The Importance of Latin America & the Caribbean

In the post Cold War world, Latin America and the Caribbean have emerged as more important than ever.  The dynamism of the region's cultures, its prodigious agricultural capacity, and vast energy reserves have made the region’s place in the global community more significant than at any time since the colonial era.   The relationship between the United States and Latin America, in particular, has changed becoming both more symbiotic and more extensive. While the profound asymmetries of wealth and power that characterized north-south relations in the Western Hemisphere during the 19th and 20th centuries have by no means disappeared, they have shrunk.   The region is no longer as dependent on the U.S. as it once was and the countries of the region have increasingly acted independently of the the U.S. in international fora.  At the same time that free trade agreements between the United States and many of the countries of the region have permitted new levels of economic integration, alternatives to the U.S. market have also made the region less dependent on its northern neighbor economically.  Forty-three percent of all U.S. exports of manufactured goods, for instance, now flow to the Western Hemisphere but China, not the U.S., is now Brazil and Chile's largest trading partner and Venezuela's largest creditor.

While migration has transformed the Hispanic population of the United States into the largest ethnic minority -- and the U.S. into the second or third largest Spanish speaking country in the world, the creation of multilateral organizations, like the Union of South American Nations and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean Countries, which do not include the U.S., has signaled the determination of the region to conduct its affairs more independently than in the past.  It is, nevertheless, true that the nations of the Western Hemisphere recognize that many of our most urgent problems are shared challenges.  Poverty and income inequality still inhibit development in many places. Energy issues, climate change, transnational crime affect all of the American Republics, north and south.  There is a deep and continuous two-way flow of influences between North and South America that has become a vital part of the cultures of the Western Hemisphere. At the same time, notwithstanding the fact that Latin America has become more democratic and prosperous than at any time in its history, important tensions remain between north and south.

Duke University programs and course offerings in Latin American and Caribbean Studies reflect the breadth, complexity and importance of the ties that bind the countries and cultures of the hemisphere we share.    

Who We Are

Present day CLACS oversees and coordinates graduate and undergraduate education in Latin American and Caribbean studies at Duke and promotes research and dissemination of knowledge about the region. Its activities encompass the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and the professional schools.

CLACS, together with it's consortium partner, the Institue for the Study of the Americas at UNC-Chapel Hill, have been awarded a Title VI grant from the Department of Education since 1991, making this one of the most successful National Resource Center Consortia in the nation. 

In addition to funding from Title VI, CLACS has been awarded Andrew W. Mellon grants since 1990. These resources allow us to maintain a worldclass faculty, fund undergraduate, graduate, and faculty research in Latin America & the Caribbean, host visiting scholars and artists from the region, and promote outreach to local, state, and national educational, media, and business organizations.


To create a supportive, intellectually stimulating and interdisciplinary environment for students, faculty and community members interested in the study of Latin America & the Caribbean.

To bring together members of our local and worldwide community (K-16 schools, universities, scholars, artists, activists, civic organizations, etc.) in order to promote new ideas, research and cultural awareness about Latin America & the Caribbean.

To prepare better educated citizens and future leaders who may work in fields related to Latin America & the Caribbean in academics, business, arts, government, and many other careers.

We intend to fulfill this mission through:

Educational Activities (guest speakers; course development; visiting artists; outreach to local schools, businesses and media; service-learning opportunities; certificate programs; etc.)

Research Support (travel grants; conference awards; publications; conferences)

Creating Social Networks and Building Community (collaborations with other universities, student organizations, and alumni; visiting professors; internships; social events)


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