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Central America Facts

Central America is a region of the Americas containing seven countries, including the countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Belize, Nicaragua, Panama, and Honduras.

The seven countries of Central America and their capitals are a tapering isthmus that connects Mexico with South America and is bounded by Mexico and Guatemala.

Central America was created more than 3 million years ago when the Isthmus of Panama was created, and Central America was inhabited by the indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica in the Pre-Columbian period.

Central America Facts for Kids

  • Central America’s primary language is Spanish
  • It has an area of 202,000 square miles
  • Nearly 42 million people live there
  • The population is mainly indigenous and mestizo
  • In the fertile valleys, coffee, bananas, and beans grow
  • Panama Canal is a man-made shortcut between the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean

Physical Geography

Central America is an area that rests on the Caribbean Plate. It is a region that is geologically active with volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.

Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, has been devastated by earthquakes, and the Arenal Volcano erupted in 1968, killing 87 people.

Mountain ranges are found throughout the region. The highest mountain is Volcán Tajumulco. This is Central America’s highest mountain at 4,203 meters.

Central America’s longest river is the Lempa River at 262 miles (422 km). Located in Guatemala near Esquipulas, it crosses Honduras at Citalá before entering El Salvador.

Guatemala City is Guatemala’s capital and largest city. It is located in the central highlands and has a temperate mountain climate. It’s the largest city in Central America.

Facts for Kids
Facts for Kids

Biodiversity

Central America has different biodiversity in different regions. Costa Rica and Panama have more biodiversity than Guatemala and Belize, but Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador have the least biodiversity.

El Chorreron in El Salvador, Central America, is part of the Mesoamerican biodiversity hotspot, and as a bridge between North America and South America, it has many species from the Nearctic and Neotropical realms.

Efforts are made to protect fauna and flora in the region by creating ecoregions and nature reserves. The Belize Barrier Reef is part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System and is home to a large diversity of animals and plants.

Plant Life

The Central American pine-oak forests cover an area of 111,400 square kilometers (43,000 sq mi), are found in the mountainous spine of Central America, and are composed of many species characteristic of temperate North America.

Laurel forests are found in Central American temperate evergreen cloud forest, the largest of which is in Sierra de las Minas, Guatemala; there are also Laurel forests in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and in the northern areas of Honduras.

The Central American montane forests are a moist deciduous and semi-evergreen seasonal subtype of tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests. The forests are at high altitudes, receive high rainfall, and have a temperate climate.

Animals

Many birds, such as the resplendent quetzal, three-wattled bellbird, bare-necked umbrellabird, and black guan, are endemic to the Talamancan montane forest region.

Many small mammals are also endemic to this region, including tapirs and anteaters.

Central America is a goldmine when it comes to wildlife. One of the reasons why is that Honduras and Costa Rica are untouched by tourists and have many national parks.

Earthquakes 

The Motagua Fault is a transform fault that runs on the North American Plate and Caribbean Plate and is responsible for earthquakes in 1717, 1773, 1902, 1976, 1980, and 2009.

The Chixoy-Polochic Fault is a continuation of the Cayman Trough that runs parallel to the Motagua Fault. It can produce large earthquakes.

The 1976 Guatemala earthquake killed 23,001 people. Three earthquakes hit El Salvador in 1986 and 2001, and a powerful earthquake happened in Honduras in 2009.

The Arenal Volcano erupted in 1968, killing 87 people. The villages of Tabacon, Pueblo Nuevo, and San Luis were buried under ash.