Geography

Central America

Central America


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It belongs to the American continent, which is also formed by South America and North America.

Central America is an isthmus, which is limited to the south with Colombia, to the north with the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, to the west with the Pacific Ocean and to the east with the Caribbean Sea (Atlantic Ocean).

It has a length of 523.000 km2 and comprises seven countries: Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama.


There are also island countries in the Caribbean Sea: Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Dominica, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts and Saint Vincent.

Relief

Central America has a mountainous relief and has one of the regions with the highest number of active volcanoes.

The relief advances over the narrow coastal region of the Pacific Ocean to the top of the mountains and gradually descends into a wide region that extends along the Caribbean Sea. The Atlantic and Pacific oceans are linked through the Panama Canal.

Hydrography

Central America's hydrography consists of three large lakes: Nicaragua, Managua, and Gatún.

Central America's longest-running rivers flow into the Caribbean, while the smallest rivers flow into the Pacific Ocean.

Climate

Central America has three distinct climatic zones to the so-called “warm land”, which comprises sea level regions up to an altitude of 910 m; “temperate land”, which encompasses regions from 915 m to 1,830 m; and the “cold land”, which comprises regions up to approximately 3,050 m. The Caribbean coasts have a very different rainfall regime from the Pacific coast.

The slopes of the Pacific coast are dry due to the constant cold air caused by the cold California current, which makes it impossible to absorb water vapor, reducing the possibility of precipitation. However, temperate water in the Caribbean Sea allows that the air absorbs moisture, which is carried by the prevailing east winds.

Fauna and Flora

Central America has characteristics similar to South and North America. The Caribbean and Pacific coasts have rainforest lowlands similar to South American rainforests.

However, the vegetation is similar to that of North America, with altitudes between 1,000 m and 1,600 m, with pine and oak forests.

Already in Costa Rica, at 3,100 m, grow bushes similar to those of the Andes. As far as fauna is concerned, it is more similar to that of South America than that of North America.

Ethnic composition

Most of the population of Central America is of mixed or indigenous origin. The black or mulatto population is predominant on the Caribbean coast. In Belize at least half of the population is of African origin.

In general, indigenous people are less present in southern Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama.

Language

The official language in Central America is Spanish, except Belize where English is spoken. Most indigenous peoples use their own language. In the Caribbean islands, in addition to local dialects, English and Spanish prevail.