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Central America: Facts & Stats

Demographics | Economy | Transportation | CULTURE



Central America is a region with a rich history despite its small geographic area: there is a diversity of culture from one end of Central America to the other one. Indigenous culture plays an important role in the region, especially in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

Cultural customs and traditions in Central America are mostly based on the heritage of the Maya and other pre-Columbian civilizations and of the Spanish colonial period. In the cities where the mass media and modern cultural institutions have much influence, change has occurred. In recent time the countries of Central America have been establishing many educational facilities.


The popular Latin music, or Black Caribbean trends, including salsa, cumbia, mariachi, reggae, calypso and nueva canción is dominated in Central America. The countries of the region have produced their own distinct forms of these genres such as Panamanian salsa, among others.

Punta is also one of the well-known forms of Central American music. It is a style innovated by the syncretic Garifunas who live in different parts of the region, in Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Belize.

The marimba (a type of xylophone) is the most important folk instrument of Central America, and it is widespread in the region.

Belize is known for brukdown, a popular genre that developed in the mining camps in the interior of the country. The official national dance of Costa Rica is the Punto Guanacaste. This country is best known for its own distinct variety of popular calypso music. El Salvador participated in many Latin musical trends. The xuc was decreed the national dance in the 1950s.

Guatemala, like its neighbors, is famous for the national instrument, the marimba. Guatemalan traditions are much more closely based on this instrument, and much more close to ancient Mayan music, than other Central American countries.

Honduras is known for Garifuna music and for the traditions of the Lenca people. Nicaraguan music is traditionally marimba-based and it also includes Garifuna music.

The most famous dance and music of Nicaragua is Palo de Mayo. Palo de Mayo is the name given to the dance so as the music genre that originated in the festival of the same name that is celebrated every May annually in Nicaragua.

The mejoranera (an instrument similar to a guitar) is a popular instrument in Panama. The country is also known for the folk dance - tamborito; and for the many international dance stars of Panamanian salsa and Panamanian cumbia.

Sports and Hobbies:

The Central American and Caribbean Games (CACs) are a sport regional championships event, held every 4 years. The Games are for countries in Central America and the Caribbean (including Bermuda). The Games are controlled by the Central American and Caribbean Sports Organization (CASCO), created to provide a step between sub-CAC-region Games held the first year following a Summer Olympics and the Continental Championships, the Pan American Games, held the year before the Summer Olympics. The next edition of CACs will take place in the second half of July 2010 in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico. The CACs are the oldest continuing regional games in the world (and only the Olympics have run longer). Central American Games exist today, Juegoes Centroamericana, involving just Central American countries.

The Unión Centroamericana de Fútbol (Central American Football Union) represents the national football teams of Central America: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. The UNCAF organize various competitions. So the UNCAF Nations Cup is held every two years. Costa Rica is the most successful team, winning the cup 6 times. Honduras has won the cup twice. Guatemala won the tournament in 2001 and Panama in 2009. This tournament runs as a qualification round for the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Centrobasket is a basketball tournament (sponsored by FIBA) where national teams from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean participate. These countries make up the Central American and Caribbean Confederation (CONCENCABA).

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