Costa Rica History

Costa Rica History

Early to modern times

Before the arrival of the Europeans, Central America ethnically formed a bridge between South and North America, which was inhabited by both nomadic and sedentary residents. The area of ​​what is now Costa Rica was therefore exposed to Mexican, South American and Caribbean influences. The central highlands developed from AD 1200. independently, while the south of the country remained part of the South American cultural area, a phenomenon that is particularly characterized by the invasion of Chibcha-speaking tribes from 1100 onwards.

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First recorded by Columbus in 1502, the real conquest by Spain did not begin until the second half of the 16th century, when the Spanish crown established the city of Cartago in 1563 as the first permanent settlement. Until 1823, the city was the capital of this region, which was politically connected to the General Captainate of Guatemala and spiritually to the Bishop of Le¨®n in Nicaragua. Due to the lack of raw materials and a low potential for Indians willing to work, the area of ​​today’s Costa Rica played only a minor role in the economic policy of the conquistadors. The Costa Ricans therefore developed an economy that was strongly oriented towards their own needs and was characterized by small landowners. From this fact, democratic, self-determined ideas developed early.

19th century

Nevertheless, like in most colonial states, there was also a small, rich oligarchy in Costa Rica that led the nation to independence. In 1821, Costa Rica was able to break away from Spain as part of the Guatemala General Capitain without war. For a short time, Costa Rica remained part of the Mexican Empire, in 1823 it was able to merge with El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua to form the Central American Federation. When this federation collapsed, the small country formally proclaimed independence in November 1838.

There was a period of domestic unrest and border disputes across the region. Revolutions, wars and civil wars shaped the situation, although the situation in Costa Rica remained relatively stable due to the almost non-existent racial conflicts (almost all the country’s residents were descendants of the Spanish settlers). With the growing political and economic influence of the USA, the situation began to calm down in 1871. However, this was paid for with a strong dependency, in particular, on the United Fruit Company, which forced the country to grow bananas and intensive deforestation of rainforests. The large banana monocultures, which spread rapidly, forced small and medium-sized farms to give up.

20th century

A military coup in 1917 brought Frederico Tinoco Granados to power, but it was overthrown two years later.

Costa Rica participated in both world wars on the side of the USA according to AbbreviationFinder, but it never provided soldiers. In 1948, unrest of several weeks broke out between the liberal-conservative on the one hand and left-wing forces on the other. The country’s president was Socialist Jos¨¦ Mar¨ªa Figueres Ferrer (Partido de Liberaci¨®n Nacional, PLN), who held this office from 1948-49, 1952 to 58 and 1970 to 74. The constitution of 1949, which is still valid today, laid down fundamental reforms such as the abolition of the standing army (Costa Rica has since been one of the few countries in the world without a military, which has been replaced by a 2000-strong vigilante) and the introduction of universal suffrage for women and blacks. The president was also not allowed to be re-elected during the term immediately following his term in office. Extensive social reforms such as a social security system have also been tackled. Figueres nationalized the banks, repelled an invasion of exiled Costa Ricans in 1955 and was re-elected in 1970. In 1974 he was succeeded by Daniel Oduber, in 1978 Rodrigo Carazo Odio in office. At the end of the 1970s, Costa Rica developed into a base for the anti-Scandinavian contras, which – supported by the United States with military advisers – fought against the revolutionary government in Nicaragua.

Even before the overthrow of the Sandinista, a refugee movement to Costa Rica started, which was then intensified by the civil war that began in Nicaragua. At the same time, the country’s economic situation deteriorated in the 1980s. In 1986 Óscar Arias S¨¢nchez came to power. The social democrat initiated economic reforms and played an important role in mediating foreign policy in the conflict region of Central America, for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987. But he was also unable to reduce the high level of public debt in his own country. The rise in oil prices further worsened the Costa Rican trade balance. The country was therefore forced to accept international loans on tough terms.

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In 1990, Christian Democrat Rafael Angel Calder¨®n Fournier became the new head of state and government. His rigid economic policy led to a marked deterioration in living conditions, which his successor, elected in 1994, the social democrat Jos¨¦ Mar¨ªa Figueres Olsen tried to buffer socially while maintaining the economic policy of his predecessor.

In 1998, the candidate of the Christian Social Unity Party (PUSC) Miguel Angel Rodriguez Echeverr¨ªa came to power through an election victory. During his reign, major natural disasters such as the hurricane in 1998 and floods and landslides hit Costa Rica.

In 2002, for the first time in Costa Rica’s history, the runoff election was won by Abel Pacheco of the ruling PUSC. In 2006 Óscar Arias S¨¢nchez was again head of state and government. His party, which held the majority in parliament, is the Social Democratic PLN (Partido de Liberaci¨®n Nacional). During his tenure, Costa Rica also felt the effects of the global financial and economic crisis, whereas a comprehensive investment program was decided in 2009.

In 2010, Laura Chinchilla Miranda (PLN) was the first woman to be elected to the head of the state with a clear majority. Towards the end of her reign, corruption affairs, high unemployment and increased living costs led to mass protests and a nationwide general strike in November 2013. In the runoff election for the presidency in April 2014, Luis Guillermo Sol¨ªs of the left-liberal Partido Acci¨®n Ciudadana (PAC) achieved a landslide victory of 77% .

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