A version of this page is available in Spanish!


Getting a Feel for Eclipses, South America details the 2019 and 2020 total solar eclipses that will occur in Chile and Argentina. The “path of totality” will move directly through each country in both 2019 and 2020. To commemorate this event NASA, in conjunction with Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and College of Charleston, created a tactile guide. Tactile graphics in the book provide an illustration of the alignment of the Sun with the Moon and the Earth, the interaction and developing stages of the eclipse from partial to total to partial, and a map of Central and South America with both the 2019 and 2020 paths of totality labeled.

Getting a Feel for Eclipses Book Cover

Although the eclipses directly impact Chile and Argentina, the third tactile graphic is a map of Central and South America and includes a key linked to each country on the map. The authors hope that the map can be used for years to come to teach basic geography of Central and South America. After the following description of the eclipses and tactile graphics, you will find a brief geographical summary of each country. If you are a Braille reader, you may need to assist your sighted friends in finding the countries and matching them up with their names on the key. If you are sighted, your challenge is to find the appropriate numbers on the key and match them to the map!

Before getting started with the details, please note that this text is specifically designed to complement the tactile book “Abre Tus Sentidos a los Eclipses: Sudamerica” that consists of five pages including a cover page with a Braille label, three plastic pages with tactile graphics, and a back cover with credits. If you have not done so already, downloading a free “QR” reader to a smart phone or device will allow you to scan and open the text. The QR code and title is found in the lower left-hand corner on the cover page. A raised tactile box outlines the QR code and is labeled below “scan here for text.” The ring in the upper left-hand corner can be removed allowing the user to place the pages on a flat surface or hang them on a wall.

Solar Eclipses

For thousands of years, humans have observed the sky and had a sense of wonder. Particular alignments of heavenly objects were seen as signs or omens. Perhaps one of the most awe-inspiring and influential celestial events to occur is a solar eclipse. In 2019 and 2020 significant solar eclipses occurred and were visible in South America and one will be visible in the United States in 2024. While this tactile book includes details surrounding the 2019 and 2020 eclipses, much of the text and tactiles are relevant for future eclipses. Come and explore the world of eclipses with us!

What is a solar eclipse?

A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon blocks the sunlight reaching the Earth. It is important to understand some basics of the orbits of the Earth and Moon. The Earth orbits, or revolves, about the Sun. It takes about 365 days for the Earth to revolve once around the Sun. The Moon orbits, or revolves, around the Earth and it takes about 29 ½ days for the Moon to revolve once around the Earth with respect to the Sun (referred to as the Moon’s Synodic Period of revolution). The Moon orbits the Earth in nearly the same plane as the Earth and Sun. Every 29 ½ days the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun in its orbit (as shown on Tactile 1). This is called a “New Moon.” A solar eclipse can only occur during the New Moon phase but it does not happen every New Moon.

How often do solar eclipses occur?

Various types of eclipses occur four to seven times a year with most years only having four. However, the type of eclipse being explored with this book is known as a Total Solar Eclipse which occurs somewhere on Earth about every 18 months. The problem is that an observer is rarely in the right position on Earth (or within the path of totality, reference Tactile 1 and Tactile 3) to witness the entire disk of the Sun being blocked by the disk of the Moon (Tactile 2). That path may only be about 80 to 170 km wide. It is so rare that if the observer were to stay in one place on Earth, he/she would only be found in the path of totality about once every 400 years!

You might be wondering why an eclipse does not occur every New Moon which occurs every 29 ½ days. The reason is that the orbital plane of the Moon and Earth is tilted by about 5° from the Earth and Sun’s orbital plane. This causes the Moon’s shadow to usually fall either above or below the earth.

How long do solar eclipses last?

“Totality,” or when the disk of the Sun is entirely blocked by the disk of the Moon (Tactile 2), can last up to eight minutes, though totality lasting about two to three minutes along the so-called “path of totality” is much more common. Totality for Chile and Argentina on July 2, 2019 and December 14, 2020 lasted about 2 minutes. However, from the start of the eclipse, where the Sun is partially eclipsed by the Moon, until the end of the eclipse, when the disk of the Moon no longer blocks any of the Sun, took just over 2 hours in 2019 and nearly 3 hours in 2020 (as shown on Tactile 2).

To get an idea of the significant times involved during an eclipse, the following tables comes from an interactive map highlighting the 2020 eclipse at Villarrica, Chile; Valcheta and Piedra del Águila, Argentina. Although these examples are for those towns specifically, a click on the map at any location will give similar information. Below, you will find a link to the map and other examples where the important information has been extracted. Each example deals with the 2020 eclipse through Chile and Argentina, but you are encouraged to explore the map for other locations and other years.

