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During the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, Latin American countries set aside nature for conservation in thousands of parks and reserves. Today, such designations cover more than one-fifth of Latin America’s territory (see map 11.1). Parks range from Costa Rica’s tiny coastal Manuel Antonio National Park, consisting of a mere sixteen square kilometers, to those as large as Brazil’s Tumucumaque National Park, at nearly fifteen thousand square kilometers, a size larger than Belgium. Conservation areas famously include some of the region’s and even the world’s largest tropical forests, but also its driest deserts, highest mountain ranges, biggest waterfalls, deepest marine reserves, and even parts of urban landscapes. Political and economic circumstances, social pressures, cultural preferences, scientific theories, development mandates, and individual personalities shaped how, when, and why Latin American nations have conserved nature.

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This chapter appears in a larger collection published by Berghahn Books (

Wakild, Emily. 2018. "A Panorama of Parks: Deep Nature, Depopulation, and the Cadence of Conserving Nature". In A Living Past: Environmental Histories of Modern Latin America, eds. John Soluri, Claudia Leal, and José Augusto Pádua. New York: Berghahn Books.

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