05 April 2008

History of Costa Rica

The aboriginal inhabitants of what today is Costa Rica were part of the transition area between Mesoamerican and South American cultures. Population was sparse and without the magnificent buildings and cultural development of Aztecs, Incas or Mayans; local cultures, however, reached a very high level in pottery and in gold and silver work, with beautiful results.

Indigenous population declined quickly after the colonization due mainly to diseases brought from Europe.

Scarcity of workforce, limited mining resources, distance and difficult communications from the administrative capital (Capitanía General) of Guatemala in colonial times, caused Spanish colonization to be very slow and seriously limited in its economic resources. Costa Rica was at that time the southernmost and poorest region of New Spain. The provincial capital was then the city of Cartago.

Independence from Spain was proclaimed by the Federal Rpublic of Central America in 1821. After a short period of annexion to Iturbide’s Mexican Empire, this republic became independent again but was short-lived, dissolving in 1842.

When, after several years of civil war in Nicaragua, the American mercenary William Walker seized power, he aimed to the neighboring Costa Rica. The just created National Army of Costa Rica defeated General Walker’s troops in Santa Rosa (Costa Rica) and Rivas (Nicaragua), returning peace and stability to the region on April 11th, 1856.

Costa Rica suffered three interruptions of constitutional rule during the 20th century. The first one was in 1917, then again in 1919 and the last one in 1948 due to electoral fraud, which led to a civil war between both sides. On December 1st, 1948, José Figueres Ferrer, leader of the winning faction, abolished the army, thus transforming Costa Rica in the first world’s republic with no army. Since then, democratic alternation and political stability have allowed a much higher degree of development and social peace than what is unfortunately usual in the region.


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