Chapter 4 is a survey of Middle America (Mexico, Central America, and the Greater and Lesser Antilles that constitute the islands of the Caribbean Basin). Following an introduction, the sequential influences of the Amerindian (Mesoamerican) civilizations and the Hispanic colonizers are reviewed, and their various cultural collisions are evaluated in the shaping of contemporary society. The regional structure of the realm is initially presented within the useful “Mainland-Rimland” framework (set against the complex European colonial legacy). Each major region is then treated: the Caribbean—underscor-ing cultural and economic geography and the impact of tourism; Mexico—highlighting social and economic geography as well as plans for continuing development; and Central America—profiling each of its 7 republics, and emphasizing spatial dimensions of the instabilities that continue to plague this region.
Having learned the regional geography of Middle America, students should be able to:
1. Understand which components make up the Middle American realm and their differing physiographies.
2. Describe the major contributions of the Maya, Aztecs, and Spaniards in shaping the contemporary cultural and social geography of the realm (and the African and other European colonial infusions in much of the Rimland portion of Middle America).
3. Differentiate between Mainland and Rimland Middle America in terms of political, cultural, and economic regional geography.
4. Understand the geographic patterns of the Caribbean Basin, its evolution, and its prospects for future change.
5. Understand the geography of Mexico, especially its development opportunities as well as its problems related to economic inequalities and population growth.
6. Understand the altitudinal zonation of environments that mark the economic and settlement geographies of Middle and South America.
7. Understand the geographic patterns of Central America, including the challenges facing each of its republics.
8. Locate the major physical, cultural, and economic-spatial features of the realm on an outline map.
GLOSSARY Isthmus (202) Performs the same function as a land bridge, but is usually shorter in length and narrower in width. On the mainland Middle American land bridge, the South American end is the isthmus of Panama.
Land Bridge (202) A narrow isthmian link that connects two larger landmasses, such as the 3800-mile-long (6000-km-long) mainland of Middle America that connects North and South America between the U.S. border and the southeastern end of the Panamanian isthmus.
Greater Antilles (203) The larger islands of the northern Caribbean that encompass Cuba, Hispaniola (containing Haiti and the Dominican Republic), Puerto Rico, and Jamaica.
Lesser Antilles (203) The smaller-island arc of the eastern Caribbean, stretching southward from the Virgin Islands to Trinidad near the South American coast. Region can also be extended north-westward toward Florida to include the Bahamas island chain.
Archipelago (203) A set of islands grouped closely together, usually elongated into a chain.
Culture hearth (203) A source area or innovation center from which cultural traditions are transmitted.
Mesoamerica (203) Anthropological label for the Middle American culture hearth, shown in world context in Fig. 6-3.
Plaza (206) Central market square that was the focus of Spanish New World towns, containing church and government buildings.
Mainland-Rimland framework (208-209) Augelli's framework that recognizes a Euro-Amerindian Mainland and a Euro-African Rimland in Middle America, as mapped in Fig. 4-6 on p. 208.
Hacienda (209) Literally, a large estate in a Spanish-speaking country. Sometimes equated with plantation, but there are important differences between these two types of agricultural enterprise and rural land tenure. Many have now been divided into smaller holdings or reorganized as cooperatives.
Plantation (209-210) A large estate owned by an individual, family, or corporation and organized to produce a cash crop. Almost all plantations were established within the tropics.
Ejido (210) Communally-owned cooperative farmlands in central and southern Mexico; former hacienda lands.
Mulatto (216) A person of mixed African (black) and European (white) ancestry.
Mestizo (216) A person of mixed white and Amerindian ancestry.
Plural(istic) society (216) A society in which two or more population groups, each practicing its own culture, live adjacent to one another without mixing inside a single state.
Acculturation (220) Cultural modification resulting from intercultural borrowing. In cultural geography, the term refers to the change that occurs in the culture of indigenous peoples when contact is made with a society that is technologically superior.
Transculturation (220) Two-way cultural borrowing that occurs when different cultures of approximately equal complexity and technological level come into close contact. In acculturation, by contrast, an indigenous society's culture is modified by contact with a technologically more advanced society.
Maquiladora (224-225) The term given to modern industrial plants in Mexico's northern (U.S.) border zone. These foreign-owned factories assemble imported components and/or raw materials, and then export finished manufactures, mainly to the United States. Most import duties are minimized (and will be phased out under NAFTA by 2002), bringing jobs to Mexico and the advantages of low wage rates to the foreign entrepreneurs.
“Dry Canal” (225) An overland rail and/or road corridor across an isthmus dedicated to performing the transit functions of a canalized waterway. Best adapted to the movement of containerized cargo, there must be a port at each end to handle the necessary break-of-bulk unloading and reloading.
Altitudinal zonation (228-box) Vertical regions defined by physical-environmental zones at various elevations, particularly in the highlands of South and Middle America. See Fig 4-13.
Tierra caliente (228-box) The lowest of five vertical zones into which the settlement of highland Middle and South America is divided according to elevation. The caliente is the hot humid coastal plain and adjacent slopes up to 2500 feet (750 meters) above sea level. The natural vegetation is the dense and luxuriant tropical rainforest; the crops are tropical, including bananas. See Fig. 4-13.
Tierra templada (228-box) The second altitudinal zone in highland Middle and South America, between 2500 and 6000 feet (750 and 1850 meters). This is the “temperate” zone, with moderate temperatures compared to the tierra caliente. Crops include tobacco, coffee, corn, and some wheat. See Fig. 4-13.
Tierra fría (228-box) The third altitudinal zone in highland Middle and South America, from about 6000 feet (1850 meters) up to the tree line at nearly 12,000 feet (3600 meters). Coniferous trees stand here; upward they change into scrub and grassland. There are also important pastures within the fría, and wheat, potatoes, and barley can be cultivated. See Fig. 4-13.
Tierra helada (228-box) The fourth settlement zone in highland South America, extending upward from about 12,000 to 15,000 feet (3600-4500 meters). This altitudinal zone lies above the tree line, and is so cold and barren that it can only support the grazing of hardy livestock and sheep. See Fig.4-13.
Tierra nevada (228-box) This zone is above the snow line, which lies at approximately 15,000 feet (4500 meters), and is referred to as the “frozen land.” See Fig. 4-13.
Tropical deforestation (234-box) The clearing and destruction of tropical rainforests to make way for expanding settlement frontiers and the exploitation of new economic opportunities.