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					             Middle America
 Background
  – troubled region of 7 small countries between
    Mexico and South America
  – includes Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador,
    Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama
  – limited mineral wealth, few raw materials
  – Countries isolated from one another by Mts, poor
    transportation, little cohesion
  – great land tenure problems, high social
    stratification, political instability, guerrilla
    warfare, outside intervention
 Historical   Factors
  – Middle America settled simultaneously from two
    directions
  – Part of “New Spain” ruled from Guatemala.
    Control over countries tenuous.
  – Vasco Nunez de Balboa occupied Panama, then
    Spanish moved north into lowland lake country of
    Nicaragua
  – Hernan Cortez defeats Aztec civilization in
    Mexico, then Spanish settlers push into Guatemala,
    El Salvador and Honduras
  – impact of Spanish rule devastating on indigenous
    peoples and cultures
 Effect   of Conquest
  – demographic disaster for indigenous populations
  – indian population declines from 20 million at time of
    conquest to 2.5 million by 18th C
      destruction of indian cities like Tenochtitlan
      environment destruction of forests and grasslands

      enslavement of population

      infectious diseases like smallpox, typhoid fever, measles, and
       influenza
      livestock and cattle crowd indigenous peoples off the land

      indigenous irrigation systems destroyed to serve colonial
       masters
 The   Latin American Condition
  – continued concentration of wealth and power in the
    hands of a few elites
  – social and political stratification
      upper  stratum (landed elite, owners of large commercial
       and industrial firms, banks, import-export business) are
       5% of the population
      upper middle stratum (managers in industry and
       commerce, professionals, commercial farmers, top
       government bureaucrats, and military officers) are 20%
       of the population
      lower middle stratum (unionized laborers, school
       teachers, low level bureaucrats, small farmers) are 25%
       of the population
    urbanand rural poor (landless mestizo tenant farmers, hired
    workers, rural poor, domestic servants, and native peoples )
    are 50% of the population
– economic condition of the urban and rural poor has not
  benefited materially from development of these
  countries
– up to 20th C these societies dominated by an agro-
  exporter elite whose position derived from the Spanish
  conquest
– conquistadors brought with them values acquired in
  the reconquista in Spain that drove the Moors out of
  Iberia (heroic military leaders became leadership
  model in Latin America)
– conquistadors knew if they conquered new territories
  they would become wealthy and powerful men
– brought with them patrimonial political values,
  authoritarian tendencies, no popular participation
– New World was a fertile ground for transplantation
  of these values
– victories over Aztecs, Incas, and others
  comparatively easy
– encomienda system allowed large landowners to
  extract labor and tribute from indians within their
  control
– new nobility created a system of large landed estates
  called latifundio that enabled them to generate
  wealth, social prestige and political power
– today remnants of traditional society still exist along
  side institutions of a modern state
– contemporary problem in Latin America is not the
  complete lack of economic growth and
  modernization, but the failure to extend the benefits
  of that growth to the urban and rural masses
 Dependency   Theory
  – Andre Gunder Frank, Theotonio Dos Santos,
    Immanuel Wallenstein, ECLA
  – since colonial times, Latin American states were
    devoted to producing commodities for export, i.e.
    indigo, sugar, cacao, and other cash crops
  – after independence, Latin American states continued to
    produce cash crops, now coffee, cotton, sugar, bananas
  – expansion of ports, railroads, roads to benefit the
    export economy
  – limited industrialization that could create good jobs
– politically, regimes led by caudillos or military
  strongmen who ruled in an authoritarian fashion
– patron/client politics with peasants dependent on
  local landlords who in turn supported caudillos
  that benefited their economic interests
– little interest in fundamental reform of political
  and economic system
– reformers labeled “communist agitators”, opposed
  by government, landowners, and foreign interests
– cycle of grinding rural poverty continues
 Political   Instability
  – Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua
    ruled by wealth landowners who owned large estates
  – US intervention in Nicaragua in 1912, establishment
    of National Guard under General Anastasio
    Somoza Garcia
  – Honduras, banana boat republic dominated by the
    United Fruit Company
  – 1903 revolution in Panama detaches Panama from
    Columbia with strong US backing
  – overthrow of reformist Arbenz regime in Guatemala
    by US backed Guatemala exiles
Central America: Physical Map




Volcanic Highlands




                     Volcanic Highlands
                                          Coastal Plain
Central American: Physical Map
 Physical   Landscape
  – Volcanic highlands
      allMiddle American states except Belize share a highland
       belt
      most of population and large cities located in volcanic
       highlands, i.e. Guatemala City in Guatemala, Tegucigalpa
       in Honduras, San Jose in Costa Rica, San Salvador in El
       Salvador
      coffee growing region

      substantial deforestation problems and erosion problems

      majestic volcanoes and scenic lakes
– Caribbean lowlands
    coastalstrip of rainforest with large wooded areas
    economic activity confined to subsistence hunting, fishing,
     gathering, shifting cultivation
    importation of Africans to work in the plantations

