Central America
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Central America . 7. A Rugged Land. Central America includes the countries of Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. . Central America is an isthmus, or narrow piece of land that links two larger areas of land.  It links North and South America.

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Pages 212 213

Central America

7

A Rugged Land

  • Central America includes the countries of Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. 

  • Central America is an isthmus, or narrow piece of land that links two larger areas of land. 

  • It links North and South America.

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Central America

7

A Rugged Land (cont.)

  • Central America sits where plates in the earth’s crust meet. 

  • The collision of these plates produces volcanoes and earthquakes in the region. 

  • The Central Highlands are a chain of volcanic mountains. 

  • Their ruggedness causes transportation and communication problems.

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Central America

7

A Rugged Land (cont.)

  • Central America’s climate is mostly tropical. 

  • In the summer and fall, Central America can experience hurricanes, or fierce storms with winds of more than 74 miles per hour.

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Central America

7

Central American Economies

  • The economies of the Central American countries depend on farming and harvesting wood from their rain forests. 

  • Central America has two types of farms: plantations—commercial farms that grow crops for sale—and subsistencefarms—small plots of land where poor farmers grow only enough food to feed their families.

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Central America

7

Central American Economies (cont.)

  • Under Central America’s green canopy, or topmost layer of the rain forest that shades the forest floor, valuable resources such as expensive woods and unusual animal and plant species can be found.

  • Costa Rica uses some of its rain forests to attract ecotourists, or people who travel to other countries to enjoy natural wonders. 

  • Many people worry about the rapid destruction of the rain forest.

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Central America

7

Central American Economies (cont.)

  • The few industries that exist in Central America focus on preparing food. 

  • In Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, some factories produce clothing for export. 

  • Costa Rica has one of the highest literacyrates, or percentage of people who can read and write.

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Central America

7

Central American Economies (cont.)

  • The Panama Canal stretches across the narrow Isthmus of Panama.

  • Ships pay a fee to use the canal to shorten travel time between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

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Central America

7

Central Americans—Then and Now

  • Native Americans settled Central America thousands of years ago.

  • Later, the Spanish established colonies, forcing Native Americans to work on plantations. 

  • Most Central American countries gained independence from Spain by 1821. 

  • Panama gained its independence from Colombia in 1903.

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Central America

7

Central Americans—Then and Now

(cont.)

  • Belize was the last Central American country to gain independence, in 1981.

  • Most countries had constant strife after independence. 

  • Fighting in Guatemala caused 150,000 deaths, and tens of thousands of Guatemalans left the country. 

  • Each country has a democratic government.

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Central America

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Central Americans—Then and Now

(cont.)

  • Six countries are also republics with elected presidents as head of the government.

  • Belize is a British-style parliamentarydemocracy, in which an elected legislature chooses a prime minister to head the government. 

  • Nearly 40 million people live in Central America. 

  • Guatemala is the most heavily populated country in Central America.

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Central America

7

Central Americans—Then and Now

(cont.)

  • Belize is the most sparsely populated country. 

  • Spanish is the official language throughout the region, except for English speaking Belize. 

  • Many Central Americans also speak Native American languages.

  • Central Americans follow the Roman Catholic faith.

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Cultures of the Caribbean

7

Mountaintop Islands

  • Three archipelagos, or groups of islands, make up the Caribbean: the Bahamas, the Greater Antilles (Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico), and the Lesser Antilles. 

  • Many Caribbean islands are the tops of an underwater chain of mountains formed by volcanoes. 

  • A typical volcanic island has central highlands with rich soil and ringed by coastal plains.

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Cultures of the Caribbean

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Mountaintop Islands (cont.)

  • Other islands are actually limestone mountains pushed up from the ocean floor. 

  • These islands have sandy soil that is poor for farming. 

  • The Caribbean islands are located in the Tropics. 

  • Most islands have a fairly constant tropical savanna climate. 

  • The Caribbean Sea and wind affect the climate.

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Cultures of the Caribbean

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The Caribbean Economy

  • Tourism and farming are the most important economic activities in the Caribbean. 

  • Commercial crops include sugarcane, bananas, coffee, and tobacco. 

  • The Caribbean islands often depend on one major crop. 

  • This presents an economic danger if the crop should fail or if too much is produced worldwide.

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Cultures of the Caribbean

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The Caribbean Economy (cont.)

  • Most of the islands do not have large amounts of minerals, although several islands have some resources. 

  • Jamaica mines bauxite, a mineral used to make aluminum.

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Cultures of the Caribbean

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Caribbean History and Culture

  • The Spaniards established the first permanent European settlement in the Western Hemisphere in 1496.

  • That settlement is now the city of Santo Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republic. 

  • The Spaniards, the English, the French, andtheDutchhaveeachhadaninfluence on the culture of the Caribbean region. 

  • Each of these groups founded colonies, or overseas settlements, on many of the islands.

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Cultures of the Caribbean

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Caribbean History and Culture (cont.)

  • By the mid-1600s, most Native Americans in the Caribbean islands had died from disease and harsh treatment.

  • Enslaved Africans were then forced to work on sugar plantations. 

  • During the 1800s and 1900s, many Caribbean islands won their independence from European rule. 

  • Cuba is the only country in the Western Hemisphere with a government based on the ideas of communism.

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Cultures of the Caribbean

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Caribbean History and Culture (cont.)

  • It is known as a communist state, in which government leaders have strong control of the economy and society as a whole.

  • Not all of the Caribbean islands are independent. 

  • For example, Puerto Rico and some of the Virgin Islands are linked to the United States.

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Cultures of the Caribbean

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Caribbean History and Culture (cont.)

  • The peoples of the Caribbean have African or mixed African and European ancestry.

  • Most people speak a European language and follow the Roman Catholic or Protestant faiths. 

  • The Caribbean has a variety of lively music. 

  • Jamaica’s reggae music and Cuba’s salsa are examples.

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Cultures of the Caribbean

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Island Profiles

  • Most farmers in Cuba work on cooperatives, or farms owned and operated by the government.

  • Cuba is one of the world’s top sugar producers. 

  • In 1959 dictator Fidel Castro led a revolution that took control of the government.

  • He set up a communist state and turned to the Soviet Union for support.

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Cultures of the Caribbean

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Island Profiles (cont.)

  • When he seized property belonging to American companies, the United States government responded by placing an embargo, or ban on trade, on Cuba.

  • The Cuban economy is struggling, and many Cubans live in poverty. 

  • About 95 percent of Haiti’s people are of African ancestry.

  • Civil war has left Haiti’s economy in ruins, and the Haitians generally are poor.

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Cultures of the Caribbean

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Island Profiles (cont.)

  • In the Dominican Republic, many people work selling goods in the country’s freetrade zone where people can buy goods from other countries without paying extra taxes. 

  • Puerto Rico is a commonwealth, or a partly self-governing territory, under American protection.

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Cultures of the Caribbean

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Island Profiles (cont.)

  • Puerto Ricans are citizens of the United States. 

  • They have a higher standard of living than most other Caribbean islanders.

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