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North America is the northern continent of the Americas, situated in the Earth's northern hemisphere and in the western hemisphere. It is bordered on the north by the Arctic Ocean, on the east by the North Atlantic Ocean, on the southeast by the Caribbean Sea, and on the west by the North Pacific Ocean; South America lies to the southeast.
The continent covers an area of about 24,709,000 km2, about 4.8% of the planet's surface or about 16.5% of its land area. North America is the third largest continent in area, following Asia and Africa, and fourth in population after Asia, Africa and Europe.
Economically, Canada and the United States are the wealthiest and most developed nations in the continent, followed by Mexico, a newly industrialized country; the countries of Central America and the Caribbean are at various levels of development. The most important trade blocs are the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).
Socially and culturally, North America presents a well defined entity. Canada and the United States have a similar culture and similar traditions as a result of both countries being former British colonies. Spanish-speaking North America shares a common past as former Spanish colonies. In Mexico and Central American countries where civilizations like the Maya developed, indigenous people preserve traditions across modern boundaries. Central American and Spanish-speaking Caribbean nations have historically had more in common due to geographical proximity and the fact that they won independence from Spain.
Demographically, North America is a racially and ethnically diverse continent. Its three main racial groups are Whites, Mestizos and Blacks (chiefly African-Americans and Afro-Caribbeans). There is a significant minority of Native Americans and Asians among other less numerous groups.
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