Costa Rica – The Rich Coast

By admin ~ July 22nd, 2011 @ 11:24 pm

Costa Rica is a unique country, particularly in Central America. If you are considering a vacation in this fascinating land, you should probably know a bit about the country.

In the pre-Columbian era, Costa Rica was located at the junction between the great early Indian cultures of the area. These were the Mesoamerican to the north and the Andean culture to the South. Although little is known of the political history of this long forgotten time, it can be assumed that it was not always a location that lent itself to a peaceful existence as any expansion of either culture had to pass through what was to become Costa Rica.

Columbus made the first European landfall in the area of Costa Rica during his fourth and final voyage in 1502. In 1522, Spanish settlement began and before the end of the century, the native people had been conquered. The impact of the arrival of Europeans had an even greater impact among the indigenous population than was seen elsewhere. The native population was virtually wiped out by disease and warfare and very quickly. Today, only a small percentage of the population of Costa Rica is of indigenous descent. Also, almost none of the population is of slave descent either, simply because there were no people left to enslave.

The country became part of the Spanish ruled province and remained under so for nearly three centuries. Although the Spanish had hoped to find great riches there in the form of gold and treasure and had optimistically named the area “the Rich Coast”, this dream was never realized. The area became an agricultural based and extremely poor part of the greater Spanish province. It is this early poverty and separation from the emerging slave dependent plantation aristocracy that is said to have fostered the egalitarian nature of the Costa Rican people that has continued to this day.

In 1821, Costa Rica declared its independence from Spain. It became, for a short time, one of the Federated States of Central America, but as this union broke up, it became a sovereign nation in 1838. The history for the next 100 years was little different from the violent history of its neighbors during the period. It was involved in border disputes, and in 1856 repulsed an invasion by the American filibuster, William Walker, who had already conquered Nicaragua in hopes of founding a slave empire.

In 1949, there was a major and violent civil war that resulted in over 2000 deaths. The cause of the war was a coup following a disputed election. This was something very common in Central American history, but the violence shocked the country and led to a firm commitment to democracy. The new Constitution abolished the army and Costa Rica became the first nation in the world to do so by Constitutional decree. Half a century of peaceful democracy has resulted, and established Costa Rica as a progressive leader in the World search for human rights and peace.

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