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Central And South America

Central America is a narrow bridge of land linking Mexico in the north to South America in the south. A string of mountains runs down its length, capped by volcanoes. The beautiful, palm-fringed islands of the Caribbean Sea lie off its east coast. South America, the fourth largest continent, contains a range of very different landscapes. About 60 percent of the continent is covered in vast, grassy plains. The towering Andes mountains stretch along the west coast, with the long, thin Atacama Desert sandwiched between the mountains and the sea. Tropical rain forests spread in a lush green blanket across huge areas of the northeast.


Amazon river

The world's largest rain forest grows in the vast basin of the mighty Amazon, the longest river in South America. The Amazon rises high in the snowcapped Andes in Peru, then flows 4,001 miles (6,439 km) across Peru and Brazil to its mouth in the Atlantic Ocean. The Amazon carries more water than any other river. At its mouth the Amazon is so wide that you cannot see from one bank to the other. The river discharges so much water into the ocean that the water is still brackish 112 miles (180 km) out to sea.


The language, history, and culture of Central and South America have been shaped by colonization. Until 1492, when Christopher Columbus first landed in the Bahamas,        the continent was inhabited by native peoples. After that time, European settlers arrived from Spain and Portugal, and huge numbers of Africans were imported as slaves, especially to theCaribbean and Brazil. The Caribbean also became home to English, French, and Dutch settlers. As a result, the population of the continent today is a combination of these different ethnic groups. Spanish is the main language spoken throughout most of the continent, together with Portuguese in Brazil. English and French are more common in the Caribbean, while Dutch can still be heard in Suriname.

Jamaica Jamaica

JamaicaThe beautiful island of Jamaica is a place of strong contrasts. On the one hand, there is the relaxed attitude of people enjoying the national passions - cricket and reggae music. On the other hand, there is tension between the few powerful families and the many poor living in violent slums. This side of life is rarely seen by the tourists who flock here each year. In addition to tourism, the mineral bauxite, used to make aluminum, is a valuable source of income.


The driving rhythms of reggae music can be heard everywhere across the island. Its songs often tell of hardship and political struggle, and are linked to Rastafarianism. Reggae developed in Jamaica from ska, which was a blend of African, European, and South American styles. Jamaican singer Bob Marley (1945-81) made reggae music popular around the world.

Venezuela  Venzuela

When the italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci first visited the southern shores of the Caribbean Sea in 1499, he named the land Venezuela, or "Little Venice." The lake dwellings of the native Indians reminded him of the houses and canals of the Italian city of Venice. Part of the Spanish Empire for three centuries, Venezuela became independent in 1811. Today it is a country of huge contrasts: the oil industry produces immense wealth, yet many people live in shantytowns. Most people live in cities, yet the tribes of the interior are barely touched by modem life.


Guatemala Guatemala

From the ruined cities of the ancient Mayan civilization to the Catholic churches of the Spanish, Guatemala represents a blend of cultures. Today, more than half the people are direct descendants of the Mayan Indians and live mainly in highland villages; the remainder of the population is part Indian and part Spanish. Many Mayans work for rich landowners who grow the coffee, sugar, and bananas that are the country's main cash crops. Guatemala also exports fresh cut flowers, mostly roses, which are grown in the valleys around Antigua


Tourism is one of Guatemala's fastest growing industries. Each year more than 500,000 touriste visit the country to see its ancient sites. Spectacular ruins mark the site of Tikal, one of the great Mayan cities. Tikal was mysteriously abandoned in about AD900. Today its ruined temples lie in a huge area of tropical forest.

Honduras Honduras

The hot, steamy climate of Honduras is ideal for growing fruit, and for many years the banana industry has dominated the life of the country. Today, Honduras has developed

other exports, such as coffee, sugar, and beef. More than half of Hondurans live in thé countryside, in small villages or isolated settlements. Many are poor farmers, growing corn, beans, or rice for their own use. Life is hard, and many people go hungry. Land is unevenly distributed - wealthy families and fruit companies own 60 percent of the land.

HONDURAN PEOPLE: Most Hondurans are mestizos - mixed descendants of native Indians and the Europeans who arrived in the 16th century. Some are descended from black Africans who were shipped to the Caribbean as slaves. Some are white (European) or Indian.

El Salvador El Salvador 

The smallest country in Central America, El Salvador has suffered a history of civil war and révolution. Historically, a handful of rich families have controlled the land andwealth, while most Salvadoreans have lived in poverty. A line of volcanoes, many still active, dominates the landscape. Forests, once rich with cedar, mahogany, and oak, have been cut down for farmland.

SAN SALVADOR: San Salvador was founded by Spanish colonists in 1525. Since then it has been damaged by earthquakes many times. Much of the original Spanish architecture has been replaced with modem buildings. Overcrowded slum areas have developed around the city as thousands of refugees have arrived in search of work.


Argentina Argentina

Stretching from the subtropical forests of the north, down across the vast central plains of the Pampas, to the snowcapped mountains of Patagonia in thé south, Argentina occupies most of southern South America. The country is bounded by the Andes Mountains in the west, and slopes gently downhill to the Atlantic Ocean in the east. Today's population is a mixture of native Indians, Spanish settlers, and immigrants from southern Europe who arrived during the past 100 years. The country is relatively wealthy, but has suffered from years of political instability, with periods of military rule alternating with elected governments.Tango Argentina


Tango, the national music of Argentina, began in the slums of Buenos Aires. The music, and the dramatic dance style that goes with it, reflects the hopes of working people and is sometimes happy, but often sad-Tango music is played on a bandoneon, a type of concertina, with a piano and violin accompaniment.


As famous as his northern cousin, the American cowboy, the Argentine gaucho has roamed the rolling plains of the Pampas for about 300 years. The name gaucho cornes from a South American word for outcast, as gauchos have always chosen to live beyond the law of the cities. The men work on the vast estancias, or ranches, fixing fences and corrals (pens for animals), tending the horses, and looking after the large herds of cattle. Tough, self-reliant, and free, the gauchos have become legendary heroes and a national symbol of Argentina.


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