The fascinating history of the various countries in Latin America includes the names of many revolutionaries and discoverers, as well as conquistadors and conquerors, all of whom have left an indelible impression on the culture of their regions and have become a part of their country’s national identity. This includes the native people who lived here before the Spanish came to discover their golden New World and a huge new source of wealth, as well as those settlers who made the land their own and the ones who are descended from them, right up to more modern times and the political names and faces who have shaped the creation of nations or huge shifts in political leanings. There are many names that you will no doubt recognise when you hear them, as well as many which are not familiar but which have fascinating stories nonetheless. Either way, it is important that you know a little bit about these figures from history in order to know what kind of an impact they had on their respective countries.
The people who shaped a country’s birth and formation, and those who have continued to be important in the ages since, are always foremost in the cultural memories of those who live in that country. For example, we can say that it is certain that every American will know just who Abraham Lincoln is and why he is important; similarly, the face of the current rulers or political leaders of most countries will be well known to those who live there. Henry VIII is not someone who is absent from the minds of English citizens, and Napoleon Bonaparte is surely very famous amongst the French! Even in countries which you may not yet know much about, there are figures who are just like these: imprinted on the minds of everyone who lives there, and so well known that if you were to offer a blank face at the mention of their name you would surely mark yourself out as an outside before even beginning to speak at all.
Some have been legendary and some controversial, but all have played vital roles in the events that have shaped the countries that make up today’s Latin America. You may agree or disagree with the ideals and the motives of these figures, but their stories need to be heard in order to understand how the various countries of Latin America developed and what kind of context the modern day inhabitants are from. We have gathered here a selection of those which you might wish to read about: from the revolutionary Che Guevara, to the explorer Hernan Cortes, to the military leader Simon Bolivar, there is a lot to be learned about here in each of their stories. We invite you to read their moving biographies, not only to learn more about Latin America in general but also to brush up on some amazing tales which are of interest to most in our modern world.