and Evangelicals. Some Native Americans practice ancestral religions. In Guatemala, Mayan traditions have mingled with Catholic ones, producing original results, for example, the Christmas mask dance, with its colorful masks and costumes. Protestants represent 30 percent of the population … Read more

What is a marimba and Where did the marimba come from?

A marimba is a large wooden percussion instrument, like a xylophone. It is the national instrument of Guatemala and is played throughout Central America. Central American music combines Spanish, Native American, and African influences. It has affinities to both Mexican and Caribbean music, rightly so, since Central America borders both regions. Some musical forms cross … Read more

What is Ruben Blades’ national origin and When was he born?

The singer, songwriter, and actor Ruben Blades was born in Panama in 1948. He is committed to singing on social and political issues. His commitment was formed when American soldiers fired into a crowd of demonstrators in the Canal Zone in 1963, killing several Panamanians. Living in New York since 1974, he became a best-selling … Read more

What was the Iran-Contra scandal and Why were illegal arms sold to Iran?

In 1984, Congress outlawed U.S. aid to the contras fighting the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Officials in President Ronald Reagan’s administration, notably marine lieutenant colonel Oliver North, had an idea on how to get around the ban. They illegally sold arms to Iran, then illegally used the proceeds to support the contras. The Iran-Contra scandal became … Read more

Which is bigger: Central America or Texas?

The state of Texas is bigger than the entire region of Central America. Texas has an area of about 262,000 square miles. The mountainous, heavily forested strip of land that links Mexico in North America and Colombia in South America has an area of only about 202,000 square miles. Yet it comprises seven nations: Guatemala, … Read more

What was the movie El Norte about?

The 1983 film El Norte tells the story of a Guatemalan brother and sister, Native American peasants, who escape political terror in their home village to come north (norte) to the United States. Praised for its compassion and beauty, the film opened many people’s eyes to the plight of Central American refugees.

Why were there two civil wars in Nicaragua and When did they take place?

There were two civil wars in Nicaragua. The first one, in 1978-1979, overthrew the government of Anastasio Somoza Debayle. This revolution was led by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), a left-wing group named for Augusto Cesar Sandino (1895-1934), who had waged a guerrilla war against U.S. occupation in the 1920s and 1930s. The Sandinistas … Read more

How big was Guatemala in Spanish colonial times?

The colonial district of Guatemala stretched from present-day Mexico’s southernmost state, Chiapas, through what is now Costa Rica. It included all of what are now Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicarigua, Honduras, and Costa Rica. Its capital was Antigua, which is now Guatemala City in the modern nation of Guatemala. Theodore Roosevelt, who was at the age … Read more

Who is Rosemary Casals and Where did Rosemary Casals come from?

Tennis player Rosemary Casals is related to famous cellist Pablo Casals, but don’t remind her of that. Born in San Francisco in 1948 to parents who had immigrated from El Salvador, she is the grandniece of Pablo Casals (1876-1973). Pablo was born in Spain, moved to Puerto Rico, and is considered the greatest twentieth-century master … Read more

How did colonial Guatemala break up in the 1800s?

Guatemala remained part of Mexico when that country won independence from Spain in 1821. Shortly afterward, in 1823, it broke away from Mexico as the United Provinces of Central America, or Central American Federation. Political conflict doomed the union. Liberals who wanted a strong federation with progressive reforms were stymied by rich conservatives who wanted … Read more

What is the sanctuary movement and Where did the sanctuary movement come from?

The sanctuary movement is a network of churches that has guided hundreds of Central American refugees into the United States and sheltered them. In doing so, church members have risked fines and imprisonment for smuggling in undocumented aliens. They believe they have a moral obligation to protect the refugees from deportation back to their countries. … Read more

How long is the Pan-American Highway from Alaska to Chile?

Central Americans seeking to come to the United States can drive there via the Inter-American Highway, which runs from Panama to the Mexico-Texas border. It is one part of the almost completed Pan-American Highway, a system of roads running 16,000 miles from Alaska to Chile. Those who make it as far as the U.S. border … Read more

Where do most Central Americans in the United States live?

Los Angeles is the home to most Central American immigrants. As of 1990, about 350,000 Salvadorans and 110,000 Guatemalans lived there. The biggest concentration of Central Americans is in the Pico-Union section west of downtown. Other favorite spots for Central Americans are San Francisco, New York, Houston, and Washington, D.C. Many Nicaraguans live in Miami.

What is a Ladino and What does the word Ladino mean in Spanish?

In Central America, the term Ladino means a mestizo, or person of mixed European and Native American origin. It can also mean a Native American who has chosen to adopt Spanish language and culture. The word Ladino also means something completely different: the language spoken by Sephardic Jews, the Jews who originated in Spain and … Read more

How many Dominican Americans are there in the United States?

