|Conventional Long Name:||Republic of Costa Rica|
|Native Name:||República de Costa Rica|
|Common Name:||Costa Rica|
Noble patria, tu hermosa bandera
"Noble homeland, your beautiful flag"
|Ethnic Groups:||94% Castizo, 3.0% West African, 1.0% Amerindian, 1.0% Chinese, 1.0% Other|
|Largest City:||San José|
|Government Type:||Constitutional democracy|
|Leader Name1:||Oscar Arias (PLN)|
|Leader Title2:||Vice President|
|Area Magnitude:||1 E10|
|Area Sq Mi:||19,730|
|Population Estimate Rank:||119th|
|Population Estimate Year:||July 2007|
|Population Census Year:||2000|
|Population Density Km2:||85|
|Population Density Sq Mi:||220|
|Population Density Rank:||107th|
|Gdp Ppp:||$46.021 billion|
|Gdp Ppp Year:||2007|
|Gdp Ppp Per Capita:||$10,357|
|Gdp Nominal:||$26.232 billion|
|Gdp Nominal Year:||2007|
|Gdp Nominal Per Capita:||$5,903|
|Sovereignty Note:||from Spain (via Guatemala)|
|Established Date1:||September 14, 1821|
|Established Event2:||Recognized by Spain|
|Established Date2:||May 10, 1850|
|Established Event3:||from the UPCA|
|Currency:||Costa Rican colón|
Costa Rica, officially the Republic of Costa Rica (Spanish; Castilian: Costa Rica or República de Costa Rica, ) is a country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the east and south, the Pacific Ocean to the west and south and the Caribbean Sea to the east. Costa Rica, which translates literally as "Rich Coast", was the first country in the world to constitutionally abolish its army. Among Latin American countries, Costa Rica ranks 4th in terms of the 2007 Human Development Index. The country is ranked 5th in the world, and 1st among the Americas, in terms of the 2008 Environmental Performance Index.  In 2007 the government of Costa Rica stated that they want Costa Rica to be the first country to become carbon neutral by 2021.  
See main article: History of Costa Rica. In Pre-Columbian times the indigenous people, in what is now known as Costa Rica, were part of the international Intermediate Area located between the Mesoamerican and Andean cultural regions. This has recently been updated to include the influence of the Isthmo-Colombian area. It was the point where the Mesoamerican and South American native cultures met.
The northwest of the country, the Nicoya Peninsula, was the southernmost point of Nahuatl (named after Nitin) cultural influence when the Spanish conquerors (conquistadores) came in the sixteenth century. The central and southern portions of the country had Chibcha influences. However, the indigenous people have influenced modern Costa Rican culture to a relatively small degree, as most of these died from diseases such as smallpox and mistreatment by the Spaniards.
The first European to reach what is now Costa Rica was Christopher Columbus in 1502. During Spanish Colonial times, the largest city in Central America was Guatemala City. Costa Rica's distance from this hub led to difficulty in establishing trade routes and was one of the reasons that Costa Ricans developed in relative isolation and with little oversight from the Spanish Monarchy ("The Crown"). While this isolation allowed the colony to develop free of intervention by The Crown, it also contributed to its failure to share in the prosperity of the Colonies, making Costa Rica the poorest Spanish Colony in Central America. Costa Rica was described as "the poorest and most miserable Spanish colony in all Americas" by a Spanish governor in 1719.
Another contributing factor to this poverty was the lack of indigenous people used as forced labor. While many Spaniards in the other colonies had tribal members working on their land, most of the Costa Rican settlers had to work on their own land themselves. For all these reasons Costa Rica was by and large unappreciated and overlooked by the Crown and left to develop on its own. It is believed that the circumstances during this period led to the formation of many of the idiosyncrasies that Costa Rica has become known for, while at the same time setting the stage for Costa Rica's development as a more egalitarian society than the rest of its neighbors. Costa Rica became a "rural democracy" with no oppressed mestizo or indigenous class. It was not long before Spanish settlers turned to the hills, where they found rich volcanic soil and a climate that was milder than that of the lowlands.
