• Situated on Caribe tectonic plate and with a total extension of 523.000 km2, Central America lies within the western hemisphere and comprises the Tehuantepec isthmus to the south of México, as far as the Valley of Río Trato in Colombia, becoming a natural barrier, separating two oceans.

     

    The Central American isthmus is bathed by the world’s two major oceans: the Atlantic and the Pacific. It is also a mainly mountainous region extending in an oblique line for over 2.000 kilometres, in which the high plateaus and mountainous regions are actually volcanic ranges, which ascend abruptly from the tops of the mountains, generally characterized by the narrow Pacific Ocean region rising quickly to the ridge and descending gradually to a wide flatland region along the Atlantic coast.

     

    Central America has a total of 109 volcanoes, a large number of which lie on the Pacific coast and are still very active. The volcanic activity has given way to a panorama, containing natural thermal waters, majestic volcanic cones erected by the eruptions of lava and beautiful lakes formed in now extinct craters.

     

    HISTORY

     

    Before the arrival of the Spaniards, in the pre-Columbian era, Central America was a region, mostly populated by the Meso-American civilization, predominated by the Maya Culture. This culture came into fruition mainly in, what is now, Guatemala and also in the territories of Belize, Honduras and El Salvador reaching its apogee of splendour during the classic period, which lasted from the year 250 to 900 AD. 

     

    The Maya, who shared certain cultural traits with other Meso-American cultures, such as belief in several gods and the belief in life after death, predicted lunar and solar eclipses with great accuracy, calculated the movements of the planets, discovered the mathematical concept of “zero” and even created the most accurate calendar that is still in use today.   

     

    By the XV Century, the Catholic Kings of Spain gave support to the explorer/navigator, Christopher Columbus, in his project of searching for unknown species and gold in the East. However during his four expeditions, Columbus had arrived in the Americas, and not the Indies, which was his belief. From August 1502 through May 1503, Columbus and his four ships sailed the Central American coast. The natives, in disbelief, observed a group of pale-skinned people that talked and shouted in a strange language when Columbus approached the cacique (chief). This fact laid the pattern for the encounter between the inhabitants of old Europe and indigenous America, making it a doubly important event.

     

    In 1510, the Spanish navigator Vasco Núñez de Balboa founded the first productive American colony in Darién (Panamá), defining the need for using labour from the African continent for cultivating sugarcane. His successor, Pedreras Dávila, augmented the extension toward the north and the south.

     

    Between the XVI and XIX Centuries, colonial Central America was divided between two jurisdictions. On the one hand was the Audience of Guatemala, which extended from Chiapas (the modern southernmost state of Mexico) to Costa Rica and formed a part of the vice-kingdom of New Spain.

     

    This jurisdiction enjoyed certain autonomy, and its capital, La Antigua, became the bureaucratic, ecclesiastical, commercial and administrative centre. On the other hand was the rest of the Central American territory, (the modern Republic of Panama) with its important transit route that added New Granada to the vice kingdom, which was originally a dependency of the Peruvian vice kingdom.   

    After the arrival of the Spaniards in the XVI Century, most of the population of Central America shared a similar history, with exception of Belize that was governed by the British until 1973.

     

    In 1821, Central America declared its independence from Spain, effective as of 15 September.  Since 1951, with the creation of the General Secretariat of the Organization of Central American States, the region has been involved in a process of integration that is continuing and being reinforced to this day.

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