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A journey round the world: North America

Street carnival, Rio de Janeiro, BrazilNorth America includes Canada, the United States of America (USA), Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean islands. In the north, the Arctic ice gives way to the barren tundra of northern Canada and mountainous Alaska. A chain of mountains runs like a backbone all the way down the western side of the continent. It divides into many ranges. There are hot, dry deserts in southwestern USA and Mexico. In Central America and Caribbean islands there are tropical rainforests.

A map of North America
Mardi Gras Marathon, New Orleans


North Americans can trace their ancestors to all parts of the world. The native peoples of America (known as Native Americans in the USA or First Nations in Canada) had the continent to themselves until about 500 years ago. Settlers from Europe first arrived in the 1600s: the Spanish in Mexico and Central America; the British, German and Dutch in what is now the USA; the French in what is now Canada. A steady trickle at first, the immigrants became a flood in the 19th century, as millions—including Irish, Italian and Jewish people—arrived.

Panama does not print its own banknotes. Since the country’s independence from Colombia in 1903, it has used US dollar banknotes.

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