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21 Latin American Flags And The Stories Behind Them

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Latin America hasn’t been the same since Europeans arrived some several hundred years ago – but through the long and complicated stories of colonization, liberation, and resistance, most countries eventually found their way to independence from Spain and are on the way to loosening the grip of Europe and the U.S. on their people.

Each and every country that broke away got the chance to design its own flag and bring a narrative to their new-found freedom. Some of them might even surprise you!

1. Mexico

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Mexico’s beautiful tricolor flag features an eagle eating a snake high atop a prickly pear cactus. This is actually an Aztec legend behind the building of Tenochtitlan – now Mexico City. The Aztecs described a leader named Tenoch having a dream brought to him by Huitzilopochtli, the god of war, that dictated where to settle his people. In the dream, he was to settle where the eagle landed, eating his snake.

2. El Salvador

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The Salvadoran flag shines in blue and white, representing the two oceans that flank Central America, the Atlantic and the Pacific. The white middle represents peace. In the center shines the Coat of Arms, consisting of a triangle with five volcanoes rising out of the sea, representing the five states of the United Provinces of Central America.

The blue in the flag, however, hosts another secret meaning. El Salvador’s history is deeply tied to indigo because of its use by Native Mesoamericans. When Europeans invaded, they referred to it as “blue gold.” In fact, the indigo plant and the dye it produces dominated the country’s economy until it was replaced by coffee cultivation. Even so, El Salvador remains one of the few countries in the world that farms indigo specifically for its precious blue dyes.

3. Argentina

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Argentina’s beautiful flag also prominently features the blue and white colors present in many Latin American flags. The Sun of May that smiles down from the heart of the flag also features in the Paraguay flag and represents Inti, the Incan sun god.

Why is it called the Sun of May though? The month is a reference to the May Revolution, which took place in 1810 and marked the beginning of independence of many Latin American countries from Spain. A legend claims that as the people broke away from their colonizers, the sun broke through the clouds and was a sign of victory for the independence movement.

4. Brazil

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Brazil’s beautiful green flag pays a homage to its Portuguese history with the yellow rhombus in the middle. The blue globe in the middle is the key to the more unique story, with the white stars within representing the Brazilian Federative Units (or states). According to Brazilian, the number of stars must always be updated to reflect the number of recognized states. When the flag was first adopted in 1889, it boasted 21 stars. Today, it shines with 27.

5. Panama

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While Panama, like many countries today, lives in a state of rival parties, the flag tries to do them justice as shared parts of a history. The stars and quarters stand for the competing political parties, blue representing the conservatives and red representing progressives. The white in between the colors represents peace.

6. Cuba

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Cuban history is fraught with revolution, and its flag carries that turbulent history with it. The red triangle harkens to the French Revolution and the three ideals of liberty, equality, and brotherhood. The white stripes represent peace in between the three blue lines, which represent the three departments in which Cuba was divided years ago. The real topper? The white star was once the vision the United States had of adding the island as its new state. Even though Cuba would never become an American territory, it proudly held on to the star amidst the revolutionary red for years to come.

7. Bolivia

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The lush nature of Latin America is not lost on the Bolivians, who made sure to feature a bright green stripe on their flag to honor fertility and forestry. The yellow is another homage to the country’s abundant natural resources, reflecting Bolivia’s mineral deposits. The red reminds citizens of the brave soldiers who fought for the country’s independence from Spain.

Despite being landlocked, Bolivia keeps a naval design at its heart to honor its rivers and lakes. But that’s not all – because Bolivia has a dual flag, and that’s means this is a two-part story.

8. The Wiphala

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The Wiphala flag is the Quechuan emblem and flag that represents the native people of the Andes, and not only is it recognized as the second national flag of Bolivia, it is also embraced by the people of Peru, Ecuador, and parts of Argentina, Chile, and Colombia. The seven colors represent the visible spectrum, with it’s highlighting color of violet representing Andean government and self-determination.

9. Honduras

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The Honduran flag, like other Central American flags, highlights a white stripe in between two blue ones, representing the land between the Atlantic and the Pacific. The white also presents peace and prosperity for its people, along with the purity of their thoughts and hopes. The five stars arranged in an X pattern at its center highlight the five nations of the former Federal Republic of Central America – El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala.

