Latin America – An Emerging Superpower?

This video from Al Jazeera explores the idea of Latin America becoming the leading superpower in the world. While I personally find this idea absurd, the video does make some very interesting points and features interesting commentary from various Latin American authors and experts on the region.

The fact that content is being produced regarding the possibility of Latin America “taking over” is certainly a testament to the growing relevance of the region. An article was released yesterday from The Wall Street Journal revealing that poverty rates in Latin America are the lowest they’ve been in 20 years. Obama’s visit to the region in March is an indicator that the U.S. looks to strengthen its ties with Latin America. Loads of content have been coming out recently regarding the growing clout of Latin America, and Latin American countries such as Chile, Brazil, and Colombia have been demonstrating promising signs of economic growth and stability. In short, as I’ve said time and time again Latin America matters now more than ever in terms of the global marketplace. However, implying that Latin America could unify and become the most powerful political entity in the world is very far-fetched given its current state.

Although poverty rates have fallen, they are still very high in a global scope, education rates are also comparatively poor. As the video points out, unification of Latin America is seemingly impossible considering the sheer diversity of countries and the existence of turbulent states like Venezuela. Bringing together a grouping of countries that ranges from economic powerhouses like Brazil to some of the poorest countries in the world such as Haiti does is less than feasible. Nevertheless, I found it to be an interesting thought and I am thoroughly convinced that moving forward organizations like UNASUR will be become very influential given Latin America’s recent performance and growth.

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The Future Looks Bright

I recently stumbled upon an article written by former United States Senator Chris Dodd entitled The Future of Latin America: Opportunities and Challenges for U.S. Policy in the Hemisphere. While I would rather not discuss my views regarding his actions as a politician in this post, I do find great value in the article and the message it contains.

Dodd appropriately emphasizes Latin America’s recent improvements in political and economic stability and recognizes the growing clout and potential of the region. The senator also does well to address the mutual progress and prosperity that stands to be gained should U.S. officials choose to take a less paternalistic and exploitative stance toward the region and be more proactive in working toward growth and cooperation in trade and industry.

In summing up his argument and making implications toward the future, Dodd makes the point that American college students should be more concerned with Latin America and implies that educational institutions would do well to attribute more focus to the region. One notable excerpt reads: “It’s time to start majoring in Latin America. Students who want to pick up another language are increasingly turning to French or Chinese–I encourage you to learn Spanish. Traveling abroad? Lots of Americans spend a semester in London or Germany–why not spend yours in Quito or Santiago? In the market for a good foreign investment? Look to Brazil. A fan of Al Jazeera or the Guardian? Why not read Argentina’s Clarin, the largest Spanish language newspaper in the world?”

To me Dodd’s recognition that the U.S. needs to strengthen relations with Latin America is very encouraging. This article, along with various others I have read that bear a similar message (most notably Parag Khanna’s Look South, Not East) affirms my thoughts that looking to the south for opportunity and growth is both a sensible and potentially advantageous course of action as a student.  Additionally, it provides me with incentive and validation in dispersing this message to my peers and readers, which I shall continue to do via the Latin American Business Blog.

Want to Set Yourself Apart From the Competition? Think Global

“I will be graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree from the College of Business at my University.” This is a true statement on my part, and while my focus of study and date of graduation may be different from other students in the same situation, the fact remains that Business majors are by far the most common demographic when it comes to degree-holding-job-seekers. According to various online sources, including the Princeton Review, majors in Business Administration and Management are the most common amongst college students today. What’s more, the current job market is poor and amongst graduates of business programs vying for the same positions – competition is fierce.

So how does one set him/herself apart from the competing hordes of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed graduates who are chasing the same jobs with, in most cases, only minor differences in qualifications? How does one gain a competitive edge in their efforts to find a fulfilling, high-paying career with room for advancement? The old cliche, of “thinking outside of the box,” – while both motivational and valid in theory – is not so helpful when it comes to the job hunt.

Given the unlimited amount of information that can be found online regarding interviewing, resume building, networking and so, we all have access to the same resources for the most part. Granted, the caliber of your school and the programs it offers can be a huge advantage but it seems more and more that people truly believe that getting a good job hinges on who you know and how lucky you are when it comes to encountering opportunity. However, to my mind thinking outside of U.S. borders and considering opportunity abroad can be a great way to eliminate competition and get involved in business on a global scale.

Globalization is continuing to influence the way business is done across the globe. Trade relationships today exist between more countries than ever before, and many prominent firms in the U.S. conduct the majority of their business activity abroad. Singling out and researching specific industries and companies that take part in business overseas can not only narrow your choices as to potential employers, it can also offer you the opportunity to become involved with the world of global trade – which seems unlikely to slow down anytime soon.

