Central America, the narrow, tortuous strip of territory connecting North and South America, extending from about lat. 7° to 18° N., in length from 800 to 900 m., and varying in breadth from about 30 to about 300 m. It comprises five independent republics, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and San Salvador, with a united area of 175,000 sq. m., and a total population of 2,665,000. Throughout its entire length the country is traversed by a chain of mountains consisting of three groups: the Costa Rica, which traverses the republic of that name and the isthmus of Panama, the Honduras and Nicaragua, and the Guatemala, with peaks from 3,000 to 11,000 ft. in height. The volcanoes Fuego and Agua are 13,000 or 14,000 ft. high. The inequality of the surface produces great variety in the climate and vegetable productions, the country producing the fruits and grains of Europe and America, and sugar cane, indigo, cochineal, tobacco, cotton, and all the fruits of the tropics. The zoology is similar to that of other American countries; but Central America is remarkable for the variety and beauty of its humming birds, macaws, and the quezal, which has a brilliant plumage of emerald green.

Large and dangerous serpents are numerous, and the country is infested with two species of locusts, one of which is particularly destructive. The rivers and bayous abound in fish. The geology exhibits granite, gneiss, and mica slate as substrata, with an abundance of igneous rocks showing volcanic action. There are gold, silver, iron, lead, and mercury deposits, and the gold, silver, and iron mines are worked to some extent. Much salt is obtained both from springs and from the sea on the Pacific side. The people are divided into three classes, whites and Creoles, mestizos, or the offspring of whites and Indians, and the aboriginal natives. The commerce is insignificant. The interest of the country centres mainly in its two or three practicable routes for interoce-anic canals between the Atlantic and Pacific. - In 1502 Columbus visited the east coast; in 1523 Cortes sent Pedro Alvarado to subdue the country, and in 1525 he completed the conquest. It remained subject to Spain till 1823, when the five colonies formed themselves into a federal republic of independent states; this arrangement continued till 1839, when the federation was dissolved.

Subsequent unions were effected and dissolved; and representatives of the five states met at La Union, San Salvador, Feb. 17, 1872, to consider the formation of a new confederation, but without result.