What Is Central America?
Political, Cultural, Geographic Definitions?
We often don’t realize that geopolitical territories such as countries and regions are not static entities. In fact, borders are and have always been fluid… ever changing with the times. Even something so seemingly straightforward as the amount of continents is in dispute. Some countries combine Europe and Asia into a single Eurasian continent. In North America, we are taught that there is a North American and South American continent, while some textbooks in other regions identify both as part of one ‘Americas’ continent. I’ve even read recently that a new continent was identified called Zealandia, composed of several island chains resting on a piece of continental crust in the Coral Sea (Lazzaro, 2017).
Let’s look at the example of the ‘Middle East’ region. Gerges wrote “Middle East is an artificial nineteenth-century abstraction, a strategic concept imposed from without by the British authorities” and that “it was not until after the Second World War that scholars and policy makers alike in the West began to employ the term - though without any consensus on its geographical boundaries” (Gerges, 209). He goes on to discuss how different scholastic disciplines define ‘Middle-East’ in their own ways. For example, anthropologists may define the term “as a cultural area extending from Morocco to Timbuktu, from Russian Turkestan to West Pakistan”, whereas others may view it from a religious perspective, listing all the Islamic countries in the region, even including more westerly countries such as Morocco.
Aydin notes that 97% of Turkey’s land mass lies in Asia, yet “the country’s progressive elite consider their country as part of Europe” (Aydin, 306). But even with Europe, there is no consensus. Pocock studies the history of the term ‘Europe’ and tells the story of how ‘Europe’ eventually came to identify a continent, but even that is changing in the last 100 years, so that Europe is now more closely associated to a civilization (Pocock, 12).
What Is Central America?
So now we have some background on how geopolitical territories and regions are identified. The same holds true for Central America. Central America is part of the North American continent, yet its regarded as its own region. In its most geographical interpretation, the seven countries which form the isthmus between the two American continents are the Central American countries.
The seven countries begin right below Mexico and follow through until Colombia at the tip of South America. Those countries are Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.
In a more political sense (as opposed to a geographical one), Central America has been identified as the following five countries: Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica
The five countries above share the same Independence Day from Spain (September 15, 1821), and actually formed one country together called the United Provinces of Central America, (Provincias Unidas De Centro-américa) which lasted from 1823–40. In the 1990s, a European Union project called the “Program of Support for the Indigenous Peoples of Central America” (Programa de Apoyo para los Pueblos Indigenas de Centroamerica, known as PAPICA) allocated “7.5 million Euros to be divided among projects organized by indigenous coalitions in each of the five Central American countries” (Tilley, 233). Notice the allocation was for five countries. This is because up until 1981, Belize was still considered a territory of Britain (although it did gain full self-governance in the 1960s) and until the early 1900s, Panama was a part of Colombia (the northernmost country of South America).
Elba took this picture looking down into the Masaya volcano in Nicaragua.
One of the reasons Elba started this business was to promote the Central American region in a positive light. And what better way to do that than by spreading its world class coffee to consumers around the world. We sell only Central American coffee, and by Central America, we refer to all seven countries, including Panama and Belize. However, due to Belize’s very small coffee industry, we have not sold coffee from there yet, but we look forward to trying out some of their coffee.
I hope this quick blog helped you understand what countries are involved when we speak about ‘Central America’. To find out more about the coffees of Central America, see the blog entitled The Central American Coffees.
I like to include the following disclaimer below each of my blogs. I try to make references wherever applicable, but I’ve read many books, dozens of articles, watched documentaries and taken courses on these subjects over the years. I mention this because sometimes I may forget the exact source of my information, so I ask the authors to forgive me if I have not cited some information where I should have.
Aydin, Mustafa. “The Determinants of Turkish Foreign Policy, and Turkey’s European Vocation.” The Review of International Affairs Winter 2003: Page 306.
Gerges, Fawaz. “The Study of Middle East International Relations: A Critique.” British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 1991: Page 209.
Lazzaro, Sage. Earth Apparently Has 8 Continents Now, Because Everything You Know Is a Lie. Feb 16 2017. Retrieved on April 4, 2018. <http://observer.com/2017/02/zealandia-new-continent/>
Pocock, J.G. “What Do We Mean by Europe?” WQ Winter 1997: Page 12.
Tilley, Virginia. Seeing Indians: A Study of Race, Nation, and Power in El Salvador. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2005. Page 233.