The History of Costa Rica

We all know Costa Rica as the rich land of sandy beaches and bio-diverse, lush-green forests. We know there is plenty of activities to do and there is a peaceful paradise that people flock to whenever time permits.  Today we’ll dive into the factual history of Costa Rica so anyone visiting can be educated on how it became the country it is today.

It is true that Costa Rica is mainly famous for its beaches, wild life conservation work and UNESCO World Heritage Sites, but did you know it has an equally rich history? Let us take a thorough trip down the history lane and get to know the land of sandy, white beaches a bit more!

A Little Geography Would Do You Good!

Costa Rica is a country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua, Panama, Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean. Since it is bordered by Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean, it is no surprise that it is famous for its beautiful and scenic beaches. There are 14 known volcanoes, out of which 6 have erupted during the past 75 years.

It has a typical tropical climate, which is just perfect for the many rain-forests that it has! Costa Rica is also home to a variety of plants and animals and has been working towards conservation of wild-life, both flora and fauna.

The Rich History of Costa Rica

We all know that Christopher Columbus was the first known explorer to encounter Costa Rica, back in 1502. But even before that, there was civilization.

Before Christopher Columbus’s Expedition

Before Christopher Columbus made his fourth and final voyage to the New World, people were already living there for thousands of years. It is just that nobody knew about them. Archaeologists have uncovered proof that there was civilization, dating back to 10,000 years. It is believed that there was an overlapping of Mesoamerican and Andean cultures. Presence of South-American arrows and Clovis culture type spear-heads has further given proof to this theory.

Among the most important and mysterious relics are the granite spheres, which are now part of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These range in size from a baseball to big Volkswagen bus! Ruins of an ancient city with proper aqueducts have been found near San Jose’ and indicate that the people living there were very organized and thorough. Pottery and farming were important, as shards of pots, vases etc. have been found, dating back to 2000-3000 BCE. However, the impact of this civilization is not said to be much because of the Spanish colonization. Even now, two known tribes still inhabit the mountains of Cordillera de Talamanca.

The Spanish Colonization

During Spanish colonization, Costa Rica was mostly overlooked. It was left to develop on its own. Lack of resources such as silver or gold, specifically, made Costa Rica a very poor and sparsely inhabited region. Indigenous population was sparse that prevented establishment of plantations. The local settlers had to work on their own. As a result, it was isolated and was considered the ‘Poorest and most miserable Spanish Colony in America’, as proclaimed by a Spanish governor in 1719.

It is believed that the indigenous population was sparse because they either fled from the colonial rule or were perished by the deadly smallpox, brought in by the Spaniards. Since there was no work force, African slaves were brought in to fill the boots. Around 70,000 of their descendants still live in Costa Rica.

The lack of labor force actually worked in favor of Costa Rica, in the long run. Out of all the Spanish colonies, Costa Rica has enjoyed the least influence. It was a tough place to settle in and people were left on their own. The first and proper colonial settlement happened in 1562 under Juan Vaquez de Coronado.

The Rebellion and Independence

Costa Rica never fought for independence on its own, but it was the Mexican rebellion that bought independence for all in 1821. Heredia and Cartago, two years after Mexican war of independence, sparked a civil war by opting to become part of Mexico.

However, the republican cities of San Jose and Alajuela soundly defeated them and established sovereignty.