Central America

 Belize  El Salvador  Honduras  Nicaragua
 Costa Rica  Guatemala  Mexico  Panama

There are three elements of culture: the Native Americans; the Spanish; and the Caribbean. In the 18th century English influence spread along the Atlantic coast (the Mosquito Coast) from Belize to Costa Rica. This has left a legacy of Black Creole English speakers along this coast. The pre-colonial cultures included an urban empire in Mexico the Aztecs and an important culture in southern Mexico, Guatemala and Belize: the Mayas. Much of the documentary evidence was destroyed by the Spanish invaders. These cultures may be reasserting themselves, for example, in the political and semi-military resistance in the Mayan area of Chiapas in Mexico and in Guatemala.

21 Decemberr 2012 is notorious for being the date when the Mayan calender reaches a major turning point - like the milometer of a motor bicycle showing all zeros - at the end of one phase of the Long Count. Is there a Mayan Prophecy? There is no documentary evidence for such a thing, so it's entirely fiction, though the subject of various cults. Nevertheless there are to be cultural celebrations of the event in the Mayan countries and perhaps in 2012 the Mayan culture will receive publicity.

Quote:Scholars from various disciplines have dismissed the idea of such cataclysmic events occurring in 2012. Professional Mayanist scholars state that predictions of impending doom are not found in any of the extant classic Maya accounts, and that the idea that the Long Count calendar "ends" in 2012 misrepresents Maya history and culture.[3][6][7] Astronomers and other scientists have rejected the proposed events as pseudoscience, stating that they are contradicted by simple astronomical observations.[8] Wikipedia

On independence from Spain there was an attempt to form a federation of the provinces of Central America which included Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala and Mexico.

Perhaps because communications between these countries were poor this federation quickly broke up. Communication was easier by sea than by land. The jungles even today have few roads connecting the countries. There is no road from Mexico to Colombia, and no rail link either.

Panama was part of Colombia at independence and was only separated, through a Coup believed to have been organized by the US, in order to allow the United States to build a canal across the isthmus.

Throughout the area (except Costa Rica) patterns of landholding concentrate ownership in a few hands and leave the mass of people in considerable poverty. This makes it difficult for development to occur by the accumulation of capital and investment by farmers. In several countries much of the land is underused even though there are many unemployed or underemployed workers. The one exception is Costa Rica where large scale plantations of sugar and bananas are not such a large proportion of the total economy and where a democratic system has functioned for many years (without an army).

The whole area is generally believed to be affected by the policy of the United States expressed in the past (until the 1990s) through military aid to the often brutal military rulers. This was apparently fueled by a "fear of communism". But what Communism there may be is created by the hopelessness of people in a quasi-feudal situation. It is to be hoped that with the collapse of communism in eastern Europe support for the military and their puppet governments will be switched to education, land reform and economic development.

Interesting reading

Paul Theroux - The Old Patagonian Express
A journey by rail (no longer possible) through the Americas

Michael D. Coe - The Maya
the standard work
see Guatemala

David Drew - The Lost Chronicles of the Mayan Kings
Good overview

Last revised 5/01/12

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