Costa Rica Flag

Beautiful Costa Rica flag in the wind
Beautiful Costa Rica flag in the wind

For Costa Ricans, our country’s flag is very important because it represents everything that make us special. We have a country that’s totally different than other places in Central and South America, and that’s something we’re very proud of. Here’s why:

Why Costa Rica Is Something Special

“Ticos” (that’s what we call ourselves) are friendly and hospitable. This means that we don’t think we’re better than other people, and we treat anyone who visits like family. However, we do feel a lot of pride about our country:

  • No army: If you’re looking for the Latino version of Monaco or Switzerland, you’ve come to the right place. In Costa Rica, we don’t have any armed forces. We’re like Casablanca, except with Anastasia Acosta instead of Humphrey Bogart. That makes us very different from almost everywhere else in Central America and South America.
  • Our constitution: Did you know that Costa Rica has the oldest democracy in Latin America? Our country’s government has been a democracy all the way back to 1948. While other countries such as Nicaragua and Argentina had tons of civil wars and coups, Costa Rica has had one of the most stable governments in Latin America for over 70 years.
  • Volcanoes, rain forests and beaches: Not to brag, but Costa Rica has some incredible scenery. With waterfalls, rainforests, crater lakes, beaches and valleys — our country has all the natural beauty we could hope for and more! Even better, we can reach any part of Costa Rica in roughly half a day.
  • Great safety: You’ll be happy to know that Costa Rica is one of the safest vacation spots in the world. Our police officers make sure everyone behaves themselves, but things are pretty quiet in most of the country. If you have to choose between Cancun and one of our Caribbean shores, we’re far safer.
  • Pura Vida: When you’re surrounded by blue skies, fresh air and green forests, it’s easy to relax. That’s why we Costa Ricans have a saying: “Pura vida!” It’s a way of remembering to take things slow and really enjoy life. Plus, in a country with the best beans in the world, who doesn’t want to stop and smell the coffee… err, roses?

What Our Flag Stands For

So, what does all of this have to do with the Costa Rican flag? Well, we designed it to stand for everything that’s great about our country. All of the colors and designs mean something.

The Colors

First, the basics. Costa Rica’s flag has a blue, white and red color scheme. These colors were present ever since the first official Costa Rica flag was made in 1848. What do they mean?

  • Blue stands for our sky, determination, ideals and intellectual thinking.
  • White means peace, happiness, wisdom and freedom. It was an important color when Costa Rica finally got its independence from Spain.
  • Red represents the love, generosity and warmth of our people. It also stands for the blood of Costa Ricans who died defending our country.

The Shield

Costa Rica actually has two different types of flags, and both of them are official. One is called the “bandera nacional,” and it’s a simple version with blue, white and red stripes only. The “bandera nacional” is used during festivals and public celebrations. The other one is called the “pabellón nacional,” and it proudly shows off the Costa Rican coat of arms. This version shows up in front of government buildings and pretty much everywhere else. The national shield also contains specific details that represent important parts of our history.

The first things you probably notice are the three volcanoes and the green valley in between. You can probably guess what they mean: Costa Rica has three main volcanic mountain ranges, Irazú, Poás and Arenal, and a lush area called the Central Valley. The shield also shows two coasts, and they stand for the Pacific beaches and Caribbean shores of Costa Rica.

Besides the obvious literal meaning of the images on the coat of arms, there are also symbolic explanations for the emblems. For example, experts think that the mountains, oceans and coasts also stand for Costa Rica’s reputation for sharing commerce and cultural ideas with other countries. The rising sun on the left side represents the economic prosperity of our country.

What about the seven stars? They stand for each of our seven provinces: San José, Alajuela, Cartago, Heredia, Guanacaste, Puntarenas y Limón. There used to only be five stars and five provinces, but that changed in 1964. Also, you may have noticed the gold circles on the left and right of the flag. They’re not there just for decoration; they represent coffee, which is a huge part of Costa Rican culture!

Above the shield, there are two green branches that represent the peaceful attitude of Costa Rica’s people and government. The white banner right below the branches reads “República de Costa Rica,” or Republic of Costa Rica, and a blue banner above has the words “America Central.” These phrases are important because they’ve been on our flag ever since we formed our very own country.

Everything You Should Know About the Flag’s History

At first Costa Rica used a totally different flag, but we weren’t officially independent back then. Between 1821 and part of 1848, we were part of the United Provinces of Central America, along with countries such as El Salvador and Guatemala. By the end of 1848, our country’s congress elected the first president of the Republic of Costa Rica, José María Castro Madriz, and declared total independence.

So, who designed the first official flag? The first lady. Pacífica Fernández, the wife of President Castro Madriz, created the original flag for the Republic of Costa Rica. She chose the colors blue, white and red because she was inspired by the French flag and the history of France’s independence. For our first lady, and all Costa Ricans, being free is something we value dearly! Now you know why we proudly display our flag all over the country.

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