Student protests in Chile. Upheaval and violence in Indigenous communities against mining in Peru. Threats to pull out of the inter-American human rights system by Venezuela. Are the advances in democracy and poverty alleviation and the consensus over human rights in the Americas unraveling? Or are these healthy signs of the region's democratic and economic successes, a natural expression of popular voices and pent-up demands?

For the past 50 years, many political, civil and economic leaders have sought to adapt to these and other pressures, while preserving the legal, institutional and social changes that have generated them. These efforts have shaped Latin America’s transition to democracy, and have led a fundamental transformation in the hemisphere. From improvements in food security, social science research and education to the expansion of human rights and racial justice, international organizations have also contributed to some of the notable developments that made this transition possible.

The timeline below and the testimonies from 11 leaders featured in this special section from the Fall 2012 issue of Americas Quarterly explore some of the highlights of the past 50 years of economic, social and political change in Latin America, and the role of international philanthropy in sparking and deepening positive transformations.

Scroll through 50 years of Latin American history.

Photo credits: AP Photos, Getty Images, Corbis, Reuters, and Ford Foundation.