The History of Costa Rica
The best way to enjoy your accommodation in Costa Rica is by learning the history of the land and appreciating it for its rich heritage. The history of Costa Rica dates back tens of thousands of years and pre-dates the European ‘discovery’ of this fertile and lush land.
The ancient ruins of advanced civilisations have been found in San Jose, with massive Bolas [large, granite spheres] dotting the landscape - the discarded play toys of ancient gods according to some.
Other marvellous structures found include working aqueducts and incredibly sophisticated gold and jade statues of all shapes and sizes. A number of archaeological digs located in the central highlands and the Nicoya peninsula show evidence that these influences originated from the Mexican Olmec and the Nahuatl [very close to the Aztec] societies. Many will boast that Africa is the cradle of the world, but Latin America is surely the technological forerunners of most modern civilizations.
Our history pre-dates the actual discovery of Costa Rica in 1502, September the 18th to be exact. The great navigator, Christopher Columbus discovered Costa Rica as he was making his final journey to the New World. As Columbus laid anchor offshore, a group of Carib Indians paddled out to his boat, resplendent in gold jewellery such as earrings and nose rings. This is where the land got its name, the ‘rich coast’ or Costa Rica in Spanish. There were already a vast and established number of colonies in Costa Rica, such as the Chibchas and Borucas, yet after Columbus facilitated the beginning of Spanish dominance, these tribes were all but wiped from the map or integrated into modern society. Other factors such as smallpox also played a part in eliminating indigenous tribes as it was carried into Costa Rica by the Spanish and wiped out many of the native dwellers in a firestorm of disease, which means that today a mere one percent of native Costa Ricans are of indigenous descent. Travel Latin America and you will still see destruction that was caused by the Spanish Armada of the 1600’s.
Accommodation in Costa Rica was initially an unpopular business idea, purely because it did not represent a resource that was as easily exploitable as silver or gold. Other South American countries in Mexico and Peru were yielding massive amounts of these precious minerals and it was not until the establishment of Cartago in 1562, that Costa Rica would begin to show further interest. The sovereign state of Spain would still continue to ignore Costa Rica for most of this time and an informal government was developed in the in-between years. A key factor that contributed to the growth of the rural population was the enforced labour of local citizens, who harvested crops at Costa Rican villas.
A form of government would finally appear after a bloody civil war, featuring the four countries that neighboured Costa Rico. Mexico rebelled against Spain in the year of 1821 and South America followed in its wake. After the Pro-Mexican cities of Cartago and Heredia were defeated, the Spanish Crown swept in and elected the first head of state, Juan Mora Fernandez in 1824. A series of class-related skirmishes would mark a long and tumultuous history of political upheaval, seeing presidents and statesmen replaced in the blink of an eye. Two periods of violent conflict marked an otherwise, calm era in the history of Costa Rica. From 1917 to 1919, Federico Tinoco Granados established an oppressive dictatorship in an attempt to crush all opposition, yet his plans were crushed after his brother [his military power] was assassinated in a vicious coup.
In 1948, José Figueres Ferrer would lead a rebellion in the wake of a dubious presidential election. The ensuing 44-day Costa Rican Civil War was a bloodbath and a war that ensured the highest casualty rate of any Costa Rican battle, with 2,000 dead. Luckily, the opposing force managed to overthrow the military and a new democracy was formed. Today, many Costa Rican villas and state buildings still bear the markings of this fierce battle.
In 1987, The Costa Rican President Oscar Arias Sanchez [still current president] earned worldwide gratitude when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his part in snuffing out the Nicaraguan civil war. Costa Ricahas had over twelve peaceful and violent-free elections since then, with the latest one taking place in 2006. With an officially abolished army and a peaceful way of life, Costa Rica will continue to thrive onwards and upwards, well into the future. Travel Latin America and rejoice in the peace and calm those countries including Costa Rica, are now known for.