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)

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Read Across the Americas Summer Program at the Children's Resource Center

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Join us every first and third Saturday at 10:30 am for a bilingual storytime for kids ages 2 – 10. The program is part of an initiative between Tulane University’s Stone Center for Latin American Studies and the New Orleans Public Library called the Pebbles Center.

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Saturday, June 1
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Saturday, June 15
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Saturday, July 6
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Saturday, July 20
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Read Across the Americas Summer Program at the Algiers Regional Branch

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Join us every Wednesday at 10:30 am for a bilingual storytime for kids ages 2 – 10. The program is part of an initiative between Tulane University’s Stone Center for Latin American Studies and the New Orleans Public Library called the Pebbles Center. This summer we will explore the environment and diverse geography of Latin America. Bring your favorite jungle animal and be prepared to learn some Spanish as we embark on an adventure through the Americas. This program provides a reading list of recommended titles for all ages to explore Latin America on your own this summer. If you read all books, you will be eligible for a special award offered during Hispanic Heritage month at the annual Celebración Latina held at the Audubon Zoo.

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Wednesday, June 5
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