Latin America is a political and cultural term used to distinguish the Spanish-and Portuguese-speaking countries of America from the Anglo-American countries in the Americas. These include the countries of South America, Mexico, Central America and the Spanish-speaking areas of the Caribbean. The Latin American countries have a combined area of about 20 million square kilometres, and the population includes around 500 million people.
The predominant language in most of Latin America is Spanish. In Brazil, the country with the highest population in the region, the main language is Portuguese, which is spoken in its Brazilian version. In Peru, Quechua is the second official language alongside Spanish. Nahuatl is one of the 62 indigenous languages spoken in Mexico, which are recognized by the government as national languages apart from Spanish. The best-known indigenous language in Chile is Mapudungun (“Araucanian”) spoken by the Mapuche tribe in Southern Chile, additionally the Aymara language is widespread in Northern Chile and Rapa Nui is spoken on the Easter Island. Many of these indigenous languages are also taught in Waldorf schools and kindergartens.
There are many Waldorf schools, kindergartens, curative education facilities and social therapy centres as well as social projects working with Waldorf education, in the following countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay. Well how many Waldorf schools do actually exist in the individual countries of Latin America? According to the world school list as of 2012: Argentina (12), Brazil (31), Chile (4), Colombia (4), Mexico (9), Peru (3).
Historically, many Waldorf schools in Latin America have emerged out of the turmoil of World War II as the persecuted Jewish population from Germany had to flee to America and brought Waldorf education with them. Pioneers of Waldorf education came to Argentina in the 1930s, for example. Subsequently the first Waldorf School in Latin America was founded in 1940 in Buenos Aires. In 1954 several immigrant families from Germany settled in São Paulo and began studying the basics of Waldorf education. For a famous chemist and inventor of the drug cortisone, who had to flee Germany in 1940, as he was half-Jewish, Mexico offered protection from the Nazis. In 1957, he then founded a first Waldorf School in Mexico City.
Waldorf education in Latin America is constantly growing. Nonetheless one of the main issues that remains is to make Waldorf education available to the poorer population, which can only be mastered with the help of many active supporters. The Friends of Waldorf Education are working towards gaining more educational sponsors for children in Latin American Waldorf schools, to allow more students from financially disadvantaged families access to quality education.