Joining North and South America is a narrow strip of land known as Central America. Technically part of North America, this strip of land contains seven countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Belize, Nicaragua, Panama and Honduras.
This part of the world is mostly rain forest. It is rich in natural resources, but many people here are very poor. The Central American countries have seen many wars. There are about 42 million people living in Central America.
Central America is covered with volcanoes, which create rich, fertile soil for farmland. Many people fish here too. The most central part of Central America is 125 miles from the ocean.
To the east of Central America lie hundreds of islands known as the Caribbean Islands. Most of the native people were killed by disease or taken as slaves when the Spanish arrived. The Spaniards brought thousands of slaves from Africa to work on farms in this area. Most people living here are descendants of those slaves.
The Caribbean islands and Central America often experience volcanoes, hurricanes and earthquakes.
Fun Facts about Central America for Kids
- Spanish is the primary language spoken in Central America
- Covers 202,000 square miles of land
- Population of almost 42 million people
- Contains the Pan-American Highway, which is listed in the Guinness World Records as the world’s longest “motorable road”.
- Crops of coffee, bananas and beans grow in the fertile valleys
- Honduras, Panama and Costa Rica are often called the “banana republics” because of the importance bananas have to their economies
- Most of the population are mestizo, or of indigenous and Spanish decent
- Most people are Roman Catholic
- The Panama Canal, in Panama, is a man-made short-cut for ships sailing between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans
Central America Vocabulary
- Economy: Study of a system’s money, currency and trade; Management of community resources
- Rain forest: forest in a climate with no dry season and high annual rainfall
- Disease: abnormal or harmful condition of the body or mind that causes discomfort or dysfunction
- Indigenous: Native to a land or region; Innate
- Canal: Artificial waterway
- Fertile: Land capable of supporting and growing abundant crops
Learn More All about Central America
Here’s a great video for kids on Central America:
A video discussing all about Central America and the Caribbean’s geography and culture.
Central America Q&A
Question: Why did the native people of Central America accept the Roman Catholic religion?
Answer: Mainly they accepted it because the conquering Spaniards forced them. Part of it that helped make it easier was that the native religions had several gods and though Catholicism honors only one God it does have several saints. The natives allowed this aspect to blend with their native beliefs making it easier for them to make the change.
Question: How did the Spaniards get away with bringing in and using so many slaves?
Answer: Back in the early 1500’s when the Spaniards took control of the Central American area slavery was a common trade not only by the Spanish, but worldwide. Though today it is outlawed and scorned, the past practice of slavery was the main reason the world became as populous and diverse as it is today.
Map of Central America
Here’s a map of Central America and all its countries, cities and villages. Zoom in to get into street level or zoom out to see other countries around Central America! You can see the terrain, but also see the roads, images of the buildings and even take a 3D tour through the streets of the countries in Central America, as though you are actually there!
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