17 Things You Didn't Know About Central America

Fascinating Facts about Central America

A backpacker sitting on a ledge overlooking a view of Antigua

TripSavvy / Alisha McDarris

Central America is much more than just a place filled with trees, rivers, and lakes where traveling can be quite inexpensive. It has a reach history, its people have colorful cultures and the forests hide all sorts of treasures. Making it a very interesting region to learn about. 

Interesting facts about central america
TripSavvy / Kaley McKean

Here Are 17 Facts about Central America

  • There are seven countries in Central America: Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Panama. The population of Central America is approximately 41,739,000.
  • Three-fifths of Central America's population is of mixed European (mostly Spanish but there is some British influence too) and Mayan heritage, known as Mestizos. One-fifth is still formed by the descendants of the ancient Kingdoms and Tribes that lived here before the conquest.
  • There is no spot in Central America more than 125 miles (200 kilometers) from the ocean.
  • The name Central America is sometimes used synonymously with Mesoamerica or Middle America, which usually includes the West Indies and Mexico. However, and confusingly, the term Middle America is also often used to refer to the middle states of the United States.
  • There are sixteen UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Central America, with places represented in every Central American country. The sites include islands, ancient ruins, Spanish colonial cities, national parks, and more, like the Antigua Guatemala, Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, Cocos Island National Park in Costa Rica, and Joya de Cerén Archaeological Site in El Salvador.
  • Central America is an isthmus. Along with being a word I can never spell on the first try, an isthmus is a strip of land connecting two larger land masses, with bodies of water on both sides. In Central America's case, it connects North and South America and is bordered by the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans. The Panama Canal, built between 1904 and 1914, is the only waterway to link the two oceans.
  • Although Central America is a land bridge between North and South America, technically it is part of North America.
  • The countries of Central America are in talks to implement a common Central American currency. For now, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica all print their own currencies, while the United States Dollar is the official currency in El Salvador and Panama (and widely accepted in the other five countries).
  • Central America makes up most of the Mesoamerican biodiversity hotspot, home to 7 percent of the world's total biodiversity. Panama and Costa Rica boast the most biowealth; Belize and Guatemala are second, with the middle countries boasting the least (though still impressive, in world terms!).
  • Though Central American history, long past and more recently, is plagued by war, there are no international or internal wars in Central America in the present.
  • The Pan-American highway runs through all the Central American countries but Belize. It breaks for 54 miles in a spot called the Darién Gap – the only place the highway breaks in the Americas.
  • Central America is an incredibly volcanic region, a fact that has influenced everything from Central America's cuisine (based on what crops grow in the richly volcanic soil) to the geographic settlements of the region's populations. Central American volcanoes have erupted many times in history, killing anything from a handful of people to thousands. A number of volcanoes are still active.
  • Four-fifths of Central America's population is Roman Catholic. Most of the remainder is Protestant, though a number of people practice Mayan and other indigenous religions, sometimes concurrently with Roman Catholicism.
  • Belize is just 1195 square miles (1924 square kilometers) larger than El Salvador, but El Salvador has thirty times the population.
  • Christopher Columbus first set foot on the American mainland at Puerto Castilla, near Trujillo, Honduras. Over time, he also explored the Atlantic coasts of Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.
  • There are a number of endangered languages in Central America, mostly spoken by indigenous populations. For example, only 20 people are fluent in the El Salvadorean Pipil language, which is descended from Nahuatl. Just a few people are fluent in the Honduran Lenca language.
  • Punta music originated in the Caribbean coastal areas of Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras by the Garifuna people that live on those regions.

Article edited by: Marina K. Villatoro

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