Central America

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ID:17447 Section: Place

Updated:Monday 13th October 2014

Central America Definition

(Wikipedia) - Central America
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Central America Area Population Density Countries Demonym GDP GDP per capita Languages Time Zones Largest cities (2010)
523,780 km2 (202,233 sq mi)
43,308,660 (2013 est.)
77 /km2 (200 /sq mi)
Central American
$107.7 billion (exchange rate) (2006) $ 226.3 billion (purchasing power parity) (2006).
$2,541 (exchange rate) (2006) $5,339 (purchasing power parity) (2006).
Spanish, English, Mayan languages, Garifuna, Kriol, European languages, and many others
UTC - 6:00, UTC - 5:00
List of 10 largest cities in Central America Guatemala City Managua Tegucigalpa Panama City San Salvador City San Pedro Sula San José San Miguelito Santa Ana Quetzaltenango
Central America
Part of a series on
  • Central American Spanish
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DemograhicsBy country
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EducationBy country
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  • Bioregion
  • Deforestation
  • List of mammals
  • Montane forests
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  • Central American crisis
  • Federal Republic
  • Federal Republic heads of state
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By country
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  • List of islands
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  • Middle America (region)
  • Middle America Trench
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Politics and governmentElections by country
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  • List of busiest airports
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Related topics
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  • Latin America
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Central America (Spanish: América Central or Centroamérica) is the central geographic region of the Americas. It is the southernmost, isthmian portion of the North American continent, which connects with South America on the southeast. When considered part of the unified continental model, it is considered a subcontinent. Central America consists of seven countries: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. Central America is part of the Mesoamerican biodiversity hotspot, which extends from northern Guatemala through central Panama. The Middle America Trench runs on the Central American Pacific coast. Central America is bordered by Mexico to the north, the Caribbean Sea to the east, the North Pacific Ocean to the west, and Colombia to the south-east, which is also the most southern point of North America.

Central America is an area of 524,000 square kilometers (202,000 sq mi), or almost 0.1% of the Earth''s surface. According to census records of Central American countries, the estimated population is approximately 34,787,502.

  • 1 History
  • 2 Geography
    • 2.1 Physical geography
    • 2.2 Waterways
  • 3 Geology
    • 3.1 Volcanic activity
  • 4 Demographics
    • 4.1 Languages
    • 4.2 Ethnic groups
  • 5 Politics
    • 5.1 Central American Integration
    • 5.2 Foreign relations
    • 5.3 Central American Parliament
  • 6 Infrastructure
    • 6.1 Roadways
    • 6.2 Rail
    • 6.3 Airlines
  • 7 Environment
    • 7.1 Biodiversity
    • 7.2 Flora and fauna
      • 7.2.1 Forests
  • 8 Culture
  • 9 Mass media
  • 10 Usage
  • 11 See also
  • 12 References
  • 13 Bibliography
  • 14 Further reading
  • 15 External links

History Main article: History of Central AmericaThe seven countries in the Central America isthmusThe Central America Isthmus, 1798

In pre-Columbian times, the north-western areas of modern Central America were part of the Mesoamerican civilization. The Native American societies of Mesoamerica occupied the land ranging from central Mexico in the north to Costa Rica in the south. Most notable among these were the Maya, who had built numerous cities throughout the region, and the Aztecs, who created a vast empire. The pre-Columbian cultures of Costa Rica and Panama traded with both Mesoamerica and South America, and can be considered transitional between those two cultural areas.

Following Christopher Columbus''s discovery of the Americas for Spain, the Spanish sent numerous expeditions to the region, and they began their conquest of Maya lands in the 1520s. In 1540, Spain established the Captaincy General of Guatemala, which extended from southern Mexico to Costa Rica, and thus encompassed most of what is currently known as Central America, with the exception of British Honduras (present-day Belize). This lasted nearly three centuries, until a rebellion (which followed closely on the heels of the Mexican War of Independence) in 1821.

After the dissolution of Spanish authority, the former Captaincy General remained intact as part of the short-lived First Mexican Empire. Central America then emerged as a distinct political entity upon the independence of the Federal Republic of Central America—a representative democracy with its capital at Guatemala City. This union consisted of the current States of:

  • Guatemala (including the former state of Los Altos)
  • El Salvador
  • Honduras
  • Nicaragua
  • Costa Rica (including a region that is now part of Panama)
  • Guanacaste Province, (which is now part of Costa Rica), and Soconusco (which is now part of the Mexican state of Chiapas).

The Republic lasted from 1823 to 1838, when it began to disintegrate due to civil wars.

