Central America
Map of Central America
Land area 507,966 km2 (196,127 sq mi)
Population 46,761,485 (2015–2016 estimate)
Density 92/km2 (240/sq mi)
Countries
Demonym Central American
GDP $203.73 billion (exchange rate) (2013)
$370.52 billion (purchasing power parity) (2013).
GDP per capita $4,783 (exchange rate) (2013)
$8,698 (purchasing power parity) (2013).
Languages Spanish, English, Mayan languages, Garifuna, Kriol, and other languages of Mesoamerica
Time Zones UTC – 6:00, UTC – 5:00
Largest cities (2010)[1]

Central America (Spanish: América Central, pronounced [aˌmeɾika senˈtɾal], Centroamérica [sentɾoaˈmeɾika]) is the southernmost, isthmian portion of the North American continent, which connects with the South American continent on the southeast. Central America is bordered by Mexico to the north, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south. Central America consists of seven countries: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. The combined population of Central America has been estimated to be 41,739,000 (2009 estimate)[2] and 42,688,190 (2012 estimate).[3]

Central America is a part of the Mesoamerican biodiversity hotspot, which extends from northern Guatemala through to central Panama. Due to the presence of several active geologic faults and the Central America Volcanic Arc, there is a great deal of seismic activity in the region. Volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur frequently; these natural disasters have resulted in the loss of many lives and much property.

In the Pre-Columbian era, Central America was inhabited by the indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica to the north and west and the Isthmo-Colombian peoples to the south and east. Soon after Italian explorer Christopher Columbus's voyages to the Americas, the Spanish began to colonize the Americas. From 1609 until 1821, most of the territory within Central America—except for the lands that would become Belize and Panama—was governed by the Viceroyalty of New Spain from Mexico City as the Captaincy General of Guatemala. After New Spain achieved independence from Spain in 1821, some of its provinces were annexed to the First Mexican Empire, but soon seceded from Mexico to form the Federal Republic of Central America, which lasted from 1823 to 1838. The seven states finally became independent autonomous states: beginning with Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Guatemala (1838); followed by El Salvador (1841); then Panama (1903); and finally Belize (1981). Even today, people in Central America sometimes refer to their nations as if they were provinces of a Central American state. For example, it is not unusual to write "C.A." after the country names in formal and informal contexts and the automobile licence plates of many of the countries in the region show the legend "Centroamerica" in addition to the country name.

Different definitions

"Central America" may mean different things to various people, based upon different contexts: