CENTRAL AMERICA: The extreme southern portion of the continent of North America, including seven independent states, as follows, enumerated in geographical order from north to south:
|Colony of British Honduras||7,562||40,000|
|Republic of Guatemala||46,774||1,800,000|
|Republic of Honduras||42,658||775,000||Republic of Salvador||8,130||1,000,000|
|Republic of Nicaragua||51,560||400,000|
|Republic of Costa Rica||23,000||331,000|
|Republic of Panama||31,890||330,000|
The population is overwhelmingly Indian, negro, and mixed. In British Honduras in 1891 there were only 400 whites. In Guatemala 60 per cent of the people are Indians and 28 per cent mixed. About one-twentieth of the population of Salvador and one-fifth of that of Nicaragua are classed as white. In Costa Rica there are 8,000 Indians, and the remainder is almost entirely creole. The Indians in many localities retain their native language and live in almost primitive conditions; where classed as Roman Catholic converts their relation to the Church is often little more than nominal. But few of the colored population still persist in heathenism.
The republic of Panama was formed by revolution from Colombia in 1903. Religious statistics for this state are not available, but it may be said, in general, that conditions are the same as in the rest of Central America and the mother country (see COLOMBIA). The five older Central American republics, after the disruption from Spain, formed from 1821 to 1839 the "United States of Central America." Their present independent status was attained gradually, often after internal dissension and warfare. During the revolutionary and formative period the Church suffered much. Its property was confiscated, monasteries were abolished, monks were banished, and the secular clergy were persecuted. Poverty has also been a heavy burden to the Church. Ecclesiastical affairs were regulated by a series of concordats with Pope Pius IX. between 1852 and 1863 (see CONCORDATS AND DELIMITING BULLS, VI., 5).
The religion is everywhere Roman Catholic, but toleration is now legally assured in all states. The diocese of Guatemala was founded in 1534 and raised to archiepiscopal rank in 1743. The suffragan bishoprics are Nicaragua (1534), Comayagua (for Honduras, 1561), San Salvador (1842), and San José of Costa Rica (1850). A vicar apostolic has resided at Belize in British Honduras since 1893.
An Anglican diocese of Honduras and Central America was founded in 1883. The bishop resides at Belize. Guatemala has approximately 4,500 Protestants representing English and American churches and including a congregation of about 1,000 Germans resident in the capital. Protestants in Honduras number about 1,000 and in Costa Rica 3,200. They are barely represented in Salvador. In Nicaragua are fifteen "stations" of the Moravians.
All the states have public schools, colleges, and universities, and progress is being made in both elementary and the higher education. As might be expected, however, the majority of the population is illiterate. Attendance at the elementary schools is compulsory in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Honduras.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: In general: T. Child, Spanish American Republics, London, 1892; Etnologia Centro-Americana, Madrid, 1893; C. Sapper, Das nördliche Mittel Amerika, Brunswick, 1897; idem, Mittelamerika, Reisen und Studien, ib. 1902; C. Haebler, Die Religion des Mittleren Amerika, Münster, 1899. On British Honduras: A. R. Gibbs, British Honduras, London, 1883; British Honduras Almanac, annual, Belize. On Guatemala: O. Stoll, Reisen und Schilderungen von Guatemala, 1886; T. Brigham, Guatemala, New York, 1887; A. C. Maudsley, A Glimpse at Guatemala, London, 1899; Missionary Review of the World, xiv. (1901) 168 sqq.
Calvin College. Last modified on 05/10/04. Contact the CCEL.