Ethnic groups in Central America

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Countries and capitals of Central America Centroamerica politico.png
Countries and capitals of Central America

Central America is a region of North America formed by six Latin American countries and one (officially) Anglo-American country, Belize. As an isthmus it connects South America with the remainder of mainland North America, and comprises the following countries (from north to south): Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama.

Central America central geographic region of the Americas

Central America is located on the southern tip of North America, or is sometimes defined as a subcontinent of the Americas, bordered by Mexico to the north, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south. Central America consists of seven countries: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. The combined population of Central America has been estimated to be 41,739,000 and 42,688,190.

North America Continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere

North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere; it is also considered by some to be a northern subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, to the west and south by the Pacific Ocean, and to the southeast by South America and the Caribbean Sea.

Latin America Region of the Americas where Romance languages are primarily spoken

Latin America is a group of countries and dependencies in the Western Hemisphere where Romance languages such as Spanish, Portuguese, and French are predominantly spoken; it is broader than the terms Ibero-America or Hispanic America. The term "Latin America" was first used in an 1856 conference with the title "Initiative of the America. Idea for a Federal Congress of the Republics", by the Chilean politician Francisco Bilbao. The term was used also by Napoleon III's French government in the 1860s as Amérique latine to consider French-speaking territories in the Americas, along with the larger group of countries where Spanish and Portuguese languages prevailed, including the Spanish-speaking portions of the United States Today, areas of Canada and the United States where Spanish, Portuguese and French are predominant are typically not included in definitions of Latin America.


The inhabitants of Central America represent a variety of ancestries, ethnic groups, and races, making the region one of the most diverse in the world. Several of the countries have a predominance of mixed Amerindian–European, or mestizo, population, while a minority are more inhabitated by those of greater European ancestry. Black, Asian, and Afro-Amerindian minorities are also identified regularly. People with mestizo ancestry are the largest single group, and along with people of greater European ancestry, comprise approximately 80% of the population, [1] or even more. [2]

Mestizo race

Mestizo is a term traditionally used in Spain, Latin America and the Philippines that originally referred to a person of combined European and Indigenous American descent, regardless of where the person was born. The term was used as an ethnic/racial category in the casta system that was in use during the Spanish Empire's control of its American and Asian colonies. Nowadays though, particularly in Spanish America, mestizo has become more of a cultural term, with culturally mainstream Latin Americans regarded or termed as mestizos regardless of their actual ancestry and with the term Indian being reserved exclusively for people who have maintained a separate indigenous ethnic identity, language, tribal affiliation, etc. Consequently, today, the vast majority of Spanish-speaking Latin Americans are regarded as mestizos.

In 2007, Central America had a population of approximately 40 million persons within an area of 523,780 km², yielding an overall density of 77.3 inhabitants/km² that is not distributed evenly. For example, Belize is larger than El Salvador in area by 1,924 km², but El Salvador has 30 times the population of Belize. Similarly, the population of Costa Rica is greater than that of Panama, while Panama is greater in area. Guatemala has the largest population with 13.2 million, followed by Honduras at 7.8 million.

Population density A measurement of population numbers per unit area or volume

Population density is a measurement of population per unit area or unit volume; it is a quantity of type number density. It is frequently applied to living organisms, and most of the time to humans. It is a key geographical term. In simple terms population density refers to the number of people living in an area per kilometer square.

Population and density

Country or
territory with flag
(km²) (per sq mi)
(July 2012 est.)
Population density
per km²
Flag of Guatemala.svg  Guatemala 108,889 km2 (42,042 sq mi)14,099,032116.8/km² (4,913.9/sq mi) Guatemala City
Flag of Belize.svg  Belize 22,966 km2 (8,867 sq mi)307,89913/km² (546.9/sq mi) Belmopan
Flag of El Salvador.svg  El Salvador 21,040 km2 (8,120 sq mi)6,090,646330.2/km² (13,891.9/sq mi) San Salvador
Flag of Honduras.svg  Honduras 112,090 km2 (43,280 sq mi)8,296,69366.7/km² (2,806.1/sq mi) Tegucigalpa
Flag of Nicaragua.svg  Nicaragua 129,494 km2 (49,998 sq mi)5,727,70743.8/km² (1,842.7/sq mi) Managua
Flag of Costa Rica.svg  Costa Rica 51,100 km2 (19,700 sq mi)4,636,34870.8/km² (2,978.6/sq mi) San José
Flag of Panama.svg  Panama 78,200 km2 (30,200 sq mi)3,360,47441.4/km² (1,741.7/sq mi) Panama City


