COSTA RICA Country Profile
The Republic of Costa Rica is a republic in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the east-southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, and the Caribbean Sea to the east. Costa Rica was the first country in the world to constitutionally abolish its army.
.: San José
.: Total 51,100 km² (128th)
.: Water (%) 0.7
.: From Spain (via Guatemala) September 15, 1821
.: From the UPCA 1838
.: July 2007 estimate 4,133,884 (119th)
.: Census 2000
.: Density 85/km² (107th) 220/sq mi
PROFILES COSTA RICA
Costa Rica, officially the Republic of Costa Rica is a country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the south-southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, and the Caribbean Sea to the east. Costa Rica was the first country in the world to abolish its army constitutionally.
In a relatively small area, Costa Rica has everything you could want in vacation paradise. There are secluded white sand beaches with great surf and amazing SCUBA diving. There are active volcanoes and towering rain forests. Getting around is easy via rental car, plane, or public bus, and the warm and friendly people make travel safe and fun!
PEOPLE AND CULTURE COSTA RICA
Geographically Costa Rica is situated where the Mesoamerican and South American native cultures met. Therefore, the north of the country was the southernmost point of Mayan influence and the central and southern portions of the country had Chibcha, South American influences. When the Spanish conquistadores arrived in the 16th century, most of the colonization and cities were established in the southern-central part of the country. These influences are still seen today, as the north-western part of the country's population (Guanacaste) are a generally darker skinned native-american-like population, while the central and southern parts of the country have lighter skinned, european-like factions.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Atlantic coast of the country was populated with African slaves, during the construction of the railroads to the eastern coast. As a result, the eastern-side of the country (Limon) has a predominantly black African ancestry. During railroad construction, thousands of Chinese families also arrived in Costa Rica, but unlike the African population, they spread to most of the country. Even though they are widespread, there are few large concentrations other than San Jose and Limon. All of these influences have developed the extremely varied ethnicity of the country.
Costa Ricans speak standard American Spanish, but they, like most other Central American countries over the years, it has developed distinct patterns in its language .
Costa Ricans usually utilize the respectful "Usted" form when addressing one another, this is somewhat formal and surprises some spanish-speaking foreigners when they arrive. Also, when they do use the familiar form, they often use the more polite vos rather than tú, which is used in most other Latin American countries.
Despite not having a well-known accent, the manner of speaking tends to be slightly sing-song. It is considered to be very similar to the Colombian accent, and Costaricans and Colombians, recognize that each other’s speech is relatively similar. One of the unique features of Costarican speech is a distinctive sibilant pronunciation of words beginning with "Tr", like tren ("train"). Costaricans make a longer "tr" sound, which ends up sounding like "trshren". In most Central American countries, the pronunciation is a rough r.
Catholicism is recognized as the official religion in Costa Rica and even though many Costa Ricans claim they are Catholic, devotion varies among the population.
A common practice among Latin American countries is the presence of a "Patrona". This represents a variation of the Virgin Mary and is unique for most countries. The "patrona" of Costa Rica is the "Virgen de los Angeles" also known as "La Negrita". The Virgen is one of the most important Catholic symbols because it is country specific and allows common people to identify with religion and feel a sense of direct contact with a saint to whom they can pray.
Despite Catholicism being the official religion,Costa Rica is considered to be quite tolerant of other religions.Some of the religions in Costa Rica include Jehovah's Witness, Judaism, Islam, Hare Krishna and other smaller groups that practice traditions of their ancestry. Protestant forms of Christianity are common in Costa Rica, and make up 18% of Costa Rica's Christian population.
Costa Ricans are normally very friendly, helpful, laid-back, unhurried, educated, hygienic, non-violent and environmentally aware people. They worry little about deadlines and arrive late to many appointments. For Costa Ricans, spending quality time with family and friends is paramount and most people prefer jobs that allow them free time.
Two of the most important idiosyncratic elements of the Costa Rican people are choteo (mockery) and the quedar bien (staying on everybody's good side).