According to this article from The Daily Beast, students who go abroad in their studies can distinguish themselves from other students with valuable experience and cultural exposure. The article suggests: “…college administrators say, if the experience is in a culture crucial to the way many businesses are now organized, it can give them a leg up in the job market. Especially when paired with an internship, even a few months’ time out of the United States can help them enter companies that have, say, suppliers in China, customers in Brazil, and colleagues in India. “Just getting them abroad makes such a difference, regardless of the program,” says Stone, who plays down the partying angle. “…” What’s more numerous ESL programs in other countries offer students the opportunity to gain this experience and learn a foreign language at little to no cost. Personally, I find major encouragement in the fact that no matter whether you choose to think about entrepreneurial opportunities abroad, seeking employment in a foreign country, or finding an American company that is involved in the global marketplace, there is plenty of opportunity. In short, it seems clear to me that International Business major or not – looking to international opportunity is one surefire way to increase your probability of finding a great career.

An American Success Story in Chile

I was lucky enough to have had the opportunity to participate in a study abroad program this year and I spent the first half of 2011 living in Santiago, Chile. I embarked on this program with one of my best friends in the whole word, a guy by the name of Willie, and upon our arrival neither of us really knew what we would find in this sprawling, unfamiliar South American metropolis. Both of us spent our time in Santiago living with Chilean families, this experience allowed us to gain real cultural exposure and learn about the Chilean way of life. However, as much as we dedicated ourselves to cultural immersion you can tell from the photo below that there is no denying the fact that both of us are unshakably American.

That being said, we arrived in Chile in January and the NFL playoffs as well as the NBA regular season were both in full swing. Both of us are avid sports fans but needless to say, most Chileans aren’t huge on American football or basketball – and so it seemed we would have to resort to choppy online streaming websites to keep up with our beloved sporting events. However, we soon discovered the California Cantina, one of the most successful and unique restaurant/bars in all of Santiago, and all of our initial worries became an afterthought. The way in which we discovered the Cantina and the story behind it amazes me to this day.

The California Cantina is located in Providencia, a nice area in the heart of Santiago. The restaurant itself boasts 2 floors, 4 different “environments” that consist of various American themes and murals, 2 bars, outside seating, a roof terrace, and endless televisions and entertainment centers throughout. The menu contains a mixture of American classics, authentic Mexican food, and some Chilean-inspired cuisine. One of the founding ideas behind the Cantina is that it airs every notable American sporting event imaginable. Most importantly, the Cantina has a loyal customer base and is constantly attracting new guests based on the unique atmosphere, delicious food, and unmatched entertainment.

The California Cantina was founded by a couple of guys from, you guessed it: California. But how did they end up in Santiago? Similar to Willie and I they both participated in a study abroad program back in 2001. These two gentlemen experienced the same dilemma that Willie and I did upon their arrival to Santiago – they couldn’t find a good place to watch sports. In the true spirit of entrepreneurship they moved back to Santiago in 2007 and satisfied the city’s need for an American-style sports bar by starting the restaurant that would become the California Cantina.

It just so turns out that the host family that one of the owners of the California Cantina lived with was the same family Willie spent his time living with during our Santiago experience. As a result of Willie’s connection to the owner via his host family, we were able to meet him and get a tour of the restaurant, see the kitchen etc. I thought the story behind the Cantina was truly inspirational and it is one of the driving factors behind my interest in entrepreneurship and my passion for learning about international business.

Your Move, Obama

Recently, scholars and experts on foreign policy alike have begun to identify Latin America as an increasingly important region in the global marketplace. Over the past decade, Latin American countries have consistently demonstrated a capacity to maintain political and economic stability, the lack of which plagued the area for years. As a result, countries like Chile, Argentina, and Brazil have become key players in international trade and investment; and the future even seems brighter for less-developed countries whose recent economic situations can best be described as dismal. What’s more, Latin America has access to vast oil reserves, abundant minerals and raw materials, and is a major producer of agricultural products that are traded around the world. It is becoming more and more clear that the clout of this region is not to be ignored.

However, China seems to be the only country that is currently taking full advantage of Latin America’s potential as a global partner in trade and commerce. Consequently, a common consensus has arisen among foreign policy buffs that, in thinking toward the future, global superpowers such as the United States and the United Kingdom should be doing more to ally themselves with Latin America if they wish to remain equally competitive with Eastern powers. In fact, a recent article from foreignpolicy.com written by best-selling author and international relations expert Parag Khanna, asserts that in making a visit to Latin America last March – “Obama has implicitly acknowledged the emerging geopolitical reality that Latin America is nothing less than the third pillar of the West, alongside Europe and North America.”