Central American Admixture began with the arrival of the Spaniards to Central America, whose consequences could still be perceived in the present-day Central American Society. Mestizos are the result of the admixture between Spaniards and Amerindians: Native Americans (or Amerindians)

Indigenous peoples of the Americas Pre-Columbian inhabitants of North, Central and South America and their descendants

The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the Pre-Columbian peoples of North, Central and South America and their descendants.

Mestizos are majority in El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama, formed by 22,425,257 inhabitants, occupying the majority of the Central American population. All the 7 countries have significant Mestizo populations.

El Salvador country in Central America

El Salvador, officially the Republic of El Salvador, is the smallest and the most densely populated country in Central America. It is bordered on the northeast by Honduras, on the northwest by Guatemala, and on the south by the Pacific Ocean. El Salvador's capital and largest city is San Salvador. As of 2016, the country had a population of approximately 6.34 million.

Honduras republic in Central America

Honduras, officially the Republic of Honduras, is a country in Central America. In the past, it was sometimes referred to as "Spanish Honduras" to differentiate it from British Honduras, which later became modern-day Belize. The republic of Honduras is bordered to the west by Guatemala, to the southwest by El Salvador, to the southeast by Nicaragua, to the south by the Pacific Ocean at the Gulf of Fonseca, and to the north by the Gulf of Honduras, a large inlet of the Caribbean Sea.

Nicaragua Country in Central America

Nicaragua, officially the Republic of Nicaragua, is the largest country in the Central American isthmus, bordered by Honduras to the northwest, the Caribbean to the east, Costa Rica to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to the southwest. Managua is the country's capital and largest city and is also the third-largest city in Central America, behind Tegucigalpa and Guatemala City. The multi-ethnic population of six million includes people of indigenous, European, African, and Asian heritage. The main language is Spanish. Indigenous tribes on the Mosquito Coast speak their own languages and English.

Country or
territory with flag
% LocalPopulation% Regional
Flag of Guatemala.svg  Guatemala 41.45,866,251
Flag of Belize.svg  Belize 48.7149,946
Flag of El Salvador.svg  El Salvador 86.05,481,158
Flag of Honduras.svg  Honduras 90.07,013,568
Flag of Nicaragua.svg  Nicaragua 69.03,001,503
Flag of Costa Rica.svg  Costa Rica 13.65599,500
Flag of Panama.svg  Panama 702,353,331


The white ethnic group, or White Latin Americans, have an estimated population of 7,494,000 inhabitants.

Costa Rica:As of 2012, most Costa Ricans are primarily of European ancestry, many with German, Italian, French, Dutch, British, Swedish, and Greek ancestry. Europeans, castizos, and mestizos together comprise 83% of the population. [3] Europeans and castizos represent 65.8% of the total population). [4] European migrants used Costa Rica to get across the isthmus of Central America as well to reach the Californian coast in the late-19th and early-20th centuries prior to the opening of the Panama Canal. Other European ethnic groups known to live in Costa Rica include Russians, Danes, Belgians, Portuguese, Croats, Hungarians, Armenians, and Georgians.

Guatemala: Eighteen percent of Guatemalans are whites of European descent in their majority Spanish and German (and others descending from France, Italy, Belgium, England, Sweden, etc.).

