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Costa Rica

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The Republic of Costa Rica is a republic in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south. Unlike some of its neighbors, Costa Rica has been an exemplar of stability, peace, and democratic governance. Since the minor civil war of the late 1940s that brought President José Figueres Ferrer to power, the country has been free of violent political conflict In fact, Costa Rica has no military, only a domestic police force. The capital is San José.

República de Costa Rica
Costa_rica_flag_large.png Image:CostaRica_coa.jpg
(Full Size) (Detail)
National motto: Pura vida! (Popular saying meaning "So Alive!")
Official language Spanish
Capital San José
President Abel Pacheco
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 125th
51,100 km²
 - Total (2004 E)
 - Density
Ranked 122nd
 - Total (2003):
 - GDP/head:
Ranked 73rd
$38 billion
 - Date
From Spain
September 15, 1821
Currency Colón (CRC)
Time zone UTC -6
National anthem Noble patria, tu hermosa bandera
Internet TLD .cr
Calling Code 506


Main article: History of Costa Rica

In Pre-Columbian times the Native Americans in what is now Costa Rica were part of the Intermediate Area located between the Mesoamerican and Andean cultural regions.

Pre-Columbian Ceramics from Nicoya, Costa Rica
Pre-Columbian Ceramics from Nicoya, Costa Rica

The native people of the Mayans and Aztecs, were conquered by Spain in the 16th century. Costa Rica was then the Southernmost province in the Spanish territory of New Spain. The provincial capital was in Cartago.

After briefly joining the Mexican Empire of Agustín de Iturbide (see: History of Mexico and Mexican Empire), Costa Rica became a state in the United States of Central America (see: History of Central America) from 1823 to 1839. In 1824 the capital moved to San José. From the 1840s on Costa Rica was an independent nation.

Costa Rica has avoided much of the violence that has plagued Central America. since the late 19th century, only two brief periods of violence have marred its democratic development. In 1949, José Figueres Ferrer abolished the army; and since then, Costa Rica has been one of the few countries to operate within the democratic system without the assistance of a military.

Although still a largely agricultural country, it has achieved a relatively high standard of living. Land ownership is widespread. Tourism is a rapidly expanding industry.


Main article: Politics of Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a democratic republic with a strong system of constitutional checks and balances. Executive responsibilities are vested in a president, who is the country's center of power. There also are two vice presidents and a 15-member cabinet that includes one of the vice presidents. The president and 57 Legislative Assembly deputies are elected for 4-year terms. A constitutional amendment approved in 1969 limits presidents and deputies to one term, although a deputy may run again for an Assembly seat after sitting out a term. An amendment to the constitution to allow second presidential terms has been proposed. The constitutionality of the prohibition against a second presidential term also has been challenged in the courts.

Governors appointed by the president head the country's seven provinces, but they exercise little power. There are no provincial legislatures. Autonomous state agencies enjoy considerable operational independence; they include the telecommunications and electrical power monopoly, the nationalized commercial banks, the state insurance monopoly, and the social security agency. Costa Rica has no military and maintains only domestic police and security forces for internal security.


Provinces of Costa Rica
Provinces of Costa Rica

Costa Rica consists of seven provinces:

  1. Alajuela (central; north of capital San José)
  2. Cartago
  3. Guanacaste (north-west)
  4. Heredia
  5. Limón
  6. Puntarenas (south-west)
  7. San José (Area around capital)


Main article: Geography of Costa Rica

Costa Rica is located on the Central American isthmus, 10° north of the equator and 84° west of the Prime Meridian. It borders both the Caribbean Sea (to the east) and the North Pacific Ocean (to the west), with a total of 1,290km of coastline (212km on the Caribbean coast and 1016km on the Pacific).

Costa Rica also borders Nicaragua to the north (309km of border) and Panama to the south-southeast (639km of border). In total, Costa Rica comprises 51,100 km,² of which 50,660 km² is land and 440 km² is water, making it slightly smaller than the U.S. state of West Virginia.

The nation's terrain is coastal plain separated by rugged mountains in the center of the country. Costa Rica claims an exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles and a territorial sea of 12 nautical miles. The country has a tropical and subtropical climate and is part of the Neotropic ecozone. It is part of many ecoregions, including Costa Rican seasonal moist forests, Bocas del Toro-San Bastimentos Island-San Blas mangroves, Mosquitia-Nicaraguan Caribbean Coast mangroves, Southern Dry Pacific Coast mangroves, Central American dry forests, and Talamancan montane forests.

