Map Exercise: Mexico, The Caribbean and Central America


Yaque del Norte flows from the mountain Pico Duarte (3175m) in the Dominican Republic, north-east through the city Santiago de los Caballeros and then does a u-turn and flows north-west through a valley and into the Cibao Bay and the Atlantic Ocean by the town of Monte Cristi.
Rio Nazas flows from the Sierra Madre Occidental range in the Durango territory, and east into the Chihuahuan Desert where it is stopped by a dam, forming a fair sized lake, after which is dissipates into the desert sands of Coahuila territory.
Rio Grande de Santiago begins in Laguna de Chapala, which lies on the border of Jalisco and Michoacan territories. It flows north, through the city of Guadalajara, through mountain valleys and into Nayarit territory where it reaches the coastal plains and the Pacific Ocean.
Rio Guayambre begins on the Nicaragua / Honduras border near El Mogotón (2107m) and flows northeast through the mountains of Honduras until it meets Rio Guayape where they merge and become Rio Patuca which continues northeast until it reaches Punta Patuca and the Caribbean Sea.
Rio Santa María begins in the Cordillera Central Range of Panama and flows south then east to the Bahia de Parita, the Golfo de Panamá and then the Pacific Ocean.


The Maya Mountains are located along the coast of the Gulf of Honduras spanning the Guatemala and Belize borders. The main peak is Victoria Peak at 1120m in elevation.
The Sierra Madre Oriental range is the eastern arm of the extensive Sierra Madre range which runs north and south along the entire country of Mexico and into Central America all the way to Honduras. The Sierra Madre Oriental runs along the eastern coast of Mexico, spanning the territories of Coahuila (on the US/Mexico border), Nuevo León, Zacatecas, Tamaulipas, San Luis Potosí, Querétaro, Hidalgo, and Puebla (and maybe others I didn’t spot). I noticed some volcanos in the range, as well as many rivers feeding into the coastal plains.
The Serranía de san Blas run along the northern coast of Panama, to the east of the Panama Canal. As the coast turns south, the range ends, and the Serranía del Darién continue.

Site and Situation

The situation of Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean is between the Northern countries of North America and South America. Panama, part of Central America, is the ONLY way to get a boat from the Pacific to the Atlantic (or the reverse) without either cutting through the ice of the Arctic Ocean or around the southern tip of South America through the Straits of Magellan.

The site of Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean is quite varied. On the mainland, the north is dominated by a stark desert with little water and few people (although the Sierra Madre Occidental is a bit greener, it is still quite dry). Once you reach past the tropic of cancer, the climate changes for the wetter, and the desert turns to green grass, trees and tropical foliage. The area is characterized by an abundance of mountains, and the towns and cities of central Mexico are nestled in the river valleys. The land narrows (with the Yucatan Peninsula jutting up like a big fin to the north) and the climate turns distinctly tropical as we come to the Central American countries. The terrain is still mountainous, but covered in vast greenery. The landmass continues to narrow until it reaches the Isthmus of Panama which is where the Panama Canal was built. A short way farther down, central America joins up with South America and the country of Columbia.

The Caribbean consists of a conglomeration of islands to the east of Mexico and Central America lying inside (for the most part) the Caribbean Sea. Most of the islands lay in a rough line from the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, straight east, past Florida and then finally curving south as they reach the open ocean of the Atlantic. Cuba is the largest island, and is mainly flat, with some mountains on its eastern tip. The rest of the islands are either very mountainous (those that are of any size) or made from coral reefs, and are flat and usually quite small. The climate is mild, due to the regulating influence of the Sea, but there are many tropical storms and hurricanes that the residents must deal with on a yearly basis.


Are there any countries in Central America that are considered an MDC? If yes, name the country and explain why it is considered an MDC.

The Countries in Central America and the Caribbean that are considered MDCs by the UN are: Barbados, Cuba, Bahamas, Panama, Antigua & Barbuda, Trinidad & Tobago, Grenada, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Dominica, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Belize. These are the countries that score 70% or higher on the Human Development Index which takes into account life expectancy, education, and standards of living. By comparison, the United states is at 91% and Liberia which is at 33%. Mexico is also an MDC, but it’s not part of Central America ;-) This data also does not take into account foreign territories such as Puerto Rico which would otherwise qualify as an MDC.

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