The geography group has been looking at Central America, that interesting but little-known strip of land which links the two major American continents and whose shores are washed by the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.
Just off the western coastline two tectonic plates are colliding, so nearly all of these seven countries have a line of active volcanoes running from north-west to south-east. On the other side of the isthmus lies the Atlantic “hurricane alley” where huge storms are generated and sweep through the Caribbean.
The original population of Central America was Amerindian, but the Spanish Conquistadors subjugated Mexico in 1521 and then moved southwards, brutally laying waste to the land and enslaving the local people. To this day, the Amerindian people find themselves on the bottom rung of the socio-economic ladder, while the rulers are mostly of European stock. The official language is Spanish and the predominant religion Roman Catholic. Only Belize escaped Spanish domination, mainly because it had no gold or silver!
The volcanic soils are very fertile and all these countries rely on exporting coffee, bananas, sugar and palm oil to the United States. All are very poor economically and consequently are politically quite unstable. They have been beset by civil wars, drug gangs and general corruption. Costa Rica is a notable exception. It is democratic and peaceful and is one of the very few countries which has no army. Unsurprisingly it is a popular tourist destination.