October 13, 2006

Who is an American? − A geography lesson

I know this will come as a big shock to many U.S. citizens, but everyone who lives in this hemisphere is an American. North AMERICA, South AMERICA, Central AMERICA. The U.S. has laid claim to the name America as her own and some believe no one else has a right to it.

Those who think that are wrong. It sounds presumptuous to say you are an American when you are in Central or South America because the people you are talking to are Americans, too. It's preferable to say that you are "de Los Estados Unidos" (from the United States).

People from Canada are Canadians, people from Mexico are Mexicans. But people from the United States of America are not United Statesians. We really should have had another word.

Central America includes Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. It does not include Mexico (another big surprise for some, I know). The citizens of Mexico, the U.S., and Canada are all North Americans. Mexico, by Honduran standards, is a wealthy and advanced country − maybe "second world" if there is such a thing.

(And before you point out that my links section says "Central American blogs that I read" and it does include some Mexican blogs, I know, I know. It was just too long a title to say "Central American and Mexican blogs that I read." I was trying to keep the heading in a nice neat one line.)

Oh, another common misconception − Columbia, often thought of as the drug capital of the world, is in South America, not Central America.

Many U.S. companies act as if Central America doesn't exist. Warranties are rarely honored in Central America. A lot of companies have their special Central American brands, which are often inferior products. I have seen boxes from U.S. companies that are printed with "Not for sale in the U.S." on them.

Other companies sell their rejects, outlawed products, and almost-expired food items here. Since most Central Americans do not read English, they don't know that the box or package says "refurbished," "seconds," or "irregular" when they are buying something at two or three times the U.S. price. They think that because it comes from the U.S., it must be good.

Most companies where I've tried to shop on the internet won't ship here. While Amazon.com sell millions of items, only books, music, and movies can be shipped to Honduras and the rest of Latin America. The term 'Latin America' generally refers to Mexico, Central and South America.

A few years ago when looking at a Dell computer service/sales area map of the world, I discovered that South America connected directly to Mexico −
there was no Central America in Dell's map of the world!

Things are starting to change. Now when I type in Dell.com, it takes me to Dell-Honduras. I do have to point out, though, that Dell-Honduras sells completely different models than those shown on the Dell-U.S. site. Last year's models? Or "special Central American" models? Hopefully someday, those of us in Central America will be regular citizens of the world, too.

Well, once again, I've started ranting and gotten off the subject of geography. Just for fun, I made up a quiz about Central America. It's mostly geography, a little history. If you've been reading this blog, you should do very well, but please don't cheat! If you take it, you can report back here with your scores if you want. I won't keep anyone after school.
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