Costa Rica: History

Where the sun always shines

Costa Rica History

In the first instances of recorded history (Pre-Columbian times), the Native Americans in the land were part of a cultural complex called the ‘Intermediate Area’. In 1502, Christopher Columbus effectively discovered it to the West and European settlement began in 1522. Most of the native people were killed either by mistreatment or by disease after being conquered by Spain. Spain’s interest in the region, having been initially known as ‘Rich Coast’, soon fell having failed to find gold or other minerals and it was used for agriculture. This lack of development meant that even the Spanish governor had to farm his own crops and it was no surprise when it took independence in 1821 with a coalition of other Central American provinces. Its place in effectively the Central American government was short-lived, as in 1838 it declared itself sovereign and its disinterest in the venture was one of the fundamental reasons for its failing. Through time the region has enjoyed greater stability and peace than other Latin American nations. Since late 19th century it has experienced two significant periods of violence – around the same times as the rest of the world. In 1917-19 Federico Tinoco Grenados ruled as dictator until being overthrown and sent into exile. In 1948, José Figueres Ferrer led an armed uprising after a disputed presidential election. The resulting 44-day Costa Rican Civil War left over 2000 dead but resulted in a Government-led junta emerging victorious and drawing up a new constitution abolishing the state army and handing power to a new democratic government which Ferrer was elected to office of in 1953. The country has enjoyed 12 successful elections since.