Nicaragua: Also, in Nicaragua during the mid-19th century and early-20th century immigration was encouraged by the government giving land in areas of Esteli, Jinotega, Matagalpa, Managua-El Crucero, Carazo, Nueva Segovia and Madriz, mainly to German, French and Eastern European immigrants who were willing to work the land. There are also Syrians, Armenians, Palestinian, Jewish, and Lebanese communities in Nicaragua with a population of about 30,000.

Panama: Besides Costa Rica and Nicaragua, Around 15% of the Panamanian population is white, immigration to Panama are represented by ethnic groups in the 19th and 20th centuries: British and Irish, Dutch, French, Germans, Italians, Portuguese, Poles, Russians) and people from the United States.

El Salvador 12% of Salvadorans are mostly descendants of the Spaniard dynasty with others descending from French, Italians, Portuguese, British, Germans and some Central Europeans. El Salvador also has a sizable Arab population mostly Palestinians, Syrian, Lebanese, as well as Jewish.

Belize: In 2010 there were 13,964 White people living in Belize, forming 4,6% of the total population. 10,865 or 3,6% of them were Mennonites of German/Dutch descend.

Honduras: Less than 5% of the Honduran population is estimated to be white. These are people of mainly Spanish ancestry, although a few are descended from other European groups.

Country or
territory with flag
% LocalPopulation% Regional
Flag of Guatemala.svg  Guatemala 182,490,000
Flag of Belize.svg  Belize 4.613,964
Flag of El Salvador.svg  El Salvador 12730,877
Flag of Honduras.svg  Honduras 178,000
Flag of Nicaragua.svg  Nicaragua 171,000,500
Flag of Costa Rica.svg  Costa Rica 65.82,830,400
Flag of Panama.svg  Panama 15540,100


Rigoberta Menchu K'iche'-Guatemalan Rigoberta Menchu 2009 cropped.jpg
Rigoberta Menchú K'iche'-Guatemalan

The only plurality of Amerindian, or indigenous, people in Central America is in Guatemala. Amerindians comprise minorities in the other Central American countries.


The Amerindian populations in Guatemala include the K'iche' 9.1%, Kaqchikel 8.4%, Mam 7.9% and Q'eqchi 6.3%. 8.6% of the population is "other Mayan," 0.4% is indigenous non-Mayan, making the indigenous community in Guatemala about 40.5% of the population. [5]


Roughly 10% of the population is Amerindian, mostly Maya. Three Maya groups now inhabit the country: The Yucatec (who came from Yucatán, Mexico to escape the Caste War of the 1840s), the Mopan (indigenous to Belize but were forced out by the British; they returned from Guatemala to evade slavery in the 19th century), and Kekchi (also fled from slavery in Guatemala in the 19th century). [6] The later groups are chiefly found in the Toledo District.


According to the 2010 census in Panama, approximately 12.3% of the nation's population are indigenous. The Amerindian population figure stood at 417,500 individuals in 2010. [7]


About 7% of the Honduran population are members of one of the seven recognized indigenous groups.


Five percent of Nicaraguans are Amerindians, the unmixed descendants of the country's indigenous inhabitants. Nicaragua's pre-Columbian population consisted of many indigenous groups. In the western region the Nicarao people, after whom the country is named, were present along with other groups related by culture and language to the Mayans. The Caribbean coast of Nicaragua was inhabited by indigenous peoples who were mostly chibcha related groups that had migrated from South America, primarily present day Colombia and Venezuela. These groups include the Miskitos, Ramas and Sumos. In the 19th century, there was a substantial indigenous minority, but this group was also largely assimilated culturally into the mestizo majority.

Costa Rica

There are over 104,000 Amerindian inhabitants, comprising 2.4% of the Costa Rican population. Most of them live in secluded reservations, distributed among eight ethnic groups: Quitirrisí (in the Central Valley), Matambú or Chorotega (Guanacaste), Maleku (northern Alajuela), Bribri (southern Atlantic), Cabécar (Cordillera de Talamanca), Guaymí (southern Costa Rica, along the Panamá border), Boruca (southern Costa Rica) and Térraba (southern Costa Rica).