Villarrica, Chile

Lat.: 39.2826° S
Long.: 72.227° W

Total Solar Eclipse
Duration of Totality: 2m08.7s
Magnitude: 1.012
Obscuration: 100.00%



Time (UT)



Start of partial eclipse (C1) : 





Start of total eclipse (C2) : 





Maximum eclipse : 





End of total eclipse (C3) : 





End of partial eclipse (C4) : 





This table has a lot of information; however, most users only need to know the following…

  1. What time (to the nearest minute) the partial eclipse starts (C1)
  2. What time totality begins (only if in the path of totality, C2)
  3. What time totality ends (only if in the path of totality, C3)
  4. What time the partial eclipse ends (C4)
  5. How much of the disk of the Sun is covered (Obscuration). Obscuration is most useful for those NOT in the path of totality.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Astronomical times are usually given in universal time (UT) and must be converted to local time. 

Local time in Chile is 3 hours earlier than UT. For example, the start of the partial eclipse on December 14, 2020 in Villarrica, Chile happens at 14:41 hours UT. Subtracting 3 results in a time of 11:41 hours when the partial eclipse starts for those in Villarrica.

Local time in Argentina is also currently 3 hours earlier than UT. For example, in the table below it says the start of partial eclipse on December 14, 2020 happens at 14:52 hours UT in Valcheta, Argentina. Subtracting 3 results in a time of 11:52 hours when the partial eclipse starts for those in Valcheta.

Valcheta, Argentina

Lat.: 40.685° S
Long.: 66.1612° W

Total Solar Eclipse
Duration of Totality: 2m09.4s
Magnitude: 1.012
Obscuration: 100.00%



Time (UT)



Start of partial eclipse (C1) : 





Start of total eclipse (C2) : 





Maximum eclipse : 





End of total eclipse (C3) : 





End of partial eclipse (C4) : 





For Argentina, Piedra del Águila has been determined to be a prime viewing location by Instituto de Tecnologías en Detección y Astropartículas (ITeDA), the Universidad Nacional del Comahue, Universidad de Córdoba, Universidad San Juan Bosco-Esquel and Government of Neuquén Province. The following table includes important times as above. Remember to subtract 3 hours from given UT to convert to local time.

 Piedra del Águila, Argentina

Lat.: 40.0509° S
Long.: 70.0741° W

Total Solar Eclipse
Duration of Totality: 1m52.2s
Magnitude: 1.006
Obscuration: 100.00%



Time (UT)



Start of partial eclipse (C1) : 





Start of total eclipse (C2) : 





Maximum eclipse : 





End of total eclipse (C3) : 





End of partial eclipse (C4) : 





For complete details regarding specific times for specific locations across Chile and Argentina check these links!

2019… https://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEgoogle/SEgoogle2001/SE2019Jul02Tgoogle.html



Although being in the path of totality and knowing specific times will make for a great experience, an observer should also pay attention to local weather forecasts to find a location within the path of totality where it will likely be clear skies!

It should also be noted that you don’t have to be in the path of totality to enjoy the event. For example, in 2019, the eclipse was noticeable as far north as Nicaragua. If you are not in the path of totality, you will only see a “partial” solar eclipse (Tactile 2). Use the same maps listed above for the details surrounding where you will be observing the event. It will provide information when the partial eclipse begins and when it ends. Another important piece of information is the “obscuration” which reveals the percentage of the disk of the Sun that will be blocked by the disk of the Moon. For example, if the obscuration is 73% then about ¾ (75%) of the sun’s disk will be covered at maximum eclipse.

Are solar eclipses dangerous to look at?

Yes! It is never safe to look at the Sun without proper means of viewing it. During a total solar eclipse, for people in the “path of totality,” the only time to safely look at the event is during totality when the disk of the Sun is entirely obscured by the disk of the Moon. At this time, a layer of the Sun’s atmosphere called the Corona is visible to the unaided/unprotected eye. As the middle graphic in Tactile 2 illustrates, the Corona can be seen radiating around the Sun while the central disk remains black. Normally, the photosphere of the Sun’s atmosphere outshines the Corona. It is interesting to note that the Corona can extend out over 4 million km and can reach temperatures over 2 million degrees!

Aside from the few minutes of totality, it is never safe to look directly at the Sun. Even an annular solar eclipse (as described in next section) can damage the eyes if it’s looked at directly without filters. It should be noted that it is never healthy to look directly at the Sun and care should be taken to work with professionals who have some experience using proper methods of viewing eclipses of the sun. It is also worth mentioning that the ultra-violet rays from the Sun that can cause sunburn continue to radiate from the Sun during the duration of the eclipse.

What’s the difference between a total solar eclipse, an annular eclipse, and a partial solar eclipse?

During a Total Solar Eclipse, the Moon completely blocks the Sun. Even though the Sun is about 400 times larger than the Moon, the disk of each is about the same size in the sky as viewed from Earth because of the distance each is from the Earth. Given that information, which one is farther away and which is closer? Of course, Tactile 1 provides an answer, but be aware that it is NOT to scale by size and NOT to scale by distance.