The Spanish Empire and British Empire contested what is now Belize in a dispute that continued after Guatemala became independent. Spain, and later Guatemala, considered what is now Belize a Guatemalan department. In 1862, Britain formally declared it a British colony and named it British Honduras. It became independent as Belize in 1981.

Panama, situated in the very south of Central America on the Isthmus of Panama, has for much of its history been culturally linked to South America. Panama was a part of the Spanish Viceroyalty of New Granada, and then, following independence, became part of Gran Colombia. Only after independence from Colombia in 1903 did some begin to regard Panama as a North or Central American entity.

After two decades of internal violent conflict, social unrest, and revolutions in the 1980s and 1990s, Central America is still in a period of political transformation. Poverty, social injustice and violence are still widespread. The United States played a significant role during the conflict, unrest, and revolutions of the 1980s and 1990s.

  • Political Evolution of Central America and the Caribbean from 1700 to present

  • The Central America Isthmus, 1803

  • Central America geography

GeographyCountries and capitals

Central America has an area of 524,000 square kilometers (202,000 sq mi), or almost 0.1% of the Earth''s surface. As of 2009, its population was estimated at 41,739,000. It has a density of 77 people per square kilometer or 206 people per square mile.

Physical geography See also: List of islands of Central America, List of mountain peaks of Central America and List of Ultras of Central America  Central America and the Caribbean Plate

Physiographically, Central America is the tapering isthmus of southern North America, with unique and varied features extending from the north-western borders of Belize and Guatemala southeastward to the Isthmus of Panama where it connects to the Colombian Pacific Lowlands in northwestern South America. Alternatively, some physiographists sometimes locate its northern border at some point in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Mexico.

Central America is an area of some 524,000 square kilometers. The Pacific Ocean lies to the southwest, the Caribbean Sea lies to the northeast, and the Gulf of Mexico lies to the north. Most of Central America rests atop the Caribbean Plate.

Central America has many mountain ranges; the longest are the Sierra Madre de Chiapas, the Cordillera Isabelia and the Cordillera de Talamanca. Between the mountain ranges lie fertile valleys that are suitable for the people; in fact most of the population of Honduras, Costa Rica and Guatemala live in valleys. Valleys are also suitable for the production of coffee, beans and other crops.

Waterways See also: List of rivers of Central America and the Caribbean, Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean
This section requires expansion. (October 2014)
  • San Pedro Beach in Ambergris Caye, Belize

  • Tropical beach San Juan del Sur on the Pacific coast of Nicaragua

Geology Volcanic activity See also: Central America Volcanic Arc

The region is geologically active, with volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occurring frequently. The 1976 Guatemala earthquake killed 23,000 people. Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, was devastated by earthquakes in 1931 and 1972; the latter killed about 5,000 people. Three earthquakes have occurred recently in El Salvador: one in 1986, and two in 2001. An earthquake struck northern and central Costa Rica in 2009, killing at least 34 people. In Honduras, a powerful earthquake killed 7 people in 2009.

Volcanic eruptions are common in the region. In 1968 the Arenal Volcano, in Costa Rica, erupted killing 87 people as the 3 villages of Tabacon, Pueblo Nuevo and San Luis were buried under pyroclastic flows and debris. Fertile soils from weathered volcanic lava have made it possible to sustain dense populations in the agriculturally productive highland areas.

  • Map of the Central America volcanic arc, with captions showing the location of several volcanoes

  • The Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica, 2006

DemographicsSee also: Ethnic groups in Central America, List of indigenous peoples in Central America and Demographics of Latin AmericaGuatemala City is the largest city in Central AmericaSan Salvador City is the second largest urban center in Central America Countries of Central America Name of territory, with flag Area (km²) Population (July 2013 est.) Population density (per km²) Capital Official language HDI Total
 Belize 700422966000000000022,966 7005334297000000000334,297 700113000000000000013 Belmopan English 0.732 High
 Costa Rica 700451100000000000051,100 70064695942000000004,695,942 700182000000000000082 San José Spanish 0.763 High
 El Salvador 700421040000000000021,040 70066108590000000006,108,590 7002292000000000000292 San Salvador Spanish 0.662 Medium
 Guatemala 7005108890000000000108,890 700714373472000000014,373,472 7002129000000000000129 Guatemala City Spanish 0.628 Medium
 Honduras 7005112090000000000112,090 70068448465000000008,448,465 700167000000000000067 Tegucigalpa Spanish 0.617 Medium
 Nicaragua 7005130373000000000130,373 70065788531000000005,788,531 700144000000000000044 Managua Spanish 0.614 Medium
 Panama 700478200000000000078,200 70063559408000000003,559,408 700144000000000000044 Panama City Spanish 0.765 High
7005523780000000000523,780 700743308660000000043,308,660 700180000000000000080 - - -
Largest metropolitan areas in Central America City Country Population Census Year % of National population
(1) Guatemala City  Guatemala 3,700,000 2010 26%
(2) San Salvador City  El Salvador 2,415,217 2009 39%
(3) Managua  Nicaragua 1,918,000 2012 34%
(4) Tegucigalpa  Honduras 1,819,000 2010 24%
(5) San Pedro Sula  Honduras 1,600,000 2010 21%+4
(6) Panamá City  Panama 1,400,000 2010 37%
(7) San Jose  Costa Rica 1,275,000 2013 30%