El Salvador

Native Meso-American Indigenous Salvadoran women dancing in the traditional "Procession of Palms" a custom celebrated in the town of Panchimalco in El Salvador. Nuestros Angeles de El Salvador.jpg
Native Meso-American Indigenous Salvadoran women dancing in the traditional "Procession of Palms" a custom celebrated in the town of Panchimalco in El Salvador.

Only 1% of the Salvadoran population is purely indigenous, mostly Mayan, Pipil, Lenca and Kakawira (Cacaopera). The current low numbers of indigenous people may be partly explained by mass murders during the 1932 Salvadoran peasant uprising (or La Matanza). Up to 30,000 peasants were killed in what by modern standards would be considered genocide because of the Salvadoran army's efforts to exterminate a certain racial group. Today many Pipil and other Indigenous populations live in small towns of El Salvador like Izalco, Panchimalco, Sacacoyo, and Nahuizalco.

Country or
territory with flag
% LocalPopulation% Regional
Flag of Guatemala.svg  Guatemala 40.55,376,989
Flag of Belize.svg  Belize 10.632,495
Flag of El Salvador.svg  El Salvador 1.060,906
Flag of Honduras.svg  Honduras 7.0545,499
Flag of Nicaragua.svg  Nicaragua 5.0294,559
Flag of Costa Rica.svg  Costa Rica 2.4104,000
Flag of Panama.svg  Panama 6417,500

Afro Central Americans

Nery Brenes Costa Rican Athlete 400 m ISTAF Berlin 2010 - Brenes.jpg
Nery Brenes Costa Rican Athlete

The Creole, Afro-Caribbean, and Garifuna populations form the majority of the Afro-Latin Americans in Central America, of which the majority is concentrated on the Caribbean coasts of the region. It is important to note that all these groups are distinct, speaking English, English creoles, Garifuna, Miskito, and Spanish. The highest percentage is 31% in Belize, where Kriols and Garifuna were once the majority of the nation that has seen heavy emigration and immigration in the last 30 years. [8] [9]

The largest population, however, is in Nicaragua of Creole, Afro-Caribbean, and to a lesser degree of Miskito and Garifuna descent, of which the majority is concentrated on the Caribbean coast in the area often referred to as the Mosquito Coast. In Costa Rica about 8% of the population is of Black African descent or Mulatto (mix of European and black) who are called Afro-Costa Ricans, English-speaking descendants of 19th century black Jamaican immigrant workers. In Panama people of African descent were already present when the construction of an inter-oceanic channel saw the large arrival of immigrant afro-Caribbeans. Honduras has a small population of creole people, but the overwhelming majority of blacks are Garifuna. Afro-Guatemalans are concentrated in the Caribbean department of Izabal and consist of a mix of Garifunas and other Afro-Caribbeans. Although El Salvador is the only Central American country with no official black percentage, El Salvador has had black African slavery in its past history during the colonial era, over time they mixed with both Amerindians and Europeans causing their offspring to join into the general Mestizo population. [10] But Afro-Salvadoran heritage commonly do exist. [11]

Kriols In Belize, Kriols make up roughly 21% of the Belizean population and about 75% of the Diaspora. They are descendants of the Baymen slave owners, and slaves brought to Belize for the purpose of the logging industry. [12] These slaves were mostly Black (many also of Miskito ancestry) from Nicaragua and born Africans who had spent very brief periods in Jamaica. [13] Bay Islanders and more Jamaicans came in the late 19th century, further adding these all ready varied peoples, creating this ethnic group.

