The Three Most Populous Latin American Cities

Oct 22, 2018

Sao Paulo, Brazil
Estaiada Bridge in Sao Paulo, Brazil

Latin America is made up of twenty states, territories, and dependencies in an area spanning from Mexico to the southern tip of South America. It covers over 7 million square miles and holds more than 639 million people.

Latin America’s three most populous cities, each an important center of culture and commerce, are Mexico City, Sao Paulo in Brazil, and Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires.

This article will explore some interesting facts about these three cities and offer a data snapshot for each, revealing the population, total area, GDP per capita, and just for fun, a peek at the cities’ most popular street food!

1. Mexico City, Mexico

The capital of Mexico is Mexico City, the most populous city in Latin America. Mexico City is also the oldest capital city in the Americas. It was built on the site of, now dry, Lake Texcoco, where the Aztecs chose one of the lake’s islands as the location for the city of Tenochtitlan.

Building a city on a drained lake bed can have its drawbacks—since around 1900, Mexico City has sunk 30 feet in certain areas. The whole lake bed is paved at this point, causing issues with wastewater management and flooding.

  • Population: 23 million
  • Total Area (Metro): 573 sq mi
  • GDP per Capita: $16,239
  • Most Popular Street Food: Tamales, a snack consisting of masa and either sweet or savory filling, wrapped and steamed in a corn husk.

2. Sao Paulo, Brazil

In southeast Brazil sits the bustling metropolis of Sao Paulo, the country’s most populous city, and the largest Portuguese-speaking city in the world. It is the capital of its namesake Brazilian state, which is one of the most densely populated and wealthiest states in Brazil.

Sao Paulo rests on a plateau adjacent to the Serra do Mar mountain range. Most of the city features rolling terrain, but in the northern portion, the Serra da Cantareira Range creates a higher elevation area that edges part of the Atlantic Rain Forest.

  • Population: 21 million
  • Total Area: 587 sq mi
  • GDP per Capita: $20,960
  • Most Popular Street Food: Believe it or not, it’s pizza! (With the largest Italian community in all of Brazil, Sao Paulo is home to more than 6,000 pizzerias!)

3. Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, is the country’s largest city. It is situated on shores of the Río de la Plata, on the southeastern coast of South America. Buenos Aires is the most visited city in South America, and Latin America’s second-most visited city, second only to Mexico City.

Buenos Aires has very nice weather. The city features a humid subtropical climate and four distinct seasons. January is the hottest month, with temperatures averaging only about 77 °F. Highs during the winter hover around a comfortable 61 °F.

  • Population: 16 million
  • Total Area: 78 sq mi
  • GDP per Capita: $35,906
  • Most Popular Street Food: Choripán, locally called “Chori,” a beef and pork sausage that is grilled and served on bread.

In 1539, North America’s very first printing press was used in Mexico City. In Buenos Aires, the Presidents’ Mansion is also called “The Pink House.” It’s a huge, ornately designed pink mansion. The city of Sao Paulo has a large coffee plantation inside its boundaries—around 1,500 coffee plants grow within the Sao Paulo neighborhood of Vila Mariana. Latin America is full of geographic, cultural, and historical wonders, all of which you’ll discover as you continue your journey into this fascinating part of the world.