The 1980s and 1990s have been decades of instability and slow growth for most of the Latin American region. There are exceptions, however. Chile and the Dominican Republic grew rapidly in the last decade or so although in recent years both economies, for different reasons, have entered in cycles of more sluggish growth. The purpose of this paper is to advance our understanding of the growth patterns of the Latin American economy in the final decades of the 20th century. We focus on the analysis of medium-to-long run growth, as opposed to the standard discussion of the determinants of high frequency fluctuations (business cycles), and disentangle the contribution of factor accumulation and total factor productivity. While business cycles are of interest for stabilization policies, growth cycles tend to be related to different variables from those that determine short-run growth, such as investment, human capital formation and the adoption of technology. We also want to understand the spells of prosperity and stagnation in several important economies of the region, as well as identify stories of growth decline and divergence in recent decades. The role of factor accumulation and total factor productivity growth performance are investigated in the paper, as well as the role of terms of trade shocks and capital inflows, changes in the quality of the labor force and macroeconomic instability on total factor productivity growth (TFP) and GDP growth.