Latin American music comes in many varieties, from the simple, rural conjunto music of northern Mexico to the sophisticated habanera of Cuba, from the symphonies of Heitor Villa-Lobos to the simple and moving Andean flute. Music has played an important part in Latin America’s turbulent recent history, for example the nueva canción movement. Latin music is very diverse, with the only truly unifying thread being the use of the Spanish language or, in Brazil, its close cousin the Portuguese language.
Latin America can be divided into several musical areas. Andean music, for example, includes the countries of western South America, typically Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador, Chile and Venezuela; Central American music includes Nicaragua, El Salvador, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and Costa Rica. Caribbean music includes the Caribbean coast of Colombia, Panama, and many Spanish and French-speaking islands in the Caribbean, including Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the less noted Martinique and Guadeloupe, though the Francophone islands are often mistakenly not considered Latin. Brazil perhaps constitutes its own musical area, both because of its large size and incredible diversity as well as its unique history as a Portuguese colony. Although Spain isn’t a part of Latin America, Spanish music (and Portuguese music) and Latin American music strongly cross-fertilized each other, but Latin music also absorbed influences from English and American music, and particularly, African music.