WHEN THE U.S. SNEEZES, THE REST OF THE WORLD catches a cold. That old chestnut is well understood in Latin America. The region has suffered numerous crises over the years, many of them provoked by events elsewhere. The high interest rate policies of the Volcker Fed, after all, triggered the Latin debt troubles back in 1982.

The aftermath of the recent global financial crisis suggests a much different dynamic these days. Although Latin economic output contracted in 2009, the downturn was much more modest than in developed Western countries, and the region has made a much faster and more vigorous recovery. Private sector capital flows remain strong, and buoyant commodity prices are helping most countries maintain solid trade surpluses. Suddenly, it’s Europe and the U.S. that are looking to juice their sluggish economies, partly by boosting exports to Latin America.

The region’s good fortune is largely self-made. From Chile to Mexico, Brazil to Colombia, most Latin countries have embraced macroeconomic stability as the bedrock principle of their economic policies, keeping debt and inflation down and creating more space for the private sector to flourish. That framework put the region in a good position to benefit from rising commodity prices over the past decade, allowing it to amass large foreign currency reserves. So when the crisis hit in late 2008, most countries were able to cushion the blow by stepping up spending and easing monetary policy. The Latin American and Caribbean region grew by 6.1 percent in 2010 and 4.6....