We present the first comprehensive review of the present and past shark and ray diversity in marine waters of Tropical America, examining the patterns of distribution in the Eastern Central Pacific (EP) and Western Central Atlantic (WA) realms. We identified the major regions of diversity and of endemism, and explored the relations to physical variables. We found a strong relationship between shark and ray diversity with area and coastal length of each province. The Tropical Northwestern Atlantic Province is characterized by high diversity and greater occurrence of endemic species, suggesting this province as the hotspot of sharks and rays in Tropical America. The historical background for the current biogeography is explored and analyzed. Referential data from 67 geological units in 17 countries, from both shallow and deep-water habitats, across five time-clusters from the Miocene to the Pleistocene were studied. New data include 20 new assemblages from six countries. The most diverse Neogene and extant groups of shark and ray are Carcharhiniformes and Myliobatiformes, respectively. The differentiation between Pacific and Atlantic faunas goes to at least the middle Miocene, probably related with the increasing closure of the Central American Seaway acting as a barrier. The highest faunal similarity between the assemblages from the EP and the WA at the early Miocene could be related to the lack of a barrier back then, but increased sampling is needed to substantiate this hypothesis.