Costa Rica: A Land of Rich History, Culture and Beauty

costa rica Jan 31, 2022

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a long and wide country nestled between Nicaragua and Panama. Due to its stable democratic government, beautiful beaches, rain forests and wildlife, it is the most visited nation in Central America. Over 30,000 Americans have retired there, and its Free Trade Zone attracts foreign business and investors.   

Costa Rica has no military. After the Civil War of 1948, it was drafted into the Costa Rica Constitution by Juan Figueres Ferrer to permanently abolish the military.  The Fuerza Pública, part of the Public Security Ministry (MSP), is the country's primary law-enforcement body.

Does this sound familiar!?! The Costa Rican Civil War was from March to 24 April 1948 (44 days). The conflict began after the Legislative Assembly of Costa Rica, dominated by pro-government representatives, voted on 1 March 1948 to annul the results of the presidential elections of 8 February, alleging that the triumph of opposition candidate Otilio Ulate over the ruling party's Rafael Ángel Calderón Guardia had been achieved by fraud. This triggered an armed uprising led by José Figueres Ferrer, a businessman who had not participated in the elections, against the government of President Teodoro Picado.

 Fun Facts

  • It’s known as one of the happiest countries in the world.
  • The national motto is Pura Vida – loosely translated means Live Life or Happy Life
  • Costa Ricans call themselves Ticos and Ticas.
  • Scarlet macaws, varieties of sloths and monkeys abound in the rain forests
  • Don’t confuse Costa Rican food with Mexican food. Gallo pinto, Casado, tamal and so many more dishes are uniquely local.
  • Scarlet macaws, varieties of sloths and monkeys abound in the rain forests.
  • Don’t confuse Costa Rican food with Mexican food. Gallo pinto, Casado, tamal and so many more dishes are uniquely local.


The population is a mix of Tico, Indigenous and Afro-Caribbean cultures.

The Huetar, Maleku, Bribri, Cabécar, Brunka, Ngäbe, Bröran and Chorotega, constitute 2.4% (114,000) of the total population, and they inhabited this region prior to the arrival of Europeans and Africans. Some of these indigenous groups were traced back to indigenous groups from Mexico and Guatemala, such as the Mayans and Aztecs.

Ticos are primarily of Spanish ancestry with minorities of Nicaraguan, Italian, Portuguese, German, French, British, Irish, Jamaican, Greek, mixed or other Latin American ancestries.

Slave Owners| the Enslaved| Invaders

Costa Rica was a Spanish colony for 300 years. Columbus dropped anchor in 1502. His forces overcame the indigenous people, and he incorporated the territory into the Captaincy General of Guatemala as a province of New Spain in 1524.

Some may wonder why Columbus believed he had the right to conquer and own any land he “discovered.”  Pope Alexander VI decreed (called a papal bull), "We of our own motion, and not at your solicitation, do give, concede, and assign for ever to you and your successors, all the islands, and main lands, discovered; and which may hereafter, be discovered, towards the west and south; whether they be situated towards India, or towards any other part whatsoever, and give you absolute power in them.”

The Pope’s decreed included permission to enslave Africans as well. Records show as early as 1569, enslaved Africans were brought to Puerto Limon to plant cocoa trees, which was a main source of income to absentee land owners – hidalgos.  In 1871 African and Chinese immigrants, indentured servants were brought to Costa Rica to work on the Atlantic Railroad and the banana plantations.

The United States tried to invade Costa Rica. Juan Rafael Mora, President of Costa Rica, rejected Walker's diplomatic overtures and instead declared war on his regime. William Walker, an American mercenary hoping to make the region a slave colony, sent Colonel Schlessinger to invade Costa Rica in a preemptive action, but his forces were defeated at the Battle of Santa Rosa in March 1856.


Jamaican born Marcus Garvey relocated to Costa Rica in 1910. Marcus Garvey was a crucial and controversial Jamaican pan-Africanist activist. As an immigrant and the first Black nationalist in the United States, he founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), an organization dedicated to the advancement of Afro-descendants. He is also known for advocating Afro-descendants’ return to the African continent through the Black Star Line shipping corporation. 

My visit to Costa Rica was far too short. I hope to return and learn more about the culture and rich history, as well as enjoy its beauty.


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