In 1838, Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica and Guatemala became the first of Central America's seven states to become independent autonomous countries, followed by El Salvador in 1841, Panama in 1903 and Belize in 1981. Despite the dissolution of the Federal Republic of Central America, there is anecdotal evidence that demonstrates that Nicaraguans, Hondurans, Costa Ricans, Guatemalans, Salvadorans, Panamanians and Belizeans continue to maintain a Central American identity. For instance, Central Americans sometimes refer to their nations as if they were provinces of a Central American state. It is not unusual to write "C.A." after the country's name in formal and informal contexts. Governments in the region sometimes reinforce this sense of belonging to Central America in its citizens. For example, automobile licence plates in many of the region's countries include the moniker, Centroamerica, alongside the country's name.
Middle America is usually thought to comprise Mexico to the north of the 7 states of Central America as well as Colombia and Venezuela to the south. Usually, the whole of the Caribbean to the northeast, and sometimes the Guyanas, are also included. According to one source, the term "Central America" was used as a synonym for "Middle America" at least as recently as 1962.
In Ibero-America (Spanish and Portuguese speaking American countries), the Americas is considered a single continent, and Central America is considered a subcontinent separate from North America comprising the seven countries south of Mexico and north of Colombia.
For the people living in the five countries formerly part of the Federal Republic of Central America there is a distinction between the Spanish language terms "América Central" and "Centroamérica". While both can be translated into English as "Central America", "América Central" is generally used to refer to the geographical area of the seven countries between Mexico and Colombia, while "Centroamérica" is used when referring to the former members of the Federation emphasizing the shared culture and history of the region.