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Christopher Columbus landed in Puerto Limón in 1502. Back then, less than 20 indigenous tribes occupied the land. While Spanish colonization was ramapant in other Central and South American countries, very few Spanish colonists came to Costa Rica because there was little gold and silver to be found. When colonists finally did settle in Costa Rica, they went to the Central Highlands around 1563. These colonists mostly worked the lands themselves, and formed communities of small land owners.

In 1821, Costa Rica declared independence from Spain. Juan Mora Fernández was elected the nation's first chief of state and he began the process of building the nation's infrastructure and government. He encouraged the coffee trade, which would come, in the 19th century, to dominate the country's exports. During this time, though, only a few wealthy land owners had access to these coffee plantations and therefore became some of the most powerful people in the country.

Democracy and peace is quite the norm in Costa Rica. In fact, there have only been two brief periods of violence in the country since the first democratic elections were held in 1889. The country has remained stable economically and socially since reforms enacted after 1948. Since that year, when Rafael Calderón claimed victory over Otilio Ulate, resulting in a six-week civil war, a new constitution was adopted and elections since have been consistantly declared free and fair.

Today, Costa Rica still has a large agriculture sector made up primarily of coffee, banana, pineapple and sugar. Ecotourism and technology have become very important industries in the past few decades. The country has a high literacy rate, a large middle class and stable government, which unlike many countries, functions without an army.



Updated: 2 June 2008