Central America

Central America

Central America is the region located between North and South America, beginning with Mexico in the north to Panama in the south. Central America is the location of the Mesoamerican cultures like the Aztec, the Maya, and many others. Because of its equatorial location, Central America is largely tropical, with a huge amount of biodiversity. The presence of fault lines in the area means there is also a large amount of seismic and volcanic activity, the latter of which contributes to the fertility of the region.

The Museum of International Cultures features informational displays, traditional artwork and everyday tools of several different ethnic groups across Central America.



Mexico is the northernmost country of Central America. Although it also features subtropical forested areas, it is far enough from the equator that is also has a desert climate to the north, near the American border.

Our displays on Mexico include:


Mexico has a long tradition of pottery, from brightly-colored, decorative pottery to duller, functional pottery used for storage and water transport.

The Museum of International Culture’s Mexican pottery display shows the artistry behind even functional pottery, as well as the wear and tear of everyday life.

Languages of Mexico

Although the official language of most of Central America is Spanish, the traditional languages of the area are part of the Mesoamerican language tree, which encompasses 26 native languages.

Our informational displays on the languages of Mexico introduce readers to this language tree, as well as show them some of the fascinating differences between these languages and our own. Readers will learn several phrases in Mesoamerican languages, as well as gain understanding of some of the syntax and word order.

Tarahumara (Foot Runners)

The Tarahumara people are a native ethnic group of Mexico known for their distance-running ability. Due to their widely dispersed settlements, these people became expert long-distance runners, capable of running upwards of 200 miles at one time, over a period of two days. These runs were particularly impressive due to the rocky canyon region they ran through.

Although these people once occupied most of the state of Chihuahua, they now mostly live in the Sierra Madre canyons. Many of them still live traditional lifestyles, making their homes in caves or cliff overhangs, or cabins of stone and wood. They grow corn and beans, and herd cattle, goats and sheep.



Guatemala is a Central American country south of Mexico. It is the most populated Central American country at 15 million inhabitants. It has a wide amount of biodiversity and unique ecosystems, with a primarily mountainous climate that includes patches of desert.

The Museum of International Culture’s Guatemala display shows the cultural diversity of the area, and includes examples of Guatemalan currency.



Molas are a traditional dress of the Kuna women, found in areas like Costa Rica and Panama. They are panels of fabric decorated in geometric patterns that have routes in traditional body painting. Two mola panels are used to form a blouse, and together with a pattern wrap skirt, headscarf, arm/leg beads and a gold nose ring form the traditional dress of the Kuna women.

The Museum of International Cultures has a display of a variety of mola panels for viewers to enjoy.