Within the next decade most Latin American countries1 will be celebrating 200 years of colonial independence. In spite of being favored by productive land, diverse natural resources, and a favorable land-to-labor ratio, the long-run socioeconomic performance of the region has been disappointing. From a comparative perspective, Latin America today is one of the most unequal and economically unstable regions in the world. Historically, economic growth in Latin America has been interrupted by recurrent macroeconomic crises and long stagnation episodes. Also, these shocks have further deteriorated the already high level of inequality that has characterized the region since its independence.