Urbanization in South America

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Urbanization in Latin America

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I. Introduction3

II. Urbanization Process4

III. Internal Migration and Urbanization8

IV. Urban Systems10

V. Conclusion13

VI. Bibliography14

I. Introduction

Urbanization is likely to be one of the defining phenomena of the 21st Century for Latin America as well as the rest of the developing world. The world as a whole became more urban than rural sometime in 2007, a demographic change that was driven by rapid urbanization in the developing countries. For the Latin American region, this demographic tipping point took place in the early 1960s. According to United Nations estimates, the number of people living in urban areas globally will increase by over one billion between 2007 and 2025. In South American the urban population increase over this time period in a much smaller way – 127 million – but this still represents a 28 percent increase in the region’s urban population in less than 20 years.

II .The Urbanization Process

During the last fifty years the process of urbanization in Latin America has been very remarkable. In 1950 less than 41% of its population lived in urban areas. Nowadays this value reaches almost 75%. The velocity of urbanization was higher in Latin American than in other places like Europe or even North America. As Lattes, Rodriguez and Villa, in 2002, have pointed out:

“It would have taken 75 years (from 1925 to 2000) for the level of urbanization in Northern America to rise from 53.8 to 77.2 percent while Latin America covered the same ground in only half of the time”.

Although there were already in the beginning of the 20th century large cities in Latin America, it showed at the same time few countries with high levels of urbanization. These ones started to increase between 1930 and 1970 coming along with a growth of a group of cities which concentrated significant proportions of the countries population. This phenomenon was intrinsically related to the industrialization process and the introduction of capitalist modes of production in rural areas but this does not come as important for the discussion going on. Nowadays, Latin America stands out by its significantly high urbanization level. This is slightly higher that the one from Europe and close to the one from North America. In Asia and Africa the scenario is completely different. Despite the rapid velocity of urbanization on these places the people living in urban areas in percentage of its total population is still more or less half of the percentage recorded in Latin America as we can see in Table 1. The urbanization process in the region started very early in history. Before the Spanish colonization, the native groups and cultures were organized in large cities which were an important factor for the localization of the Spanish colonies. However the Spanish people also created new cities where they used to control and organize all the territory. Most of them were located near the cost which favored commercial exchange but thers were located where there was an abundance of indigenous labor force. The major cities that exist nowadays in Latin America were found in this period (XVI century). During the 19th and 20th centuries, the consolidation of cities and the reorganization of its system were influenced, firstly, by processes of independence and national organization, and later by the fact that Latin America economies became the primary producers in the world market. The growth of the cities was intrinsically connected to administrative decisions as well as commercial functions. But the most important thing is that later on, large scale international migration was extremely important for the evolution of the cities system and for the urbanization process...
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