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The electric revolution in Latin America

Latin America participated in the electric revolution which profoundly transformed the most developed Western economies between 1880 and 1930. The electrification of Latin America began relatively soon after these economies, but it was incapable of keeping up with them. Public electric lighting was introduced early in the big Latin American cities, where electric trams started running at almost the same time as in Europe, and electricity spread rapidly in the mining sector. In the most advanced countries or areas in the region, the manufacturing industry substituted the steam engine with the electric motor, following the example of industry in the United States and Europe. Nevertheless, towards 1930 electricity consumption per inhabitant for Latin America was far below that of the more advanced economies, and only the Latin American countries which lead the process of electrification had reached levels of electric consumption that were similar to those of the late industrialised European countries. One of the most striking features of the electric revolution in Latin America is rooted precisely in the enormous national differences. These differences are indicative of the great economic inequalities existing in the heart of the region and these nations’ highly diverse capacity for economic modernisation.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra in its series Economics Working Papers with number 1236.

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Date of creation: Sep 2010
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Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:1236
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