Each Latin American country has a fascinating story to share — from the peak of the Mayan Empire to the fall of dictators. Once exploited by nations like Spain and Portugal, many Latin American countries have a history of war and economic difficulties and are continuing to strive for economic and political stability. But Latin American countries are also proud of their heritage, counting many indigenous tribes among their ranks and handing down cultural traditions, such as sipping mate with friends and family, from one generation to the next. Customs reflect both indigenous and immigrant cultures, and a strong European influence remains long after the colonial period. Spanish and Portuguese are the dominant languages, but many indigenous people, like the Quechua in the high Andes, still speak their native languages. Although the majority of Latin Americans are Roman Catholic, a few indigenous religions are practiced as well. The varying terrain — beaches, mountains, plateaus, and plains — supports the agrarian way of life that many lead. Scholars and tourists flock to Central and South America — the landmasses commonly associated with Latin America — to experience firsthand the mysterious ruins Machu Picchu in Peru and the biodiversity of Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.