Central America (Spanish: Centroamérica or América Central) is a central geographic region of the Americas. It is variably defined either as the southern-most portion of North America, which connects with South America on the southeast, or as a region of the Americas in its own right. Most of Central America is considered to be part of the Mesoamerican biodiversity hotspot.
Physiographically, Central America is a very narrow isthmus of southern North America extending from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico southeastward to the Isthmus of Panama where it connects to the Colombian Pacific Lowlands in northwestern South America. Alternatively, the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt delimits the region on the north. Central America has an area of some 592,000 square kilometres. The Pacific Ocean lies to the southwest, the Caribbean Sea lies to the northeast, and the Gulf of Mexico lies to the north.
Most of Central America rests atop the Caribbean Plate. The region is geologically active, with volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occurring from time to time. Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, was devastated by earthquakes in 1931 and 1972, and three earthquakes devastated El Salvador, one in 1986 and two in 2001. Fertile soils from weathered volcanic lavas have made it possible to sustain dense populations in the agriculturally productive highland areas.*