The orbit of the Moon around the Earth is not a perfect circle but an ellipse. Therefore, the Moon is sometimes closer to the Earth and sometimes farther. If the Moon is farther from the Earth during a New Moon phase then the disk of the Moon is not large enough to cover the entire disk of the Sun. When this occurs, it is called an Annular Eclipse. Chile and Argentina will experience an annular eclipse on October 2, 2024. The following website highlights this event… https://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/map/2024-october-2

As expected, during a Partial Solar Eclipse, the Moon only partially blocks the Sun. Technically a Partial Solar Eclipse means that no viewer on Earth can be in the right location to witness totality. Practically speaking, however, the Moon will “partially” block the Sun for a large portion of Earth during a total solar eclipse or even an annular eclipse. For example, during the December 14, 2020 total solar eclipse much of South America can witness a partial eclipse by using proper viewing precautions. During the 2019 eclipse, a partial eclipse was visible as far north as Nicaragua. Tactile 3 outlines Central and South America and the specific paths of totality. The amount of obscuration that occurs gets less and less the farther an observer is from the path of totality (see websites listed above).

Special Notes

Tactiles are NOT to scale by distance, size or relief.

Tactile 1: Illustration of the alignment of the Sun, Moon and Earth that creates a total solar eclipse. Note that the Moon is found between the Earth and Sun. Also notice the labeled external tangent lines that define where the dark part of the Moon’s shadow is located. This shadow is called the umbra and is represented by with a rough surface between the Moon and Earth. Where this rough surface, or umbra, directly hits the earth is called the “path of totality.” 

Tactile 2: Illustration of five different stages of a total solar eclipse from the initial onset of the disc of the Moon covering a portion of the Sun to totality (center) and then back to partial. Moving from left to right you will notice that the Moon (smooth surface) is barely covering the disk of the Sun (rough surface). The second snap-shot depicts more of the Moon (smooth surface) covering the disk of the Sun (rough surface). In the third graphic from the left, notice the entire Sun is obstructed by the Moon. We refer to that as totality. Also notice the irregularly shaped region around the Sun. This depicts what is visible to the eye only during totality of a total solar eclipse and is part of the Sun’s atmosphere called the Corona. After totality, the disk of the Sun starts reappearing from behind the disk of the Moon as shown on the fourth and fifth graphics of Tactile 2. 

Tactile 3: A map of South America showing the paths of totality for July 2, 2019 and December 14, 2020. These “paths” are lines that feel different than the rest of the lines and run from left to right through both Chile (country number 25 in Braille) and Argentina (country number 26 in Braille). For both eclipses, they will begin on the west coast in Chile and move eastward into Argentina. 

TACTILE 3: Geography of Central and South America

This map has several uses besides following the path of totality for the 2019 and 2020 solar eclipse. We intend for it to be used cross educationally and in many different subject areas. We hope you find the additional information about the countries found on this map useful and interesting. 

The following are listed according to the number randomly assigned to it on the map key which is found on page 3 of the book. If you are a Braille reader, you may need to assist your sighted friends in finding the countries and matching them up with their names on the key. If you are sighted, your challenge is to find the appropriate numbers on the key and match them to the map since they are all in Braille!

  1. Cuba

Cuba is an island nation with miles of many beautiful beaches. The official name for Cuba is the Republic of Cuba.

Cuba has a socialist republic for its form of government and the capital of Cuba is Havana.

The population of Cuba is diverse with over 11 million people. The official language of Cuba is Spanish.

The Cuban economic system is based on the peso. The area of Cuba is 110,860 square kilometers. Cuba is an island nation and is the largest in the Caribbean Sea. Cuba and its neighbors form the island chain called the Greater Antilles. This island chain was created millions of years ago through the collision of two tectonic plates. 

Cuba is a long and narrow island. It stretches 1,200 kilometers from east to west. However, it is only 100 kilometers wide. About 1/3 of Cuba is covered by mountains and rolling hills. The other two thirds of Cuba’s geography consist of lowland plains. These plains are mainly used for farming. Besides rolling hills, mountains and plains, you can also find deserts, forests, and grasslands. These different habitats allow for many interesting species to live and thrive in. Some of these include the bee hummingbird, claimed to be the smallest in the world. Adult bee hummingbirds only grow to five centimeters in length. You can also find the world’s smallest frog living in Cuba’s forest. This frog only gets 1 centimeter long and it is called the Mount Iberia.

The original inhabitants were the Ciboney and Guanahatabey people. Approximately a thousand years ago the Taino people who were from Venezuela took over the island. In 1511 forces from Spain fought and defeated the Taino forces and would then claim the island of Cuba as a Spanish territory. The Spanish forces forced the Taino people into slavery to plant their crops. As a result, many of the Taino people died and then the Spanish brought in African slaves to grow their crop of sugarcane. In 1898 American forces would help drive out the Spanish and Cuba finally won independence in 1902. North America had a strong influence over the island nation until 1959 when communist revolutionaries took control led by Fidel Castro. Castro was president, prime minister and commander of armed forces until February 2008. In February of 2008 Fidel Castro stepped down and gave power to his brother Raul Castro do to a long-term illness. Since Raul Castro has taken over diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba has softened.