For all intents and purposes, Kriol is an ethnic and linguistic denomination, but some natives, even those blonde and blue-eyed, may call themselves Kriols. It is defined as more a cultural attribute and not limited to physical appearance. [13]

Country or
territory with flag
% LocalPopulation% Regional
Flag of Guatemala.svg  Guatemala 2.0276,489
Flag of Belize.svg  Belize 3195,488
Flag of Honduras.svg  Honduras 2.0155,857
Flag of Nicaragua.svg  Nicaragua 9.0530,207
Flag of Costa Rica.svg  Costa Rica 8.0*333,727
Flag of Panama.svg  Panama 14.0470,466

*(includes mulattoes)


Harry Shum, Jr Asian-Costa Rican - Glee Actor/Dancer Harry Shum by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Harry Shum, Jr Asian-Costa Rican - Glee Actor/Dancer

Panama: Chinese-Panamanian population today presents 4% or 135,000. Ethnic Chinese in Panama, also variously referred to as Chinese-Panamanian, Panamanian-Chinese, Panama Chinese, or in Spanish as Chino-Panameño,[ citation needed ] are Panamanian citizens and residents of Chinese origin or descent. [14] [15] [16]

Costa Rica: Today, Asians represent almost 1% of the Costa Rican population. the first Chinese people in Costa Rica migrants arrived in Costa Rica in 1855; they were a group of 77 originally from Guangzhou, who had come to Central America to work on the Panama Railway. Of them, 32 found work on the farm of José María Cañas, while the remaining 45 were hired by Alejandro Von Bulow, an agent sent by the Berlin Colonization Society to prepare suitable sites for German settlement in Costa Rica. During the 1859-1863 administration of José María Montealegre Fernández, laws were promulgated which prohibited the migration of blacks and Asians, in an effort to reserve Costa Rica for European settlers. [17]

Early Chinese migrants typically arrived by sea through the Pacific coast port of Puntarenas; a "Chinese colony" began to form in the area, founded by José Chen Apuy, a migrant from Zhongshan, Guangdong who arrived in 1873. [18] Puntarenas was so widely known among the Chinese community as a destination that some in China mistook it for the name of the whole country. [19]

In the 1970s, Taiwan began to become a major source of Chinese immigration to Costa Rica. However, they formed a transitory group, with many using Costa Rica as a stopover while they waited for permission to settle in the United States or Canada. [20] Those who settled permanently in Costa Rica included many pensioners enjoying their retirement abroad. [18]

Most Chinese immigrants since then have been Cantonese, but in the last decades of the 20th century, a number of immigrants have also come from Taiwan and Japan. Many men came alone to work and married Costa Rican women and speak Cantonese. However the majority of the descendants of the first Chinese immigrants no longer speak Cantonese and feel themselves to be Costa Ricans. [21]

Nicaragua: There are 12,000 Chinese Nicaraguans Chinese people first arrived in Nicaragua's Caribbean coast in the latter part of the 19th century, and most of them settled in cities such as Bluefields, El Bluff, Laguna de Perlas, and Puerto Cabezas. [22] The Chinese immigrants dominated the commerce of the main coastal towns on the Caribbean coast prior to 1879. Then in the late 19th century, they began migrating to the Pacific lowlands of the country. [23]

Country or
territory with flag
% LocalPopulation% Regional
Flag of Nicaragua.svg  Nicaragua 1.012,000
Flag of Costa Rica.svg  Costa Rica 19,170
Flag of Panama.svg  Panama 4135,000

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Demographics of Belize

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Central American music

Central America is dominated by the popular Latin music, or Black Caribbean trends, including salsa, cumbia, mariachi, reggae, calypso and nueva canción. The countries of Central America have produced their own distinct forms of these genres such as Panamanian salsa, among others. One of the well-known forms of Central American music is punta, a style innovated by the syncretic Garifunas who live across the region, in Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Belize. The marimba, a type of xylophone, is perhaps the most important folk instrument of Central America, and it is widespread throughout the region.

Zambo ethnic group

Zambo and cafuzo are racial terms used in the Casta caste class system of the Spanish and Portuguese empires and occasionally today to identify individuals in the Americas who are of mixed African and Amerindian ancestry. Historically, the racial cross between enslaved African and Amerindians was referred to as a zambayga, then zambo, then sambo. In the United States, the word sambo is thought to refer to the racial cross between an enslaved African and a white person.

Afro-Latin American or Black Latin American refers to Latin Americans of significant African ancestry. The term may also refer to historical or cultural elements in Latin America thought to have emanated from this community.

