Invariably, in gatherings of Americans, Ticos and other Latins, the subject of what is America comes up. Growing up in Canada, someone from the United States of America is called “American”, while everyone north of the 49th is “Canadian”.

However, south of the U.S. border, like in Costa Rica, though I have had similar conversations in Colombia, for them America is the whole continent. This is taught in school.

In the U.S. and Canada, in school, they learn there are seven continents: Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Europe, Australia, and Antarctica. In Latin America, listed are only six, combining North and South America into America.

So spice up the debate, just tell a Costa Rican that he or she is a North American. By the rule of the 7 continents, Costa Rica lies in the North. Central America is not a continent, it is the southernmost, isthmian portion of the North American continent, which connects with the South American continent.

By the 6 continent rule, Costa Rica, as all of Latin America, is in America.

Searching the Internet, an entire website,, is devoted to this subject, which mirrors what we have been discussing all these years: “United States of America means that the United States belongs to America and NOT that America belongs to the United States.”

In Star Trek, the interplanetary federal republic is called The United Federation of Planets and it is referred to as The Federation and not The Planets. Following this example it is quite easy to deduce that The United States of America should be referred as The States and not as America.

Around the discussion table, someone will always point out that the U.S. is the only country in the Americas to have America in its name, thus, a citizen of the United States can be said to be right call themselves Americans.

But are they then the only Americans?

The dictionary definition of an American is: relating to or characteristic of the United States or its inhabitants; a native or citizen of the United States. By that definition, Americans are only the people who are born in the United States.

Without fail, this question comes up, does a person from the U.S.A carry an American passport of a U.S. passport? Interesting, uh?

All passports from Panama to Canada, with the exception of Mexico, are blue.  Mexico is green. From Colombia down, most are brown. Maybe that is the difference? The debate, especially invariably there will be a Colombian around the table, really heats up.

Living south of the U.S. border we are often reminded that America is the name of the entire continent; not just one country. As such, Canadians and Mexicans are also Americans. As are Costa Ricans, Brazilians, Peruvians, Colombians, Chileans, etc. Anyone born in any country that is part of the American (as two or one) continent can actually be called an American.

The term American is rather vague; it surely can apply to all of us living in the Americas.

This is America:

It is a (single or double) continent with 35 different countries and a number of independent territories, with over 1 billion people.

In closing the conversation, as we go around the table, not one Costa Rican, Colombian, Nicaraguan, Mexican, Canadian will say they are American. Even those holding U.S. citizenship who will refer to themselves as “Estadounidenses”, and not Americans.

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