Pick a Region
:. . Central America

Scholars agree that Central America includes Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. These countries have a long history. In 1821, they declared independence from Spain, and from 1823 until 1838, they were part of the United Provinces of Central America (see Politics). Panama was part of Colombia for several decades but received its independence in 1903. Due to its geographic location, however, Panama is frequently considered to be part of Central America.

The majority of Central Americans speak Spanish--the language of the Spanish conquistadors. At the time of the conquest, many indigenous languages existed. Some of these still exist today, like in Guatemala, where 23 different Mayan dialects are spoken. In the other Central American countries, indigenous languages are now less widespread, but still present. Image: Rendition of Spanish conquistadors. Image 1999 -www.arttoday.com

Most people throughout Central America are mestizo or ladino. Mestizos are individuals with both indigenous and Spanish heritage. Dispersed throughout this region are Indian minorities, ranging from nearly one-half of the population in Guatemala to single digit percentages in some of the other countries. Small minorities of European, African, and Asian heritage can also be found in many of these countries.

The majority of people in this region are Roman Catholic. In most of these countries, the Catholic population ranges from 80 to 90 percent. Forcing the indigenous population to accept Catholicism was not an easy task for the Spaniards. One factor, however, that made conversion possible was that Catholicism has many saints, and the indigenous religions have many gods. Hence, for many indigenous peoples, Catholicism has been mixed with indigenous religions to form a combination of the two religions. In recent years, evangelical Protestant groups have created challenges to the Catholic Church in Central America. Protestant groups have aggressively pursued converts in these countries. In some instances, struggles over converts have resulted in violent conflicts between Catholics and Protestants.



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