‘Latin America’ is an ambiguous term, with cultural, geographical and historical implications.
Thus, before engaging with Latin America – be it on a practical or theoretical level – it is imperative that we outline exactly what we mean when we refer to it. One widely accepted
definition (Webster’s New World College Dictionary 2009) would be: ‘the part of the Western Hemisphere, south of the U.S, in Mexico, Central America, the West Indies, and South America, where Spanish, Portuguese and French are the official languages’. The linguistic criteria given above make this definition problematic on two levels; first because it emphasises the European
heritage of Latin American countries, thus placing a large number of indigenous Latin American peoples in a secondary position; second, because it excludes parts of the English and Dutch speaking Caribbean, which, despite not being linguistically ‘Latin’, share cultural traits, geographical position and historical experience. Considering the problems and implications that
can arise from using linguistic criteria to define an area which is neither linguistically nor culturally homogenous, in the following article and during the course of the congress the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy will use the term ‘Latin America’ to refer to all parts of the American continent south of the U.S. border, which includes Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean.