Following our last post about where North America begins, today I want to react to a google query, that brought a visitor here: “Is Mesoamerica part of North or South America?” I want to answer this question today. It’s obviously important here to know what we speak about, when we use North, Central and South America. Although the last article dealt with the question what should be considered North America, it never gave a definition. For this Article today, I want to define it, so everyone knows what we are talking about and can extrapolate own explanations.
In case we divide the Americas in two continents, North America stretches until the Isthmus of Panama. That’s pretty obvious. I marked it in red on this picture.
If we want to add Central America as a geographic region, we do it at the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Central America therefore lies between the isthmuses of Tehuantepec and Panama. I marked both in the next picture.
The circumstance of Mexico being separated by this line, doesn’t make Mexico a Central American Country. It’s situated in North America with the majority of its landmass – and also historically and politically it makes a lot of sense, to put it there.
Let’s use this second definition for the answer to our question. This way, we can make more accurate descriptions.
Where or what is Mesoamerica?
Now to the question where Mesoamerica is situated and also what it is at all. The greek word Meso means Middle, which would make Mesoamerica Middle America. This is however already a used term, which sometimes refers to Central America. But Mesoamerica is different from Central America. Mesoamerica is not a geographically shaped region, but identifiable by cultural and historical factors. Also it stretches far out the Central American regions into northern Mexico.
On this map, we can see that Mesoamerica is refering to a region up to the North of Mexico. In the South-West it also covers the nowadays states of Belize, Guatemala and El Salvador. Please remember, that it is a cultural region, defined by the spread of different indigenous tribes and cultures. Therefore, we can also separate Mesoamerica in smaller cultural regions. In the South for example we can find the Maya region, which stretches roughly to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.
Mesoamerica is definitely in North America and definitely not in South America. By our second definition, it is also partially in the geographical region of Central America. It is itself however not a geographical term, but a cultural, historical one, shaped by the expansion of the pre-columbian cultures.