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Central America is a string of seven states located between Mexico in the north and Colombia to the south.
Some include the Yucatan Peninsula in the definition.
The region sits in a subduction zone where several tectonic plates collide. The resulting Central America Volcanic Arc is a 1500 km long string of towering volcanoes along the Pacific coast that frequently causes volcanic eruptions and devastating earthquakes.
First humans entered the scene from the north before 15.000 years ago. Some stayed, others moved on to South America where they may have met the people that could have arrived there thousands of years earlier by coastal migration.
Before the European invaders arrived early in the 16th century, Olmecs and later Mayans and Aztecs ruled here. The Mayas were already in decline but the Aztecs put up a stiff fight against Cortes but were decimated by a smallpox epidemic.
Central America gained independence from Spain in 1821, but it took a lot of fighting and bloodshed before finally in 1981 all seven countries became independent democratic nations but even today political instability hampers economic growth.
The region's economy relies heavily on agricultural exports like pineapple, banana and coffee but tourist industry is increasing, especially in Belize.
Central America is one of the world's major biodiversity hotspots and an important flyway for migratory birds.
Chichen Itza