Costa Rica joined other Central American provinces in 1821 in a joint declaration of independence from Spain. After a brief time in the Mexican Empire of Agustín de Iturbide Costa Rica became a state in the Federal Republic of Central America from 1823 to 1839. In 1824 the capital was moved to San José, but violence briefly ensued through an intense rivalry with Cartago. Although the newly independent provinces formed a Federation, border disputes broke out among them, adding to the region's turbulent history and conditions.Costa Rica's membership in the newly formed Federal Republic of Central America, free of Spanish rule, was short lived; in 1838, long after the Central American Federation ceased to function in practice, Costa Rica formally withdrew and proclaimed itself sovereign. The distance from Guatemala City to the Central Valley of Costa Rica, where most of the population lived and still lives, was great. The local population had little allegiance to the government in Guatemala City, in part because of the history of isolation during Colonial times. Costa Rica's disinterest in participating as a province in a greater Central American government was one of the deciding factors in the break-up of the fledgling federation into independent states, which still exist today. However, all of the Central American nations still celebrate September 15 as their independence day, which pertains to the independence of Central America from Spain].
Most Afro-Costa Ricans, who constitute about 3% of the country's population, descend from Jamaican immigrants who arrived during the 1880s to work in the construction of railways connecting the urban populations of the Central Plateau to the port of Limón on the Caribbean coast. United States convicts and Chinese immigrants also participated in the construction project, conducted by U.S. businessman Minor C. Keith. In exchange for completing the railroad, the Costa Rican government granted Keith large tracts of land and a lease on the train route, which he used to produce bananas and export them to the United States. As a result, bananas came to rival coffee as the principal Costa Rican export, while foreign-owned corporations (including the United Fruit Company) began to hold a major role in the national economy.
Historically, Costa Rica has generally enjoyed greater peace and more consistent political stability compared with many of its fellow Latin American nations. Since the late nineteenth century, however, Costa Rica has experienced two significant periods of violence. In 1917-19, Federico Tinoco Granados ruled as a dictator until he was overthrown and forced into exile. Again in 1948, José Figueres Ferrer led an armed uprising in the wake of a disputed presidential election. With more than 2,000 dead, the resulting 44-day Costa Rican Civil War was the bloodiest event in Costa Rica during the twentieth-century. Afterwards, the new, victorious government junta, led by the opposition, abolished the military and oversaw the drafting of a new constitution by a democratically-elected assembly. Having enacted these reforms, the regime finally relinquished its power on November 8, 1949, to the new democratic government. After the coup d'etat, Figueres became a national hero, winning the country's first democratic election under the new constitution in 1953. Since then, Costa Rica has held 12 presidential elections, the latest being in 2006. All of them have been widely regarded by the international community as peaceful, transparent, and relatively smooth transitions.
See main article: Geography of Costa Rica.
See also: List of volcanoes in Costa Rica and Islands 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 1,290 kilometers (802 mi) of coastline (212 km / 132 mi on the Caribbean coast and 1,016 km / 631 mi on the Pacific
Costa Rica also borders Nicaragua to the north (309 km / 192 mi of border) and Panama to the south-southeast (639 km / 397 mi of border). In total, Costa Rica comprises 51,100 square kilometers (19,730 sq. mi) plus 589.000 square kilometers of territorial waters.
The highest point in the country is Cerro Chirripó, at 3,820 metres (12,532 ft), and is the fifth highest peak in Central America. The highest volcano in the country is the Irazú Volcano (3,431 m / 11,257 ft). The largest lake in Costa Rica is Lake Arenal.
Costa Rica also comprises several islands. Cocos Island stands out because of its distance from continental landmass (24 km² / 9.25 sq mi, 300miles from Puntarenas coast), but Calero Island is the largest island of the country (151.6 km² / 58.5 sq mi).
See main article: Politics of Costa Rica.
See also: Military of Costa Rica. Costa Rica is a democratic republic with a strong constitution. Although there are claims that the country has had more than 115 years of uninterrupted democracy, their presidential election history shows otherwise. Nonetheless, the country has had at least fifty-nine years of uninterrupted democracy, making it one of the most stable countries in the region. Costa Rica has been able to avoid the widespread violence that has plagued most of Latin America.
Costa Rica is a republic with three powers: executive responsibilities are vested in a president, legislative power is vested on the Legislative Assembly, and Judicial power is vested on the Supreme Court. There are two vice presidents as well as a cabinet designated by the president. The president, vice presidents, and fifty-seven Legislative Assembly delegates are elected for four-year terms. A constitutional amendment approved in 1969 limited presidents and delegates to one term, although delegates were allowed to run again for an Assembly seat after sitting out a term.
The Supreme Electoral Body, the Office of the Comptroller General, the Office of the Procurator General of the Republic and the Office of the Ombudsman also enjoy a lot of independence.
