In Focus:  The Rise of Latin America

Have you checked your Brazilian index funds lately? At the time of this writing, mine are up more than 70% from a year ago – in a market that has been anything but upbeat. What? You don’t own Brazilian funds? Latin America mostly triggers associations such as “underdeveloped,” “inflation,” “high crime rate,” and “Hugo Chavez” in your mind? Friend, you may want to recalibrate your binoculars and focus a little more on major developments in the region!

Brazil is enjoying tremendous economic growth, at twice its historic rates across a variety of sectors, from energy to industrial manufacturing, to the automotive industry, to farming. Farming? Indeed, the country’s agricultural exports grew by more than 8% each year during the last ten years.

As a matter of fact, much of Latin America has been doing surprisingly well in recent years, especially when compared with the economic turmoil and inflation chaos of the 80’s and early 90’s. While not without economic challenges, the countries in the region are enjoying relatively low inflation rates, strong foreign trade, significant investments from abroad, and improving standards of living. Costa Rica, with its good education system and 96% literacy rate, has received sizeable IT investments, including the establishment of large product and service development centers by global leaders such as Hewlett-Packard. Medellín in Colombia, mostly known to the world as ‘Cocaine Central,’ now hosts the headquarters of a growing roster of multinationals, from Toyota to Philip Morris. Chile emerged from a period of reforms as one of the region’s leading economies, partly driven by the continuing rise in demand for its natural resources, among them copper and other precious metals. Bolivia saw Indians investing billions of dollars in local mining and steel companies. Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela all have concluded oil and gas deals with China. In addition, Brazil’s Petrobras oil giant morphed into a strong and innovative global player and now trades on the New York Stock Exchange. These are but a few examples of a wave of changes happening almost everywhere south of the U.S. border.

Driving Forces

Latin America continues to profit from a number of global trends. A big factor is the enormous demand for raw materials, commodi- ties, energy, and food caused primarily by China’s and India’s extraordinary economic growth and rapidly rising standards of living. It would be oversimplified, though, to attribute the rise of Latin America solely to its rich natural resources. The region has also seen a steady rise in manufacturing, with numerous U.S. and European corporations either off-shoring production or investing in new factories in order to participate in the local market boom. On top of that, a number of Central and South American countries have become hot destinations for IT development, call centers, and other business processes and services.

Cultural Adjustments

Along with these economic changes, Latin Americans have adjusted some of their cultural practices. While not quite dis- appearing, traditionally strong ‘machismo’ values are mellowing. Across the region, women have entered the workforce and achieved successful careers in large numbers. For instance, Chile elected its first-ever female president in 2007. A woman holding this country’s most powerful position would have been all but unthinkable only a decade or two ago.

Other cultural characteristics shown signs of ‘modern times,’ too. One is people’s orientation towards time. Punctuality was never a strong suit in most Latin American countries. It still isn’t. Never- theless, there is now a much greater sense of urgency in busi- ness centers such as Sao Paulo in Brazil or San Jose in Costa Rica, where little evidence of the proverbial ‘mañana’ mentality foreign investors love to hate can be found. Hierarchical attitudes are also changing, and the region’s young and well-educated enjoy taking initiative and holding significant responsibility.


Even the most advanced Latin American countries still have a long way to go before they can catch up with North America or Europe. The region is on the rise, though, and infrastructure, people, and cultural attitudes are all gradually changing. At a time when most eyes are on China and India, Latin Americans may well be among the biggest winners in this age of globalization.

This article is also available in PDF format  (requires Adobe Reader ).

Book Of The Month
Culture Shock! Chile


One in a broad series of culture guides designed to help business travelers and expatriates alike.

(click title for full book review)


Web Site Of The Month
Latin Business


This commercial site offers a wealth of information about Latin America's political, economical, and social events and trends.

(click title to visit this web site)


Quote Of The Month

Reality is not always probable, or likely

Jose Luis Borges


All of the 50 individual Country Sections from Negotiating International Business are available online  for free.

Click here to download Country Section PDF files


Leadership Crossroads
is a global resource for

  • Global Business Coaching & Training
  • Cross-Cultural Project Management
  • Outsourcing Preparation
  • International Negotiation Training and Assistance
  • Organizational Learning and Development
  • Executive Coaching
Would you like to know
    more about us?




Upcoming Workshop at UTD in Richardson, TX:
June 2-4 Managing International Projects

This three-day project management workshop is facilitated by
Dr. Sue Freedman and Lothar Katz.

Lothar Katz is the founder of Leadership Crossroads.  He has a wealth of experience in achieving productive coopera- tion across cultures and driving business success on a global scale.
A seasoned former executive of a For­tune 500 company, he regularly interacted with employees, cus­tomers, out- sourcing partners, and third parties in more than 25 countries around the world.

Contact :
Leadership CrossroadsTM, 2008

Global Business Practices:
Ten Tips For Doing Business in Chile

  • The country's culture is very homogeneous. Be prepared for locals to insist that things be done their way.
  • Many Chileans expect to establish strong relationships before closing any deals.
  • Relationships exist between people, not between companies. Changing players could mean starting over.
  • As in other Latin American countries, personal pride matters a lot. Chileans tend to be easily offended, so don’t criticize anyone in public.
  • People rarely show open disagreement in this country. Silence might indicate that there is a problem.
  • Don't show any signs of anger if you are kept waiting.
  • Slapping the open hand over a fist is a vulgar gesture in Chile.
  • Physical contact is common, though not across genders. Do not back away, even if someone gets too close for your comfort.
  • Eye contact should be very frequent, almost to the point of staring. This conveys sincerity and builds trust.
  • Do not refer to the U.S. as ’America’. Many Chileans feel that the term includes them as well.

Our newsletter is a bimonthly publication about all aspects of International and Cross-Cultural Business Management.  Past issues can be found in our  newsletter archive.

If this issue has been forwarded to you, would you like to subscribe to it now?

If you are a current subscriber but you do not wish to receive this newsletter in future, simply send a blank e-mail to