Latin America consists of nineteen sovereign states and several territories and dependencies which cover an area that stretches from the northern border of Mexico to the southern tip of South America, including the Caribbean. It has an area of approximately 19,197,000 km2 (7,412,000 sq mi), almost 13% of the Earth's land surface area. As of 2016, its population was estimated at more than 639 million and in 2014, Latin America had a combined nominal GDP of 5,573,397 million USD and a GDP PPP of 7,531,585 million USD.
The term "Latin America" was first used in an 1856 conference with the title "Initiative of the America. Idea for a Federal Congress of Republics" (Iniciativa de la América. Idea de un Congreso Federal de las Repúblicas), by the Chilean politician Francisco Bilbao. In such conference, he called for the creation of a confederation of Latin American republics to better search for their common defense and prosperity, without political or economic barriers between them. In the same work, he also detailed the principles under which such a confederation should work.
The idea that a part of the Americas has a linguistic affinity with the Romance cultures as a whole can be traced back to the 1830s, in the writing of the French Saint-Simonian Michel Chevalier, who postulated that this part of the Americas was inhabited by people of a "Latin race", and that it could, therefore, ally itself with "Latin Europe", ultimately overlapping the Latin Church, in a struggle with "Teutonic Europe", "Anglo-Saxon America" and "Slavic Europe". Further investigations of the concept of Latin America are by Michel Gobat in the American Historical Review, the studies of Leslie Bethell, and the monograph by Mauricio Tenorio-Trillo, Latin America: The Allure and Power of an Idea (2017).
Historian John Leddy Phelan locates the origins of “Latin America” in the French occupation of Mexico. His argument is that French imperialists used the concept of "Latin" America as a way to counter British imperialism, as well as to challenge the German threat to France. The idea of a "Latin race" was then taken up by Latin American intellectuals and political leaders of the mid- and late-nineteenth century, who no longer looked to Spain or Portugal as cultural models, but rather to France. French ruler Napoleon III had a strong interest in extending French commercial and political power in the region he and his business promoter Felix Belly called “Latin America” to emphasize the shared Latin background of France with the former colonies of Spain and Portugal. This led to Napoleon's failed attempt to take military control of Mexico in the 1860s.
The term "Latin America" was first used in 1856 in a conference by the Chilean politician Francisco Bilbao in Paris. The conference had the title "Initiative of the America. Idea for a Federal Congress of Republics." The same year the Colombian writer José María Torres Caicedo also used the term in his poem "The Two Americas." Two events related with the U.S. played a central role in both works. The first event happened less than a decade before the publication of Bilbao's and Torres Caicedo's works: the Mexican–American War, after which Mexico lost a third of its territory. The second event happened the same year both works were written, in opposition to the decision by U.S. president Franklin Pierce to recognize regime recently established in Nicaragua by American William Walker and his band of filibusters who ruled Nicaragua for nearly a year, 1856-57.