Costa Rica

Population: Approx. 4.9 Million
Capital City: San Jose
Biggest Industries: Tourism, Agriculture
Current President: Luis Guillermo Solis
Dia de la Independencia: September 15, 1821
Language: Spanish
Currency: Costa Rica Colon (CRC)

Costa Rica is the most mysterious of the Central American countries with so much of it’s ancient history either lost or yet to be uncovered. The first human settlement here was said to be in 11, 000 BC. From then until 1502, very few people inhabited Costa Rica, that we know of. Some history books say no more than 20, 000 indigenous people were around when Columbus showed up in 1502. And the indigenous people here seemed to be made up of many different tribes. So far the only significant archeological site is that of Guayabo, which dates back to 1000 BC. Guayabo was probably run by the Chorotegas tribe and is said to have only had 10,000 inhabitants at its peak before it was mysteriously abandoned around 1400 AD. Mysterious sphere rock formations were uncovered at the site and around various spots in the country and nobody yet understands the craftsmanship of the almost perfect spheres. Gold, jade and pottery were also uncovered at the site of Guayabo and are now on display at the National Museum in San Jose, along with some of the mysterious spheres. I hear some spheres still lay close to their original spots in the southern parts of the country near Corcovado.

When Columbus arrived on September 18, 1502 on his third voyage to the Americas some storytellers say he was met by the indigenous at the Coast and many of them sported gold nose rings (those that have now swung back into style) and for this Columbus deemed this slice of isthmus “the Rich Coast” or “Costa Rica”.

Columbus returned to Europe with news of the Rich Coast, but when the next explorers returned to Costa Rica, they were met by hostile and resistant Indigenous people, and little gold or resources were to actually be found . Meanwhile in Mexico and Peru,  vast amounts of silver and gold were being uncovered, so Costa Rica became of little importance to Spain, and was left alone for many years. The few original inhabitants of the Rich Coast mostly died of smallpox and other foreign disease, leaving the few Spanish Settlers to work the land mostly on their own before bringing in African slaves. Today less than three percent of the population is of indigenous descent, approximately 70 000 people are descendants of the Africans, leaving over 95% of the population as descendants from the Spaniards who call themselves Ticos.

The first permanent settlement of Cartago was not founded until 1563, twenty three years after Central America was already established as the Kingdom of Guatemala. As Costa Rica developed it nurtured it’s own unique cultures and traditions as it wasn’t of very much interest to Spain, making it distinctly different from the rest of Central America.

In 1723 the Cartago was nearly destroyed by the eruption of Volcan Irazu, leaving the country vulnerable with a weak capital. A few years later in 1737 the current capital city of San Jose was founded. Its rivalry with Cartago eventually broke out into civil war after Mexico and the rest of Central America, including Costa Rica gained independence from Spain in 1821. Cartago wanted to join Mexico, and San Jose fought to remain an independent nation. By 1823 San Jose was named the federal Capital and in 1824 a man named Juan Mora Fernandez became the nation’s first elected Head of State. He encouraged coffee cultivation, offering land grants to farmers and thereby creating an elite class of coffee barons.These barons later overthrew the first president, Don. Jose Maria Castro. Castro was was succeeded by a man named Juan Rafael Mora, who later played an important role in helping to ward off the crazy American lunatic, William Walker in 1856.

After decades of political turmoil, in 1870, General Tom Guardia seized power and made several progressive movements in education, taxation and military policy while he ruled as dictator for 12 years. Guardia’s claim to fame was for the construction of the Atlantic railroad from San Jose to the Caribbean. In 1889 the first democratic elections were held, although women and blacks were still unable to cast a vote.

My Favourite Places

  • Monteverde
  • La Fortuna
  • Puerto Viejo

How to be a Responsible Visitor

  • Slang: Mae, A Cachete, Tuanis
  • Be respectful