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Central America

Central America

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Central America

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  1. Central America

  2. Central America • Central America is part of the land bridge that lies between the continents of North and South America • It includes seven countries: • Belize • Guatemala • Honduras • El Salvador • Nicaragua • Costa Rica • Panama • They are all very mountainous and have two coastlines – one with the Pacific Ocean, the other with the Caribbean Sea

  3. Place: The Land • Central America extends more than 1,000 miles and measures 300 miles at it widest point

  4. Landforms • Volcanic eruptions are part of life in Central America • There is rugged landscape and many active volcanoes • A chain of volcanic mountains called the Central Highlands rises like a backbone along most of the region • The volcanic materials have broken down over the years and left fertile soil • Farmers grow coffee, bananas, sugarcane and other crops

  5. Climate • The climate is mostly tropical • The differences between countries lies in altitude and the location on the continent • Example: Mountains can block the movement of winds and moisture

  6. Climate • In the Pacific Lowlands, a tropical savanna climate prevails • Temperatures are warm and rain is plentiful from May through November • From December to April, the climate is hot and dry • The Caribbean Lowlands have a hot, tropical rain forest climate year-round • Hurricanes are common during the autumn and summer months • Hurricanes = fierce storms with winds of more than 74 mph

  7. The Economy • Farming • There are two kinds of farmers that form the base of the Central American economy: • Owners of plantations – large farms that grow produce for sale, raise coffee, bananas and sugarcane • Subsistence farmers – mostly raise small crops of corn, beans, rice and livestock to feed families. They will sell extra food at marketplaces

  8. The Economy • Rain forests • Dense forests offer valuable woods – mahogany, balsa and teak • Workers also tap the sapodilla tree for chichle – a substance used in chewing gum • Scientists use trees and plants for medical research or to make new medicines • Unusual animals found nowhere else on earth also roam among the rain forest plants and trees

  9. The Economy • Rain Forests • In the Caribbean lowlands, farmers have cleared rain forest areas to raise crops • Heavy rains cause the soil to erode and lose nutrients • Many earn their living by raising livestock • Many Central Americans are worried about the rapid clearing of the rainforest • Costa Rica now has national parks of rain forests • Other countries are controlling logging and other harmful practices

  10. The Economy • Industry • There are only a few small industries in the region • Manufacturing really hasn’t developed in Central America • Guatemala and Costa Rica do send crude (unrefined) oil to overseas markets • Costa Rica also exports bauxite – a mineral used to make aluminum

  11. The People • Influences of the Past • Central America has a mix of cultures – just like Mexico • The Maya settled throughout Central America about 250 to 400 BC • After 800 AD, the Maya mysteriously left their cities and scattered • Today, some of their decedents live in Guatemala as well as Mexico

  12. The People • Influences of the Past • In the late 1400s, the Spanish settled in Central America • In the 1500s, the claimed the territory along the Caribbean coast • For the next 300 years, Native Americans were abused and mistreated by the Spanish, but their cultures eventually blended • The British settled in present-day Belize in the 1600s and it eventually went under British control • The British brought enslaved Africans to the region. • Currently, Africans are the largest ethnic group in Belize

  13. The People • Independence • Most Central American countries gained independence by 1821 • Panama won independence from Colombia in 1903 • The last colony to gain independence was Belize in 1981 • Many of the Central American countries continue to fight for the government that best meets their needs

  14. The People • The Population Today • Nearly 35 million people live in the region • Guatemala is the most heavily populated country in the region with 11.6 million • Belize is the most sparsely populated country with 200,000 people • Languages spoken are Spanish, English (Belize) and Mayan • Rural living is common – 50% live on farms and in small towns

  15. Guatemala • Most Guatemalans live in the southern Central Highlands area • The culture comes from both Native American and Spanish influences • Approximately 40% follow a rural way of life • People live in small villages and their clothing reflects where they are from • Ladinos - Guatemalans speak Spanish and practice European ways • Most live in cities and work as laborers and businesspeople

  16. Costa Rica • Costa Rica offers one of the highest standards of living in the world. • It also has the highest literacy rates • Most are of Spanish heritage • Costa Rica has enjoyed a good relationship with its neighbors and is relatively stable • Most Costa Ricans live in the cool Central Highlands • Coffee is a large export for the country

  17. Panama • Panama is one of the major crossroads in the world • Across the country stretches the Panama Canal • The isthmus of Panama separates the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean • In 1903, the United States helped Panama win its independence from Colombia and proposed building a canal to link the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans • The canal was finished in 1914 under the control of the United States • In 2000 Panama was given control of the canal zone • Most of the people in Panama live and work close to the canal