In Central America, the official language majority in 6 countries is Spanish, and one country officially speaks English (Belize). Mayan languages constitute a language family consisting of about 26 related languages; in 1996, Guatemala formally recognized 21 of these. Xinca and Garifuna are also present in Central America.

Pos. Countries Population % Spanish % Mayan languages % English % Xinca % Garifuna
1 Guatemala 15.284.000 64,7% 34,3% 0,0% 0,7% 0,3%
2 Honduras 8.447.000 97,1% 2,0% 0,0% 0,0% 0,9%
3 El Salvador 6.108.000 99,0% 1,0% 0,0% 0,0% 0,0%
4 Nicaragua 6.028.000 87,4% 7,1% 5,5% 0,0% 0,0%
5 Costa Rica 4.726.000 97,2% 1,8% 1,0% 0,0% 0,0%
6 Panamá 3.652.000 86,8% 9,2% 4,0% 0,0 0,0%
7 Belize 334.000 52,1% 8,9% 37,0% 0,0% 2,0%
Ethnic groups

This region of the continent is very rich in terms of ethnic groups. Most of the population is mestizo, with sizable Mayan and White populations present, plus Xinca and Garifuna minorities. The immigration of Arabs, Jews, Chinese and others brought additional groups to the area.

Ethnic groups in Central America
País Population1 % Mayans % White people % Mestizo % Garifuna % Xinca2 % Other
 Belize 321.115 10.0% 3.4% 48.7% 24.9% 0.0% 13.0%
 Costa Rica 4.301.712 2.4% 81.0% 11.6% 4.0% 0.0% 1.0%
 El Salvador 6.094.889 1.0% 12.1% 84.0% 0.0% 0.0% 2.9%
 Guatemala 15.700.000 36.9% 18.5% 42.6% 0.8% 0.2% 1.0%
 Honduras 8.143.564 6.0% 5.5% 82.0% 6.0% 0.1% 0.5%
 Nicaragua 5,815.500 5.0% 17.0% 69.0% 0.0% 0.0 % 9.0%
 Panama 3,474.562 6.8% 10.0% 62.0% 14.0% 0.0% 9.0%
Politics Central American Integration

Sistema de Integración Centroamericana Central American Integration System

Motto: «Peace, Development, Liberty and Democracy» Anthem: La Granadera

Area Population Countries
560,988 km²
50,807,778 hab.
 Belize  Costa Rica  El Salvador  Guatemala  Honduras  Nicaragua  Panama  Dominican Republic
Main article: Central American Integration System

Central America is currently undergoing a process of political, economic and cultural transformation that started in 1907 with the creation of the Central American Court of Justice.

In 1951 the integration process continued with the signature of the San Salvador Treaty, which created the ODECA, the Organization of Central American States. However, the unity of the ODECA was limited by conflicts between several member states.

In 1991, the integration agenda was further advanced by the creation of the SICA, Sistema para la Integración Centroamericana or System for the Central American Integration. The SICA provided a clear legal basis to avoid disputes between the member states. The SICA membership includes the 7 nations of Central America plus the Dominican Republic, a state that is traditionally considered part of the Caribbean.

On December 6, 2008 SICA announced an agreement to pursue a common currency and common passport for the member nations. No timeline for implementation was discussed.

Central America already has several supranational institutions such as the Central American Parliament, the Central American Bank for Economic Integration and the Central American Common Market.

On July 22, 2011 President Funes of El Salvador became the first president pro tempore to the SICA. El Salvador also became the headquarters of SICA in the inauguration of a new building.

