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Central America, region of the western hemisphere, made up of a long, tapering isthmus that forms a bridge between North and South America. Central America, which is defined by geographers as part of North America, has an area of about 521,500 sq km (about 201,300 sq mi) and includes the countries of Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. The region has a population of approximately 36.4 million (2000 estimate).
Most of the inhabitants of Central America live on the Pacific side of the isthmus, where they occupy both lowland and highland environments. The rainy, forested Caribbean slope and coast are sparsely settled.
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A substantial majority of the people of Central America are Native Americans or mestizos (people of mixed heritage, chiefly of Spanish and Native American descent)
. Along the narrow Caribbean coast blacks and mulattoes (people of mixed white and black-African backgrounds) predominate. About half of the people of Belize are of black-African or partly black-African ancestry. The great majority of Costa Ricans are of unmixed Spanish background, and approximately 90 percent of the inhabitants of El Salvador and Honduras are of mixed Spanish and Native American descent. About 45 percent of Guatemalans are Native Americans, and mestizos make up most of the rest of the country’s population. About 70 percent of Nicaragua’s and Panama’s inhabitants are mestizos. Panama has a sizable black minority. In general, the Native American element is less apparent in the southern countries of Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama.
The population of Central America is concentrated in districts of dense settlement, separated by areas of sparse habitation. Population densities reach more than 385 persons per sq km (more than 1,000 per sq mi) in parts of the Meseta Central of Costa Rica, but vast areas of eastern Honduras and Nicaragua have fewer than 4 persons per sq km (fewer than 10 per sq mi). The rate of population increase in much of Central America is high; in 2003 Nicaragua had an annual growth rate of 2.03 percent; Guatemala, 2.66 percent; Costa Rica, 1.56 percent; and Panama, 1.36 percent. The population increase is principally the result of continuing high birth rates and falling death rates. Increasing political unrest, economic hardship, guerrilla warfare, and military repression have forced many rural residents into urban centers; thousands also decided to begin the long trek to the United States via Mexico.
Central America Portal
Information source of Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica. Institutions and organizations, government and politics, society and culture, travel tourism and entertainment, education, news and media, indicators statistics and geography, laws, weather, pictures, events, related sites and links.
Central America Daily
Daily news service providing up to date information on current affairs and the latest news in the region and around the globe.
Interactive Map of Central America