Chapter 7 – Central America and the
Caribbean
Section Notes
Video
Physical Geography
Central America
The Caribbean Islands
Close-up
A Market in Guatemala
World Almanac
Languages of the Caribbean
Quick Facts
Chapter 7 Visual Summary
Impact of Tourism
Maps
Central America and the Caribbean:
Political
Physical
Volcanic Activity
European Colonies in the Caribbean, 1763
Central America and the Caribbean
Languages of Central America
Images
Satellite View: Hurricane Isabel
Ecotourism
Cubans Divided
Climate Graph: Nassau, Bahamas
Physical Geography
The Big Idea
The physical geography of Central America and the
Caribbean islands includes warm coastal lowlands, cooler
highlands, and tropical forests.
Main Ideas
• Physical features of the region include volcanic high lands
and coastal plains.
• The climate and vegetation of the region include forested
highlands, tropical forests, and humid lowlands.
• Key natural resources in the region include rich soils for
agriculture, a few minerals, and beautiful beaches.
Main Idea 1:
Physical features of the region include
volcanic high lands and coastal plains.
Central America
• Southern part of North America
• Includes Belize, Guatemala,
Honduras, El Salvador,
Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and
Panama
• An isthmus, or narrow strip of
land that connects two larger
land areas
• No wider than 125 miles
between Pacific Ocean and
Caribbean Sea
• Chain of mountains and
volcanoes divides Caribbean
and Pacific coastal plains
• No good water route, so difficult
to travel
The Caribbean Islands
• Across from Central America in
the Caribbean Sea
• An archipelago, a large group
of islands
• Greater Antilles: Cuba,
Jamaica, Hispaniola, and Puerto
Rico
• Lesser Antilles: Small islands
from Virgin Islands to Trinidad
to Tobago
• Bahamas: 700 islands
• Formed from tops of
underwater mountains or
volcanoes and coral reefs
pushed up by colliding tectonic
plates
Main Idea 2:
The climate and vegetation of the region
include forested highlands, tropical forests,
and humid lowlands.
Islands
and
Coastal
Plains
Inland
Mountains
• Humid tropical and tropical savanna climates
• Pacific coast savannas cleared for plantations
and ranches
• Caribbean coast rain forest
• Cool, humid climates
• Cloud forest, or a moist, high-elevation
tropical forest where low clouds are common
Climate
Temperatures
• Little change from
– Day to night
– Summer to winter
• Change in season
marked by change
in rainfall
• Winters dry
• Summers wet
Hurricanes
• Threaten from
summer to fall
• Violent winds,
heavy rains, and
high seas
• Occur mostly from
June to November
• Destruction and loss
of life
Main Idea 3:
Key natural resources in the region include
rich soils for agriculture, a few minerals,
and beautiful beaches.
• Land and climate attract tourists.
• Volcanic ash enriched soil
• Crops include coffee, bananas, sugarcane, and cotton.
• Export timber from rain forests
• Very few mineral and energy resources
Central America
The Big Idea
Central America’s native traditions and colonial history have
created a mixed culture, unstable governments, and
uncertain economies.
Main Ideas
• The history of Central America was mostly influenced by
Spain.
• The culture of Central America is a mixture of Native
American and European traditions.
• The countries of Central America today have challenges
and opportunities.
Main Idea 1:
The history of Central America was mostly
influenced by Spain.
Early History
• AD 250–900: Maya built
large cities with pyramids
and temples.
• Maya descendents live in
Guatemala and Belize.
• Early 1500s: Europeans
controlled most of Central
America.
– Britain: Belize and
Nicaragua’s coast
– Spain: Large plantations
of tobacco and sugarcane
– Forced Indians and
enslaved Africans to work
in mines and plantations
Independence
• 1821: Independence from
Spain
• Remained joined as the
United Provinces of Central
America
• 1838-1839: Costa Rica,
Nicaragua, Honduras, El
Salvador, and Guatamala
separated.
• 1903: Panama and
Columbia separated.
• 1981: Belize independence
Since Independence
• Wealthy landowners continued to run countries.
• Economy remained based on bananas and coffee.
• Early to mid-1900s: U.S.-based United Fruit Company
controlled most of banana production.
– The company developed railroads and port facilities.
– This development improved transportation and
communication.
• People resented role of foreign companies.
• Mid- to late 1900s: Demands for reform led to armed
struggles in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.
• Peace achieved only in recent years
Main Idea 2:
The culture of Central America is a mixture
of Native American and European traditions.
People
and
Languages
Religion,
Festivals,
and Food
•
Most people are mestizos, or people of mixed European
and Indian ancestry.
•
Descendents of ancient Maya live in Guatemalan
Highlands and other places.
•
People of African ancestry live mostly along the
Caribbean coast.
•
People speak mostly Spanish, but also native Indian
languages and English.
•
Most people are Roman Catholic.
•
Indian traditions influenced Catholicism.
•
Celebrations are tied to religion: special saints’ feast
days and Easter.
•
Traditional foods are corn, tomatoes, hot peppers, and
cacao.
