In this issue of Stone World, we present our annual Report from Latin America, with in-depth articles on stone quarries and fabrication plants in the region. Following a trend that has been in place for more than a decade, many of these operations are equipped with the latest in computerized stoneworking equipment from Italy. Moreover, they are continually upgrading their machinery to remain consistent with the state-of-the-art.

Our Report from Latin America includes features on four operations in Brazil as well as companies in Peru and Colombia. These firms supply a broad range of materials and products in natural stone, including blocks, tiles, slabs and cut-to-size architectural work. And no matter what the end product, all of these companies point to high production rates and an optimum level of quality due to their investments in advanced stoneworking machinery. In fact, a number of companies have even used this equipment to develop proprietary finishes for their stone, following a popular design trend and setting themselves apart as a stone supplier.

The continued development of stone production capabilities in Latin America is of particular interest to the U.S. market, which is at best a minor player in terms of block importing. As an importer primarily of finished and semi-finished products, such as tiles, slabs and architectural work, the U.S. market has found a solid connection with these well-equipped Latin American suppliers. Indeed, several of the companies covered in this issue point to the U.S. market as a major consumer of their production.

As a result of these developments, we are seeing more and more stone materials entering the American marketplace, with some of them becoming mainstays in the offerings of U.S. fabricators and distributors. "Brazilian Stone" no longer exclusively means classics such as Juparana, Ubatuba or Giallo Veneziano (although these stones have certainly maintained their popularity). Instead, we are seeing new stone varieties from Brazil with regularity, and they are being fabricated into slabs and architectural work with the utmost precision.

Likewise, the stones being exported from South America are no longer limited to Brazilian materials. Our Report from Latin America showcases quarry operations in countries such as Peru and Colombia as well as a site in Guatemala. And while these quarries may have been supplying South American consumers for years, some of these materials are only now making inroads in the U.S. marketplace.

So keep an eye out for these new materials, as they continue to expand their presence in the U.S. These developments, as well as continued technological advancement in regions such as China, India and Eastern Europe, will continue to impact our industry.