The Supreme Court is divided into 4 chambers, one dealing with Constitutional Law, one dealing with Criminal Law and two dealing with Civil Law, Merchant Law and the like.
In April 2003, the constitutional amendment ban on presidential re-election was reversed, allowing Óscar Arias (Nobel Peace Prize laureate, 1987) to run for president for a second term. In 2006, Óscar Arias was re-elected in a tight and highly contested election, running on a platform of promoting free trade. He took office on May 8, 2006.
Certain 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 by constitution.
Costa Rica is composed of seven provinces, which in turn are divided into 81 cantons ("cantón" in Spanish, plural "cantones"), each of which is directed by a mayor. Mayors are chosen democratically every four years by each canton's people. There are no provincial legislatures. The cantons are further divided into districts (distritos). The provinces are:
See main article: Economy of Costa Rica. According to the CIA World Factbook, Costa Rica's GDP per capita is US$13,500 PPP (2007 estimate); however, this developing country still faces the fourth highest inflation rate in Latin America, lack of maintenance and new investment in infrastructure, over 16% of the people were below the poverty line (2006 estimate) and a 5.5% unemployment rate (2007 estimate). The Costa Rican economy grew nearly 5% in 2006 after experiencing four years of slow economic growth. Costa Rica is also the Latin American pioneer in the implementation of a modern welfare state. Its welfare spending is as high as that of Scandinavian countries.
The central government offers tax exemptions for those who are willing to invest in the country. Several global high tech corporations have already started developing in the area exporting goods including chip manufacturer Intel, pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, and consumer products company Procter & Gamble. In 2006 Intel's microprocessor facility alone was responsible for 20% of Costa Rican exports and 4.9% of the country's GDP.  Trade with South East Asia and Russia has boomed during 2004 and 2005, and the country is expected to obtain full Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC) membership by 2007 (the country became an observer in 2004).
For the fiscal year 2005, the country showed a government deficit of 2.1%, internal revenue increased an 18%, and exports increased a 12.8%. Revised economic figures released by the Central Bank indicate that economic growth stood at 5%, nevertheless the country faced high inflation (14%) and a trade deficit of 5.2%. As of 2007, Costa Rica's inflation rate stands at 9.30%, Latin America's 4th highest inflation rate.
In recent times electronics, pharmaceuticals, financial outsourcing, software development, and ecotourism have become the prime industries in Costa Rica's economy. High levels of education among its residents make the country an attractive investing location. Since 1999, tourism earns more foreign exchange than the combined exports of the country's three main cash crops: bananas, pineapples and coffee. Coffee production has played a key role in Costa Rica's history and economy and by 2006 was the third cash crop export. The largest coffee growing areas are in the provinces of San José, Alajuela, Heredia, Puntarenas, and Cartago. Costa Rica is famous for its gourmet coffee beans, with Costa Rican Tarrazú among the finest Arabica coffee beans in the world used for making espresso coffee, together with Jamaican Blue Mountain, Guatemalan Antigua and Ethiopian Sidamo.   
The unit of currency is the colón, which trades around 548 to the U.S. dollar; currently about 800 to the euro. On October 16, 2006, a new currency exchange system was introduced, allowing the value of the CRC colón to float between two bands as done previously by Chile. The idea is that by doing so the Central Bank will be able to better tackle inflation and discourage the use of U.S. dollars. Since that time, the value of the colón against the dollar has stabilized.
Costa Rica's location provides access to American markets as it has the same time zone as the central part of the United States and direct ocean access to Europe and Asia. A countrywide referendum has approved a free trade agreement with the United States. In the referendum on October 7, 2007, the voters of Costa Rica narrowly backed the free trade agreement, with 51.6% of "Yes" votes.
See main article: Tourism in Costa Rica. With a $1.9 billion per year tourism industry, Costa Rica stands as the most visited nation in the Central American region, with 1.9 million foreign visitors in 2007, which translates into a relatively high expenditure per tourist of $1,000 per trip, and a rate of foreign tourists per capita of 0.46, one of the highest in the Caribbean Basin. Most of the tourists come from the U.S. and Canada (46%), and Europe (16%). In 2005, tourism contributed with 8.1% of the country's GNP and represented 13.3% of direct and indirect employment. Tourism now earns more foreign exchange than bananas and coffee combined. 