  1. The Bahamas

The Bahamas are located in the Atlantic Ocean and made up of 700 tropical islands. Total area is about 13,939 square kilometers, however, only about 30 out of the 700 islands are inhabited. One of the largest islands in the Bahamas is New Providence. New Providence is home to 70% of the country’s population and home to the capital city of Nassau. The Bahamas is a tropical environment. Some of the animals that live in this ecosystem include turtles, parrots, iguanas, and the world’s larges colony of pink flamingos. These animals thrive in the warm climate of the Bahamas. The temperature of the Bahamas rarely drops below 16 degrees Celsius. You can also find many beautiful fish such as the parrot fish swimming in the warm waters. One of the longest coral reefs is found in the Bahamas and is known as Andros Barrier Reef.

In the 1600’s the Bahamas became a draw for pirates such as Blackbeard and Calico Jack. These pirates liked the Bahamas because of the bounty of lute that they were able to get from cargo ships that went along the trading routes that circled around the Bahamas. The territory of the Bahamas came under British rule in 1718 and would remain that way until 1973. The official name for the Bahamas is the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. The Bahamas have a Constitutional Parliamentary Democracy. The population of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas is over 350,000. The Bahamas have two official languages, English and Creole and the official currency of the Bahamas is Bahamian dollar. The people of the Bahamas are known as the Bahamians. On December 26th of each year they throw a big party called Junkanoo. This celebration is thought to have taken place as early as the 16th century and honors the country’s history with traditional dancing and music. The instruments that are played include horns, drums, and cowbells just to name a few.

  1. Jamaica

A beautiful mountainous island found in the Caribbean Sea, Jamaica is about 965 km south of Miami, Florida and covers an area of about 11,000 km2. Like Cuba, Jamaica is a part of chain of islands known as the Greater Antilles. There are several major mountain ranges on Jamaica and they include the Blue Mountains, John Crow Mountains, and the Don Figuero Mountains, to name a few. Several rivers also shape the landscape and include the Black River, Rio Cobre, and the Rio Grande.

As a parliamentary democracy, Jamaica serves a population of about 3 million from the capital of Kingston. The official language of Jamaica is English and their money is the Jamaican dollar.

Approximately one third of Jamaicans live in the capital city of Jamaica. At least 90% of the population are of African descent. However, there are many other populations that live on the island. Some of these come from China and Germany following the prospect of work. Jamaicans are very spiritual and practice Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Rastafarian.

  1. Haiti

The official name for Haiti is the Republic of Haiti and reflects their form of government. Two official languages are used by approximately 9 million people in Haiti, including French and Creole.

Port-au Prince serves as the capital where the Gourde is used for purchases.

Haiti covers over 27,000 km2 and sits in the western one third of the island called Hispaniola between the Alantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Haiti is west the Dominican Republic and south of the island of Cuba. The name Haiti comes from and Indian name meaning land of the mountains. Haiti often finds itself in the path of numerous hurricanes and tropical storms. Earthquakes are not uncommon and, as the Indian name suggests Haiti has many mountains and their peaks can reach up to over 2400 m.

The people who live in the northern part of Haiti are influenced by their Dominican Republic neighbors and the speak the language of Creole. The population of Haiti consists of 95% of the population being black and the remaining 5% of the population being white.

The biggest holidays for most Haitians are New Year’s Day and Carnival. About half of the Haitian population practices Voodoo.

Their diet consists of local vegetables and fruits along with some spicy meats.

  1. Dominican Republic

Over 10 million people call the eastern side of the island of Hispaniola home. The island was originally populated by the Native American tribe known as the Tianos. However, after Columbus discovered the island in 1492 on his quest to discover the new world, he then claimed it for Spain. At that time there were hundreds of thousands of Native Americans living on the island. Unfortunately, due to European diseases, most of them ended up dying from smallpox. Spain would hold control over most of the island until 1944 when the Dominican Republic gained its independence.

The total size of the Dominican Republic is 48,730 square kilometers and the landscape consists of rugged highlands, mountains, and fertile valleys. The lowest point of the Dominican Republic is located at Lago Enriquillo, 46 meters and the highest point is located at Pico Duarte 3,175 meters! The climate of the Dominican Republic is tropical and has little change except in the amount of rainfall.

The Dominican Republic gained their independence from Haiti in February of 1844 and they celebrate their independence day on the 27th of February. 

Most of the people that live in the Dominican Republic claim to be Roman Catholic and the national language is Spanish. Their national symbol is a bird better known as the Palmchat and their national anthem is the Himno Nacional. Their currency is the Dominican peso.

The major industries of the Dominican Republic include gold, tourism, sugar processing, and textiles. Crops include sugar and corn and they also raise pork and farm hay. Many natural resources are found in the Dominican Republic including gold, silver, nickel, and bauxite.

  1. Puerto Rico

Over 3 million people call Puerto Rico home and the capital is San Juan. Like the Dominican Republic, the original people were Native Americans from the Taino tribe. Many of the early inhabitants were killed off by diseases brought by the Spanish. After the Spanish American war in 1898 Puerto Rico became a territory of the United States and in 1917 Puerto Ricans were granted citizenship. The total size of Puerto Rico is 13,790 km2. The general terrain consists of sandy beaches, mountains, and coastal plains. The climate is mild and tropical in nature. The government found in Puerto Rico is a Commonwealth and the national anthem is the La Borinqueaña. Both English and Spanish are spoken in Puerto Rico. They have no independence because they are a territory of the United States and have commonwealth status. They celebrate two national holidays which are Independence Day which is celebrated on July 4th and Puerto Rico constitution day which is celebrated on July 25th.