Latin Americans are the citizens of the Latin American countries and dependencies. Latin American countries are multi-ethnic, home to people of different ethnic and national backgrounds. As a result, some Latin Americans do not take their nationality as an ethnicity, but identify themselves with both their nationality and their ancestral origins. Aside from the indigenous Amerindian population, all Latin Americans or their ancestors immigrated since 1492. Latin America has the largest diasporas of Spaniards, Portuguese, Black Africans, Italians, Lebanese and Japanese in the world. The region also has large German, French, and Jewish diasporas.

The Central America bioregion is a biogeographic region comprising southern Mexico and Central America.

Hondurans people from Honduras or of Honduran descent

Hondurans are people inhabiting in, originating from, or having significant heritage from Honduras. Most Hondurans live in Honduras, although there is also a significant Honduran diaspora, particularly in the United States, with smaller communities in other countries around the world. There are also people living in Honduras who are not Hondurans, because they were not born or raised in Honduras, nor have they yet gained citizenship.


Belizeans are people associated with the country of Belize through citizenship or descent. Belize is a multiethnic country with residents of African, Amerindian, European and Asian descent or any combination of those groups.

Index of Central America-related articles

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The 2010 Central American and Caribbean Games Preliminary Round was a preliminary round contested by some CONCACAF teams that determined the qualified teams to the 2010 Central American and Caribbean Games. Six teams were drawn into 3 matchups that were contested in a two-legged tie. The first leg of each of the Preliminary Round matchups was played on March 21, 2010, and the second leg was played on March 27–28. Costa Rica did not participate in the first part, being the strongest team, they got an automatic spot into an extra playoff series against the best losing team of the two-legged series. Nicaragua, having the best result, played against Costa Rica. All 7 Central American associations took part of the qualifying process.

The Western Caribbean Zone is a region consisting of the Caribbean coasts of Central America, from Yucatán in Mexico to northern Colombia, and also the islands west of Jamaica. The zone emerged in the late sixteenth century as the Spanish failed to completely conquer many sections of the coast, and northern European powers supported opposition to Spain, sometimes through alliances with local powers.

The Men's Association football competition at the 2001 Central American Games took place from 22 November to 2 December at the Estadio Mateo Flores in Guatemala City. This was the seventh Football edition since 1973.

Afro-Nicaraguan Nicaraguans of African descent

Afro-Nicaraguans are Nicaraguans of African descent in Nicaragua. They make up 9% of the population and they're the largest group of African descent in in Central America. Numbering almost 600,000, according to the CIA factbook (2011), they primarily live on the southeastern coast, the Mosquito Coast, Bluefields and Managua. The 1990 Nicaraguan national census recorded 25,000 or 1% of the population. Creoles are from the Anglo-Caribbean and speak a dialect of Jamaican patois known as Miskito Coast Creole. Nicaragua also has a Garifuna population.

Afro-Hondurans or Black Hondurans, are Hondurans of African descent. They descended from Africans, who were enslaved and identified as Garifunas and Creole peoples. The Creole people were originally from Jamaica and other Caribbean islands and arrived in Honduras between the nineteenth and early twentieth century to work on the export of bananas and in construction.

Costa Ricans People from the country of Costa Rica

Costa Ricans, also called Ticos, are a group of people from a multiethnic Spanish speaking nation in Central America called Costa Rica. Costa Ricans are predominantly whites, castizos, harnizos and mestizo, but their country is considered a multiethnic society, which means that it is home to people of many different ethnic backgrounds. As a result, modern-day Costa Ricans do not consider their nationality as an ethnicity but as a citizenship with various ethnicities. Costa Rica has four small minority groups: Mulattoes, Blacks, Asians, and Amerindians. In addition to the "Indigenas", whites, mestizos, blacks and mulattoes, Costa Rica is also home to thousands of Asians. Most of the Chinese and Indians now living in the country are descendants of those that arrived during the 19th century as migrant workers.


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