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North & Central America Overview

North America, the planet's 3rd largest continent, includes 23 countries and dozens of possessions and territories. It contains all Caribbean and Central America countries, Bermuda, Canada, Mexico, the United States of America, as well as Greenland - the world's largest island. Positioned in the planet's northern and western hemispheres, it's bordered in the north by the Arctic Ocean, in the east by the Atlantic Ocean, in the southeast by the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico, and in the west by the Pacific Ocean.

The first people to live in North America were Paleo-Indian who began to arrive during the last glacial period by crossing the Bering land bridge. They differentiated into a number of diverse cultures and communities across the continent. The largest and most advanced Pre-Columbian civilizations in North America were the Aztecs in what is now Mexico and the Mayans in Central America. European colonists began to arrive starting in the 16th and 17th centuries, wiping out large numbers of the native populations and beginning an era of European dominance.

The climate in North America is typically cool and humid. The rainy zone disproportionately extends in America, and as the continent stretches over the climatic zones, vegetation is remarkably distinctive. Great indentations of the shoreline make insular conditions to prevail in much of its interior. The area along the west coast tends to be milder and wetter than other areas with the same latitude.

Economy

Canada, Mexico and the United States have significant and multifaceted economic systems. The United States has the largest economy in North America, and in the world. Being a newly industrialized country, Mexico maintains both modern and outdated industrial and agricultural facilities and operations. Its main sources of income are oil, industrial exports, manufactured goods, electronics, heavy industry, automobiles, construction, food, banking and financial services. The continent is richly endowed with natural resources, including great mineral wealth, vast forests, immense quantities of fresh water, and some of the world's most fertile soils. These have allowed North America to become one of the most economically developed regions in the world, and its inhabitants enjoy a high standard of living. North America has the highest average income per person of any continent and an average food intake per person that is significantly greater than that of other continents. Although it is home to less than 10 percent of the world's population, its per capita consumption of energy is almost four times as great as the world average.

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