    development of United Fruit (now United Brands) in the
     19th C in this region to grow bananas for export
    expanding settlers in region today aided by governmental
     subsidies to open up new lands
– Pacific lowlands
    tropical savanna areas where cattle ranching prevalent
    irrigated cotton destined for Japanese markets

    fishing and shrimp industry
 Economic     Activities
  – coffee
      first commercial crop in Middle America
      first coffee plants imported from Cuba to Costa Rica in
       late 18th C
      ideal growing conditions in central plateaus of Costa
       Rica, El Salvador and Guatemala with rich volcanic
       well-drained soil, cool evening temperatures
  – bananas
      introduced   to Spanish from Dominican Republic and
       Haiti
      crop needs hot, moist climate and well-drained soils
 commercial   production of bananas made possible by
  refrigerated ships and boxcars in 19th C
 rapid expansion from 1880’s to 1920’s using West
  Indian laborers in Caribbean lowlands
 boom slowed in 1920’s as soil was exhausted and plant
  diseases hurt production
 shift of production to Pacific lowlands in 1960’s

 new disease resistant varieties have improved
  production
 some shift of production from large commercial
  plantations to small cultivators
– new commercial agriculture
    development  of scientific animal husbandry growing beef
     for commercial export
    growing cool weather vegetables such as broccoli,
     potatoes and onions for local and foreign markets
    commercial flower industry

    commercial fishing of shrimp in Gulf of Fonseca

– tourism
    limitedtourism in Central America except for Costa Rica
    due to political instability
 Guatemala
  – largest country in Middle America
  – northern half of country called Peten is sparsely
    populated
  – most people live in highlands
  – indian population in western uplands are landless
    and desperately poor
  – uprising in 1980’s resulted in harsh governmental
    repression and destruction of the area. Many
    indians migrated to Mexico in search of better
    conditions
 El   Salvador
  – most densely populated country of region
  – population pressure seen in deforested hillsides and
    flow of rural migrants to shantytowns in San
    Salvador and Santa Ana
  – 80% of land owned by wealthiest 10% of population
  – devastation of civil war in 1980’s finally ended in
    1992 at cost of 75,000 lives
  – new government pinning hopes on development of
    light industry for export
– problem of youth gangs and high crime rate
– Death squads and assassination of Archbishop
  Oscar Romero and Catholic nuns in 1980’s
– Improvement in political climate with limited
  cooperation between leftists and conservatives
  in the government
 Honduras
  – poorest and most sparsely populated country of the
    region. 5.6 million people
  – agriculture is predominant occupation, some
    livestock raising, small-scale mining, commercial
    coffee
  – highly stratified social system with masses having
    little opportunity to advance
  – foreign banana plantation contribute to some export
    earning around San Pedro Sula
– shrimp business on coast provides some limited
  employment in Gulf of Fonseca
– attempts to promote tourism
– Devastation of Hurricane Mitch 1998 destroyed
  infrastructure, school, clinics, homes
 Nicaragua
  – long history of political instability, US intervention
    1912-33; Samosa dictatorship 1936-79; Marxist
    Sandinistas, and weak democratic governments
  – basically an agricultural country with most
    production around Managua
  – eastern part of country sparsely populated
  – Mosquito indians inhabit Caribbean lowlands
  – coffee, cotton, bananas, and sugarcane are export
    crops
  – some new manufacturing industries
  – two major earthquakes in Managua in 20th C
 Costa   Rica
  –   oasis of stability in sea of troubles
  –   distant from center of government in Guatemala
  –   No precious metals
  –   democratic government and thriving middle class
      and sense of national unity
  –   abolished the army in 1949, civil police force only
  –   literate population with excellent universities
  –   foreign businessmen / retirees attracted to country
  –   high productivity of agricultural farms that grow
      high quality coffee, cut flowers, vegetables, tropical
      fruits and nuts
  –   large-scale cattle ranching and banana plantations
– manufacturing industries attracted by high quality
  labor force, good governmental policy and stability
– textile production, tire production, cement
  production, automobile assembly, and
  pharmaceuticals for export
– tourism is major source of revenue
– attracted by good beaches, sunny weather, good
  shopping, and pleasant environment
– ecotourism becoming increasing prominent
– large areas set aside for national parks, many of
  which are in tropical rainforests
 Panama
  – existence and viability of the country dependent
    upon the Panama Canal
  – Panama Canal being turned over to the Panamanians
    under a 1978 treaty with US; full control in 1999
  – canal divides country into two parts
  – eastern part called Darien characterized by limited
    population and rainforests
  – western part contains banana plantations on
    Caribbean coast, beef cattle, rice production and
    other stable crops
– service sector industries in Canal Zone like
  retailing, shipping, banking, etc.
– banking accounts for 70% of GDP (some of this
  connected to the illicit drug trade)
– Panama City is major Caribbean port catering to
  tourists, transit passengers, and duty-free shopping
– US currency freely used everywhere
– some manufacturing of clothing, toys, bicycles
– Canal now aging and not large enough to
  accommodate largest ships
 Belize
  – formerly British Honduras
  – remote, poor, underdeveloped country
  – independence in 1981
  – source of timber utilizing African slaves
  – now parliamentary democracy with stable
    government
  – Promotion of ecotourism and development

				
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