What countries are in North America?

You see pictures of South America and it includes, Columbia, Bolivia, Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Chilli, Uraguay, Ecuador and those Guianna countries. And if you see a map of North America, its USA, Canada and Mexico. What about Central America…its not a continent. I have allways assumed they were part of North America, but I could be wrong.


Most geographers include the Central American countries as part of North America. When Panama was part of Colombia, that was where South America began. When it became independent, it switched to being in North America.

I use this as proof that continental divisions are sort of arbitrary.

I think North America should consist of Canada and the USA. Why? Well, those two countries share a common Anglo-French heritage, while the countries from Mexico down are Spanish/Portuguese in heritage and language. Canada and the USA also have different political traditions from the southern nations, with more interest in individual participation.

Central America, which includes Mexico, is a part of North America. That makes South America culturally homogenous but incomplete (it lacks the culturally similar Central America) and North America larger but less homogenous and, therefore, less defineable. I wonder why in the world the continents were divided this way.

Um, maybe because they’re supposed to represent geographical rather than cultural regions.

What would happen to the Caribbean in your scenario? Would you put French-speaking Haiti in NA and the Spanish-speaking Dominican Republic in SA? (note: they’re on the same island)? Cuba and Puerto Rico, which are further north than English-speaking Jamaica and Trinidad, where would they go? And what about Surinam, a Dutch colony in South America?

And then what would we do about Asia? It would need to be broken down several times to give it anything approaching the cultural homogenity you seem to think continents are supposed to have.

Mexico refers to the US and Canada as North America and does not consider itself a part of it.
For the sake of clarity I would refer to the Caribbean as the Caribbean.

>> Mexico refers to the US and Canada as North America and does not consider itself a part of it.

Is that so? I think Mexicans would not agree with that statement nor would most people form other places. Can you provide any support for that?

These sites do not agree with you:

What about Greenland? If you look at a globe that shows the Arctic ocean, Greenland looks (to me) like more a part of North America than Europe. They speak Danish there, no? If so, it’s weird to think that there is a Danish speaking part of North America.

It’s interesting that divisions between continents are part geographical, part cultural. I remember being taught in elementary school that Europe and Asia are really part of the same continent, “Eurasia.” Looking at a map, this makes sense.

As far as “Central America” goes, I suppose if I had to choose, I would put Mexico, etc. in North America. Perhaps the Panama Canal is where I would draw the line :slight_smile:

Another interesting term I have heard is “Latin America.” Supposedly this refers to the Spanish speaking countries in the Americas, as well as Brazil, where Portugese is spoken. I suppose this makes sense, since Spanish and Portugese are latinates. But shouldn’t Quebec be considered part of Latin America too?

Philisophically, when you divide things into categories, I think you should ask yourself why you are making the distinction. This often helps you answer the question of which category something belongs in.


I agree with Doug that Mexican’s do not refer to themselves as North Americans. Of course, when referring to us as “North Americans” they could have been using it as a more formal/polite term than “gringo”. [The cover charges at the clubs they took us to were different for them and us]

But as others have mentioned, that is a cultural, not geographic distinction. I consider Mexico as part of North America.

Before Panama was “liberated” from Colombia, I would’ve said it was on two continents, like Turkey, Russia, or Egypt.

The Colombian/Panamanian border hits either coast about 60 miles north of where I would offhandedly say the North/South American division is. So Colombia is still bi-continental, with that extra 60 miles it claims up the isthmus. (From my not-so-detailed map, the border looks like it follows some high ground that divides drainage north and south.)

This question asks where a simple 100 mile division line is. Think how hard it is for those trying to define the line that divides Europe and Asia! :smiley:

Good call on Egypt, AWB! Almost all maps I’ve seen show Egypt as entirely in Africa, including the Sinai Peninsula, though this should really be considered a bit of Eurasia. Continents are supposed to be geographical entities, bordered usually by oceans and created by plate tectonics. Some Europeans will call North and South America one continent: America (witness the five rings of the Olympic flags, symbolizing the “five” continents – Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and America); but it was only an era or two ago that North and South were actually separated by water; whereas “Europe” is the true anomaly, a cultural region that pretends to geographic status as a continent. India (officially, I guess, a “subcontinent”) has a better claim to that title.

>> I agree with Doug that Mexican’s do not refer to themselves as North Americans

And I say you are mistaken but I should expand. Mexicans consider Maexico to be located in North America. I have no doubt that this is 100% correct and universal. I have never heard any Mexican say Mexico was located anywhere else than North America.

Now, the term “norteamericano”, although literally meaning “from North America” is most often used to mean “from the USA” (not Canada either). Maybe hence the confusion.

Even in English the terms America and American are confusing.

But I stand by what I said. Can you show me any instance of Mexican sources which say Mexico is not located in North America? I don’t think so.


I never said that Mexicans deny that the country of Mexico is in North America.

I said I agree with Doug that Mexicans do not call themselves North Americans. To them, North Americans are people from north of Mexico. It is a cultural issue, not a geographic issue.

I thought the OP was “what countries are in north America?”

At any rate and as I explained, they do not refer to Canadians as “norteamericanos”, only to people from the USA. In other words it is strictly a lingual issue and nothing else. For the same reason citizens of the USA call themselves “Americans” when, strictly speaking, everyone from the Americas is an American. It is stricly a language thing.

I will add that in Spanish it is common to call the USA “Estados Unidos de Norteamerica”, United States of North America. Hence the term “North American” applied to the people. You will never hear it applied to a Canadian.

Another term that is confusing is “Spanish”. Strictly speaking Spanish means “from Spain” but many people use it to mean “from or related to any place or person who speaks Spanish”.

I was going to mention plate tectonics but I see that scratch allready has. If we were going to split the two at the tectonic joint where would that be ? Lake Nicaragua, around the Panama canal, or southern border of Panama seem to be close to where it would be but I don’t have a plate map handy.

Well after digging up a Plate Map I see that the Caribbean Plate runs from just south of the Yucatan Peninsula to the southern border of Panama. So if you’re splitting it by tectonics than you have to either say Central America belongs to neither or arbitrarily assign it to one of the other plates.

Besides the obvious problems that have already been pointed out in this plan, what about the parts of the United States that don’t have a common Anglo-French heritage? Most of the western portion of the United States has a Spanish/Mexican heritage. Could we be part of Central America? And what about Alaska? Where do lands with Inuit/Russian heritage fit into your scheme?

I think plates are only part of it, though. I mean, according to that map, eastern Siberia and Hokkaido are part of the North American plate, but no one would say that Sapporo is a North American city! I think the narrowness of the Panamanian isthmus, plus the history of the plates (being separated before) put Central America (geographically speaking) in North America. Also, IIRC, the Americas are predicted to split apart again in some tens of thousands of years at that same location. Let’s not make those future cartographers have to redesign all their maps when it happens! :wink:

Two brief and blurby points:

  1. Regarding a lingual/cultural definition of continents: Hogwash. Besides the inapplicability to physical geometry, in which the allowedly messy distinctions of continents is most applicable, there is pointedly no such thing as “common Anglo-French heritage.” Ask an Anglo or a French and see.

  2. Strictly speaking (with the kind of literalness that gets people slapped) all states with embassies in North America have some claim to be located, at least in part, on that continent.

The term “Central America” excludes Mexico (but a few geographers include southernmost Mexico.) There is another term, “Meso-America” which includes both Mexico and Central America. In either case, Mexico (or at least most of it) is part of North America.

Depending on which geographers you listen to, Central America, the Caribbean, and Greenland may or may not be part of North America.