Four countries… similar, but different. Nicaragua is the largest of the Central American countries by land size. Colonised on the Pacific coast by the Spanish and on the Atlantic coast by the British. Add an African-Caribbean influence with the indigenous peoples and you have a melting pot of cultures. The Contra War of the 1980s caused wide-spread poverty and casualties however more recently, there has been economic growth, albeit very small. The country has a growing tourism industry and now is a good time to visit given tourism is in its infancy and you can experience the genuine culture.
By contrast, El Salvador is Central America’s smallest country by land size and the only country in the region without a coastline on the Atlantic/Caribbean side. It has a high population density with around 7 million inhabitants living in a size less than half of Tasmania. Spanish explorers became the first European visitors and went about changing the lives of indigenous Pipil Indians forever in the mid-1500s. Coffee, corn, beans and rice form its main agricultural produce. Honduras is a predominantly Roman Catholic country also ruled by Spain from the 16th Century. After Independence in the 1830s it was briefly annexed to Mexico and by mid the 1900’s it was ruled - ever so corruptly – by the military generals of the army. The country welcomed the US army during the contra war of its neighbours during the 1980s and was spared most of the turbulence that the others experienced. It remains a poor country with bananas as its major export.
There is a rich, cultural heritage in Guatemala that is unlike the other countries of the region. Its population is over 65% indigenous Maya Indians. There is evidence of mankind from around 10,000 years BCE however the country is well known for being the heart of the Mayan culture which existed from around 1,600 years ago. It too was conquered by the Spanish and annexed to Mexico in the early 1800’s. Since the end of the civil war which lasted for 36 years, up to 1996, Guatemala has remained relatively stable from a political sense and has enjoyed moderate economic growth. Like other countries in Central America, most of the population work in agriculture. Coffee, bananas, sugar, forestry and fish are the main exports.
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