International Diversity in Latin America

The major driving force towards regional integration in Latin America surely must be the introduction of formal trade pacts among countries.  Trade pacts such as NAFTA and Mercosur lower or remove trade barriers among participating countries, and stimulate growth.  Still, trade does not occur simply by government fiat.  Just as important is the existence of the suitable conditions for international trade to proceed among private corporations in different countries.

In order to develop international trade, a country needs to have a pool of energetic and knowledgeable businessmen.  Apart from business training and experience, knowledge of the trading partners is also vital.  Such knowledge is not restricted to business dealings, but also include awareness of historical, social, political and cultural issues.  Besides permitting free movement of people across international border, it is also helpful if a country have a significant body of immigrants with knowledge about and connections with their home countries.

In the Los Medios y Mercados de Latinoamérica 1997 study, we ask people in Latin America where their parents were born.  In Table 1, we show the survey results by country.  For each country, we show the percent of persons who had one or more parents born in that country.  The numbers have been sorted in descending order. 

Table 1. Percent of Persons 12-64 with 1 or more parents
born in country of residence by country

Country % Persons 12-64 with
1 or more parents
born in home country
Chile 99.3%
El Salvador 99.2%
Mexico 99.2%
Colombia 98.9%
Honduras 98.8%
Uruguay 98.1%
Brazil 97.8%
Nicaragua 97.5%
Peru 97.0%
Guatemala 96.9%
Ecuador 95.3%
Dominican Republic 95.1%
Bolivia 94.6%
Paraguay 94.1%
Puerto Rico 94.1%
Venezuela 94.1%
Costa Rica 90.4%
Argentina 88.7%
Paraguay 88.4%

In Table 1, the highest number of people with foreign-born parents come from Argentina and Paraguay.  For example, in Paraguay, 88.4% of the survey respondents have one or more parents born in Paraguay, which means that 11.6% have both parents born outside of the country. Where were these parents born?  In Table 2, we show the percent of persons whose parents were born in three Mercosur countries: Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay.

Table 2. Percent in Mercosur countries whose parents come from other Mercosur countries

  In Argentina In Brazil In Paraguay
% with parents from Argentina 88.7%    0.2%   3.2%
% with parents from Brazil   2.6% 97.8%   6.8%
% with parents from Paraguay   2.8%   0.8% 88.4%

A significant amount of immigration had occurred among these three countries, years before the reality (or even the concept) of Mercosur arrived.  Perhaps precisely because of this high level of people exchange, Mercosur was the first major significant trade pact to come to fruition.  When we look at Table 2, we need to recognize that there are disparities between population sizes which affect the relative outcomes.   For example, if 1% of Brazil's ~160 million people moved to Paraguay, that would have a tremendous impact on the relative percent of Brazilian-born persons in Paraguay which has ~5 million people in total; but if 1% of Paraguay's ~5 million people moved to Brazil, the relative impact on Brazil is much smaller.

If we wish to look beyond Latin America and towards global integration, we need to ask about immigrants from outside of Latin America.  In Table 3, we show the most frequently listed non-Latin American countries of birth for the parents.

Table 3. Percent of Persons 12-64 whose parents
come from non-Latin American countries

Country of birth of parent % Persons
Spain 0.6%
Italy 0.5%
United States of America 0.3%
Germany 0.2%
France 0.1%
Asia (Japan, China, etc) 0.1%

The incidence levels in Table 3 have some implications for foreign-language media from these countries, such as these cable networks: from Spain (Antena 3, Hispavisión, TV Española), from from Italy (RAI), from Germany (Deutsche Welle), from France (TV5) and from the United Kingdom (BBC).

(posted by Roland Soong 7/07/98)

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