10. Costa Rica

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The French Revolution had a deep impact on the Costaricans, as is evidenced by their flag’s story. The flag was designed by Pacífica Fernández, wife of former president José María Castro Madriz, back in 1848. Inspired by what she saw happening in Europe, she saw fit to incorporate the French tricolor – red, white, and blue. The blue represents idealism, the white represents purity, and the red represents those who died in the fight for independence. At its heart, the flag shows off an isthmus between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea with three volcanoes. 

11. Dominican Republic

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The Dominican Republic’s flag also features the popular red, white, and blue colors, with blue standing for liberty, white for salvation, and red for the blood of heroes and martyrs to the cause independence. In the middle of it all, the national coat of arms shows off a palm frond and a bay laurel branch, dedicated to the country’s tropical habitat and splendor.

12. Venezuela

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The beautiful Venezuelan flag is relatively recent in its current state, having been last updated in 2006. The original design, however, dates back to early revolutionary Francisco de Miranda and his 1806 attempt to liberate Venezuela from Spanish rule. Although he did not succeed, he is widely revered for his perseverance as he laid the groundwork for the country’s independence which came later. Miranda’s flag, brightened by blue, yellow, and red would later also become the inspiration for the flags of Colombia and Ecuador.

Miranda claimed his flag colors were inspired by the fact that these were considered the primary colors in color theory. It is said that when discussing the revolution with German writer and philosopher Johann Wolfgang con Goethe, Miranda shares his account of the United States Revolutionary War along with his travels throughout Europe and the Americas. Goethe told him that, “Your destiny is to create in your land a place where the primary colors are not distorted.”

Later, the words would follow Miranda and he kept true to them when designing the flag. It is also said that the yellow represents the riches and wonder of Venezuela, while blue presents the seas surrounding the country and red represents the bloodshed in the revolution.

13. Chile

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Chile’s flag might remind you of another flag: Texas? Anyone?

The two flags even share a similar name, with The Lone Star being the name of both of them (in Chile, it is referred to as La Estrella Solitaria). 

However, the stories and colors behind the flags are different – and Chile’s flag refers to something that Texas definitely doesn’t have: the Andes. The white on Chile’s flag represents the snow covering the enormous mountain range that runs like a spine down the country. The blue represents the oceans, and the red represents the lives lost in the country’s fight for independence from Spain.

The star in the Chilean flag represents a guide to progress and honor, and sometimes it is also seen as a symbol of an independent state. And that rebellious nature may be the one thing that ties La Estrella Solitaria to The Lone Star.

14. Nicaragua

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At first glance, the Nicaraguan flag and Salvadoran flag may look very similar, but there is one key difference: the Nicaraguan flag features a rainbow. The rainbow is a symbol of the country’s bright future, surrounded by the white that represents peace and the blue that represents the seas surrounding Central America. Like the Salvadoran flag, this flag features the five volcanoes to commemorate the United Provinces of Central America.

And here’s a little-known fact: that tiny stretch of purple included in the rainbow makes Nicaragua one of only two flags from a sovereign state to include the color, alongside the flag of Dominicana.

15. Peru

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The Peruvian flag is distinct in its absence of a lot blue, something most Latin American flags have at a lot of. Instead, red features prominently, representing the blood spilled to gain independence from Spain. White represents purity and peace amidst the chaos and gives a backdrop the country’s coat of arms.

In the heart, the coat of arms shows off Peru’s abundant natural resources. The vicuña, Peru’s national animal, sits next to the chinchona tree, the source of quinine, a powerful anti-malaria medicine. On the bottom, a bag overflowing with coins represents the abundance of minerals that Peru has to offer.

16. Ecuador

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Inspired by the primary colors and Francisco de Miranda’s design for the Venezuelan flag, the Ecuadorian shows off the primary colors in an effort to remember the primary ideals of the independence, and of the country’s resources. The yellow represents the crops and fertile soil, the blue represents the ocean and clear skies, and the red again here stands for the fallen who gave their lives to secure independence from Spain. 

At the heart of the Ecuadoran flag is the coat of arms, which features Chimborazo, the highest mountain in Ecuador. The mountain is also part of the Andes, the mountain range that runs down Latin America. Down below the mountain runs a bright blue river, and atop it all flies a condor stretching out its wings to symbolize power and strength for the country.

17. Guatemala

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Guatemala honors its beautiful natural landscape and fauna with the resplendent quetzal, their national bird and symbol of liberation. The bird graces a piece of parchment declaring the date of Guatemalan independence from Spain in 1821 and also features a daring pair of crossed rifles. The rifles are a homage to the country’s indomitable people, who are willing to defend themselves and their humanity by any means necessary. The crossed swords at the bottom echo the sentiment and represent honor, and are surrounded by a bay laurel crown to celebrate victory against their colonizers. 

