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Costa Rica Culture and History | The Story of the Rich Coast

 A bird’s eye view of a Costa Rican city showcasing the rich and colorful Costa Rica culture and history.
Dive deep into the depths of the colorful Costa Rica culture and its rich history.

The Republic of Costa Rica has been home to many groups of people over the centuries, even before the Spanish colonization. Civilization on the land of Costa Rica dates back tens of thousands of years, and those tribes and peoples have influenced and helped shape the Costa Rica culture and traditions that are adhered to by the citizens of the country today.

If you are ever planning on taking yourself for a quick Costa Rica vacation, you might want to know the history of the place first so you can fully appreciate the nation that it is today. And to fully dive into the history of Costa Rica, we first have to travel back in time, around 15,000 years ago.

  • Pre-Colombian Era
    Tribes started migrating to the land of Costa Rica from North America during the last Ice Age 15,000 years ago. This migration is seemingly the first evidence of human settlement in Central America. These groups of people have been classified by historians as part of a cultural complex known as the Intermediate Area. They are a group of hunter-gatherers who are thought to have hunted megafauna or giant animals. Agriculture seems to also be a part of their daily lives. From then until the Spanish colonization, it is believed that over 25 different tribes have occupied the land.
  • Spanish Colonization
    Costa Rica’s first interaction with the Spaniards was when the great navigator, Christopher Colombus, discovered the land in 1502 during his fourth and final voyage. The tribes apparently greeted them warmly. Christopher Columbus saw that the natives were wearing golden bands. This made him assume that the land’s inhabitants are wealthy, thus naming the country “Rich Coast” or Costa Rica. It is also believed that it was Gil Gonzalez Davilla who coined the name, not Christopher Columbus.
    What followed henceforth is a dark and grim tale, because, during the colonization, many of the inhabitants in Costa Rica were forced into hard labor and slavery. The land also lacked resources like gold and silver, making it the “poorest and most miserable Spanish colony in the Americas” according to Spanish governors. During this time, many suffered and perished either through starvation or genocide.
    Eventually, though, in 1821, Costa Rica finally earned her well-deserved independence. After the final defeat of Spain during what is known as the Mexican War of Independence, Guatemala declared all of Central America’s independence from Spain.
  • As a Free Nation
    After cutting ties with Spain, the people of Costa Rica were torn in half on deciding the nation’s future. This discussion led to the formation of two separate groups: The Imperialists, who believed Costa Rica should side with the Mexican Empire, and the Republicans, who wished for the nation’s full independence. This sparked a civil war within the nation. This battle was finally won by the Republicans.
  • Costa Rica Today
    From its independence in the 18th century to today, Costa Rica has seen its fair share of violence and bloodshed. Conflicts arise as they always do, but conflicts eventually get resolved. Today, Costa Rica’s condition is its most stable. The country runs under a democratic government, and the cultures of some of the tribes who once lived on the land remained to this day. Amazingly, two of these tribes still inhabit the mountains of Cordillera de Talamanca. Their culture, however, is more influenced by Spain’s cultures than the indigenous tribes’.

This brief history of Costa Rica shows that the country has had its speed bumps along the way, but today it is more stable than ever. The Costa Rica women and men of today are prideful of their country’s traditions and cultures and it is a sight to behold for yourself.

Today, there are over 5 million people who inhabit the land, with over 300 thousand of them living in Costa Rica’s capital. The land is full of amazing places and attractive, decent people whose souls are rich in culture and epic in history. Be sure to check out the nation of the Rich Coast soon!

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