The main religions practiced by Puerto Ricans is Protestant and Roman Catholic. The major industries of Puerto Rico are tourism and electronics just to name a few. They have a diverse agriculture system and they grow several things including sugar cane, chickens, pineapples, and plantains. Their natural resources consist of oil which is found both on and offshore as well as nickel and copper. The currency of Puerto Rico is the U.S. dollar.

  1. Mexico

The official name of Mexico is the United Mexican States. The form of government for Mexico is a Republic of Federated States and the capital is Mexico City.

The population of Mexico is over 120 million people and the official language Spanish. The currency of Mexico is the peso.

The area of Mexico is about 2 million km2 and is made up of many different landforms. They consist of high mountains, valleys, deserts, and rainforests. The high mountains and deep canyons are found in the center of Mexico whereas the deserts are in the north. Rainforests are found in the south and east. Most of Mexico is covered by mountains. Within the Rocky Mountain Chain, many spectacular ranges can be found, along with a rich source of silver and copper. Two predominant ranges include the Sierra Madre Occidental and Oriental, both of which cross the territory in a north-south direction. The major rivers in Mexico are the Rio Grande and the Yaqui in the north and Usumacinta and Grijalva in the south. Also found in Mexico is a stretch of land called the Yucatan Peninsula. This was once the home of the Mayan civilization and many of their buildings can still be found there today. The Yucatan Peninsula is found at the southeastern tip of Mexico.

The Mexican people have had a long heritage of Indian decent along with many years of Spanish rule and baroque bureaucracy. Additionally, they share a boarder with the United States. Today most Mexicans are considered to be mestizos. This means that they have both Spanish and Indian blood. Mexicans take their sports very seriously. Boxing and Soccer continue to be popular, along with Bullfighting and Baseball, to name a few. 

  1. Belice

A country with about 23,000 km2, the capital of Belice is Belmopan found in the center part of the country. The Belice flag consists of the Belice coat of arms on a white disk centered in a blue rectangular field with a narrow red stripe at the top and the bottom. The Belice anthem is the Land of The Free and their currency the Belice Dollar which includes both coins as well as paper dollars as well as notes. These different forms of the Belice dollar range in many different values.

Belice is located on the coast of Central America and was formally known as British Honduras. Lanforms found here include flatlands, mountains, hills, lagoons, swamps and multiple islands and reefs. The climate of Belice is very humid and hurricanes can occur here between August and October. The dry period normally falls around February.

The population of Belice is about 300,000 and the official language of is English. The people of Belice practice many forms of religion.

The Mayan people used to live in what we now call Belice around 900 A.D. and their disappearance is a mystery. The first settlement was from English sailors who were ship wrecked in 1638. Later, others such as African slaves, would call Belice their home. In it’s early history, Belice was used for logging and even a haven for pirates. Both Spain and Britain would fight over her and eventually Britain won and named it British Honduras. In 1973 Belice was adopted as its formal name and in September of 1981 Belice officially gained it’s independence from Britain, although the government has been largely influenced by their British rule. Today, Belice’s main industry is tourism, however the economy is also dependent on agriculture and fishing.

  1. Guatemala

Home to over 13 million people, the Republic of Guatemala covers about 109,000 km2. Guatemala City serves as the capital where the official language is Spanish and the Quetzal is used as currency. 

Guatemala is a country with a lot of mountains and about 30 volcanoes, 3 of which are still active today! On the Pacific coast, one can find beaches and mountains.

Guatemala is a rather small country that has access to both the Pacific Ocean on the west and the Caribbean Sea. Pacaya volcano is the most active volcano in Guatemala and it is located near Guatemala City. There is also a beautiful lake called Lake Atitlan that is a popular destination that was formed long ago when a volcano exploded. Lake Atitlan is thought to be the deepest lake in Guatemala at 274 meters deep and covers about . It is 900 feet deep and covers 124 km2! About one third of the population lives in the cool highland villiages and the rest of the population lives in the warmer coastal areas. 

Guatemala is bordered by the following countries; Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, and Belice. Like Mexico and other surrounding countries Guatemala’s first people were the Mayans. Many people believe that the name of Guatemala originated from the Mayan word Guhatezmalh.

  1. El Salvador

The Republic of El Salvador covers about 21,000 km2, making it the smallest and most densely populated country in Central America. The primary languages are Spanish and Nahua and El Salvador is home to over 6 million people.

El Salvador is a mountainous country that is bordered by the Pacific Ocean and the countries of Guatemala and Honduras. Frequent volcanic activity and earthquakes is why El Salvador is known as the land of volcanoes. It is also interesting to note that it is the only Central American county that does not have a coast line on the Caribbean Sea.

Approximately half of all Salvadorans live near or in the capital city of San Salvador. Away from the limited affluent parts of San Salvador, many residents do not have any electric or running water. Even though the children of El Salvador have access to education, transportation costs to get to school force most to have a limited education.

