This is Central America!
Faces - The Magazine of People, Places and Cultures for Kids|January 2021
It’s time to visit Central America. But first, it helps to know exactly where Central America is. Despite its name, it is the southernmost part of North America, which can seem a little confusing. It makes up most of the isthmus dividing the Pacific Ocean from the Caribbean Sea. An isthmus is a narrow strip of land that connects two larger landmasses and has water on both sides.
Marcia Amidon Lusted

Central America is located between Mexico and South America, and it includes seven countries: Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Belize. Because they are part of the isthmus between North America and South America, no Central American location is more than 125 miles from the sea.

LET’S EXPLORE EACH OF CENTRAL AMERICA’S SEVEN COUNTRIES

Belize: Land of the Maya

Belize is on Central America’s northern coast and shares a border with Mexico. It is 8,860 square miles in size, just a little larger than the state of Massachusetts. But despite its small size, Belize has a wide variety of geographical features, from mountains and forests to coast with coral reefs and more than 450 tiny islands known as Cayes (which is pronounced “keys”). The Maya civilization flourished in Belize for more than a thousand years, and amazing Mayan ruins are everywhere, including the ancient city of Caracole with its towering pyramid. Belizeans come from many different cultures, and they speak English, Spanish, and Belizean Creole.

Guatemala: Volcanoes and Ruins

Guatemala also borders Mexico to the north and Belize to the east. With an area of 42,042 square miles, it is one of the larger Central American countries. It is known for its chain of 27 volcanoes that run for 180 miles from north to south. Unfortunately, most of Guatemala’s population lives in the volcanic region, so eruptions and earthquakes take a heavy toll on lives and property. Guatemala is also known for its rain forests and its many Mayan ruins, including the Mayan city of Tikal. Lake Atitlán, which fills a huge volcanic crater, is one of Guatemala’s most beautiful sites. Guatemala’s population is very multicultural. Its official language is Spanish.

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Animal Central

From golden frogs to big cats to colorful birds, the national animals of Central America represent the geography and cultures of the region. For a quick sampling of creatures plain and beautiful, common and rare, read on.

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31 Countries Biosphere

The Trifinio Fraternidad Biosphere Reserve is located at a spot where El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras converge. A biosphere is the layer of planet Earth where life exists.

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THE LEGEND OF THE QUETZAL BIRD

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ME OH-MAYA!

The Maya are groups of people who live in parts of Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala. Their ancestors created a great society. At its peak, from 600-900 C.E., the Maya civilization was more advanced than its neighbors in the Americas.

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Playing Games Honduras-style

Would you play the same games in Honduras that you do in the United States? You might. Children in Honduras enjoy many of the same games North Americans do. They go fishing and shoot baskets. They play sandlot baseball—called bate (BAH tay). They fly kites and ride bikes. Their parents may go horseback riding or play golf or tennis.

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LIVING A LONG LIFE IN THE Blue Zone

Most people would like to live as long a life as possible. No one really knows why some people live longer than others, but did you know that where you live can play a big part in how many years you’ll be alive? If you live in a Blue Zone, chances are that you will live much longer than people in other parts of the world.

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ATTENTION WORLD: Belize Saves Their Coral Reef

Sea turtles float in clear waters, colorful corals hug the ocean floor, and aquatic animals glide among the mangrove roots. Welcome to the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, the second-largest coral reef in the world (Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is number one). Several years ago, this reef was in crisis, heading toward destruction. But the people of Belize fought back to save their reef’s health.

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The Panama Canal

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This is Central America!

It’s time to visit Central America. But first, it helps to know exactly where Central America is. Despite its name, it is the southernmost part of North America, which can seem a little confusing. It makes up most of the isthmus dividing the Pacific Ocean from the Caribbean Sea. An isthmus is a narrow strip of land that connects two larger landmasses and has water on both sides.

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