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The golden age of the Maya began about 250, with the last two great civilizations, the Aztecs and Incas, emerging into prominence later on in the early fourteenth century and mid-fifteenth centuries, respectively.

The Aztec empire was ultimately the most powerful civilization known throughout the Americas, until its downfall in part by the Spanish invasion.

With the arrival of the Europeans following Christopher Columbus' voyages, the indigenous elites, such as the Incas and Aztecs, lost power to the heavy European invasion.

Hernándo Cortés seized the Aztec elite's power with the help of local groups who had favored the Aztec elite, and Francisco Pizarro eliminated the Incan rule in Western South America.

Some groups formed more permanent settlements such as the Chibcha (or "Muisca" or "Muysca") and the Tairona groups. The Chibchas of Colombia, the Quechuas and Aymaras of Bolivia and Perú were the three indigenous groups that settled most permanently.

The region was home to many indigenous peoples and advanced civilizations, including the Aztecs, Toltecs, Maya, and Inca.

The earliest settlements in the Americas are of the Las Vegas Culture from about 8000 BCE and 4600 BCE, a sedentary group from the coast of Ecuador, the forefathers of the more known Valdivia culture, of the same era.

However, in France the term Latin America was used with the opposite intention.

It was supported by the French Empire of Napoleon III during the French invasion of Mexico as a way to include France among countries with influence in the Americas and to exclude Anglophone countries.

is a group of countries and dependencies in the Americas where Spanish, French and Portuguese are predominant including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, and Saint Barthelemy.

The term originated in 19th century France as Amérique latine to consider French-speaking territories in the Americas (Haiti, French Guiana, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Saint Martin, Saint Barthélemy) along with the larger group of countries where Spanish and Portuguese languages prevailed.

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