Natural resources: hydropower

Natural hazards: occasional earthquakes, hurricanes along Atlantic coast; frequent flooding of lowlands at onset of rainy season; active volcanoes

Environment - current issues: deforestation, largely a result of the clearing of land for cattle ranching; soil erosion; water pollution (rivers); fisheries protection; solid waste management


Main article: Economy of Costa Rica

Costa Rica's economy is dependent on tourism, agriculture, and electronics exports. The economy emerged from recession in 1997 and has since shown strong growth. Costa Rica's location in the Central American isthmus, provides easy access to American markets and direct ocean access to the Europe and Asia.

The unit of currency is the CRC, the Costa Rican Colón (or "cologne") which trades around 450-500 to the US dollar; currently about 600 to the Euro.


Main article: Demographics of Costa Rica

Few of the native Amerindians in what is now Costa Rica survived European contact. The indigenous population today numbers about 29,000, less than one percent of the population. Descendants of black 19th-century Jamaican migrant workers constitute an English-speaking minority and at three percent of the population number about 96,000. Costa Ricans of mestizo and European descent account for a combined 94 percent. Another one percent are ethnically Chinese.

An important group in Costa Rica are Nicaraguans, who represent ten percent of the population. Most of these Nicaraguans are refugees from civil war; the main migrants were those of German, Polish, Italian, and Jewish ancestry, but today there is a growing number of Amerindians who migrate for seasonal work opportunities as agricultural workers. There is also a growing number of Colombian, Panamanian and Peruvian refugees.


Main article: Culture of Costa Rica

Costa Rica was the point where the Mesoamerican and South American native cultures met. The north of the country was the southernmost point of Mayan influence when the Spanish conquistadores came in the 16th century. In contrast, the center and south portions of the country had chibcha influences. Due to the practice of enslavement in the 17th and 18th centuries, the Atlantic coast of the country was populated with African slaves. In the meantime, thousands of Chinese families came to the country to work in the train railroads. So all of these influences have contributed to the extremely varied culture of Costa Rica.

Maybe the only truly Costarrican musical achievements are the rhythm known as tambito and the guanacastecan "punto", in fact, most music and the most representative folklore comes from the north of the country (the same portion of the territory which once had heavy mayan influence in it) and the Atlantic coast (the afro-caribbean culture). One of the most distinctive musical genres is the punto , such as the "Punto guanacasteco", from Guanacaste, and the "Punto sancarleño", from San Carlos, Alajuela.

Fauna and flora

Costa Rica is home to a rich variety plants and animals. Since Costa Rica has no military or navy, but an abundance of wildlife, it has been said that the leaf cutter ants are the soldiers, the macaws are the pilots, and the whales the ships of the navy. More than 40% of the area in Costa Rica is composed of protected forests and reserves.

Tortuguero National Park is home to the Spider Monkey, Howler Monkey and White Faced Monkey; Three Toed Sloth, a variety of reptiles and 320 species of birds, including eight species of parrots.

The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve hosts 2,000 plant species including numerous orchids. Over 400 types of bird can be found here, as well as over 100 species of mammal.

See also


  • Much of the material in these articles comes from the CIA World Factbook 2000 and the 2003 U.S. Department of State website.

External links

  • Very detailed history of the Republic of Costa Rica
  • The biggest and most detailed web-page about Costa Rica in Europe
  • Phonebook of Costa - Residential and Business Phonenumbers
  • International rankings world-wide press freedom index Rank 15 out of 139 countries (2 way tie)
  • BBC Country profile: Costa Rica

Countries in North America
Antigua and Barbuda | Bahamas | Barbados | Belize | Canada | Costa Rica | Cuba | Dominica | Dominican Republic | El Salvador | Grenada | Guatemala | Haiti | Honduras | Jamaica | Mexico | Nicaragua | Panama | Saint Kitts and Nevis | Saint Lucia | Saint Vincent and the Grenadines | Trinidad and Tobago | United States
Dependencies: Anguilla | Aruba | Bermuda | Cayman Islands | Greenland | Guadeloupe | Martinique | Montserrat | Navassa Island | Netherlands Antilles | Puerto Rico | Saint-Pierre and Miquelon | Turks and Caicos Islands | U.S. Virgin Islands | British Virgin Islands

Last updated: 02-07-2005 00:48:51
Last updated: 02-11-2005 17:47:38