The main sources of food in El Salvador are rice, beans and tortillas. Meat is expensive so most families and individuals can’t afford to buy it. For the Salvadorans who live in the countryside malnutrition is the leading cause of death.

Approximately 3 million Salvadorans live in the United States.

Most of Salvadorans are Mestizo. This means that they are descendants of both Spanish and Indian ancestors. However, some only recognize that they come from a Spanish ancestry.

El Salvador used to have many beautiful forests, however, deforestation has left the country very little habitat which has negatively impacted the wildlife. The surrounding countries of Honduras and Guatemala are trying to preserve the forests that they share with El Salvador. El Salvador’s main agriculture products include corn, rice, beef, shrimp, sugar, and coffee.

  1. Honduras

The capital of Honduras is Tegucigalpa. The population of Honduras is more than 8 million people. Like other Central American countries Honduras had many Native American tribes which included the Mayan people. The area of Honduras is 112,090 km2 and consists of mountains and narrow coastal plains. The climate in Honduras varies between the lowlands and the mountains where the lowlands climate is considered subtropical and yet very comfortable and temperate in the mountains.

The major cities in Honduras include Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, and Choloma. Honduras has a democratic constitutional republic for their form of government and, like many other Central American countries, Spanish is the primary language even though many indigenous languages are also spoken. Hondurans celebrate their independence from Spain on September 15th of each year. Hondurans primarly practice Roman Catholicism, however Protestantism is also prevelant.

The national symbol of Honduras is the Scarlet Macaw as well as the white tailed deer. Honduras’s national anthem is the Himno Nacional and the currency used is call the Lempira.

  1. Nicaragua

Nearly 130,000 km2 bordered both by Honduras and Costa Rica, Nicaragua is unique place and home to sloths, toucans and monkeys. In the fresh water Lake Managua, sharks can often be found. They swim up the Rio San Juan River from the Caribbean. 

Nicaragua has experienced many natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanic activity. 

In the capital city of Managua, several official languages can be heard including English, Spanish and many indigenous languages. 

With over 5 million people, Nicaragua has been plagued with water pollution, soil erosion and deforestation. In addition, unemployment and poverty are prevalent in Nicaragua where the gold Cordoba is the standard currency. 

The people of Nicaragua call themselves Nicas, however, the rest of the world calls them Nicaraguans. Other descendants come from the black slaves that were brought there by the British.

  1. Costa Rica

The capital of Costa Rica is San Jose. The population is over 4 million people and the official languages of Costa Rica are Spanish and English.

The currency in Costa Rica is Costa Rican money.

The area of Costa Rica is over 51,000 km2 and it is bordered by Panama and Nicaragua as well as the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Two mountain ranges include the Cordilleraa Volcanica and the Cordillera de Talamanca. Like other South American countries Costa Rica also deals with frequent earthquakes.

The Costa Rican people value their family and believe the time that they spend with their family is more important than working lots of hours. They believe that working is important to be able to pay your bills and survive but it isn’t their main focus in life. Many children live with their parents until they get married. Besides English and Spanish the Costa Rican people speak many indigenous languages. Their favorite sport is football, which is better known as soccer in the western world.

They enjoy many festivals which normally revolve around holidays such as Holy Week and Christmas.

Costa Rica is naturally diverse and the Costa Rican people are committed to preserving their nature. This is being accomplished through the development of national parks.

The Costa Rican government has three branches of government which include the legislative branch, judicial branch, and the Executive branch. Every four years the Costa Rican people elect their President, Vice President and their members of the legislative assembly.

  1. Panama

The official name of Panama is the Republic of Panama and their form of government is a constitutional democracy. Home to over 4 million people, the official languages of Panama are Spanish and English and the currency is either the U.S. Dollar or the Balboa. The capital of Panama is Panama City, the oldest city erected by the Spanish in the American Pacific, with a great heritage full of tradition and culture.

With an area over 75,000 km2, Panama is bordered by Colombia and Costa Rica as well as the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean. Like most Central American countries, Panama has many diverse areas including rain forests, mountains sandy beaches and many islands.

Most Panamanians are descendants from all over the world, as well as indigenous peoples.

A significant landmark is the Panama Canal. It was run by the United States until the late 1990’s when Panama took over the daily functions of the canal. This canal allows boats to pass from the Atlantic to Pacific oceans through a series of locks.

  1. Colombia

Known as the “gateway to South America,” Columbia sits in the northwest part of the continent joining South America to Central America. Snowcapped volcanic mountains, green grasslands, lush forests, sandy beaches and even deserts make this South American terrain as diverse as it’s weather. With an area over one million km2, Columbia has many rivers including the Magdalena, Cauca, Atrato and Sinu. Besides the Andes, Columbia has beautiful mountain ranges including the Santa Marta which is one of the world’s highest coastal ranges where elevations top 5,700 m just 42 km from the Caribbean Sea. Since Colombia has a vast natural environment there is a diverse animal population where about 10% of all animal species live in Colombia.

