As we await the launch of Motley Fool Global Gains , our new international investing service, we are taking a look back at some of our best international stock ideas. This article was originally published on June 16, 2006.

Any U.S. student knows all about what European colonists did to South America. And folks who paid close attention to the news in the '60s, '70s, and '80s know that the U.S. government was hardly angelic in its own dealings with our southern neighbors. But those neighbors may still have the last laugh: As their region improves, several South American countries may finally have found the path to sustainable economic growth.

Compared to America and Western Europe, South America has relatively low per capita income, low development, and a low base of education. But economic conditions and advantages aren't set in stone; empires rise and fall, and South America may be on the rise.

Consider that companies like Unilever (NYSE:UL), Kellogg (NYSE:K), and Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) increasingly see South America and Mexico as important future growth drivers. Heck, even Toyota (NYSE:TM) is planning a new ethanol-powered car for Brazil next year.

OK, so South American consumers are able to buy more. How does that make the region a good place to invest? While there aren't as many good options for American investors as I'd prefer, we're not completely shut out. Several different options all draw upon the growing wealth of the average citizen south of the equator.

When folks have more money, they can chatter more on their cell phones, and there's a whole swarm of cell-phone operators to benefit. When people have more money, they travel more, which is good for airliners like GOL (NYSE:GOL) and LAN (NYSE:LFL). And when people see prosperity around them, and governments are willing to let them keep the rewards of their labor, they're more willing to start new businesses -- and that's good for lenders like Bancode Chile (NYSE:BCH) and Bancolombia (NYSE:CIB).

I believe the right approach to foreign investing is a global approach. It baffles me that so few so-called experts give any love or attention to South America when they talk about global asset allocation. That spells opportunity to me. Given recent sharp sell-offs in many emerging markets, Fools may just be getting the chance to take a more affordable flier on a region that's finally improving.

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Unilever is a Motley Fool Income Investor pick. Fool sector head Joey Khattab updated this article, which was written by Stephen Simpson. Joey does not own any shares of the companies mentioned. The Fool has a disclosure policy that is muy caliente.