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Central America

Central America Collection

History Archive - Central America Collection

Central America is geographically at the southern end of North America, lying between Mexico, Colombia, the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific. The coast of Central America was visited by Rodrigo de Bastidas in 1500, and by Columbus in 1502. It was invaded by Cortez in 1524. Guatemala and Salvador were held by Alvarado, second in command to Cortez. For three centuries the country was under Spanish rule and subject to frequent disturbances and harsh conditions.

Central America was the home of the Aztecs, and is rich in remains of this ancient civilization. The present inhabitants are Creoles or Spanish-speaking whites, Indians, Negroes and mixed races. Nation states in the region in the early 1900's include Belize (British Honduras), Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and Salvador. Belize is a British possession, the remaining states independent republics.

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Independence was achieved in 1821, and in 1823 a republic was formed by the union of the five provinces. Slavery was abolished in 1824, but after dissensions and civil war the republic was dissolved in 1838. The progress of the country has since been retarded by frequent wars and revolutions. In 1907 a meeting of delegates from all the states was held in Washington, U. S. A., and an agreement was made that all differences which may occur shall be submitted to a peace-court at Costa Rica.

At Tehuantepec, Mex., is a broad plain. In northern Guatemala the mountains begin, close to the Pacific, extending through Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. Not of great height, they consist of detached ranges with volcanic peaks, some of which are active. Then comes the depression nearly filled by Lake Nicaragua, the largest inland body of water south of the great lakes. In Costa Rica highlands follow. Panama is a low plateau. The rivers flow mostly into the Gulf and the Caribbean. The climate is tropic and pestilential on the shores and along the streams, but moderate and healthful on the uplands. The rainfall is enormous, 200 inches at Panama, and creates heavy vegetation.

In geological formation, it differs from North and South America, and appears to belong to a different system, related to the West Indies, the mountain folds having an east and west trend, and apparently having no connection or relation to the Rocky Mountain and Andean systems of North and South America. Its length is 1,280 miles and maximum breadth 315 miles, dwindling to 28 miles at the Isthmus of Panama. The area is 207,474 square miles, and the population about 4,803,487, Panama included.

The animals of Central America are those of South America. There are heavy forests which are rich in mahogany and other valuable woods. The chief products are fruits, coffee, rubber, sugar, indigo and tobacco; corn, wheat and rice are grown to some extent. Mineral resources are great, including gold, silver, platinum, copper, lead, iron and zinc.


The New Student's Reference Work (1914)

Regional Sub-Divisions

Available Books


Image Name
Panciaco tells Balboa of the South Sea
Map of the Republic of Panama and of the Canal
Interior de la Alameda de Mexico (I)
[Railroad Drawing]
Trajes Mexicanos (V)
Trajes Mexicanos (IV)
Cathedral of Panama
Las Cadenas en Una Noche de Luna
Trajes Mexicanos (I)
La Villa de Tacubaya tomada desde Chapultepec
Indios Kikapoos presentados a Sm. Maximiliano 1865
Plaza de Santo Domingo
Plaza de Armas de Mexico
Triangular monument and Washington House, Colon
Trajes Mexicanos un Fandango
Title Page
Central America - Port Realejo
Trajes Mexicanos Soldados del sur 1855
Battle of Old Panama
Book Display
Casa del Emperador Iturbide - Hoy Hotel de las Diligencias Generales
Cathedral tower of Old Panama
El Valle de Mexico tomado desde las alturas de Chapultepec
Cruces, formerly called Yenta de Cruces
Cascada de Tizapan Sn. Angel
Illustrated Title Page
Columbus makes the egg stand on end
Paseo de Bucareli
Plaza de Morelos
Jardin de la Plaza de Armas
La Fuente del Salto del Agua
Ancient stone bridge at Old Panama
Eastern End of Gorgon Bay
Sea-wall of Panama at low tide
Back Cover
San Antonio Chimalistaca Entrance de Sn. Angel (II)
Surveying for the Panama Railroad
La Calle de Roldan y su Desembarcadero
Catedral de Mexico
Piedra Pintada
Mouth of the Chagres River and Castle of San Lorenzo
Portobelo, in 1910
Plaza de San Agustin de las Cuevas Ciudad de Tlalpam (II)
Chagres River near Gorgona
Lacenta, chief of the Dariens, and retinue
Antiguedades Mexicanas que existen en el Museo Nacional de Mexico 1857
La Villa de Tacubaya tomada a ojo de Pajaro Sobre del Camino de Toluc
Vasco Nunez de Balboa takes possession of the South Sea
La Alameda de Mexico tomada en Globe
Port of Realejo 1859
Sir Henry Morgan
Molino de Belen Lomas de Santa Fe Tacubaya
Bosque de Chapultepec
El Paseo de la Viga
El Mercado de Iturbide Antigua, Plaza de San Juan
Trajes Mexicanos (III)
Back Cover
Gorgon Bay
San Juan del Sur 1859
Map of Central America and the West Indies
Isthmian jungle
Decorated vase from Indian graves
Bellin's map of the Isthmus, 1754
Tree-dwelling Indians in the lowlands of Panama
Culebra Cut, in 1910
Plano General de la Ciudad de Mexico 1875
Street in village of Taboga
Atrio del Convento de San Francisco 1860 (I)
Eastern Suburb of Panama Railway - Terminus on the Right
Title Page
Basalt tool
Estacion de Puebla Inauguracion del Camino de Fierro
Plan of Portobelo, in 1602
Plaza de San Agustin de las Cuevas Ciudad de Tlalpam (I)
Day-ak, a San Bias chief, from Rio Diablo
Interior of ruined Church, Old Panama
Interior de la Catedral de Mexico
Colegio de Mineria
Back Cover
Front Cover
The Bridge over the Chagres, Half-way across the Isthmus
Plan of Port Fitzroy
Map of Central America
Birds-Eye View of the Panama Canal
Carta General de la Republica Mexicana 1872
La Villa de Guadalupe Tomada en Globo el Dia 13 de Diciembre
Map Shewing Lines of Communication via New Transmit Route Through Central America
Method of transporting horses
La Fuente de la Tlaxpana
Front Cover
View of Plantation just below Machuca Rapids, River San Juan
Back Cover
La Ciudad de Mexico 1869
Nombre de Dios, in 1909


Map Name
The Gate of the Pacific - Map of Central America (1863)
The Panama Canal - Birds-Eye View of the Panama Canal (1913)
The Gate of the Pacific - Map Shewing Lines of Communication via New Transmit Route Through Central America (1863)


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