Satellite photo of Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean islands The southern part of mainland North America is made up of the seven countries of Central America: Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. Panama forms a neck of land, called an isthmus, that links North America to South America. At its narrowest point, about 60 kilometres (37 miles) wide, the Panama Canal cuts through, linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. There are 7000 islands, islets and cays (coral islands) in the Caribbean Sea. Amongst them are 16 independent nations, and 9 island groupings that are dependencies or territories of other countries.
Central America stretches from Guatemala in the north to Panama in the south. Much of the land is mountainous with a number of volcanoes. There is a constant threat of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes in the region; these natural disasters have resulted in the loss of many lives. Between the mountain ranges lie fertile valleys where livestock are raised and coffee, tobacco, beans, bananas and other crops are cultivated. To make way for cultivation, large areas of tropical rainforest have been cleared. As a result, many plants and animals have become endangered.
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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