The specific ethnic and/or racial composition varies from country to country: many have a predominance of European-Amerindian, or Mestizo, population; in others, Amerindians are a majority; some are mostly inhabited by people of European ancestry; and others are primarily Mulatto. Various Black, Asian, and Zambo (mixed Black and Amerindian) minorities are also identified in most countries.White Latin Americans are the largest single group. Together with the people of part-European ancestry they combine for approximately 80% of the population, or even more.
Latin Americans and their descendants can be found almost everywhere in the world, particularly in densely populated urban areas. The most important migratory destinations for Latin Americans are found in the United States, Spain, Canada, and Japan.
The population of Latin America comprises a variety of ancestries, ethnic groups, and races, making the region one of the most diverse in the world. The specific composition varies from country to country: many have a predominance of European-Amerindian, or Mestizo, population; in others, Amerindian are a majority; some are dominated by inhabitants of European ancestry; and some countries' populations are primarily Mulatto. Black, Asian, and Zambo (mixed Black and Amerindian) minorities are also identified regularly. White people are the largest single group, accounting for more than a third.
Amerindians. The indigenous population of Latin America, the Amerindians, arrived during the Lithic stage. In post-Columbian times they experienced tremendous population decline, particularly in the early decades of colonization. They have since recovered in numbers, surpassing sixty million (by some estimates), though with the growth of the other groups meanwhile, they now compose a majority only in Bolivia and Peru. In Guatemala, Amerindian are a large minority that comprises two-fifths of the population. Mexico's 21% (9.8% in the official 2005 census) is the next largest ratio, and one of the largest Amerindian population in the Americas in absolute numbers. Most of the remaining countries have Amerindian minorities, in every case making up less than one-tenth of the respective country's population. In many countries, people of mixed Amerindian and European ancestry make up the majority of the population (see Mestizo).
Asians. People of Asian descent number several million in Latin America. The first Asians to settle in the region were Filipino, as a result of Spain's trade involving Asia and the Americas. The majority of Asian Latin Americans are of Japanese or Chinese ancestry and reside mainly in Brazil and Peru; there is also a growing Chinese minority in Panama. Brazil is home to perhaps two million people of Asian descent, which includes the largest ethnic Japanese community outside Japan itself, estimated as high as 1.5 million, and circa 200,000 ethnic Chinese and 100,000 ethnic Koreans. Ethnic Koreans also number tens of thousands of individuals in Argentina and Mexico. Peru, with 1.47 million people of Asian descent, has one of the largest Chinese communities in the world, with nearly one million Peruvians being of Chinese ancestry. There is a strong ethnic-Japanese presence in Peru, where a past president and a number of politicians are of Japanese descent. The Martiniquais population includes an African-White-Indian mixed population, and an East Indian (Asian Indian) population. The Guadeloupean East Indian population is estimated at 14% of the population.
Blacks. Millions of African slaves were brought to Latin America from the 16th century onward, the majority of whom were sent to the Caribbean region and Brazil. Today, people identified as "Black" are most numerous in Brazil (more than 10 million) and in Haiti (more than 7 million). Among the Hispanic nations and Brazil, Puerto Rico leads this category in relative numbers, with a 15% ratio. Significant populations are also found in Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Panama, and Colombia. Latin Americans of mixed Black and White ancestry, called Mulattoes, are far more numerous than Blacks.
Mestizos. Intermixing between Europeans and Amerindians began early in the colonial period and was extensive. The resulting people, known as Mestizos, make up the majority of the population in half of the countries of Latin America. Additionally, Mestizos compose large minorities in nearly all the other mainland countries.
Mulattoes. Mulattoes are people of mixed European and African ancestry, mostly descended from Spanish or Portuguese settlers on one side and African slaves on the other, during the colonial period. Brazil is home to Latin America's largest mulatto population. Mulattoes form a majority in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean places which are the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and depending on source, Cuba as well, and are also numerous in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador. Smaller populations of mulattoes are found in other Latin American countries.
