Capital Capitals: North America

Join me and we will breathe a collective sigh of relief as we learn that the continent of North America has only 23 countries listed on the Countries of the World website, half that of the last few continents. I’m looking at you, Eurasia. So, without further ado, here are the capitals of the greatest continent in the world (maybe I’m biased).

Antigua & Barbuda – St. John’s – The Lesser Antilles aren’t exactly a hotbed for interesting facts and trivia. St. John’s boasts sights like its cathedral and lighthouse in the harbor, but a striking sight (that I only saw in a few pictures of the city) are the few neon-colored homes. Bright blues, oranges, yellows, and green painted walls are topped with variegated roofs.

Bahamas – Nassau – Nassau’s native population was surpassed by outsiders after the American Revolutionary War. Thousands of British Empire sympathizers, called loyalists, immigrated to the Bahamas, particularly Nassau. They brought their slaves with them and eventually overran the city.

Barbados – Bridgetown – King George III is reported to have asked what George Washington would do after the American Revolution was over. He was told that Washington would return to his farm, shocking the monarch who replied, “If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world”. “The Man Who Would Not Be King” did indeed return to his farm, serving just two short terms as president when the country insisted and not doing much else. In fact, he did so little that Bridgetown is the only city that Washington visited that isn’t located within the present United States.

Belize – Belmopan – Belize City was once the capital of Belize (appropriately), but Hurricane Hattie tore through in 1961 and destroyed most of the low-lying coastal town. Britain held Belize as a colony at the time and founded a new capital city on higher ground, thus forming Belmopan.

Canada – Ottawa – Summers and winters bring long and wide tracts of land for Ottawans to explore. On Sunday mornings in the summer, there are about 40 miles of roadway closed off to traffic. Pedestrians can bike, run, skate, and walk through the streets unimpeded. In the winter, 5 miles of the Rideau Canal becomes a giant stretch of ice – the world’s largest skating rink.

Costa Rica – San Jose – San Jose sounds like a pretty nice place to be: one of the safest places in Latin America, the highest wages for day laborers in Central America (still only $10 per day), and one of the fastest growing cities economically. Just remember that Costa Rica, despite only containing 0.03% of the earth’s surface, has about 5% of the world’s biodiversity. Much of this biodiversity comes in tiny, creepy crawler form; there are over 20,000 types of spiders in Costa Rica.

Dominica – Roseau – Dominica was the location of filming for the 2nd and 3rd Pirates of the Caribbean movies. The isolated capital of Roseau is just outside where a few major scenes were recorded.

Dominican Republic – Santo Domingo – “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue” so say American history textbooks from thirty years ago. We all know Christopher’s story, but like many older brothers before and after him, his feats overshadowed the achievements of Bartholomew. Bartholomew Columbus was Christopher Columbus’ younger brother and is recognized as the founder of the current capital of the Dominican Republic.

El Salvador – San Salvador – The area San Salvador is located is nicknamed “El Valle de Las Hamacas”; that is, the valley of hammocks. The capital city is so plagued with earthquakes that its dwellers have nicknamed the area, referencing the need for swinging beds that would let the sleeper rest peacefully during the many, many quakes that occur. The earthquakes have also wiped out historical buildings with almost no Spanish colonial buildings standing today

Grenada – St. George’s – In 1983, American medical students at St. George’s University were used to convince the American people that the invasion of Grenada was a necessary step to protect American citizens. A violent coup saw the rise of a political party, and the United States military stepped in to intervene.

Guatemala – Guatemala City – Piping pseudokarsts are apparently a major problem in Guatemala City. Piping pseudokarst is a term given to giant holes that form when volcanic deposits develop voids due to leaking sewer systems. The leaks erode at the volcanic material, and eventually, the volcanic columns can no longer support the ground above. Two holes have opened up in Guatemala City since 2007; one was 330 feet deep and killed five and the other swallowed a three story building and house.

Haiti – Port-au-Prince – Port-au-Prince was near the epicenter of one of the most deadly earthquakes in modern time. The Haitian government reports that as many as 316,000 people have died and 280,000 homes and buildings were destroyed by the 7.0 magnitude quake.

Honduras – Tegucigalpa and Comayagüela – The two cities act as Honduras’ seat of government as established by the nation’s constitution. The cities are described as twin sister cities, but Comayagüela must be less favored. It is described as poorer and less developed than Tegucigalpa.

Jamaica – Kingston – Kingston was the birthplace of the Rastafari movement. (Rastafarian is considered derogatory by those who practice it). Rastas believe that the Emperor of Ethiopia from 1930-1974 was the second coming of Jesus. Despite the major association of Jamaica and the Rastafari movement, only about 1% of the population of Jamaica identifies themselves as Rastas.

Mexico – Mexico City – There are a lot of people in Mexico City – the greater metropolitan area has about 21.2 million people within its borders. As you might imagine, traffic is terrible. And if you have money, why would you waste time sitting in traffic? The richest in Mexico City have taken to the skies; helicopters are often seen transporting wealthy passengers back and forth, landing on top of buildings. The usage has increased so much that some are even beginning to utter the words “helicopter traffic”, two words that aren’t typically seen in that order.

Nicaragua – Managua – The nearby lake of the same name has volcanic footprints that are date at about 2100 years. Still, that’s not even close to the oldest footprints in the world. Hominid footprints have been found that may be nearly 3 orders of magnitude older than the ones in Managua.

Panama – Panama City – The appropriately-named capital of Panama sits on the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal. The Panama Canal was completed by the United States in 1914 after the French scrapped the project in the late 1800s. Although the project was controversial, the passage greatly shortened the journey from the Pacific to the Atlantic.

St. Kitts & Nevis – Basseterre – Basseterre is considered to have an atrociously terrible past. The city was destroyed multiple times by wars, fire, earthquakes, floods, riots, and hurricanes. Still, historical buildings remain, and the capital city still stands today.

St. Lucia – Castries – Castries has one major claim to fame: the Nobel Prize-winning economist Arthur Lewis was born here. Not many Caribbean countries could say the same. Lewis won the Nobel Prize partly for his analysis on how an unlimited supply of labor could impact the economy.

St. Vincent & the Grenadines – Kingstown – This small capital city (sort of named like another capital city nearby) is sometimes called the “City of Arches” (according to its travel website). It’s probably difficult to find some claim to fame when your population doesn’t surpass 20,000.

Trinidad & Tobago – Port of Spain – It’s probably not hard to guess what this city was named after. Early Spanish settlers established a port where the capital city now resides and not the cleverest bunch, named it aptly.

United States of America – Washington D.C. – Bath tubs under the Capitol, the Washington Monument underfunded and incomplete, a subway system for Capitol workers – it’s difficult to pick just one interesting fact about the capital of my home country. I think I’d like to cover the significance of “D.C.”. Most people know that it’s an abbreviation for District of Columbia. It honors Columbus’ voyage to the new world. Interestingly though, Columbia was also an old nickname for the nation in the same way people call it “America” instead of the full “United States of America”. There were even patriotic songs like “Hail Columbia”, and the television station CBS was once called the “Columbia Broadcasting System”.



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