CIPR | Center For Inter-American Policy & Research

Tulane University

Central America

In political terms, Central America consists of seven independent nations: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. With the exception of Costa Rica and Panama, where national borders coincide with geographical and human frontiers, political boundaries are artificial and were marked out in defiance of both the lay of the land and the cultural groupings of the region’s peoples.

Geographically, Central America can be divided into four broad zones: Petén-Belize; the Caribbean coasts of Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua; the Pacific volcanic region; and Costa Rica-Panama. The geographic and biological diversity of Central America- with its cool highlands and steaming lowlands, its incredible variety of microclimates and environments, its seemingly infinite types of flora and fauna, and its mineral wealth- has been a major factor in setting the course of the cultural history of Central America.

For many years, Central Americans have been peoples in motion. Migrants who have moved from rural areas into the cities have often been driven from lands they once owned. Recent turmoil in Central America created another group of people on the move-refugees from the fighting in their own countries or from the persecution by extremists of the political left and right. Central America still feels the effects of civil war and violence. Armies, guerrillas, and terrorists of the political left and right have exacted a high toll on human lives and property.

Central American economics, always fragile, have in recent years been plagued by a combination of vexing problems. Foreign debt, inflation, currency devaluations, recession, and, in some instances, outside interference have had deleterious effects on the standard of living in all the countries. Civil war, insurgency, corruption and mismanagement, and population growth have added fuel to the crisis-not only in the region’s economies but also in their societies. Nature, too, has played an important contributory role in the region’s economic and social malaise. Hurricane Mitch, which struck Central America in 1998, killed thousands, destroyed crops and property, and disrupted the infrastructure of roads and bridges in Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

Excerpt from Paul B. Goodwin’s Global Studies: Latin America, 13th Ed. (17-22)

LATEST SITE UPDATES

NEWS

PEOPLE

EVENTS