The 1990 census counted 506,000 Dominican Americans in the United States, but the real number today is probably close to a million. In other words, there are about as many Dominican Americans as there are Cuban Americans. It is hard to know the exact number because many Dominican immigrants have come to the country illegally. … Read more

Why are people coming from Honduras and Panama into the United States but not from Costa Rica?

Honduras had its own political turmoil in the past twenty years. There were many pressures on civil order: military coups, followed by restoration of a shaky democratic government; the unpopular presence of the Nicaraguan contras; declaration of a state of emergency; a bad economy; labor strikes. Costa Rica’s situation was better. It has one of … Read more

Why are there Cuban Chinese restaurants in Miami, Florida?

Cuban Chinese restaurants, readily found in cities with large Cuban American populations, blend the two cuisines. They exist because a minority of Cubans are people of Chinese descent. More than 100,000 Chinese contract workers came to Cuba between 1840 and 1870, at a time when African slave labor was being phased out.

What is a Santo in Santeria and What does Santo mean in Spanish?

To Spanish speaking Roman Catholics, a santo is a saint. To devotees of the religion called Santeria, it is something more: an orisha, a spirit or god who can procure material benefits for believers. Santeria originated with West African slaves, who brought their Yoruba religion to Cuba and blended it with Catholic beliefs. A santo … Read more

Who used to live in Washington Heights and Inwood before the Puerto Ricans and Cubans?

These northern Manhattan neighborhoods were home to Irish and Jewish families before the 1950s. Puerto Ricans and Cubans came next, and now Dominicans, particularly on the east side of Broadway. Under the shadow of the George Washington Bridge, these neighborhoods are lively with merengue music and the sounds of Spanish conversation. Dominican food, similar to … Read more

Where do most Dominican immigrants settle when they move to the United States?

Many Dominican immigrants settle the same place most Puerto Ricans settle, in New York City. Since the mid-1960s, nearly three-quarters of all Dominican immigrants to the United States have settled in the Big Apple. No community besides Santo Domingo has more Dominicans. Between 1965 and 1980, Dominicans were the largest group of immigrants to New … Read more

Where is the Dominican Republic located and What is the capital of the Dominican Republic?

The Dominican Republic occupies the eastern two-thirds of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. The island is sandwiched between Cuba to the west and Puerto Rico to the east. At about 19,000 square miles in area, the Dominican Republic is a little smaller than West Virginia but much more densely populated, with about 8 million people. … Read more

When was Desi Arnaz a refugee of Fidel Castro?

Desi Arnaz was not a refugee of Fidel Castro. The Cuban-born musician and actor (1917-1986) came to the United States in the 1930s, fleeing Batista, not Castro. Arnaz married comedienne Lucille Ball and starred with her in the hit TV comedy “I Love Lucy” (1951-1957). Playing a bandleader in the show, Arnaz introduced millions of … Read more

What are some examples of Cuban baseball players?

There have been quite a few Cuban baseball players. Cuban American Tony Oliva, for example, was a star hitter and later coach for the Minnesota Twins beginning in 1964. Other Cuban American ball players have included Preston Gomez, Mike Gonzalez, and Vic Powers.

How many Marielitos were criminals and When did the Marielito prison riots take place?

Most Marielitos were not criminals. The vast majority were law-abiding people. But a small number were convicted criminals whom Castro deported. Within a year, sixty-six Mariel refugees had been arrested for crimes in Miami. About 2,700 Marielitos were refused permission to enter the United States, whether for old criminal records, current crimes, or other reasons. … Read more

Why did Marielitos get a bad name in the 1980s?

To many Americans of the early 1980s, Marielitos were considered a problem. They were not warmly embraced like the earlier Cuban exiles. They were usually not given the noble title exiles, but were called refugees. One reason is that the United States was in the midst of economic crisis at the time, and did not … Read more

Who invented Cigars and How did Cuban Cigars originate?

The most prized cigars in the world come from Cuba, perhaps because Cubans invented cigars. The Taino and Ciboney people of Cuba were growing tobacco and rolling the leaves into cigars before Columbus arrived. Cubans of Spanish descent made a lucrative industry out of the Native American practice. Today, cigars are rolled in many countries, … Read more

How have conditions in the Dominican Republic improved in recent years?

The Dominican Republic is no longer a dictatorship. Presidents voted out of office have stepped down peacefully since 1978. But most of the country’s people are desperately poor. Government officials are often corrupt. Everything from low sugar prices to hurricanes can create great hardship. Thirty percent of the people have no work. Under these conditions, … Read more

What is a Phone Parlor and What are Phone Parlors used for?

Phone parlors, or discount calling enters, are stores where immigrants can buy time to call their native countries at discounted rates. Dominicans started them for people from their own country, but now they are used by other Latinos, such as Mexicans and Peruvians. They can be found in New Jersey and in New York City, … Read more

How many Dominican immigrants in the United States are farm workers from the countryside?

