Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Week 35: Costa Rica

Costa Rica- the Land of Riches

Or a more literal translation- the rich coast.  We are headed to an amazing country this week- Costa Rica.  I didn't know much about this relatively small country in Central America, I knew it was supposed to have great beaches and rainforests but that was all I knew.  What a surprise to find this wonderful country!  I love doing this blog.  First, a little background ...

Costa Rica is located between Nicaragua and Panama in Central America.  The capital is San Jose (9.92°N / 84.07°W).  The area had many indigenous tribes but none of them were a strong force, so when the Spanish Conquistadors came ashore in the early 1500s, they were pretty quickly assimilated into colonial life.  Those who fled the Spanish retreated to the hills quietly.  Because there were not many indigenous people to be (forced) laborers, the Spanish colonists had to work their own land.  This was not very popular and so Costa Rica was not a very popular place to colonize.  That was a good thing for the Costa Rican people, without the oppression of the Spanish, the culture was allowed to grow into a very egalitarian society.  That's a fancy new word I learned- "egalitarian".  It means that the people were equals and free from "upper" and "lower" class inequalities.  Sounds good, right?  The country was freed entirely from Spanish rule in 1821 and by 1838 the Republic of Costa Rica was born.

This is a country that I think all other countries should take a look at.  Aside from the egalitarianism (wow, the word can get fancier!) of the country, they are also very forward thinking in other ways. 
  • In 1948, the country disbanded it's army and decreed that instead of an army of soldiers their country would have an "army of educators", and so, there is a very high literacy rate and good schools throughout the country.
  • 25% of the country is considered to be protected national parks and recreational hunting has been banned.  The biodiversity of the country is now one of it's main sources of income.  "Ecotourists" come to visit the rainforests and national parks to see the sloths, monkeys and other animals that make Costa Rica their home.

  • The government of Costa Rica has decreed that they will be carbon-neutral by 2021 and they have been ranked as one of the "greenest" countries by various world agencies.
A phrase often associated with Costa Rica is "pura vida", which means "pure life".  This reflects the Costa Rican way of life much like "Aloha" represents the Hawaiian mentality.  Ticos, as the Costa Rican people call themselves, use "Pura Vida" as a greeting or as a response to "how are you?".  I can't think of a more perfect attitude and I can't wait to learn more about this great country.

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