When I'm out exploring the rainforests of Costa Rica, I can't help but wonder what things used to be like a long time ago. Although a lot of people come here for the beaches and tropical climate, others visit Costa Rica to learn more about our rich culture and history. Let's explore how Costa Rica came to be!
Some experts believe that human settlements in Costa Rica can be traced back as far as 10,000 years! However, it wasn't until famous explorer Christopher Columbus landed in the province of Limon in 1508 that the Colonial period of Costa Rica's history began. Before Columbus arrived, the country was referred to as the Intermediate Area, as what is now Costa Rica was nestled between the Mesoamerican and Andean cultural regions to the north and south.
In the 16th century, shortly after Columbus first landed in Limon, the Spanish began to send conquistadors to Costa Rica. Several initial expeditions were undertaken before the Spanish established their first major settlement in the country, Villa Bruselas, in 1524. Following the formation of the colony, Costa Rica became a part of the Spanish empire for more than two hundred years.
Modern Costa Rica has been shaped by a combination of Spanish and native influences. The Nicoya Peninsula was an important hub of the Nahuatl people prior to the arrival of the Spanish, and the two cultures developed alongside one another. Unlike some Spanish colonies, Costa Rica's relatively small indigenous population meant that the country was left largely to develop on its own, lacking the large haciendas and plantations of more densely populated colonies such as Mexico. As such, despite the Spanish occupation, Costa Rica managed to retain much of the culture and influence of its Mesoamerican history.
In 1821, Costa Rica gained independence from Spain. Afterward, there was a short civil conflict between the Costa Ricans and newly independent Mexico, after which Costa Rica became an autonomous society. Juan Mora Fernandez was elected our first head of state in 1824. However, the rapid expansion of coffee plantations throughout the country led to several power struggles among the political elite, and stability did not return to the country until Don Pepe Ferrer was appointed to office in 1948.
Today, Costa Rica is one of the most stable Latin American countries, and ranks highly in both quality and satisfaction of life surveys around the world.
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