Costa Rica

República de Costa Rica
Republic of Costa Rica
Flag of Costa Rica Coat of arms of Costa Rica
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: Vivan siempre el trabajo y la paz

(Translation: Long live work and peace)

Anthem: Noble patria, tu hermosa bandera
Location of Costa Rica
Capital San José
Largest city San José
Official language Spanish
Government Democratic Republic
 - President Óscar Arias
Independence From Spain 
 - From Spain September 15, 1821 
 - From the UPCA 1838 
Area
 - Total 51,100 km² (129th)
19,725 sq mi 
 - Water (%) 0.7%
Population
 - 2005 estimate 4,327,000 (119th)
 - Density 85/km² (107th)
220/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2005 estimate
 - Total $45.14 billion (79th)
 - Per capita $11,400 (63rd)
HDI  (2004) 0.841 (high) (48th)
Currency Costa Rican colón (CRC)
Time zone (UTC-6)
Internet TLD .cr
Calling code +506

Costa Rica (literally 'rich coast'), officially the Republic of Costa Rica (Spanish: Costa Rica or República de Costa Rica, IPA: [re'puβlika ðe 'kosta 'rika]), is a country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the south-southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, and the Caribbean Sea to the east. Costa Rica was the first country in the world to constitutionally abolish its army.

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History

In Pre-Columbian times the Indigenous people, in what is now known as Costa Rica, were part of the Intermediate Area located between the Mesoamerican and Andean cultural regions. This has recently been updated to include the influence of the Isthmo-Colombian area.

Costa Rica boasts a varied history. It was the point where the Mesoamerican and South American native cultures met. The northwest of the country, Nicoya, was the southernmost point of Nahuatl cultural influence when the Spanish invaders (conquistadores) came in the 16th century. The center 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 the Indians died from disease and mistreatment by the Spaniards.

The Atlantic coast, meanwhile, was populated with African slaves in the 17th and 18th centuries, although most Caribbean Costa Ricans of African ascent descend from Jamaican workers brought in during the 19th century to work in the construction of railways connecting the urban populations of the Central Plateau to the port of Limon on the Caribbean coast.

During the 19th century Italian and Chinese immigrants came to the country to work on the construction of the railroad system as well.

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Geography

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 kilometres (802 mi) of coastline (212 km / 132 mi on the Caribbean coast and 1,016 km / 631 mi on the Pacific). It is about the size of West Virginia.

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, with 3,810 metres (12,500 ft), and is the fifth highest peak in Central America. The highest volcano in the country is the Irazú Volcano (3,431 m or 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 or 9.25 sq mi, 500 km or 300 mi from Puntarenas coast), but Calero Island is the biggest island of the country (151.6 km² or 58.5 sq mi).

Costa Rica protects over 25% of its national territory within national parks. It also possesses the greatest density of species in the world. *[1]

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Politics

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 (see: List of Presidents of Costa Rica). It is one of the most stable countries in Latin America. Costa Rica has avoided the violence that has plagued Central America; it is seen as an example of political stability in the region, and is referred to as the "Switzerland of the Americas." Executive responsibilities are vested in a president, who is the country's center of power. There also are two vice presidents and a cabinet designated by the president. The president, vice presidents, and 57 Legislative Assembly delegates are elected for 4-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.

In April 2003 the constitutional ban on presidential re-election was reversed, allowing Óscar Arias (Nobel Peace Prize, 1987) to run for President for a second term. In 2006 Óscar Arias was re-elected in tight elections, running on a platform of promoting free trade.

Governors appointed by the president head the country's seven provinces, but they exercise little power. There are no provincial legislatures. 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 but maintains domestic Police forces for internal security. See also: Military of Costa Rica

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Administrative divisions

Costa Rica is divided into 7 provinces:

  1. San José (Capital) (political, technological and economical center of Costa Rica)
  2. Alajuela (central; north of capital San José, agriculture and industrial manufacturing)
  3. Cartago (former Costa Rican Provincial capital during colonial times)
  4. Heredia (central; north of capital, industrial manufacturing)
  5. Guanacaste (north-west, important touristic and agricultural area)
  6. Puntarenas (along most of the Pacific coast, with a large bulge in the south-west and a smaller one at the northern end at both sides of the Golfo de Nicoya, where the eponymous capital is located)
  7. Limón (Caribbean coast, agricultural and eco-tourism area)
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Economy

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.

The economy has been expanding for Costa Rica in part because the Government had implemented a seven year plan of expansion in the high tech industry. 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 and pharmaceutical company Glaxo Smith Kline and consumer products company Procter & Gamble. 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%, exports increased a 12.8% and the number of visiting tourists increased a 19%, reaching 1.5 million people. 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%. For 2006 the economy is expected to grow a 6.8%

The unit of currency is the colón (CRC), which trades around 502 to the U.S. dollar; currently about 700 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 US dollars.

Costa Rica's location provides easy 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.

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Foreign affairs

Costa Rica is an active member of the United Nations and the Organization of American States. Costa Rica is seat of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and seat of the United Nations University of Peace and many other international organizations related to human rights and democracy.

Costa Rica's main foreign policy objective is to foster human rights and sustainable development as a way to secure stability and growth.