18. Colombia

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Yet another beautiful flag featuring the primary colors, the Colombian flag is inspired by revolutionary Francisco de Miranda’s work in Venezuela and throughout Latin America to free people from Spain’s rule. In this specific flag, the yellow has come to represent the richness of Colombian soil, along with harmony and agriculture. It also represents the sun, a source of light and joy. The blue, as is custom, represents the sea and the sky, while the red represents the blood spilled in the quest for independence from Spain. It also represents the fact that although Columbia’s people have had to struggle, they have thrived.

19. Belize

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If ever there was a flag to say “we are serious here, stop trying to colonize us” it is definitely the Belizean flag. Featuring a Mestizo and African man in unity bearing an ax and an oar, the coat of arms also pays homage to the country’s logging history and the tools of the trade – including a mahogany tree. Below a ship sails, and below still an important motto to remember on any hot summer Belizean day: Sub Umbra Floreo, or “Under the Shade I Flourish.”

20. Uruguay

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Uruguay’s bright flag features the Sun of May, just like the Argentinian flag does. The Sun of May is a prominent symbol of the revolution against Spanish rule in Latin America in May of 1810, as legend has it the sun came out from the clouds portending a victory for the rebels. The sun also represents Inti, the sun god of the Incan religion, and is a point of indigenous pride. 

21. Paraguay

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Paraguay, inspired like so many countries by the French Revolution, boasts red, white, and blue as its flag’s colors. A more unique feature of the Paraguayan flag? It differs on its obverse and reverse sides, with one showing the national coat of arms, and the other showing the seal of the treasury. The national coat of arms features a bright yellow star surrounded by a green wreath of palm and olive leaves tied with ribbons in the flag’s official colors. The branches are widely accepted as symbols of peace of victory.

The other side hosts the symbol of the treasury – a lion in front of a staff and the Phrygian cap, a hat associated with freed slaves in Ancient Rome and democracies, usually shown in contrast to crowns, a symbol of monarchies.

11 Diseases to Be Aware of When You Travel to Latin America

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11 Diseases to Be Aware of When You Travel to Latin America

Every country has their fair share of diseases, but Latina America has a unique set of conditions that make serious health problems a common experience.

Mainly, Latin America is comprised of tropical and subtropical areas that produce a breeding ground for wildlife, bacteria, and a slew of environmental changes. Mix that with extreme poverty and a lack of development, you’ll no doubt end up with communities of people that spread disease and other infections on a large scale. This harmful cycle has repeated itself for many generations, keeping several deadly diseases still alive as potential threats for those in the area. To make things worse, 2018 has shown a dramatic rise of migrants moving to Latin American countries, which poses an even larger need for substantial health care initiatives and other forms of humanitarian aid.

The problems may seem to difficult to solve, but being informed about any potential threats will keep you safe if and when you ever decide to visit the area. To make sure that you know what health risks you may be facing, here are are 11 diseases to be aware of when you travel to Latin America:

1. Malaria

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Latin America is full of mosquitoes, and naturally, they pose a huge threat to the population there by having the potential to spread malaria. Basically, malaria is a life-threatening disease that’s most commonly spread through Anopheles mosquito bites. These nasty creatures are infected with a Plasmodium parasite, and once you’re bitten, it’s transferred to your bloodstream where major issues will start to surface. 

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After the parasites get into your system, they will reside in the liver for a few days to mature. Once they’re ready, they move into the bloodstream and wreak havoc on your red blood cells. Basically, within a couple of days, the infected red blood cells will start to burst open, and this process continues in painful cycles that can result in a fever, vomiting, diarrhea, a coma, and even death. On a global scale, there were roughly 216 million cases of malaria in 2016 alone, and the U.S. experiences an estimated 1,700 cases each year. 

2. Dengue Fever

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Another mosquito-borne disease that plagues Latin America is called dengue fever. The sickness is caused by a strain of viruses (dengue viruses) that are related to the same ones that cause West Nile and yellow fever. Each year, estimates show that roughly 390 million people are infected with dengue fever around the world, and 96 million of those cases end up with severe illnesses. 

