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Costa RicaCosta Rica is literally translated from the Spanish, meaning "rich coast."


Costa Rica is a very mountainous country, and this has created a few unique cultural aspects and has truly altered the people's way of life. The most noticeable of these changes is that the Costa Rican people appear very European, particularly when compared to neighboring countries. Unlike many other countries in the region, where the Spanish and indigenous people intermarried in large numbers, there were almost no indigenous people present in Costa Rica due to the geography so the people of Costa Rica today have a much higher percentage of Spanish blood in them and hence the culture is more closely related to that of Spain than that of the indigenous people.

A big reason there were few indigenous people in the region was that the mountains are difficult to maneuver, but the forests are also dense and there is little farm land. This made living off the land a difficult occupation and even today few people live off the land as there is little money to be made in farming. Additionally, the European diseases the Spanish brought with them killed most of the people that did manage to survive in these forests.

The blue and white strips of Costa Rica's flag represent the previous flag of Central America (the blue symbolizes the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, while the white represents the land of Central America, as well as peace and prosperity). The red strip was added in 1848 to support the revolutionary moves of the French. Today the symbolism of the blue and white have been slightly altered: the blue represents the sky, opportunity, and perseverance, the white symbolizes peace, happiness, and wisdom, and the red represents the blood shed for freedom, generosity, and the vibrancy of the people. The flag also contains the country's coat of arms.

Name: Republic of Costa Rica
Independence: September 15, 1821
Capital: San Jose
Currency: Costa Rican Colon
Population: 4,695,942 (2013 estimate)
Ethnicity: European & others
Language: Spanish
Religion: Catholic

Despite the small indigenous population, the Spanish settlers and the indigenous people generally got along and intermarried, although the number of Spanish greatly outnumbered the local population so most people appear almost wholly Spanish. Despite this, the number of both groups was small as the Spanish put very little money or effort into the region since there was little farmland or natural resources to make a profit from in the region.

Since the Spanish colonization efforts essentially ended at the borders of Costa Rica, the people in the region became quite poor during the colonial period. Just as the lands had been prior to colonization, the lands were very sparsely populated after Spanish colonization. Also, since there was little good farm land, most people in the country moved to the mountains where the temperatures were cooler, something that led to the growth of coffee, which is still one of the country's largest exports today.

Even today the people of Costa Rica remain similar to the Spanish as their traditions dominate indigenous ones, most people are Catholic, speak Spanish, and even eat Spanish foods. However, the food is truly a combination of locally available foods with Spanish influence, making the cuisine fairly original on a world scale, but similar to other Central American countries. Coffee plantations are still a viable way of life, but farming in the valleys and fishing along the coasts are also popular.

Despite the similarities to Spanish culture, the poverty of the country during the colonial days means many aspects of Spanish culture never arrived or were simple not affordable or accessible. Due to this, the culture in Costa Rica didn't wholly reflect that of Spain, nor did it reflect that of the indigenous people or the other Spanish colonies. Costa Rica has aspects of all these past influences, but is unique in many ways due to its past. Today it seems to be moving forward fairly steadily as coffee is simple important, but the economy is becoming more reliant on tourists, who seek out their coasts and mountains, creating a growing service industry.

Learn More About Costa Rica:

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The Culture:
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Map of Costa Rica

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Information for Costa Rica was last updated: November, 2012 ● View our: Sources & Special Thanks