Ecotourism is extremely popular with the many tourists visiting the extensive national parks and protected areas around the country. Costa Rica was a pioneer in this type of tourism, and the country is recognized as one of the few with real ecotourism. In the 2009 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index, Costa Rica ranked 42nd in the world and first among Latin American countries. Just considering the sub-index natural resources, Costa Rica ranks 6th worldwide in terms of the natural resources pillar, but 89th in terms of its culttural resources.
Costa Rica is an active member of the United Nations and the Organization of American States. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the United Nations University of Peace are based in Costa Rica. The Costa Rican State is also a member of many other international organizations related to human rights and democracy.
Costa Rica holds as a main foreign policy objective is to foster human rights and sustainable development as a way to secure stability and growth.
Costa Rica also has a long-term disagreement with Nicaragua over the San Juan River which denotes the border between the two countries; the disagreement originates from the fact that the river, being Nicaraguan soil, is the only way of access to several communities in Costa Rica which need to be served by armed Costa Rican police forces.
Costa Rica is currently a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, having been elected for a non-renewable two-year term in the 2007 election. Its term expires on 31 December 2009; this is Costa Rica's sixth time on the Security Council.
See also: Wildlife of Costa Rica and List of birds of Costa Rica. Costa Rica is home to a rich variety of plants and animals. While the country has only about 0.1% of the world's landmass, it contains 5% of the world's biodiversity.  Around 25% of the country's land area is in protected national parks and protected areas,  the largest percentual of protected areas in the world. 
One national park that is internationally renowned among ecologists for its biodiversity (including big cats and tapirs) and where visitors can expect to see an abundance of wildlife is the Corcovado National Park.  Corocovado is the one park in Costa Rica where all four Costa Rican monkey species can be found. These include the White-headed Capuchin, the Mantled Howler and the endangered Geoffroy's Spider Monkey. They also include the Central American Squirrel Monkey, which is found only on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica and a small part of Panama, and was considered endangered until 2008 when its status was upgraded to vulnerable.
Tortuguero National Park - the name Tortuguero can be translated as "Full of Turtles" - is home to spider, howler and white-throated Capuchin monkeys, the three-toed sloth, 320 species of birds, and a variety of reptiles, but the park is recognized for the annual nesting of the endangered green turtle and is the most important nesting site for the species. Giant leatherback, hawksbill, and loggerhead turtles also nest there.
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is home to about 2,000 plant species, including numerous orchids. Over four hundred types of birds and over one hundred species of mammals can be found there. As a whole, around eight hundred species of birds have been identified in Costa Rica. The Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad is allowed to collect royalties on any biological discoveries of medical importance.
Costa Rica and parts of Panama are home to the vulnerable Central American Squirrel Monkey. Deforestation, illegal pet-trading and hunting are the main reasons for its threatened status.
See main article: Demographics of Costa Rica.
Costa Rica has a population of 4,133,884. The combined white and Mestizo groups constitute 94% of the population, while 3% are Black/Afro-Caribbean, 1% Amerindian, 1% Chinese and 1% are of other ethnic groups The exact breakdown, however, is not known because the Costa Rican census combines whites and Mestizos in one category. The white population is primarily of Spaniard ancestry with significant numbers of Costa Ricans of Italian, German, Jewish and Polish descent.
Just under 3% of the population is of black African descent. The majority of the Afro-Costa Ricans are Creole English-speaking descendants of nineteenth century black Jamaican immigrant workers, as well as slaves who were brought during the Atlantic slave trade.
The indigenous or Amerindian population numbers around 1%, or over 41,000 individuals. A significant portion of the population descends from a bi-racial mix of local Amerindians and Spaniards; most live in secluded Indian reservations in the Cordillera de Talamanca or Guanacaste.
Costa Rica hosts many refugees, mainly from Colombia and Nicaragua. As a result, an estimated 10% of the Costa Rican population is made up of Nicaraguans, most of whom migrate for seasonal work opportunities and then return to their country. Moreover, Costa Rica took in many refugees from a range of other Latin American countries fleeing civil wars and dictatorships during the 1970s and 80s - notably from Chile and Argentina, as well as El Salvador who fled from guerrillas and government death squads.
See main article: Religion in Costa Rica.
Christianity is the predominant religion in Costa Rica, and Roman Catholicism is the official state religion as guaranteed by the constitution of 1949. Some 84% of Costa Ricans are Christian, and like many other parts of Latin America, Evangelical Protestant denominations have been experiencing rapid growth. However, 70% still adhere to Roman Catholicism.