Costa Rica is also a member of the International Criminal Court, without a Bilateral Immunity Agreement of protection for the US-military (as covered under Article 98)

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Flora and fauna

Anhinga drying its feathers.
Anhinga drying its feathers.

Costa Rica is home to a rich variety of plants and animals. While the country has only about 0.1% of the world's land mass, it contains 5% of the world's biodiversity. Over 25% of Costa Rica is composed of protected forests and reserves.

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.

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 (including eight species of parrots), a variety of reptiles, but is mostly recognized for the annual nesting of the endangered green turtle and is considered the most important nesting site for this species. Giant leatherback, hawksbill, and loggerhead turtles also nest here.

The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve hosts 2,000 plant species including numerous orchids. Over 400 types of birds can be found here, as well as over 100 species of mammals. Costa Rica as a whole has over 800 species of birds. The entity entrusted to do genetic and biochemical prospection on Costa Rica's biological wealth is the INBIO (Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad), and it is allowed to collect royalties on any biological discoveries of medical importance.

Also see:

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Demographics

Metal church in Grecia, Costa Rica.
Metal church in Grecia, Costa Rica.
On the Río Savegre, just below San Gerardo de Dota in the Talamanca Mountains of Costa Rica.
On the Río Savegre, just below San Gerardo de Dota in the Talamanca Mountains of Costa Rica.
Old cathedral in Cartago, Costa Rica.
Old cathedral in Cartago, Costa Rica.
Inside of the Teatro Nacional of Costa Rica, the Costa Rican national theatre.
Inside of the Teatro Nacional of Costa Rica, the Costa Rican national theatre.
The crater of Volcán Irazú, an active volcano near Cartago, Costa Rica.
The crater of Volcán Irazú, an active volcano near Cartago, Costa Rica.

In 2005, Costa Rica had an estimated population of 4.43 million persons. The majority of people in Costa Rica are descended from Spanish settlers. In contrast to its neighboring countries populations, little mixing of the Spanish settlers and the indigenous populations occurred. Therefore, a vast majority of Costa Ricans are either of Spanish or to a lesser extent of mixed mestizo heritage. In addition, there are significant numbers of Costa Ricans of Italian, German, Jewish, and Polish descent. Together, European and Mestizos descendants make up a full 94% of the population. Just under 3% of the population is of black African descent who are called Afro-Costa Ricans and are English-speaking descendants of 19th century black Jamaican immigrant workers. Another 1% is composed of ethnic Chinese.

As of today, the indigenous population numbers around 1.7%, or around 50000 individuals. In Guanacaste Province, a significant portion of the population descends from a mix of local Amerindians, Africans and Spaniards. There is also a expatriate community of American and Canadian retirees.

Christianity is a major religion in Costa Rica. Some 92% of Costa Ricans are Christian [3]. Like many other parts of Latin America, Protestant denominations have been enjoying rapid growth. However 3 in 4 Costa Ricans still adhere to Roman Catholicism. Due to small but recent immigration from Asia, the Middle East, and other places, new religions have sprung up. The most popular being Buddhism (due to a growing Chinese community of 40,000), with even smaller numbers of Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu adherents.

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Culture

The locals refer to themselves as tico or tica (female). "Tico" comes from the locally popular usage of "tico" diminutive suffixes (e.g., 'momentico' instead of 'momentito'). The tico ideal is that of a very friendly, helpful, laid back, unhurried, educated and environmentally aware people. Visitors from the United States are often referred to as gringos, which is virtually always congenial in nature. The phrase "Pura Vida" (literally pure life) is a motto ubiquitous in Costa Rica. It encapsulates the pervading ideology of living in peace in a calm, unflustered manner, appreciating a life surrounded by nature and family and friends.

Some folk might use maje or mae (, actually maje means "dumb") to refer to each other although this might be slightly insulting to older folk. Costa Rican traditions and culture tend to retain a strong degree of Spanish influence. Their spoken accent is rather different than its Central American counterparts, normally -ito or ita is added to many words to sound more polite and courteous.

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, Nicoya, was the southernmost point of Nahuatl cultural influence when the Spanish conquerors (conquistadores) came in the 16th century. The center 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 the Indians died from disease and mistreatment by the Spaniards.

The Atlantic coast, meanwhile, was populated with African slaves in the 17th and 18th centuries, although most Caribbean Costa Ricans of African ascent descend from Jamaican workers brought in during the 19th century to work in the construction of railways connecting the urban populations of the Central Plateau to the port of Limon on the Caribbean coast.

During the 19th century Italian and Chinese immigrants came to the country to work on the construction of the railroad system as well.

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See also

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External links

Government and administration
National anthem lyrics
Local newspapers
Travel & tourism


Latin Union

Angola | Argentina | Bolivia | Brazil | Cape Verde | Chile | Colombia | Côte d'Ivoire | Costa Rica | Cuba | Dominican Republic | Ecuador | France | Guatemala | Guinea-Bissau | Haiti | Honduras | Italy | Mexico | Moldova | Monaco | Mozambique | Nicaragua | Panama | Paraguay | Peru | Philippines | Portugal | Romania | San Marino | São Tomé and Príncipe | Senegal | Spain | Timor Leste | Uruguay | Vatican City | Venezuela


Countries in Central America
Belize | Costa Rica | El Salvador | Guatemala | Honduras | Nicaragua | Panama
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