Main Idea 3:
The countries of Central America today have
challenges and opportunities.
Guatemala
• More than 14
million people
• Most mestizos;
almost half
Indian
• Live mostly in
small villages in
highlands
• 1960-1996:
Fighting killed
200,000
people.
• Crops: coffee
and cardamom
Belize
• Smallest
population in
Central America
• Not much land
for agriculture
• Ecotourism,
the practice of
using an area’s
natural
environment to
attract tourists
Honduras
• Mountainous
country
• Transportation
difficult because
of rugged land
• Little land for
farming
• Exports: citrus
fruits and
bananas
Central America Today
El Salvador
Costa Rica
• Land owned by a few rich
people
• History of peace and stable,
democratic government
• 1980s-1992: Civil war, a
conflict between two or more
groups within a country
• Progress toward reducing
poverty
• Fertile soil to grow coffee and
sugarcane
• Tourism to rain forests
Nicaragua
• 1979: Dictator overthrown by
Sandinistas
• 1979-1990: Civil war
• Rebels aided by the U.S.
• 1990: Democratic elections
pushed Sandinistas out of
power.
• Crops: coffee and bananas
Panama
• Narrow, southernmost country
• Canal links Caribbean Sea and
Pacific and Atlantic Oceans
• Panama Canal fees and
industry make this region
prosperous.
• 1914-1999:Canal controlled by
U.S.
The Caribbean Islands
The Big Idea
The Caribbean islands have a rich history and culture
influenced by European colonization.
Main Ideas
• The history of the Caribbean islands includes European
colonization followed by independence.
• The culture of the Caribbean islands shows signs of past
colonialism and slavery.
• Today the Caribbean islands have distinctive governments
with economies that depend on agriculture and tourism.
Main Idea 1:
The history of the Caribbean islands includes
European colonization followed by
independence.
• 1492: Christopher Columbus discovered the Caribbean
islands, believing them to be the Indies.
• The islands are now 13 independent countries.
• These countries show the influence of the first European
colonizers.
History
Early History
Independence
• Columbus thought he had
reached the Indies, and so he
called the Caribbean the West
Indies.
• 1804: Toussaint-L’Ouverture
helped Haiti win independence
from France and freedom for
slaves.
• 1600s-1700s: The English,
French, Dutch, and Danish
established colonies on the
islands.
• Mid-1800s: Dominican
Republic
– They built sugarcane
plantations that required
many workers.
– Most Caribbean Indians
died from disease, so
Europeans brought
enslaved Africans.
• Africans and their descendents
outnumbered Europeans.
• 1902: Cuba from U.S.
• After World War II, other
Caribbean countries gained
independence.
• Some islands, such as
Martinique and Guadeloupe,
are still not independent.
Main Idea 2:
The culture of the Caribbean islands shows
signs of past colonialism and slavery.
People
Language
• Most islanders are descended from Europeans,
Africans, or both.
• Some Asians, who came to work on plantations
after slavery ended, live on the island.
• People speak Spanish, English, French, and
mixtures of African and European languages.
• Haitians speak French Creole, which is a dialect,
or a regional variety of a language.
• Former colonies are mostly Roman Catholic.
Religion
• People also blend Catholicism and traditional
African religions.
Caribbean Culture
• Islanders celebrate a variety of holidays.
Festivals
• The most widespread is Carnival, before Lent,
when people celebrate with big parades, fancy
costumes, and music.
• Caribbean food reflects past.
• Yams and okra from Africa
Foods
• In Barbados, souse is made of pigs’ tails, ears,
and snouts because slaveholders gave slaves the
leftover parts of the pig.
• People from India brought curry to the region.
Main Idea 3:
Today the Caribbean islands have distinctive
governments with economies that depend on
agriculture and tourism.
Puerto Rico
Haiti
• U.S.
commonwealth, or
a self-governing
territory associated
with another country
• Mountainous western
third of Hispaniola
• Eastern part of
Hispaniola
• Small farms, but
exports coffee and
sugarcane
• More developed than
Haiti but not rich
• People are U.S.
citizens with no
voting rights.
• More developed than
other Caribbean
countries due to U.S.
aid and investment
• Poorest country due
to corruption
• Many become
refugees, or people
fleeing to another
country for political
or economic
reasons.
Dominican
Republic
• Capital Santo
Domingo is the first
permanent European
settlement in
Western
Hemisphere.
• Economy:
agriculture and
growing tourism
Caribbean Islands Today
Cuba
• Largest and most populous
island with Havana as
capital
• Since 1959: Run by a
Communist government
headed by Fidel Castro
• Communists took over U.S.
owned businesses, so U.S.
banned trade.
• Farms are cooperatives,
or organizations owned by
its members and operated
for mutual benefit.
• Government controls the
media.
Other Islands
• Jamaica is the largest of
these other islands.
• Saint Kitts and Nevis is the
smallest.
• A number of islands are
territories of the U.S.,
Britain, France, and the
Netherlands.
• Some islands have land to
grow coffee, sugarcane,
and spices.
• Others attract tourists.
• New construction for
tourists can harm natural
environment.
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