Latin Americans usually conceive the Western Hemisphere as a single continent. Geographically, the notion is no more, or less, arbitrary than Anglo-Americans’ mapping of two continents separated by the Panamanian isthmus. But the Latin American viewpoint highlights the most basic and distinctive historical commonality of the Americas: they are a “New World,” a continent populated by arrivals from all the other continents. Its “indigenous” population came from Asia long after the rest of the globe had been settled by hominids, including Homo sapiens. About 15,000 years later, others began to arrive from the opposite direction. Close to three million came from Europe between the beginning of the colonial enterprise in the Americas in 1492 and its near end in 1820. Three times as many were brought against their will from Africa during the same period.1

Although humans have been moving across continents ever since our direct ancestors came...

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