Costa Rica is officially known as the Republic of Costa Rica. It is 19,575 square miles in size and has a population of approximately 3,342,000 people. It is bordered by Panama and Nicaragua. The capital of Costa Rica is San Jose. Its coastal areas are hot and humid and heavily forested. It has a large chain of volcanoes rising over 12,000 feet. The official language of Costa Rica is Spanish. It is a democratic nation and has no military. CostaRica has only 3 national newspapers.
Christopher Columbus discovered Costa Rica in 1502. In 1563 Spain began its conquest of the Costa Rican area. In 1821 Costa Rica gained independence and was successfully part of the Mexican empire. Coffee growing started in the early 1800's and banana cultivation began in 1874. Costa Rica's democratic government began in 1889. Its president from 1986 to 1990 worked for peace in Central America. Economically, Costa Rica has a history of payment problems.
Costa Rica has a democratic government. Its current constitution was adopted in 1949. In Costa Rica, the president serves as the chief executive and head of state. The president is elected to a four year term. The legislative assembly has fifty-seven deputies that are elected for a four year term. The supreme court has seventeen justices appointed by the legislature. Costa Rica's army was abolished in 1948. However, they do have a national guard that can fight in a time of war. Costa Rica's seven provinces each have a governer appointed by the president. All citizens 18 years of age or older are required to vote in the national election. The country's two main political parties are the National Liberation Party and the Social Christian Unity Party.
In 1994, Costa Rica's population was about three and one quarter of a millon people. It is estimated to be growing at a rate of about two and one quarter percent. At this rate, Costa Rica's population will double in 30 years. Costa Ricans take great pride in their country's heritage of government and social equality. They do not take for granted their personal dignity and strong family ties. Almost all of Costa Ricans speak Spanish but some blacks speak with a Jamaican dialect. About 90% of the people belong to the Roman Catholic Church.
About 50% of the Costa Ricans live on farms or in rural towns. A lot of farmers live in Adobe cottages with thick, white stucco walls and red or pink-tiled roofs. Most of Costa Rica's city people live in row houses. Many Costa Ricans like to decorate their homes with plants and flowers. Wealthy familys live in large ranch-style homes surrounded by huge gardens.
Parts of the diet of many Costa Ricans can include beans, coffee, corn, eggs, rice, and tropical fruits like bananas, guaves, mangoes, oranges, and pineapples. Many Costa Rican families also serve beef, fish, poultry, and many kinds of soups. Tamales and tortillas are also foods that are often prepared.
About 90 to 93% of Costa Rica's people can read or write. This is a higher percentage than any other country in Central America. Law requires all children to complete elementary school and then they may choose whether or not to continue on with their education. Costa Rica has several universities which include the National University in Heredia and the University of Costa Rica by San Jose.
Most Costa Ricans enjoy spending their leisure time outdoors. Soccer is the national sport and playing fields can be found everywhere. Basketball, tennis, and swimming are also popular. On some religious holidays, bullfights, fireworks, and masked parades can attract thousands of Costa Ricans and foreign tourists. The only 18-hole golf course in Costa Rica is at the Cariari Country Club, just west of San Jose. However, there are many 9-hole courses. The country's national gymnasium is in Sabana Park. Many tennis courts are also in Sabana Park. Rodeos and bullfights are held at Santa Cruz. In a bullfight, the bull chases men around. During Christmas festivities, there are also Mexican style bullfights in which the person tries to kill the bull.
The most valuable natural resource in Costa Rica is the fertile volcanic soil. Trees such as oaks, pines, and tropical hardwood cover about 1/3 of the land. About 1/4 of Costa Rica's workers are in farming or ranching. Bananas, beef cattle, coffee, corn, rice, and sugar cane are the country's leading agricultural products. Some farmers also grow oranges, beans, potatoes, and other fruits and vegetables. Costa Rica's leading manufactured products include cement, clothing, cosmetics, furniture, machinery, and medicines. Costa Rica's economy depends a lot on foreign trade.