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The History of Costa Rica

by William "Skip" Licht 2 years ago in caribbean · updated 2 months ago
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How it all started. . who was involved. . where are we today. .

Setting foot on this "Rich Coast" for the first time must have been an exciting time for those weary sailors. .

In 1502, when Christopher Columbus landed in Puerto Limon, less than 20 indigenous tribes occupied the lands in what is now, Costa Rica. The golden bands that the region's Carib Indians wore as earrings and nose rings inspired the Columbus and his crew to name the country, "Costa Rica", meaning, "Rich Coast". Columbus's arrival ultimately led to the eradication of these native populations as exotic diseases and fatal battles took their toll.

While large-scale colonization was rampant in other Central American countries, few Spanish colonists claimed lands in Costa Rica due to the lack of mineral wealth (gold and silver) and the lack of an abundant Indian population to work the land. Initial attempts to colonize all of the coastal areas were unsuccessful due to the extreme heat, dense jungle and diseases, such as dengue fever and malaria. Colonists finally settled in the cooler, central highlands of Cartago in 1563. As most of the native population had perished, the settlers worked the land themselves and became small landowners. Cartago remained a provincial capital of colonial Spain for nearly two and a half centuries before moving the capital to San Jose about 15 miles west of Cartago in 1823.

In 1821, Costa Rica and several other Central American provinces declared their independence from Spain. Juan Mora Fernandez, elected the nation's first Chief of State (what is now called, "President") in 1824, initiated the construction of roads and ports and also established a judicial system. Moreover, he encouraged coffee cultivation by providing free land grants to farmers. The cultivation of coffee would transform Costa Rica in the nineteenth century to an economic powerhouse. At that time, only a few families owned sizable properties. As Costa Rica began to develop, these few families rich in land soon became some of the wealthiest in the country.

To support the coffee trade, an oxcart path was built from the fertile Central Valley, where most of the coffee was being grown, to the Caribbean coast for direct export to Europe and other part of the globe. This trade ultimately opened doors to European influences, as doctors, artisans and naturalists from these areas immigrated to Costa Rica in the 1850’s. The capital city of San Jose rapidly developed and as a note, was one of the first three cities in the world to have electricity.

In 1871, Jamaican slaves, Chinese indentured servants and American convicts were brought in to begin railroad construction. This was significant in that it would unite the coffee-growing Central Valley with the Caribbean port of "Limon". The new railroad helped boost the coffee industry and the steady rise in coffee exports resulted in a wealthy upper class and a prosperous Costa Rican economy. In fact, Barrio Amon just a few blocks north of the downtown area of San Jose is home to many of the mansions that these coffee barons built in the 1890's and through to about 1910. This barrio (neighborhood) is home now to many hotels, B&B's and cafes, but still holds the charm of the past! I suggest a walking tour when you visit Costa Rica!

The first democratic elections were held in 1889 and, other than two brief periods of violence, democracy has been synonymous with Costa Rica ever since. Costa Rica is one of the most successful democracies in the Americas.

In 1917, Federico Tinoco overthrew the elected president, Alfredo Gonzalez. Most Costa Ricans, as well as the United States, opposed Tinoco's overthrow, and he was deposed in 1919.

In the close presidential election of 1948, Rafael Calderon fraudulently claimed victory over Otilio Ulate. The dispute precipitated a six-week civil war, resulting in over 2,000 deaths. Jose Ferrer, a supporter of Ulate, assumed presidency for 18 months before deferring to Ulate.

Economic and social reforms since 1948 have enabled the country to remain stable. A new constitution was adopted and elections have since been free and fair.

Costa Rica still has a large agricultural sector including coffee, banana, pineapple and sugar exports. In the last twenty years, eco-tourism and technology have taken off and become top-earning industries in the country. Costa Ricans enjoy a high standard of living, and land ownership is widespread. The country boasts a high literacy rate, a large middle class and a stable government that has functioned without an army for more than 60 years. In the past ten years especially, global companies have moved towards expanding their footprints in Costa Rica because of the labor pool here. Many bilingual workers who are intelligent and hard working lend to success in business for any company who participates.

It is an exciting time for Costa Rica. . stay tuned!

You're invited to visit our websites at www.costaricagoodnewsreport.com & www.costaricaimmigrationandmovingexperts.com

Also, please enjoy our over 1,700 episodes of our "Costa Rica Pura Vida Lifestyle Podcast Series". We are found on all major podcast venues, including iHeartRADIO, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Radio FM, Anchor and many more. Here's our link: www.anchor.fm/costa-rica-pura-vida


About the author

William "Skip" Licht

Costa Rica is a magical place. Since November, 2002, when I first visited this country, I have been in love with the people, the culture, its biodiversity, the food. . everything about it makes me happy! Now I share my excitement with you!

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