The newly independent nations of Latin America began the 19th century with economies roughly equal to the U.S. and Canada. What explains the economic gap that developed since 1800? Why are some Latin American nations rich and others poor and how have societies changed over time? Marxist, dependency, neoclassical, and institutionalist interpretive frameworks are explored. The effects of globalization on Latin American economic growth, autonomy, and potential for social justice are examined and debated.