I grew up in a time when the LDS Church was saying that the Nephites and Lamanites once lived throughout North and South America. North America was "the land northward," South America was "the land southward," and the isthmus of Panama was "the narrow neck of land" spoken of in The Book of Mormon. By the time I got to seminary discussions about Book of Mormon geography was a little more vague. We were shown an unbiased rendering of the geography described that looked like this:
So pretty much the Church was still teaching that The Book of Mormon characters were living just north and south of the isthmus of Panama. Latin Americans were Lamanites to us then.
Currently this North/Central America-South America configuration (a.k.a. the hemispheric models) have fallen out of favor and have been replaced by limited geography models. The most popular camp has set its sights on the pyramid-building peoples of Mesoamerica and are proposing maps such as this one:
Far less popular but still a notable second are the theories placing the main events of The Book of Mormon in the American heartland.
Not too far from those theories are the ones who look to the Great Lakes area where Joseph lived and where the gold plates were discovered.
One advantage to this last map is that it actually corresponds nicely with a number of towns Joseph Smith would have heard about or potentially seen on a map.
Hey, if the shoe fits...
The fact is we have no facts other than the claims Joseph made. Now, as time buries brother Joseph ever deeper and people seek facts through science rather than visions, our knowledge of where this whole "ancient history" might be sinks farther and farther into speculation.