Khanna’s article, appropriately entitled Look South, Not East, offers a brief but fascinating overview of the ways in which the United States could benefit from strengthening their ties to Latin American countries. It is clear to me after reading this piece that in doing so, not only would creating strong relations with Latin America become an important strategic asset for the U.S. in their struggle to maintain dominance over the world market – but projects set forth by this potential partnership could also greatly benefit Latin America itself.

It would appear that given the current economic state in the U.S., American lawmakers would be well-advised to act fast in tapping into the economic catalyst that lies directly to their south. Especially since they are not the only country that stands to gain from increased “Latinvolvement,”  – according to a blog released yesterday by the Foreign Policy Association: the U.K. wants in too. Hence the title: “Your Move, Obama.”

3 Valuable Resources for International Job-Seekers

As I’ve discussed in previous posts, there is a ton of opportunity for American business professionals just waiting to be taken advantage of in Latin American countries. The problem is, they are rarely advertised on common job sites such as Indeed.com, Careerbuilder, and monster. In order to discover the jobs being offered in Spanish speaking countries one often must explore websites and information pages based out of said countries. However, most of them are in Spanish and unreadable to a great deal of job seekers.

Not to worry though, there are also a great deal of websites that cater to American professionals looking for international opportunity – here are some of the best ones:

LatPro

 LatPro generally caters to bilingual professionals and shares a great deal of jobs both within the U.S. and south of the border. This site could be very helpful to those who want to work with a company that is involved in the global marketplace but do not wish to relocate outside of the U.S. Latpro features a great deal of positions with companies that do business with Latin America but are locally based. LatPro also features a great deal of resources – not just job postings. Here is some info the website provides on its “About” page:

“The LatPro service enables employers and recruiters to efficiently find professional candidates with language skills, international experience and/or multicultural knowledge. With over 150,000 unique visitors to LatPro every month and a resume database of 151,942 registered jobseekers, LatPro provides access to the most in-depth pool of Hispanic professionals available anywhere (view real-time candidate demographics).”

The Riley Guide 

The Riley Guide does not explore opportunity and give resources regarding Latin America in specific – however, once you identify the region of your choice you can gain access to valuable information regarding international opportunity just about anywhere in the world.

The Riley Guide includes information regarding the job search and provides tips and advice for professionals regarding things like average salaries, resume and cover letters and how they are different in the international scope, and how to research desirable organizations and learn more about potential employers.

Latin American Jobs

Latinamericanjobs.com provides similar information as the two previous sites – one unique feature about this website, however, is that it features a section specifically for college students which details professional development and international programs in Latin America that can lead to improved knowledge regarding the region as well as employment opportunities.

Like LatPro and the Riley Guide, Latin American Jobs also has utility for recruiters who are looking for the most talented professionals coming out of the U.S. that are exploring international options in employment.

I hope that these sites can be of use to my valued readers and that given the state of today’s economy we see a continued trend of Americans capitalizing on the abundant opportunity in Latin America.

Social Media – Opportunities Down South?

Recently studies have shown that social media is “trending” in Latin America. One that has been receiving a great deal of attention is entitled Latin American Governments Need to ‘Friend’ Social Media and Technology.” This report, released by the Committee on Foreign Relations for the United States Senate, indicates that Latin American citizens are amongst the heaviest users of social networking sites in the world. As the title suggests, the report is geared toward governments in the region and encourages them to use the growing power of social to their advantage. It seems to me that businesses and students of commerce should take note as well.

I follow someone on Twitter that goes by the handle “thisIsChile,” and he/she consistently tweets useful and informative content about Chile every single day. What’s more, it is clear that whoever is doing the tweeting has an impeccably firm grasp of the English language and is likely from North America originally. The purpose of this Twitter account is to disperse information that will increase tourism in Chile. The point is, social media is creating jobs and with the explosion in usage Latin America is experiencing there is sure to be plenty of opportunity. Chile’s national tourism service, Sernatur, has indicated that by 2020 it hopes for tourism to be the third largest sector of Chile’s GDP. Surely there are more opportunities waiting to be taken advantage of by those interested in Latin America who have any kind of knowledge about the power of social media.

Lately I have noticed that many of my classmates and peers are being hired as “Social Media Consultants.” Companies seem to be hiring a great deal of college-age people that have grown up with social media in their lives and are more familiar with how it works. They do so in an effort to increase their online presence, broaden their customer base through online exposure, and create more personal and interactive relationships with customers. The same trend is surely beginning in countries like Brazil, Chile, and Argentina where social media plays a huge role in people’s day-to-day communications.

The difference in Latin America is that companies have less experience in the realm of social media and there is less information on the subject. That being said, what’s to stop any young professional who is interested in Latin America and knows Spanish from approaching any of tbe hundreds of major companies down south that have no online presence and suggesting they adopt a social media campaign. Really, you tell me! I’m honestly interested in receiving some feedback and would love to hear some more thoughts on the subject.