Discovering Central America: History, Politics, and Culture
Central America is the name given to the southern part of the isthmus that separates North America and South America. This position has given it an important strategic role in international affairs. The books in the DISCOVERING CENTRAL AMERICA: HISTORY, POLITICS, AND CULTURE series examine the seven countries of this region, teaching young readers about the geography, history, economy, and culture of each nation. Each of these 64-page books is written in an easy-to-understand style, and includes numerous color illustrations and maps. A chronology, glossary of terms, a guide to additional resources for more information, text-dependent questions and report ideas, and an index supplement the up-to-date information provided within the books.
Belize, a small country that became independent in 1981, possesses lush forests, a beautiful coastline, and a lifestyle that appeals to vacationers. It is bordered to the north by Mexico, and to the south and west by Guatemala. Off the coast of Belize, in the Caribbean Sea, is a 190-mile (300 km) long barrier reef that is home to many unusual plants and animals. It is the only country in Central America where English, not Spanish, is the official language. This reflects its history as a British colony. Today, Belize has a highly diverse society, as its roughly 350,000 residents include people from many different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. There's a lot to discover about Belize!
Central America is the name given to the southern part of the isthmus that separates North America and South America. This position has given it an important strategic role in international affairs. Amerindians once dominated this region, with the Mayan civilization in particular exerting a strong influence. In the 16th century, Europeans arrived in Central America; they conquered the natives and established colonies throughout the region. Today, Central America is home to seven independent countries - Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama - and more than 44 million people. This book provides information about the geography, history, economy and resources, governments, people and cultures, and major cities of Central America. There's a lot to discover about Central America!
When Spanish explorers landed on the coast of Central America, they found Amerindian tribes wearing gold jewelry. As a result, the named the region Costa Rica, Spanish for "rich coast." The Spaniards would find Costa Rica to be relatively poor in the resources they desired, particularly gold and silver. However, the country is rich in breathtaking natural beauty, including tall mountains and volcanoes, white beaches, plunging waterfalls, tropical islands, and cool green jungles that contain an amazing variety of biodiversity. Costa Rica is an isthmus, bordered by Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the southeast. It is home to more than 4.6 million people. Today, Costa Rica is considered one of the most stable, prosperous, and progressive nations in Latin America. There's a lot to discover about Costa Rica!
El Salvador is the smallest and most densely populated country in Central America. The country has had many problems since gaining independence from Spain in 1821. Political unrest and coup d'ï¿½ï¿½tat were common, and a violent civil war that raged from 1980 until 1992 resulted in more than 75,000 deaths and 1 million Salvadorans displaced from their homes. The turmoil in El Salvador is not only political: the country is located in an area known as the Pacific Ring of Fire, where two tectonic plates meet. As a result, the country experiences frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. In addition, its geographic location makes it subject to damage from severe storms coming from both the Pacific and Caribbean. Nonetheless, El Salvador enjoys a mild climate ideal for growing coffee and other important crops. There's a lot to discover about El Salvador!
With more than 15 million residents, Guatemala is the most populous country in Central America. It is bordered to the north by Mexico, and to the east by Belize, El Salvador, and Honduras. In Guatemala the ruins of ancient Mayan temples rise above jungle vegetation, and churches and forts from the Spanish colonial period stand next to modern architecture in cities like Guatemala City, Mixco, and Villa Nueva. From 1960 until 1996, Guatemala was torn by a civil war between government forces and rebel groups. The war resulted in approximately 200,000 deaths. Since a peace agreement was signed, Guatemalans have gained greater political and civil rights. The economy of Guatemala has also grown. However, the country still faces many challenges. There's a lot to discover about Guatemala!
Honduras is located in the heart of Central America. It is bordered to the south by Nicaragua and El Salvador, and to the west by Guatemala. Once a center for the Mayan civilization, Honduras was colonized by Spain during the 16th century. Three centuries of colonial rule produced a civilization that blended Spanish and native customs and culture. Since gaining independence from Spain in 1821, Honduras has experienced a great deal of political instability, most recently in 2009, when president Manuel Zelaya was removed from power in a coup d'ï¿½ï¿½tat. Political unrest is far from the only problem facing Honduras. The country is at time battered by hurricanes, and is dealing with ecological issues such as deforestation. As in many Latin American countries, there is a wide disparity between the wealthiest and poorest of Honduras's 8.2 million residents. Nonetheless, Honduras has many things going for it, including ancient Mayan ruins, lovely beaches, bustling towns, and abundant wildlife. There's a lot to discover about Honduras!
Nicaragua is the largest Central American country by area, covering more than 50,000 square miles (130,000 sq. km). It is a land of beaches lapped by sparkling seawater, deep forests, long winding rivers, colonial cities, ancient Amerindian temples and cities, and a huge freshwater lake - the only lake in the world with sharks in it! From the 1920s until 1979, Nicaragua was ruled by the corrupt Somoza family, which was supported by the United States. During the 1980s, the country became a controversial Cold War battleground, with factions backed by the U.S. and Soviet Union. Since the mid-2000s, the country has been relatively stable, although its people remain among the poorest in Central America. There's a lot to discover about Nicaragua!
This narrow strip of land - only 30 miles (48 km) wide at its narrowest point, and rarely wider than 75 miles (121 km) at any spot - contains one of the world's great engineering marvels: the Panama Canal, known to the world as "the path between the seas." Fees paid by the ships that pass through the canal make up a large part of Panama's economy. Panama's government has historically been democratic, holding fair elections for leaders, although corruption by government officials has been an ongoing problem. In recent years the Panamanian people have pressed for laws that will provide greater transparency. Despite this, the Republic of Panama remains one of the most stable and prosperous countries in Central America. There's a lot to discover about Panama!
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