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