A Brief History of Costa Rica

 

 

 

 

Human habitation can be traced back more than 10,000 years but it appears Costa Rica was sparsely populated and a relative backwater in the pre-Columbian era. There is little sign of major communities and none of the impressive stone architecture that characterized the more advanced civilizations of Mesoamerica to the north and the Andes to the south. When Columbus arrived near Limon on September 18, 1502 on his third and last voyage to the Americas, there were probably no more than 20,000 indigenous inhabitants, they lived in several autonomous tribes, all with distinct cultures and customs. Costa Rica's only major archaeological site is at Guayabo, 30 miles east of San Jose, where an ancient city, dating back to 1000 B.C. and though to have contained 10,000 people at its peak, is currently being excavated. Many interesting gold, jade and pottery artifacts have been found throughout the region and are on display in several museums in San Jose.

The Indians gave Columbus gold and he returned to Europe with reports of a plentiful supply of the yellow metal. But the adventurers who arrived to cash in found only hostile Indians, swamps and disease for their trouble. Several early attempts to colonize the Atlantic coast failed for the same reasons and for almost half a century Costa Rica was passed over while colonization gathered pace in countries to the north and south. In 1562, the Spanish main's administrative center in Guatemala sent Juan Vasquez de Coronado to Costa Rica as governor and Cartago was established as the capital the following year. With no Indian slaves to work the land, the colonists were forced to work the land themselves, scratching out a meager subsistence by tilling small plots. The impoverished colony grew slowly and was virtually ignored by the Spanish rulers in Guatemala. By the late 18th century, the settlements that would buela had been founded and exports of wheat and tobacco were making economic conditions somewhat better.

Central America gained independence from Spain on September 15, 1821. The news reached Costa Rica a month after the event. The question of whether Costa Rica should join newly independent Mexico or join a new confederation of Central American states resulted in a bitter quarrel between the leaders of San Jose and their counterparts in Cartago and Heredia. A brief civil war in 1823 was won by San Jose and Costa Rica joined the confederation.

Juan Mora Fernandez was elected the country's first head of state in 1824. His progressive administration expanded public education and encouraged the cultivation of coffee with land grants for growers. This quickly led to the establishment of a new Costa Rican elite, the coffee barons, who quickly put their power to use by overthrowing the first Costa Rican president, Jose‚ Maria Castro. His successor, Juan Rafael Mora, is remembered as the man who mobilized a force of Costa Rican volunteers and defeated William Walker, ending the persistent North American adventurer's ambitions to turn Central America into a slave state and annex it to the United States.

After more than a decade of political turmoil, General Tom s Guardia seized power in 1870. Though he ruled as a military dictator, his 12 years in power were marked by progressive policies like free and compulsory primary education, restraining the excesses of the military and taxing coffee earnings to finance public works. It was Guardia who contracted Minor Keith to build the Atlantic railroad from San Jose to the Caribbean. The post-Guardia years witnessed the fitful transition to full democracy.

The next important era began with the election of Dr. Rafael Angel Calderon Guardia in 1940. His enlightened policies included land reform, a guaranteed minimum wage and progressive taxation. But when Calderon’s United Social Christian Party refused to step down after losing the 1948 election, civil war erupted. The anti-Calderon forces were led by Jose Mar¡a (Don Pepe) Figueres Ferrer who had been exiled to Mexico in 1942. Supported by the governments of Guatemala and Cuba, he won the war which lasted 40 days and cost 2,000 lives.

Figueres became head of the Founding Junta of the Second Republic of Costa Rica. He consolidated the reforms introduced by Calderon and introduced many of his own: He banned the Communist Party, gave women the vote and granted full citizenship to blacks, abolished the armed forces, established a term limit for presidents and nationalized the banks and insurance companies. He also founded the Partido de Liberacion Nacional. (The PLN won last year's presidential election behind Don Pepe's son, now President Jose Mar¡a Figueres Olsen.

Don Pepe died in 1990 a national hero, his deeds having set the scene for the social and economic progress that would earn Costa Rica the reputation as a peaceful and stable island of democracy in one of the world's most politically unstable and often war-torn regions. When civil war broke out in neighboring Nicaragua, Costa Rica was drawn reluctantly into the conflict, its northern zone being used as a base first for Sandinista and later for "contra" forces. In 1986, a young lawyer called Oscar Arias Sanchez was elected president on the platform of peace. Arias' tireless efforts to promote peace in the region were rewarded when the five Central American presidents signed his peace plan in Guatamala City in 1987, an achievement that earned him the Nobel Peace Prize.

