Central America

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Central America was the hinge that joined North America to South America. The people who lived there traded in both directions, north and south. They bought turquoise from the Native Americans to their north, and sold them quetzal feathers and cacao beans (chocolate). They bought copper and gold from the Venezuelans to their south, and sold them salt and fancy cotton clothing.

In Central America itself, people ate food that would seem pretty familiar to Americans today. They ate corn tortillas and tacos and tamales, turkey, tomato salsa, avocados and guacamole, spicy chili peppers, and chocolate. Like us, they ate zucchini and yellow squash, hard winter squashes, and sweet potatoes.

Their clothing was woven out of the same kind of cotton that your clothes are probably made of right now. Like you, they wore skirts and shirts, but early Central Americans didn’t wear pants. They wore sandals on their feet, because it’s usually pretty hot there.

Central Americans worshipped many different gods: a corn god, a rain god, and many others. They built big stone temples to their gods, and wrote prayers to them. They sacrificed animals and sometimes people to their gods.

The earliest big government we know of in Central America was the Olmec. After them came the Maya and the Zapotec, and then the Aztec. In the 1500s, a huge number of these people died when Spanish travelers brought them smallpox, measles, and dysentery. So many people died that the Spanish were able to take control of Central America and enslave many of the people who lived there. A lot of people learned to speak Spanish. They had to work in silver mines and in the fields, farming.

Today, Central America is suffering the effects of global warming. There isn’t enough water for everyone, and the coffee plants they grow are dying in the heat. Many Central American people are fleeing north, where it’s cooler, but the United States won’t let them in.

10 09, 2017

Science in Central America and South America

By |2019-09-17T10:58:26-07:00September 10th, 2017|Central America|3 Comments

A rubber ball made by the Olmec people (about 1000 BC) Invention of rubber With different natural resources available to them, the people of South America and Central America invented different things than the people of Europe, Asia, or Africa did. Early African science South America articles Central America articles One early invention was rubber. The Olmec people invented rubber (in fact the [...]

10 09, 2017

Maya gods and rituals – Central American religion

By |2017-09-10T13:09:15-07:00September 10th, 2017|Central America, Religion|0 Comments

Maya pyramid at Tonina (ca. 700 AD) Maya people believed that the world was created by One Deer. One Deer created the mother and father of the gods (like Brahma and Gayatri or Gaia and Kronos). Then the mother and father created many other gods. They created the gods of the crops like the Corn God, the god [...]

10 09, 2017

Central and South American religion

By |2019-03-08T21:30:13-07:00September 10th, 2017|Central America, Religion, South America|0 Comments

Maya Corn King on a plate Polytheism in the Americas The people who lived in South and Central America before 1500 were polytheistic - they believed in many different gods. Because they lived pretty near one another, and ate many of the same foods, some of their gods were pretty much the same. What is [...]

10 09, 2017

Mayan Corn God – Central American religion

By |2018-04-11T09:22:20-07:00September 10th, 2017|Central America, Religion|0 Comments

Maya pyramid to the Corn God at Tonina (ca. 700 AD) Because corn (maize) was Mayan people's main food, their most important god was the Corn God. A popular Mayan story was the story of the Maize Mountain - click here to read the story. More about Mayan religion More about the Maya people Bibliography and [...]

9 09, 2017

Aztec gods and rituals – Central American religion

By |2019-02-07T06:27:10-07:00September 9th, 2017|Central America, Religion|0 Comments

The Aztec god of seeds, Xipe Totec (ca 1500 AD) Who were the Aztec gods? Aztec people were polytheistic - they had many gods. That's the same as like the people of China, India, or Africa at this time. Who were the Aztec? Religion of the Maya All our Central America articles Aztec nature gods Many of the Aztec gods [...]

9 09, 2017

Maya writing – Ancient Central America

By |2018-04-11T09:22:20-07:00September 9th, 2017|Central America, Literature|0 Comments

A page from the Madrid Codex It's possible that the Maya learned how to write from the Olmec, but there aren't any definite examples of early Olmec writing, so it might also have been the Maya who invented writing in the Americas. Like most other writing systems, Maya writing is a syllabary, not an [...]

9 09, 2017

Corn and Maize Mountain – A Mayan story

By |2017-09-09T23:42:29-07:00September 9th, 2017|Central America, Literature|0 Comments

A bolt of lightning in the sky Maya people liked to tell a story about how people first got corn (maize) to eat. There were a lot of different versions of this story. But they mostly had the same basic idea. They said that at one time all the corn was hidden inside a mountain, and [...]

9 09, 2017

Aztec language, writing, and literature

By |2019-02-07T06:49:29-07:00September 9th, 2017|Central America, Literature|0 Comments

An Aztec book, or codex (ca 1500 AD) Aztec writing and the Maya The Aztec system of writing was very much like the Maya system. Probably the Aztec people learned how to write from the Maya. Mayan writing Who were the Aztec? All our Central American articles What were Aztec books like? Aztec writers wrote their [...]

9 09, 2017

Who were the Zapotec? Central American history

By |2018-04-12T08:53:16-07:00September 9th, 2017|Central America, History|0 Comments

A Zapotec head The Zapotec civilization, like the Maya, grew up in the region that had been ruled by the Olmec, after the collapse of Olmec power about 500 BC. The main city of the Zapotec kings was Monte Alban (in modern Mexico). The Zapotec developed their own hieroglyphic writing system, possibly building on earlier Olmec [...]

9 09, 2017

Who were the Olmec? Central American history

By |2019-03-27T06:05:27-07:00September 9th, 2017|Central America, History|6 Comments

Olmec clay statue ca. 1100-500 BC - Olmec history Why are the Olmec important? The earliest state government in North or South America was the Olmec. They formed their state about 1200 BC. Paleo-Indians Valdivia people All our Central America articles Were the Olmecs the first state? This is about the time of the Mycenaean kingdoms in Greece, [...]