Because of the recent small but continuous immigration of communities from Asia, the Middle East, and other places, other religions have grown, the most popular being Buddhism (because of an increasing Chinese community of 40,000), and smaller numbers of Jewish, Muslim, Bahá’í and Hindu adherents.
There is a Jewish synagogue, the B'nei Israel Congregation, in San José, near the La Sabana Metropolitan Park. Several homes in the neighborhood east of La Sabana Metropolitan Park are festooned with the Star of David and other recognizable Jewish symbols.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has seen modest growth in Costa Rica in the last 40 years and has built one of only two temples in Central America in the San Antonio de Belen region of Heredia.
See main article: Languages of Costa Rica.
See also: Central American Spanish and voseo. The only official language is Spanish. There are two main accents native to Costa Rica, the standard Costa Rican and the Nicoyan. The Nicoyan accent is very similar to the standard Nicaraguan accent. A peculiarity of the Spanish in Costa Rica is the relative lack of the use of the pronoun tú, which is considered rather informal by native Costa Ricans. Instead, Costa Ricans use vos or usted. The conjugation of vos in Costa Rica is practically the same as in Argentina, with the exception of the subjunctive forms. Jamaican immigrants in the 19th century brought with them a dialect of English that has evolved into the Mekatelyu creole dialect.
See main article: Culture of Costa Rica.
See also: Costa Rican cuisine. Costa Rica boasts a varied history. Costa Rica was the point where the Mesoamerican and South American native cultures met. The northwest of the country, the Nicoya peninsula, was the southernmost point of Nahuatl cultural influence when the Spanish conquerors (conquistadores) came in the sixteenth century. The central and southern portions of the country had Chibcha influences. The Atlantic coast, meanwhile, was populated with African workers during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Costa Rican popular music genres include: American and British rock and roll, pop, reggae, and reggaeton are popular and common among the youth (especially urban youth) while dance-oriented genres like soca, salsa, bachata, merengue, cumbia and Costa Rican swing. The guitar is a popular instrument especially as an accompaniment to folk dances.
See main article: Education in Costa Rica. The literacy rate in Costa Rica is of 95%, one of the highest in Latin America. Elementary and high schools are found throughout the country in practically every community. Universal public education is guaranteed in the constitution. Primary education is obligatory, and both preschool and high school are free. There are both state and private universities.
There are only a few schools in Costa Rica that go beyond the 12th grade. Students who finish 11th grade receive a Costa Rican Bachillerato Diploma accredited by the Costa Rican Ministry of Education.
|Index (Year)||Author / Editor / Source||Year of|
|Environmental Performance (2008)||Yale University||149||5|
|Human Poverty, HPI-1 (2005)(3)||United Nations (UNDP)||108||5|
|Poverty below $2 a day (1990-2005)(4)||United Nations (UNDP)||71||8|
|Press Freedom (2007)||Reporters Without Borders||169||21|
|Democracy (2006)||The Economist||167||25|
|Global Peace (2008)||The Economist||140||34|
|Quality-of-life (2005)||The Economist||111||35|
|Prosperity Index (2008)||Legatum Institute||104||38|
|Travel and Tourism Competitiveness (2009)||World Economic Forum||133||42|
|Corruption Perception (2008)||Transparency International||180||47|
|Human Development (2005)||United Nations (UNDP)||177||48|
|Economic Freedom (2008)||The Wall Street Journal||162||49|
|Global Competitiveness (2008)||World Economic Forum||134||59|
|Income inequality (1989-2007)(5)||United Nations (UNDP)||126||100|
|Life Satisfaction Index (2006-2007) (6)||Inter-American Development Bank||24||N/A(6)|
(1) Worldwide ranking among countries evaluated. See notes (3) and (4) also
(3) Ranking among 108 developing countries with available data only.
(4) Ranking among 71 developing countries with available data only. Countries in the sample surveyed between 1990-2005. Refers to population below income poverty line as define by the World Bank's $2 per day indicator
(5) Because the Gini coefficient used for the ranking corresponds to different years depending of the country, and the underlying household surveys differ in method and in the type of data collected, the distribution data are not strictly comparable across countries. The ranking therefore is only a proxy for reference purposes.
(6) The Life Satisfaction Index study was performed by the Inter-American Development Bank among 24 countries in the Latin American and the Caribbean region, based on IDB calculations based on Gallup World Poll 2006 - 2007 and World Development Indicators. Therefore, it is a regional index.
See main article: List of Costa Rica-related topics.