 

Flag

Design

The First Lady, Pacífica Fernández Oreamuno, designed the flag of Costa Rica in 1848. The flag was designed after the ideals of the French Revolution - freedom, equality, and brotherhood - and the colors of the French National Flag.

Dimensions

The flag of Costa Rica consists of five horizontal stripes: A red stripe located in the center, between two white stripes, which are between two blue stripes. The width of each stripe is 1/6 of the total width of the flag, except the red stripe, which is 2/6 of the total width.

Meaning

Each color represents important aspects of Costa Rica:

Blue means the sky, opportunities at reach, intellectual thinking, perseverance to accomplish a goal, infinite, eternity, and ideals of the religious and spiritual desires.

White means clear thinking, happiness, wisdom, power and beauty of the sky, the driving force of initiatives to search for new endeavors, and the peace of Costa Rica.

Red means the warmth of Costa Rican people, their love to live, their blood shed for freedom, and their generous attitude.

Usage

Flag in Castilian Spanish has two meanings: "Bandera" and "Pabellón Nacional." The first one refers to a national flag. The second one refers to a national flag with the national shield printed on the center of the red stripe.

Most High Schools and Primary schools, public offices, government offices, foreign missions and merchant ships must have the "Pabellón Nacional." For parties or civil activities people use the "Bandera."

 

Escudo

Design

The Honorable President Jose María Castro Madriz decreed the creation of the National Shield on September 29, 1848. The National Shield has been redesigned twice. In 1906 all the war elements (cannons, rifles, etc.) were taken off, and in 1964 two stars were added since Costa Rica gained two more provinces (Limon & Puntarenas). Those changes underlined the peaceful and civil nature of the Costa Rican people.

Meaning

"América Central" (Central America) is imprinted in silver letters on the blue ribbon at the top of the coat of arms. The two branches of myrtle closing the coat of arms represent the peace of Costa Rica. On the white ribbon that joins the branches, the title "Republica de Costa Rica" (Republic of Costa Rica) is imprinted in golden letters. The seven stars above the volcanoes represent the seven provinces of Costa Rica: Alajuela, Cartago, Guanacaste, Heredia, Limon, Puntarenas, and San José.

The volcanoes represent the three Costa Rica's mountain range systems. They form a valley and divide the country in two parts. The two oceans represent the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The merchant ships sailing on each ocean represent the cultural and commercial exchange between Costa Rica and the rest of the world. The rising sun represents the prosperity of Costa Rica.

The small circles on both sides of the coat represent the coffee beans, "Golden Beans."

 

National Anthem of Costa Rica

Noble homeland, your beautiful flag
Express for us your life:
Under the limpid blue of your skies,
Peace reigns, white and pure.
In the tenacious battle of fruitful toil,
That brings a glow to men's faces,
Your sons, simple farm hands,
Gained eternal renown, esteem and honor,
Gained eternal renown, esteem and honor.
Hail, gentle country!
Hail, loving mother!
If anyone should attempt to besmirch your glory,
You will see your people, valiant and virile,
Exchange their rustic tools for weapons.
Hail, O homeland! Your prodigal soil
Gives us sweet sustenance and shelter.
Under the limpid blue of your sky,
May peaceful labor ever continue
.

Himno Nacional de Costa Rica

"¡Noble Patria, tu hermosa bandera
expresión de tu vida nos da:
bajo el límpido azul de tu cielo
blanca y pura descansa la paz.

En la lucha tenaz de fecunda labor
que enrojece del hombre la faz,
conquistaron tus hijos --labriegos sencillos--
eterno prestigio, estima y honor.

¡Salve, oh tierra gentil! ¡Salve, oh madre de amor!
Cuando alguno pretenda tu gloria manchar,
verás a tu pueblo valiente y viril
la tosca herramienta en arma trocar.

¡Salve, oh Patria! Tu prodigo suelo
dulce abrigo y sustento nos da.
Bajo el límpido azul de tu cielo
¡Vivan siempre el Trabajo y la Paz!"

 

This site was last updated 01/01/18

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