Zambos: Intermixing between Africans and Amerindians was especially prevalent in Colombia and Brazil, often due to slaves's running away (becoming cimarrones: maroons) and being taken in by Amerindian villagers. In Spanish speaking nations, people of this mixed ancestry are known as Zambos or (in Middle America), and Cafuzos in Brazil.
Multi-ethnic/Multi-racials: In addition to the foregoing groups, Latin America also has millions of multiracial peoples (Triracial/Quadracial) of mixed European, Middle Eastern, African, Native Amerindian (Indigenous), and Asian (Japanese, Chinese, Filipino and Indian) ancestry. Most are found in Colombia, Puerto Rico, and Brazil, with a much smaller presence in other countries and parts of Mexico. In Brazil they are called Pardos. This intermixing inspired Mexican philosopher José Vasconcelos to publish an essay in 1925 titled "La Raza Cósmica" (The Cosmic Race). The essay expressed the ideology of a future "fifth race" in the Americas; an agglomeration of all the races in the world with no respect to color or number to erect a new civilization: Universópolis. Genetic studies have shown results of various degrees of admixture between various ethnic groups that has taken place throughout Latin America since the arrival of Spanish European explorers in 1492.
Ethnic distribution, in 2005 - Population estimates, as of 2016
In Peru, Quechua is an official language, alongside Spanish and any other indigenous language in the areas where they predominate. In Ecuador, while holding no official status, the closely related Quichua is a recognized language of the indigenous people under the country's constitution; however, it is only spoken by a few groups in the country's highlands. In Bolivia, Aymara, Quechua and Guaraní hold official status alongside Spanish. Guarani is, along with Spanish, an official language of Paraguay, and is spoken by a majority of the population (who are, for the most part, bilingual), and it is co-official with Spanish in the Argentine province of Corrientes. In Nicaragua, Spanish is the official language, but on the country's Caribbean coast English and indigenous languages such as Miskito, Sumo, and Rama also hold official status. Colombia recognizes all indigenous languages spoken within its territory as official, though fewer than 1% of its population are native speakers of these. Nahuatl is one of the 62 native languages spoken by indigenous people in Mexico, which are officially recognized by the government as "national languages" along with Spanish.
In several nations, especially in the Caribbean region, creole languages are spoken. The most widely spoken creole language in the Caribbean and Latin America in general is Haitian Creole, the predominant language of Haiti; it is derived primarily from French and certain West African tongues with Amerindian, English, Portuguese and Spanish influences as well. Creole languages of mainland Latin America, similarly, are derived from European languages and various African tongues.
Due to economic, social and security developments that are affecting the region in recent decades, a change has taken place from net immigration to net emigration. About 10 million Mexicans live in the United States. 28.3 million Americans listed their ancestry as Mexican as of 2006. According to the 2005 Colombian census or DANE, about 3,331,107 Colombians currently live abroad. The number of Brazilians living overseas is estimated at about 2 million people. An estimated 1.5 to two million Salvadorians reside in the United States. At least 1.5 million Ecuadorians have gone abroad, mainly to the United States and Spain. Approximately 1.5 million Dominicans live abroad, mostly in the United States. More than 1.3 million Cubans live abroad, most of them in the United States. It is estimated that over 800,000 Chileans live abroad, mainly in Argentina, Canada, United States and Spain. Other Chilean nationals may be located in countries like Costa Rica, Mexico and Sweden. An estimated 700,000 Bolivians were living in Argentina as of 2006 and another 33,000 in the United States. Central Americans living abroad in 2005 were 3,314,300, of which 1,128,701 were Salvadorans, 685,713 were Guatemalans, 683,520 were Nicaraguans, 414,955 were Hondurans, 215,240 were Panamanians, 127,061 were Costa Ricans and 59,110 were Belizeans.
As of 2006, Costa Rica and Chile were the only two countries with global positive migration rates.
^Rangel, Carlos (1977). The Latin Americans: Their Love-Hate Relationship with the United States. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. pp. 3–5. ISBN0-15-148795-2. Skidmore, Thomas E.; Peter H. Smith (2005). Modern Latin America (6 ed.). Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 1–10. ISBN0-19-517013-X.