Foreign relations

Until recently, all Central American countries have maintained diplomatic relations with Taiwan instead of China. President Óscar Arias of Costa Rica, however, established diplomatic relations with China in 2007, severing formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

Central American ParliamentFlag of Central American ParliamentMain article: Central American Parliament

The Central American Parliament (also known as PARLACEN) is a political and parliamentary body of the SICA (Central American Integration System) The parliament''s beginnings started at around 1980, and its primary goal was to solve wars in Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Although the group was disbanded in 1986, ideas of unity of Central Americans still remained, so a treaty was signed in 1987 to create the Central American Parliament and other political bodies. Its original members were Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras. The parliament is the political organ of Central America, and is part of the Central American Integration System (SICA). New members have since then joined including Panama and the Dominican Republic.

Infrastructure RoadwaysConstruction began of the first Expressway/Freeway in Central America RN-21 (Boulevard Diego Holguin), due to the increasing amount of vehicular traffic in the west side of the San Salvador Metropolitan Area, which consist of three cities: Santa Tecla, Antiguo Cuscatlan, and San Salvador, in El Salvador.

The Pan-American Highway runs through Central America, and except for an 87-kilometer (54 mi) rainforest break, called the Darién Gap, the road links the mainland nations of the Americas in a connected highway system. According to Guinness World Records, the Pan-American Highway is the world''s longest "motorable road". However, because of the Darién Gap, it is not possible to cross between South America and Central America by traditional motor vehicle.

Rail Main article: Rail transport in Central AmericaCity rail in La Ceiba, Honduras is one of the few remaining passenger train services in Central America
  • Belize: see Rail transport in Belize
  • Costa Rica: see Rail transport in Costa Rica
  • El Salvador: see Rail transport in El Salvador
  • Guatemala: see Rail transport in Guatemala
  • Honduras: see Rail transport in Honduras
  • Nicaragua: see Rail transport in Nicaragua
  • Panama: see Rail transport in Panama
Airlines Main article: List of largest airlines in Central America & the CaribbeanA Copa Boeing 737-700 in Honduras

Central America contains few competing airlines. The biggest of them is Copa Airlines with 91 airplanes to over 65 destinations. Most of the other airlines in Central America are minor, and have few planes/destinations.

Environment Biodiversity See also: Central America bioregionEl Chorreron in El Salvador

Central America is part of the Mesoamerican Biodiversity hotspot, boasting 7% of the world''s biodiversity. As a bridge between North and South America, Central America has many species from the Nearctic and the Neotropic ecozones. However the southern countries (Costa Rica and Panama) of the region have more biodiversity than the northern countries (Guatemala and Belize), meanwhile the central countries (Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador) have least biodiversity. The table shows current statistics for the seven countries:

Country Amphibians Birds Mammals Reptile Total terrestrial vertebrates Vascular plants Biodiversity
 Belize 46 544 147 140 877 2894 3771
 Costa Rica 183 838 232 258 1511 12119 13630
 El Salvador 30 434 137 106 707 2911 3618
 Guatemala 133 684 193 236 1246 8681 9927
 Honduras 101 699 201 213 1214 5680 6894
 Nicaragua 61 632 181 178 1052 7590 8642
 Panama 182 904 241 242 1569 9915 11484
Flora and fauna
This section requires expansion. (October 2014)
  • List of Central American mammals
    • List of Central American monkey species
  • Central American montane forests
  • Central American pine-oak forests
  • Deforestation in Central America
This section requires expansion. (October 2014)
  • Central American music
  • Central American cuisine
Mass media
This section requires expansion. (October 2014)
  • Television stations in Central America

"Central America" may mean different things to various people in the world based upon different contexts:

  • In English-speaking countries, Central America is usually considered a region of the North American continent. Geopolitically, it usually comprises seven countries – Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. Mexico, in whole or in part, is sometimes included, regardless of correctness, by Britons. Some geographers include the five states of Campeche, Chiapas, Tabasco, Quintana Roo, and Yucatán, together representing 12.1% of the country''s total area.
  • In Latin America, Iberia, and some other parts of Europe, the Americas are considered a single continent called America, and Central America is considered a distinct region of this continent and not a part of North America. In Ibero-America, the region is defined as seven nations – Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama – and may occasionally include Mexico''s southernmost region. Geopolitically, Mexico is considered part of North America.
  • Occasionally, regardless of correctness, the term Central America is used synonymously with Middle America. Among some German geographers, Mittelamerika may be used to refer to the territories on the Central American isthmus.
  • In German, Zentralamerika may be used to refer to the territories on the Central American isthmus.
  • The UN geoscheme defines the region as all states of mainland North America south of the United States; conversely, the European Union excludes Belize and Mexico from its definition of the region.

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