Since you are reading this book, it is safe to assume that you have an interest in Latin America. That’s understandable. Latin America is a very interesting region of the world for any number of reasons. In terms of world history, language, literature, music, and, more currently, sports, Latin America is a very influential part of the world. While this is common knowledge, the place of Latin America in the world economy usually is less well understood. If you were asked to write a paragraph about Latin America in the world economy, what would you write? For many, the answer would be “not much.” The first objective of this chapter is to provide you with some useful background information on the region. The focus of the chapter is to provide basic economic data for Latin America and then to put this information into a global context. In this way, we can learn something about the economies of the region and also learn how Latin America fits into the larger mosaic of the world economy. A second objective of the chapter is to introduce a number of recurring themes concerning the economies of Latin America. All of the world’s regions are distinctive in some ways. However, no region of the world, such as Europe, Asia, Africa, or Latin America, is completely homogeneous. Latin America is no different in this regard. There are several recurring themes that are common to most of the economies of Latin America. These major themes form a sort of roadmap for understanding both how the economies of Latin America are distinctive and why the economic performance of the region in the past century has been less than perhaps could have been possible. This introduction to these themes then allows us to consider some major economic policy debates that are common in the region. Economic growth in Latin America has spawned a healthy debate over various economic policy options for the region. Over the past century, several types of economic policies have been proposed and implemented. The relative merits of these policies have been vigorously debated for a long time. These policy debates are such an important part of the story of the economies of Latin America that the final part of the chapter provides a brief introduction to these different debates.