Visual History of the World




From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
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Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists


The Contemporary World

1945 to the present

After World War II, a new world order came into being in which two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, played the leading roles. Their ideological differences led to the arms race of the Cold War and fears of a global nuclear conflict. The rest of the world was also drawn into the bipolar bloc system, and very few nations were able to remain truly non-aligned. The East-West conflict came to an end in 1990 with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the consequent downfall of the Eastern Bloc. Since that time, the world has been driven by the globalization of worldwide economic and political systems. The world has, however, remained divided: The rich nations of Europe, North America, and East Asia stand in contrast to the developing nations of the Third World.

The first moon landing made science-fiction dreams reality in the year 1969.
Space technology has made considerable progress as the search for new
possibilities of using space continues.



Latin America

SINCE 1945


see also: United Nations member states -

Antigua and Barbuda,Bahamas,Barbados,Belize,

Costa Rica,Cuba,Dominica,Dominican Republic,
El Salvador,Grenada,Guatemala,Haiti,Honduras
Saint Kitts and Nevis,Saint Lucia,Saint Vincent and the Grenadines,
Trinidad and Tobago



Rapidly changing authoritarian regimes, military dictatorships, and dependence on the United States were the realities of the political situation across most of Latin America until well into the 1970s. Since then, democratic regimes have emerged in most states, although they have sometimes been undermined by problems ranging from challenges to the state from the radical left and right, to poverty, corruption, and drug cartels. Enormous gaps between rich and poor continue to characterize South American societies. Attempts at political union and economic cooperation have often been undermined by the instability of the regimes in many countries.


Problems and Development in Latin America

Stagnant economies and social conflict rooted in economic inequalities remain serious challenges to political stability and individual governments in Latin America.


1 Latin America has to contend with a spectrum of social and political problems.

In order to promote regional economic collaboration, various unions were formed after 1945, such as the 4 Latin American Free Trade Association in i960 and the Latin American Integration Association in 1980.

Led by Colombia, the smaller states founded the Andean Group in 1969.

The economic might of the United States has shaped the pan-American federations.

The charter of the 5 Organization of American States (OAS) was signed in 1948 with the intention of improving the relationship between South America and the United States.

1 Peruvians transport produce, March 2004

4 George W. Bush welcomes the members of the Latin American Free Trade Association, 2005 

5 General Secretary of the OAS, Cesar Gavina,
speaks at the annual meeting, June 3, 2001

During the Cold War, and especially after the revolution in Cuba, the United States used the OAS for the distribution of aid but also as an instrument in the fight against Communism. The US government supported authoritarian right-wing regimes and forced the expulsion of Cuba from the OAS in 1962. Under President Carter, the United States supported the democratization of the Latin American countries.

Internally, the 2 gap between the rich minority and poor majority has altered little under either military or civilian rule.

One of the key issues in most countries has been land reform, since the land has typically been in the hands of a small elite. The indigenous population almost always belongs to the poor and marginalized strata of society.

Across the continent, 6 urban populations have swelled with migrants from rural areas, and little provision is made for those living in shanty-towns on the edge of huge cities.

The wealthiest states, most notably Chile, have thriving export sectors and well-developed infrastructure, although the wealth is unequally distributed.

The Catholic Church has played an important role in Latin America. After supporting the dictatorships, the Church in South America became influenced by "liberation theology," which championed the cause of the poor and oppressed—a dangerous stance, as shown by the case of Archbishop 3 Oscar Romero of San Salvador, who was murdered in 1980.

2 Businessmen pass a group of street children, June 2004

6 Social contrasts in Sao Paulo: luxurious high-rise buildings next to the slums

3 Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero (center),
December 1979



Central and South America: Violence and Its Reaction

Since the 1980s, fighting between rebel guerrilla groups and government forces has inhibited the emergence of democratic structures in many states of South and Central America.


Nicaragua was ruled by dictator Anastasio Somoza from 1936 to 1947 with US support, and after his murder, his sons Luis and 12 Anastasio took over.

12 President Anastasio Somoza
with soldiers, 1979

After the Sandinista National Liberation Front came to power in 1979, its authority was undermined by right-wing Contra guerrillas, who were financed by the United States. The Sandinistas were defeated in elections in 1990 by the Liberal Constitutional party, which has governed since.

In Guatemala after 194s, land reforms and a social welfare system were introduced. When the land reform threatened the interests of the American-based United Fruit Company in 1954. the government was overthrown by a US-sponsored military coup.

Rebels resisted the military regime, and the nation descended into à 8 civil war that finally ended with a peace deal in 1996.

The armed forces seized control of El Salvador in 1948. Power changed hands many times until the Party of National Conciliation formed an alliance with the military in 1961-1962. During the 1980s frequent guerrilla uprisings were countered with extreme violence, the government forming right-wing "death squads."

Since a 1991 peace deal, 9 democratic elections have taken place.

13 Colombia continues to be a turbulent country.

8 The decades of civil war have cost the lives of thousands of people, Guatemala, December 1996

9 Government and left-wing guerrillas make peace on January 16, 1992

13 Poverty and no prospects: children playing soccer
in a street of the Colombian barrio El Jardin

Following the 1948 murder of a popular left-wing member of the Liberal Party, J. E. Gaitan, a civil war (known as La Violencia) broke out between liberals and conservatives and lasted for a decade. In 1958 a National Front coalition government was set up, staying in power until 1974.

Beginning in the mid-1960s, left- and right-wing 7 guerrilla groups formed to resist the government.

The explosion of the drug trade has financed the private army and mini-state of the largest rebel group, the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). President Alvaro Uribe, who has been in office since 2002, has sought to weaken the factions with the support of the US.

Due to its large oil deposits, Venezuela is a potentially wealthy country, but revenues have been very unevenly distributed.

A stable but corrupt party system was shaken by the election of left-wing populist 11 Hugo Chavez in 1998.

He introduced some redistributive measures and has been critical of the US. Middle-class protesters failed to dislodge him in 2002, and since then he has moved to reinforce his power.

A civilian government in Peru was overthrown in 1968, and for the next six years General Juan Velasco Alvarado pursued land reform and the nationalization of sections of industry in a populist "Peruvian Revolution." After a coup by Francesco Bermudez in 197s, a comprehensive privatization program was initiated.

The Maoist 10 Shining Path guerrilla movement started a campaign of violence in 1981.

The authoritarian rule of Alberto Fujimori, which began in 1990, clamped down on the rebels. Since his fall from power in 2000, the situation in Peru has been unstable, and the current president, Alejandro Toledo Manrique, has less than 20 percent popular support.

7 Colombian paramilitary troops of the FARC, 2004

11 Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, January 17, 2003

10 Armed Maoist Shining Path guerrillas in Peru,
April 1991



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