Bogota, capital of Columbia, has about 8 million people while the total population of Columbia is over 46 million. The official language is Spanish and the Columbian Peso is used as currency. 

Most of Colombians are descendants from either Europeans, Native Americans, or from slaves that were brought to Colombia. Colombia has a long history of Democracy. Like the United States Colombia elects its President every four years. They also elect their Senate and House of Representatives at this same time. The majority of trade from Colombia is done with the United States.

  1. Venezuela

The capital of Venezuela is Caracas. The population of Venezuela is over 28 million people. Before the Spanish arrived in Venezuela it was the home of many indigenous people. In 1830 Venezuela gained its independence after forming a coalition with other countries and leaving Spanish control. Recently, a socioeconomic and political crisis that began during the presidency of Hugo Chavez has continued to escalate under Nicolas Maduro. Hyperinflation, hunger, disease, climbing crime and death rates and emigration from the country have left Venezuela in a political and social crisis that is unfolding daily. 

Nearly 1 million km2 is home to rain and cloud forests, beautiful mountains and pristine beaches. Angel Falls in Canaima National Park is the world’s highest uninterrupted waterfall with an unabated drop of over 800 m. The climate of Venezuela is hot and humid; however, it is more moderate in the highlands.

The official language is Spanish, however, there are also a number of Indigenous languages spoken as well. They celebrate their independence from Spain every July 5th.

Venezuelans main religion is Roman Catholic closely followed by Protestant.

The national anthem of Venezuela is Glory to the Brave Nation and the currency is the Bolivar.

  1. Guyana

The “land of many waters” was named by two tribes who originally inhabited Guyana. The capital is Georgetown, and the total population of Guyana is over 740 thousand people. 

The first Europeans to settle Guyana were the Dutch and then later the British. In 1966 Guyana gained its independence from Britain and established a republic form of government. 

The total area of Guyana is 214,970 km2 and the terrain is made up of low coastal plains, rolling high lands, and savannas. The climate of Guyana is hot and tropical but can be moderated by the northern trade winds. Timber and sugar are 2 major commodities. 

Many languages are spoken in Guyana which include English and Hindi and many more. They celebrate the day that they became a republic on the 23rd of February. Many religions are present in Guyana and include Christian, Hindu, Muslim, and others. The national anthem of Guyana is Dear Land of Guyana of Rivers and Plains and the currency is the Guyanese dollar.

  1. Surinam

Surinam was formerly known as Dutch Guyana. It gained independence in 1975 from the Dutch after which, different military regimes governed. Independence Day is November 25th. Although the official language is Dutch, English and several other languages are prevalent in Surinam.

The capital of Surinam is Paramaribo. Only about 560,000 people call Surinam home and about half of the people live in Paramaribo. 

Rolling hills, swamps, and a narrow coastal plain make up most of the 163,270 km2.

  1. French Guyana

The capital of French Guyana is Cayenne and the total population is just under 200,000 French speaking people. The original inhabitants of French Guyana were native Indians. The earliest European settlers were French and then the Portuguese and then the French took it over once again. The French used an island known as Devils Island which is off the coast of French Guyana as a prison colony. In 1964 a space travel base was constructed in French Guyana called the Guyana Space Center which is still an important part of the European Space Agency.

91,000 km2 are made up of low lying coastal plains followed by hills and even small mountains. The climate of French Guyana is tropical.

This country is still part of France to this day and, therefore, follow the French holidays. The people of French Guyana consider themselves as French Guyanese. The currency of French Guyana is the Euro.

  1. Ecuador

The Republic of Ecuador is home to over 14 million people and independence from Spain was achieved in 1822. Nearly 2 million reside near the capital city of Quito which is located near 0o latitude and 2,850 m above sea level! The official languages are Spanish and Quichua and Ecuador uses the USD as its currency. Farming is important for the people of Ecuador; however, they only grow enough food to sustain their own families.

Ecuador is also called the “Middle of the World” and home to the first French Geodesic mission in 1735 where scientists set out to accurately measure the circumference of the Earth. Most of the 283,560 km2 lies in the southern hemisphere and is bordered by Colombia and Peru. Ecuador is home to the highest active volcanos in the world along with the Galapagos Islands. Here you will find many unique birds, plants, and reptiles. Since Ecuador is one of the most diverse areas of the world when it comes to habitats, the Ecuadorian people have created 18 national parks.

  1. Peru

The Nuevo Sol is the currency and Spanish or Quechua is the language one encounters in Peru. Over 33 million people live in Peru and about 10 million live in or near the captical city of Lima. 

The area of Peru is 1,285,216 km2 and is home to several rivers including the Amazon, Ucayali and Madre de Dios. After Brazil and Argentina, Peru is the third largest county in South America. Many different landscapes can be found in Peru including mountains, deserts, rainforests and beaches. The Amazon rainforest, which is the world’s largest rainforest, covers almost half of Peru. Peru has many different ecosystems which remain relatively undisturbed by people. Unique to the rest of the world, this has allowed many different species of animals to thrive here.

The people of Peru are descendants of many different cultures and peoples. In the recent past, most people lived in the countryside, however, today most people of Peru live in the cities. The Spanish introduced the Peruvians to the Roman Catholic religion and many of them still follow that religion today.

