History of Costa Rica

Pre- Colombian Era

The history of Costa Rica can be traced back much before the arrival of Christopher Columbus. Evidences of human occupation have been found in Costa Rica which dates back to over 10,000 years. In the pre-Columbian era, the country appeared to be a scarcely populated backwater, with very few indications of large, organized communities. Some of the vestiges left behind by the inhabitants of the pre-Columbian era are thousands of perfectly spherical granite bolas discovered near the west coast. The only major archaeological site is at Guayabo, 30 miles east of San Jose. Several fascinating gold, jade and pottery artifacts have been discovered all over the region. In the history of Costa Rica during the pre-Columbian age, evidences of influence from the civilizations of Mexican Olmec and Nahuatl have also been found.

Columbian era

Christopher Columbus was the first European explorer to encounter Costa Rica on 18, September, 1502 on his final expedition to the New World. On his arrival along with the Spanish explorers, near Puerto Limon, they were greeted by the local Carib Indians. On observing the gold ornaments worn by the Indians, one of the Spaniards, Gil Gonzalez Davila was inspired to name the country Costa Rica, or Rich Coast.

At the time when Columbus arrived there were four major indigenous tribes living in Costa Rica- the Caribs, the Borucas, Chibchas, and the Diquis. With the Spanish invasion most of the people fled while many others died from the diseases brought by the Europeans. Having wiped out the indigenous workforce, the colonizers were compelled to bring in African slaves to work on the land. Presently only one percent of the people of Costa Rica are of indigenous heritage. Out of the 3.8 million people, the whites make up 98% of the population of Costa Rica.

The Spanish expectation of finding gold never came true and Costa Rica was the least influenced Spanish colony. The Spanish diverted their attention on developing Mexico and Peru, where huge quantities of gold and silver were discovered. Few settlements like Heredia, San Jose, and Alajuela were set up during the 18th century. With the introduction of coffee in 1808 Costa Rica, the economy of the country greatly improved.

Costa Rican Independence

Costa Rica attained its independence from Spanish rule in the year 1821. A debate on whether Costa Rica should join Mexico or a new confederation of the states of Central America, led to a civil war. After San Jose and Alajuela defeated the pro-Mexican Heredia and Cartago, sovereignty was established in the nation. Juan Mora Fernandez became the country's first chief of the state elected in 1824. His progressive administration improved the education and economy of the country but somehow it also led to the establishment of an elite class of powerful coffee barons. The barons used their power to overthrow the country's first president, Jose Maria Castro and chose Juan Rafael Mora as his successor. Under Juan Rafael Mora, the volunteers of Costa Rica were successful in defeating the US conqueror William Walker thus putting an end to his ambitions of converting Central America into a slave state.


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