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The Aedes mosquito is responsible for infecting individuals with dengue fever. However, the mosquito initially picks up the infection from biting someone who already has the dengue virus in their blood. Once someone is bitten, the infection takes between 4 and 6 days to take hold and show signs of its presence. Symptoms may include a high fever, vomiting, a skin rash, and frequent bleeding from the nose and gums. Luckily, the sickness will only last for 10 days, and basic pain relievers and acetaminophen can be used to treat any discomfort. 

3. Chagas Disease

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We’ve moved from mosquitoes to parasites, and chagas disease is what’s sure to follow from the transition. Brought on by a parasite known as the trypanosoma cruzi, chagas disease is an inflammatory infection found in the stool of the reduviid bug. It is a common disease all throughout South America and its presence can cause serious health problems for those who are affected. 

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The reduviid bug initially picks up the Trypanosoma cruzi parasite after biting another infected animal. Then, as the bug eats and defecates, its feces contain the harmful parasite, which can be then enter your system through the eyes, mouth, cuts or scratches. Once the parasite enters your body, it begins to spread. The disease itself can be short-lived or long-lasting with a range of symptoms. In the acute phase of chagas disease, you may experience a fever, rash, eyelid swelling, headache or swollen glands. However, more severe cases may result in heart failure, cardiac arrest, or trouble swallowing and breathing from a swollen esophagus. Thankfully, these cases are somewhat rare since most travelers will stay in nice accommodations, rather than mud huts where the reduviid bug tends to live. 

4. Hookworms

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Hookworms may not be a disease itself, but the parasites can cause lots of issues to your health if they go untreated. Studies done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that hookworms affect up to 740 million people around the world, but it mainly targets tropical and subtropical locations with poor levels of hygiene and sanitation; Latin America serving as ground zero. 

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Hookworms are contracted from hookworm larvae that live within contaminated dirt. In areas where sanitation isn’t available, feces and other bodily fluids mix with the ground and become hotbeds for infections to anyone who crosses over it. Generally, a hookworm infection will start as a small rash wherever the larvae have penetrated the skin. Over time, the larvae works its way through the bloodstream and the infection will cause a variety of symptoms, such as nausea, bloody stools, abdominal pain, and fever. Hookworm can turn into anemia if the infection remains in the body for too long, and that can turn into other serious health problems. To get treated, a doctor will prescribe you with various medications to remove the parasite and boost your immune system. 

5. Ascariasis

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If hookworm wasn’t terrible enough, ascariasis (a species of roundworm) can be just as frightening to deal with. Rather than a parasite that enters through the skin, ascariasis is a type of parasitic worm that wreaks havoc on the small intestine. The sickness is common in areas with poor sanitation, exposing people to contaminated food and water. Unfortunately, Latin America is a prime location for roundworms to develop, although the disease is typically easier to manage. 

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Ascariasis can be passed from human contact or from interacting with contaminated soil or foods. Basically, the roundworm larvae, A. lumbricoides, lives in dirt that’s mixed with human excrement, and that matter gets inadvertently ingested. Once it’s in the system, it makes its way into the intestines and starts to reproduce. Over time, the disease can cause vomiting, irregular bowel movements, abdominal pain, and loss of appetite. The worms can be treated with certain medications, like albendazole and ivermectin, but serious cases will require surgery to free up any intestinal blockages that the worms may cause. 

6. Trichuriasis

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In fact, hookworms, ascariasis, and trichuriasis (whipworms) are all part of the same family of soil-transmitted parasites. Collectively, they make up a large chunk of the diseases found in Latin America since many inhabitants are forced to defecate outside. The result is an increased chance of contaminated soil where eggs from infected feces are passed onto others who come in contact with it through farming, by eating contaminated fruits or veggies, or without knowing. Between 600 and 800 million people around the globe have whipworm, and it’s also a common infection for animals to experience. 

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For those who do contract trichuriasis, the parasite affects the large intestine, but larvae from the whipworm will begin to grow and hatch in the small intestine first. Once the larvae matures, it makes its way into the large intestine where other eggs will eventually be laid and passed by the host. While all of this takes place, the body may undergo a variety of symptoms with different levels of severity. There may be vomiting, headaches, bloody diarrhea, or painful stools. However, the disease is fairly easy to treat with the same medications for ascariasis, and most people who contract whipworm will recover without any complications.