There are many farm workers in the Dominican Republic, often poor and illiterate. But Dominicans who make the daring journey to the United States are usually urban people with some education and skills. When they get to the United States, they take the jobs available for people with little English: garment worker, factory hand, dishwasher. … Read more

What happened after Dominican President Rafael Trujillo was assassinated in 1961?

A few more years of turmoil followed after Dominican President Rafael Trujillo was killed. Opposition leader Juan Bosch was elected president in 1962, but deposed by a military coup the following year. Bosch’s supporters rebelled in 1965, and the United States again sent in marines. Although Bosch denied it, the United States considered Bosch’s supporters … Read more

Who won the Spanish American War in 1898?

In what was called the Spanish American War, the United States defeated Spain in about four months of fighting, from April to August 1898. Among the Americans who fought in the war was future president Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919). He led his cavalry brigade of Rough Riders in a successful attack on Kettle Hill, not, as … Read more

Who Blew Up the U.S. battleship Maine in Havana in 1898?

The problem with the slogan “Remember the Maine.” was that no one knew for sure how the U.S. battleship Maine blew up. Americans assumed that a Spanish mine had destroyed it, but the Spanish denied it. Indeed, Spain wanted very much to avoid war with the powerful United States, and tried to settle the dispute … Read more

What does the phrase “Remember the Maine” have to do with Cuba and How did it originate?

The Maine was a U.S. battleship that exploded in the harbor of Havana, Cuba’s capital, on February 15, 1898. Two hundred and sixty crew members died. Spain was accused of setting off the explosion, and American newspapers and people in the street trumpeted the battle cry, “Remember the Maine.” President William McKinley had previously been … Read more

Why are people from the Dominican Republic usually lighter skinned than people from Haiti?

The two different colonial regimes, French and Spanish, produced a different racial picture in the two halves of Hispaniola. Both colonies employed black slave labor from Africa. But French colonists were more likely to keep the races segregated than Spanish colonists. Today, about 95 percent of Haitians are direct descendants of African slaves; most of … Read more

Who was Rafael Trujillo and When did El Jefe’s reign of the Dominican Republic end?

Known as El Jefe, or “the Chief,” Rafael Trujillo was the dictator of the Dominican Republic from 1930 to 1961. He wasn’t always president, but he controlled whoever was president. He ruled like a gangster, outlawing opposition parties, torturing and killing dissidents, growing rich on public money. He expanded the economy and modernized the country, … Read more

Who was Che Guevara and How did Guevara contribute to the Cuban revolution?

Ernesto “Che” Guevara (1928-1967) was a former medical student from Argentina who dedicated his life to fighting in revolutionary wars in Latin America and Africa. He was Fidel Castro’s chief lieutenant in the Cuban revolution (1956-1959) and minister of industry afterward (1961-1965). An expert in guerrilla warfare, he left Cuba so he could carry on … Read more

When did the United States try to annex and acquire Cuba and Why?

Early in the 1800s, several prominent Americans were eager to lay hands on the rich Spanish colony so close to U.S. shores. In 1809 Thomas Jefferson said, “We must have Cuba.” In 1823, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams argued that annexation of Cuba was “indispensable” to America’s “continuance and integrity.” In 1848, President James … Read more

Were the rumors of Spanish atrocities in the Cuban War of Independence true or false?

You will often read in history books that Americans were outraged by news reports of Spanish atrocities, or cruel actions, in the Cuban War of Independence. Some of the atrocities were real. Cuban civilians were herded into concentration camps, where about 100,000 died of disease, hunger, and mistreatment. But some of the atrocities were exaggerated … Read more

How many people live in Cuba?

There are about 11 million people living in Cuba as of the 2010 census. In addition, nearly one million people of Cuban descent live in the United States. More than 700,000 of these are immigrants. They came to the United States since communist dictator Fidel Castro took power in 1959. Most of them are vigorously … Read more

Which is closer to Florida: Cuba or Washington, D.C.?

Cuba, the largest island in the West Indies, is only ninety miles from Key West, Florida. By contrast, the U.S. capital of Washington is more than seven hundred miles from the nearest large Florida city, Jacksonville. The closeness of Cuba to the United States has made it an object of American interest from the days … Read more

Where do Cubans come from and are most Cubans black or white?

About 66 percent of the Cuban islanders are categorized as white, descended from Spanish colonists. Twenty-two percent are a mix of white and black, combining Spanish and African ancestry. Twelve percent are black. Because Native Americans were wiped out early in the conquest, they are not a major racial component. The distinctions between races has … Read more

How did Cuban exiles do in the United States and What does atrevimiento mean in Spanish?

On the whole, Cuban exiles did very well in the United States, better than any other Hispanic American group. They were helped by the U.S. government, which welcomed them as refugees from a communist regime, and therefore allies. Cuban exiles easily received permanent residency status. They got free temporary housing, medical care, financial aid, and … Read more