  1. Bolivia

The official name of Bolivia is the Plurinational State of Bolivia. This title recognizes the multi-ethnic plurality of the country and enhanced position of Bolivia’s indigenous people. Over 36 indigenous languages are spoken, however, Spanish is the main language of Bolivia.

The constitutional capital of Bolivia is Sucre. At an elevation of 2810 m, Sucre maintains a cool climate year-round. La Paz serves as the administrative capital at an elevation of 3500 m making it the highest capital in the world and serving over 10 million people.

The currency is the Bolivian Boliviano.

Bolivia hosts a variety of landscapes through out the over 1 million km2. It has both mountains and lush rainforests and the world’s largest salt flat covering over 11,000 km2 called Salar de Uyuni which is the remains of a prehistoric lake that dried and left a landscape of bright white salt and rock formations resembling an extraterrestrial landscape.

  1. Paraguay

The capital of Paraguay is Asuncion. Currently, the population of Paraguay is over 6 million people and the original inhabitants of Paraguay were tribal Indians. The Spanish would eventually come in and colonize the country but in 1811 the country won its independence. Several years later Paraguay would fight a war against Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil in which they lost many of their men and a lot of their land. After that war the country was ruled by a dictator for about 35 years, until his death. Today, Paraguay has a Constitutional Republic form of government and Independence Day is celebrated on May 14th. Spanish and Guarani are the official languages.

There are many religions that are practiced in Paraguay. They include Roman Catholic, Mennonite, and other Protestant religions. The currency in Paraguay is the Guarani. Paraguay has several major industries which include wood, sugar and beverages, just to name a few.

The total size of Paraguay is 406,750 km2 and is primarily made up of dry forests, grassy plains, woody hills, and low marshy plains. The climate of Paraguay is subtropical; however, the eastern side of the country receives substantial rainfall while the west is very arid.

  1. Uruguay

Over 176,000 km2 of rolling plains, low hills along with fertile coastal lowlands were home to the Charua Indians until the Spanish colonized the country of Uraguay.

The capital of Uruguay is Montevideo and the current population of Uruguay is over 3 million people. The climate of Uruguay is a warm temperate one.

Although the offical language of Uruguay is Spanish, a few still speak Portunol and Brazilero (Portuguese-Spanish mix). Uruguay is a Presidential Republic and they gained independence from Brazil August 25, 1825. The national symbol of Uruguay is the Son of May which is a Sun with the a face depicted on it. Their currency is the Uruguayan Peso.

There are many religions that are practiced in Uruguay including Protestant, Jewish and Roman Catholic.

  1. Chile

The Republic of Chile is home to over 17 million people. Chileans are descendants from both European and Indigenous peoples and the official language is Spanish. In the capital city of Santiago and elsewhere, the Chilean Peso is used for currency. Education is highly regarded in Chile and children often go to school and help their parents in the fields or other endeavors. 

Although it covers 756,102 km2, Chile is a long narrow country. It is easily found on the tactile map along the southwest coast of South America and appears as a long narrow ribbon. The western part of Chile is bordered by the Pacific Ocean.

Many different ecosystems in Chile allow the visitor to explore mountains, deserts and fertile coastlands as well as a wide variety of wildlife.

  1. Argentina

The Argentine Republic is home to over 42 million people. In the capital city of Buenos Aires, you will most likely hear Argentinian Spanish spoken, which is different from Spanish spoken in Spain. In some ways it sounds like Italian. In Argentina, over 600,000 self-identify as indigenous including the Aonikenk, Kolla, Qom, Wichí, Diaguita, Mocoví, Huarpe, Mapuche and Guarani. Other common languages spoken are Italian, German, English and French. The currency in Argentina is the Argentine Peso.

With an area of 1,073,518 km2, Argentina is the 8th largest county in the world and is bordered by Chile, Paraguay, Uraguay, Brazil and Bolivia. The eastern part of Argentina is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean. You will find several different landforms in Argentina including the Andes Mountains in the west as well as fertile grasslands in the east. 

  1. Brazil

Over 8.5 million km2 make Brazil the 6th largest country in the world and is home to over 209 million people. Brazil is the largest country in South America and its shape is like a triangle and it shares borders with every other South American country except Chile and Ecuador.

The official language is Portuguese and the currency is the Brazilian Real. Brazilians are descendants of Europeans, Amerindians, and Africans. Until 1985 Brazil struggled putting a democratic government in place and a military regime controlled the country. After a peaceful removal, the county has moved toward more democratic politics. Today, the politics of Brazil are in the form of a Federal Presidential Representative Democratic Republic and the President is head of state, government and a multi-party system.

There are two major mountain ranges in Brazil called the Serra do Mar, and Serra do Espinhaco. Brazil is also home to the Amazon, Sao Francisco, and the Tocantins rivers. Other landscapes in Brazil include rainforests, wetlands and dry grasslands. Because of brazil’s vast ecosystems many species of animals and insects thrive in Brazil. The variety of climates also allow these animals and insects to thrive.