7. Schistosomiasis

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If you’ve been drinking the water in Latin America without any concerns, this disease will make you think twice before taking your next gulp. Schistosomiasis is a disease that people can become infected by after coming in contact with fresh water supplies that are infested with different forms of parasitic blood flukes. Essentially, they are microscopic worms that live inside your intestinal veins and cause serious damage to your health. 

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Unfortunately, schistosomiasis is a major poverty issues, as well as a critical health risk to developing areas around the world. According to the World Health Organization, the disease affects nearly 240 million people, with a high amount of cases in Latin America due to its warm climate and lack of clean water and sanitation. For those who catch the disease, it may take weeks for symptoms to appear, but once they do, they can surface as a fever, a rash, or as blood in the urine. The disease is certainly manageable, but quite often, severe damage has been done to the body once it’s diagnosed, which can lead to other serious health issues. 

8. Cholera

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Another disease that’s spread through contaminated water is cholera, and it’s extremely prevalent in poverty stricken areas with crowded conditions and poor sanitation. Combine those factors with a warm, coastal climate, and cholera bacteria is likely to spread at a rapid pace. Luckily, person to person contact ins’t likely, but there are several ways to come in contact with the disease in everyday activities. 

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Cholera can make its way into public wells, seafood, raw fruits and veggies, and different types of grain. Once the bacteria is ingested, symptoms can be very slow or they might surface right away. For most people, they may never know that they have the disease, but will still pass it along in their stool for up to two weeks. In extreme cases, a person can instantly get sick and expel lots of fluids in a short amount of time, resulting in dehydration and death. Other symptoms include seizures, a coma, or severe muscle cramps. To make sure you don’t become a victim, it’s always a good idea to follow proper hygiene protocols and seek treatment right away if you’re concerned. 

9. Blinding Trachoma

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Blinding trachoma is an eye disease that’s caused by a bacteria called chlamydia trachomatis. Currently, it is a major health problem in 37 countries and causes blindness for nearly 1.9 million people. Sadly, the effects from the disease are irreversible, and spreading the infection is easy to do through personal contact or flies that collect germs and transfer them through interaction. 

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Although it is most commonly found in Africa, central and south america hold a comparatively high rate of prevalence. This is due to environmental factors and poor hygiene practices that allow for the bacteria to thrive and spread. Typically, the infection is contracted when living closely to others who already have the disease. At first, a single episode of infection may not be anymore severe than a case of pink eye, but since the disease is so easy to catch, multiple episodes of trachoma force the eyelids to develop a scar tissue that rubs against the cornea and causes blindness. 

10. Cysticercosis

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Sorry to bring this back to parasites, but cysticercosis is a serious infection that causes major damage to the brain and body. It is essentially a kind of tapeworm (taenia solium) larvae that’s spread by those who have an intestinal tapeworm. The eggs are transferred through feces, which contaminates other sources, such as soil, water supplies, and crops. These sources are then ingested by a host and makes way for the disease to take effect. 

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Once a host has contracted the disease, cysts start to develop within the muscles, brain, eyes, and spinal cord. In some cases, the abnormal growths may not cause any damage, but most of the time, fatal health issues can arise. Someone with cysticercosis may experience seizures, headaches, issues with keeping their balance, and brain swelling. In severe cases, the presence of cysts can result in stroke or death. Medications for the disease are available . However, surgery is often needed to remove the tumors. 

11. Leprosy

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Bacteria seems to be the silent attacker in most Latin American diseases, and Leprosy is no exception to the rule. Although 95% of people have a natural resistance to the disease, leprosy is still prevalent in underdeveloped areas in Latin America. The World Health Organization claims that over 215,000 new cases of the disease have emerged since 2014, and over 2 million people are disabled or disfigured from its effects. 

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Through contact with an infected person, the bacteria typically surfaces as a discolored or red spot on the skin. Over time, the bacteria will spread to the hands and feet where it causes serious nerve damage that results in a loss of feeling or numbness. The extremities will start to become infected, in which case, amputation may be needed to prevent other life-threatening diseases. This same process can affect the eyes and parts of the face, which may lead to blindness or disfigurement. On the bright side, leprosy is curable with a certain antibiotics, but still, having to experience any part of it is certainly no picnic. 

Latin America has Tons to Offer

Overall, Latin America is a beautiful place with tons of exciting things to offer. These diseases shouldn’t scare you from traveling to one of the most exotic places in the world, but instead, it should fuel you with lots of insight and news ways to stay prepared. As long as you practice good hygiene and drink safe water supplies, you’ll have plenty of time for new selfies and endless memories.

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