Central America is an intriguing basket of seven beautiful nations. Geographically, many refer to this region as the ‘tail-end’ of North American continent. Some prefer to address it as the ’natural bridge’ or ‘linking point’ between the continents of North America and South America. No matter what be its topographical distinctions, Central America is a hub of historical and environmental wonders. It is home to some of the finest rainforest nature reserves and possesses one of the best-kept secrets in ecotourism. The rain forests of the Central American reserves shelter numerous endangered species. It is considered as the biggest expanse of lowland rain forest to the north of the Amazon River basin. This region also displays some excellent example of the erosive power of water, and the natural wonders like the caves that took several hundred thousand years to form. From tropical dry forest reserves to cloud forest reserves, coastal mangroves reserves, volcano forest reserves, gallery forest and wetland reserves, Central America seems to be an open-air museum of natural elements. Moreover, most of the countries in Central America offer you a spectacular and unobstructed view of the turquoise waters of both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean and thus tourism have developed immensely in this region. The diverse wilderness of flora and fauna, the rumbling volcanic regions and serene coastlines together create a mesmerising ambience that allures in globetrotters.
Beyond these impressive ecological aspects, Central America also boasts of compelling and enchanting stories from the past. Even today, Central American culture displays many influences of its Amerindian heritage. And this becomes increasingly evident while comparing their culture with the indigenous traditions of the American societies from which their ancestors originated. Archaeological investigations also suggest the existence of ancient Mesoamerican civilisation in and around the regions of present-day South America. The rituals and traditions from the past are still preserved and practised in different countries under this region. In the following centuries, Central America was colonised by European forces and the region was used throughout the colonial period to transport gold and other treasures. This made Central America a favourite haunt for pirates, much like the Caribbean arena. Today, Central America has emerged as a developing segment of world economy and a promising destination for tourism. It nestles the famous Panama Canal that links the North Atlantic Ocean via the Caribbean Sea with the North Pacific Ocean.
So, whether you’re shopping in the glittering and glamorous malls of the city or exploring a secluded rainforest or beach, there’s a lot to see and do in Central America. From the Indio-Maíz Biological Reserve of Nicaragua to the active volcanoes of Costa Rica and the Panama Canal of Panama to lake Lago de Izabal of Guatemala, savour the sound, scent and sights of Central America. And, today’s modern visitors enjoy this unique opportunity to observe the awesome geological features of Central America and to ponder the prehistoric remains of human civilisation.
Central America is recognised as a large but narrow isthmus between Mexico of North America and Colombia of South America. Officially, the region consists of the nations of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. There, however, remains a dispute over the demarcation of Central American territories. The United Nations authorities consider all the nations south to United States of America as part of Central America, whereas, the European Union recognises the same region excluding the nations of Belize and Mexico. Geographically, Central America is the southernmost region of North America that stretches from the south of the Gulf of Mexico and extends till the border between Panama and Colombia. It also serves as the natural boundary for the Isthmus of Tehuantepec of Mexico to that of Isthmus of Panama. The terrain of Central America is considered as an environmentally active region. As the area straddles the Pacific Rim of Fire and coincides with the Caribbean Plate, volcanoes and earthquakes frequently rock the middle portion of Central America. The earthquakes of 1931 and 1972 left a huge impact over the terrain and nearly destroyed the Nicaraguan capital of Managua. However, these arrivals of natural disasters have some positive side too. The volcanic eruptions ring in a fertile earth crust that supplements agricultural activities with mineral rich soil.
Spread over an area of about 540,000 sq km (208,500 sq mi), Central America is washed by waves from Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea on the west and east side respectively. While the widest part of the regions stretches for nearly 560 km, the narrowest part is as cramped as 50 km. The topography of Central America is mainly dominated by lush tropical forests, fertile plain lands and volcanic peaks. While Costa Rica is home to 42 active volcanoes and 60 dormant or extinct ones, Nicaragua contains the Nicaragua Depression, which includes the huge lakes Nicaragua and Managua. Out of these, El Salvador is the smallest Central American country in area and is the only one without a coastline on the Caribbean Sea. Honduras shelters the lowland jungle of La Mosquitia while Belize is home to the longest barrier reef in the western hemisphere after the Great Barrier Reef. Tajumulco, a volcano in Guatemala at 13,846 ft/4,210 m high, is the region's highest peak. The coastline of Central America is jagged, which has helped in developing several islets, natural harbours and gulfs. The climate of Central America varies from tropical in the lowlands to temperate in the mountains. The central and southern regions are relatively hotter and less humid than the northern coast.
The Central American region is believed to be the meeting point of Mesoamerican and South American civilisations and cultures. The Spanish were the first European forces to invade Central America in the sixteenth century. In the successive centuries, it became part of the Spanish Granada and later came to be known as the Captaincy General of Guatemala or the Kingdom of Guatemala. The British Empire established its colony in Belize. The Central American countries declared independence from Spanish dominion on 15th September, 1821 and a year later joined the Mexican Empire of Agustín de Iturbide. Finally, on 1 July 1823, complete independence was achieved from Spanish and Mexican forces and “The United Provinces of Central America” was established. Gradually, all the nations emerged as independent republics starting with Honduras, which first separated from the federation on November 5, 1838.
All the Central American nations now remain united under economical and financial terms and conditions. For this purpose, an organisation in the name of the Central American Common Market or CACM was established too but it was dismantled after the infamous "Soccer War" of 1969 between El Salvador and Honduras. Foreign trade prospered in the region immensely after the opening of the Panama Canal. Natural resources including timber, gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc, iron ore, antimony, coal, fish, and hydropower are the mainstay of the Central American economy.
A Central American Parliament and Central American Court of Justice also exist in this region that serves as common forums to discuss and resolve common issues of the region. To mark the unity among them, more or less all the nations of Central America have retained the old federal motif of two outer blue bands bounding an inner white stripe in their flags.