Central America was the land of the Mayan civilization, already old and in decline by the time of the conquistadores. It was nevertheless arguably the greatest of the pre-Columbian American civilizations, and the only one with a fully-formed written script. Sexually, it placed great emphasis on monogamy, to the extent that a boy's pre-marital affairs were expected to be exclusively homosexual. As in the other great American civilizations, male circumcision was the norm. Both of these things horrified the invading Spaniards, who did everything thay could to stamp out the culture including, tragically, destroying all written records they could get their hands on.
Mayan temple site at Caracol, in Belize.
Post-conquest, circumcision was no longer practised. However, as the reader reports below show, it is now becoming common again in some countries, particularly those with the greatest US influence.
I am from El Salvador. Circumcision was adopted by El Salvador's middle and upper classes starting in the 1950s and like the USA by the 1960s it had become widespread. 90% of middle and upper class males were having neonatal circumcisions. Why? The upper classes adopted it: proximity to the USA and emulating the USA. The upper classes are the ones who travel to the USA, read American literature, send their children abroad to study in the USA hence do not want them to look different and have American trained, many times American Board Certified, MDs. Now for what I have heard and read circumcision rates are high in the upper classes of Mexico, El Salvador and Colombia and somewhat practiced among the upper classes of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Ecuador. Other than that in many other Latin American countries it is not practiced not even among the upper classes.
Robert (El Salvador)
I live in Guatemala (another Central American country) which is next to El Salvador; here it happens the same as it happens over there and I think it happens not only in Latin America but in many other places. Not being circumcised if you are part of a middle or upper class is looked upon with bad eyes because everyone has it performed.
In Costa Rica, according to a 1979 book published in San José, a sociological study called "Los Ostarricenses" by Mavis Hiltunen de Biesanz, the authors affirmed that the majority of boys born in hospitals are circumcised (page 345). The Costa Ricans adopted circumcision as a useful preventive surgery.
Antonio (Puerto Rico)
Caracol temple image from 10 most beautiful Mayan temples by Touropia. Reay Tannahill, Sex in History. Hamish Hamilton, London, 1980, 480pp Map courtesy of Magellan Geographix Personal testimony of members of the CIRCLIST discussion group.