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A Vast Region
• Latin America covers 8 million square
miles of land, from the United StatesMexico border to the southern tip of
Argentina in South America. 
• The name “Latin America” refers to the
languages (Spanish and Portuguese,
derived from Latin) spoken in this
geographic region. 
• Geographers divide Latin America into
three regions: Middle America, the
Caribbean, and South America.
(pages 193–194)
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Mountains and Plateaus
Latin America’s rugged landscape is the
result of its location on the Pacific Ring of
Fire, where plates of the earth’s crust have
collided for millions of years, causing
earthquakes and creating mountains and
volcanoes.
(pages 194–196)
Mountains and Plateaus (cont.)
• Mountains of Mexico, Central
America, and the Caribbean Mexico’s
Sierra Madre and the Central Highlands
in Central America rise above the
landscape of Middle America. 
• Many Caribbean islands are part of the
Central Highlands mountain range.
(pages 194–196)
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Mountains and Plateaus (cont.)
• Andes of South America The Andes
mountain ranges run along the western
edge of South America and are the
world’s longest mountain range (4,500
miles). 
• Their parallel ranges, called cordilleras,
are arranged in deep folds. 
• In southern Argentina, hills and lower
flatlands form a plateau known as
Patagonia.
(pages 194–196)
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Mountains and Plateaus (cont.)
• Highlands of Brazil Much of Brazil
consists of broad plateaus, such as the
Mata Grosso Plateau and the Brazilian
Highlands.
(pages 194–196)
Lowlands and Plains
• Narrow coastal lowlands hem the Gulf
of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, and the
Atlantic and Pacific coasts of South
America.
(pages 196–197)
Lowlands and Plains (cont.)
(pages 196–197)
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Lowlands and Plains (cont.)
• Inland areas of South America hold vast
grasslands that provide wide grazing for
beef cattle.
(pages 196–197)
Lowlands and Plains (cont.)
(pages 196–197)
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Water Systems
• Rivers of South America Navigable
rivers, such as the Amazon, serve as
transportation routes and provide
hydroelectric power. 
• Lakes Latin America has few large
lakes. 
• Lake Titicaca in the Andes of Bolivia and
Peru is the world’s highest navigable
lake.
(pages 197–198)
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Natural Resources
• Latin America’s significant natural
resources include minerals, forests,
farmlands, and water. 
• Major deposits of oil and natural gas
occur along the Gulf of Mexico and
southern Caribbean Sea. 
• Mexico and Venezuela are leading
petroleum producers.
(page 198)
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Natural Resources (cont.)
• Venezuela’s Orinoco River area contains
11 percent of the world’s gold. 
• Brazil is also rich in gold, and Peru
and Mexico are known for their silver
deposits. 
• Chile is the world’s leading exporter
of copper. 
• Geographic inaccessibility, lack of
capital, and social and political divisions
hinder fuller development and distribution
of natural resources in Latin America.
(page 198)
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Climate and Vegetation Regions
Most of Latin America lies between the
Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of
Capricorn; thus, much of its area has a
tropical climate. However, there is a great
variety of climates in the region. 
• Tropical Regions Mexico, eastern
central America, some Caribbean
islands, and such parts of South America
as the Amazon Basin have a tropical rain
forest climate and vegetation, with hot
temperatures and abundant rainfall
occurring year-round.
(pages 199–202)
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Climate and Vegetation Regions (cont.)
• The Rain Forest The Amazon Basin,
with the earth’s largest rain forest, covers
one-third of South America and has trees
that form a dense canopy that soars as
high as 130 feet over the forest floor. 
• Tropical Savanna In the tropical
savanna climate typical of the coast of
southwestern Mexico, most Caribbean
islands, and north-central South America,
the grasslands have hot temperatures,
abundant rainfall, and a dry season
lasting several months.
(pages 199–202)
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Climate and Vegetation Regions (cont.)
• The Humid Subtropics In the humid
subtropical climate of southeastern
South America, the winters are short
and mild, and the summers are long,
hot, and humid.
(pages 199–202)
Climate and Vegetation Regions (cont.)
• Desert and Steppe Areas Parts of
northern Mexico and the southwestern
region of South America have desert
climates and vegetation; in Chile the
rain shadow effect of the Andes has
produced the dry, arid Atacama Desert,
whereas other areas have a steppe
climate, with hot summers, cool winters,
and light rainfall.
(pages 199–202)
Climate and Vegetation Regions (cont.)
(pages 199–202)
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Elevation and Climate
• The climates of Latin America depend
more on elevation than on distance from
the Equator. 
• The tierra caliente lies between sea
level and 2,500 feet and has average
annual temperatures from 68F to 91F.
The main crops include bananas, sugar,
rice, and cacao.
(pages 202–203)
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Elevation and Climate (cont.)
• The tierra templada lies between
2,500 and 6,500 feet and has average
daily temperatures between 60F and
72F. Coffee and corn are the main
crops. 
• In the tierra fría, frosts are common in
the winter months. Potatoes and barley
grow at these elevations.
(pages 202–203)
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Checking for Understanding
Define Match each definition in the left column with the
appropriate term in the right column.
__
D 1. Spanish term for “cold land”; A. canopy
the highest altitude zone of
B. tierra
Latin American highlands
caliente
climates
C. tierra
__
B 2. Spanish term for “hot land”;
templada
the lowest altitude zone of
Latin American highlands
D. tierra fría
climates
__
A 3. top layer of a rain forest, where the tops of tall
trees form a continuous layer of leaves
__
C 4. Spanish term for “temperate land”; the middle
altitude zone of Latin American highlands
climates
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