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close this bookA World Safe from Natural Disasters - The Journey of Latin America and the Caribbean (PAHO-OPS, 1994, 111 p.)
close this folderChapter 2: An overview of the region
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentThe people and their history
View the documentGeography
View the documentClimate
View the documentDemographic trends
View the documentUrbanization
View the documentProduction
View the documentSocioeconomic aspects
View the documentHealth, sanitation, and education
View the documentThe political process
View the documentConclusions


When a country decides to invest time, energy, and resources to reduce the effects of natural disasters, it must take into account the relationship between the desired outcome and its own capabilities and limitations. The level of economic, political and cultural development of a society determines the type of disaster management it should pursue. This chapter presents an overview of the human and physical environment of the countries of the Region of the Americas where disasters strike frequently and violently. Although Canada and the United States form part of this Region, for the purpose of this publication we are speaking of the developing countries and territories of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Unlike the myriad, distinct societies and economies found in Africa, or throughout Asia or Europe, the majority of people of Latin America share a common language, religion, arts and customs due to strong Spanish and Portuguese influence. Likewise, in the larger Caribbean islands, the Spanish have had extensive impact, but African, British, Dutch, East Indian, and French influences also prevail. Despite a large degree of homogeneity, divisions persist between the descendants of immigrants and the mestizo and indigenous populations, which provide a source of social tension and economic inequality.