Faced with complicated or difficult situations, they tend to be cynical and use irony and mockery to difuse them; this is known as the choteo. There is normally no harm intended; it is a way to laugh at situations that can sometimes hurt the sensitivities of others. Therefore, most Costa Ricans grow up accepting "choteo" as a normal part of life.
Ticos also prefer to avoid conflicts, so they make an effort to stay on people's good side. Therefore, they are very resistant to change if it involves causing a problem; this is quedar bien. In order to quedar bien, Costa Ricans prefer to perpetuate unfair status quo, lie to someones face, or pass the problem to someone else if it involves causing trouble.
GEOGRAPHY AND ENVIRONMENT COSTA RICA
Costa Rica is located in Central America. It borders both the Caribbean Sea (to the east) and the North Pacific Ocean (to the west), with a total of 1,290 km of coastline.
Costa Rica also borders Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south-southeast. In total, Costa Rica comprises 51,100 km² of which 50,660 km² is land and 440 km² is water, making it slightly smaller than the U.S. state of West Virginia.
The nation's terrain is coastal plain separated by rugged mountains in the center of the country. The country has a tropical and subtropical climate and is part of the Neotropic ecozone. It is part of many ecoregions, including Costa Rican seasonal moist forests, Bocas del Toro-San Bastimentos Island-San Blas mangroves, Mosquitia-Nicaraguan Caribbean Coast mangroves, Southern Dry Pacific Coast mangroves, Central American dry forests, and Talamancan montane forests. An inlet from the pacific the Gulf of Nicoya contains several small islands, the largest of these being Chira Island with a population of around four thousand.
The country is noted for its national park system, administered by SINAC (Sistema Nacional de Areas de Conservacion, or "National System of Conservation Areas"). This agency oversees over 160 protected areas in Costa Rica, of which 26 are national parks. Together the protected areas comprise over one-forth of Costa Rican territory. The largest national park is Cocos Island (Spanish: Isla del Coco), an island about 500 km from the Costa Rica's Pacific coast.
Costa Rica's dry season is in most places from December to April, while the rainy season is from May to November. On the Caribbean coast, however, December is by far the wettest month.
The highlands areas are always cooler. The lowest elevation level in the country is the Pacific Ocean at sea level, the highest point is Cerro Chirripo, a volcanic mountain with an elevation of 3,810 m (part of Cerro Chirripo National Park). On a clear day, it is possible to see both the Caribbean and the Pacific from the peak.
WEATHER AND CLIMATE COSTA RICA
The climate is idyllic. In the lowlands -which are dry in the Pacific Northwest and humid elsewhere- daytime temperatures range in the eighties to nineties F° (high twenties to mid-thirties C°). Usually in the seventies F° (low to mid-twenties C°) at middle elevations, the mercury can fall as low as the forties and fifties F° (five to mid-tens C°) at the top of the mountains. Costa Rica can be broadly categorized into four major climatic zones:
The wet lowlands:
The Caribbean and the Southern Pacific lowlands have short dry seasons and high temperatures. Rainfall is usually lighter along the coast, increasing proportionally as it moves further inland and altitude increases.
Lowlands with a dry season:
Most of the Guanacaste province and some of Puntarenas have high temperatures and a long dry season.
Areas located between 3,000 - 5,000 feet above the sea level, such as the Central Valley, have defined dry seasons and the most comfortable of the climates.
Any area at an altitude higher than 5,000 feet has cooler temperatures. At altitudes over 10,000 feet, it reaches the freezing point. The weather is usually humid, with occasional fog or frost.
Annual Rainfall for Major Areas:
1. Central Valley: 1.100-2.500 mm 43-98 inches
2. Northern Pacific: 1.400-4.300 mm 55-98 inches
3. Central Pacific: 2.300-4.300 mm 91-169 inches
4. Southern Pacific: 2.300-4.000 mm 91-157 inches
5. Atlantic Region: 2.000-4.500 mm 79-177 inches
The Northwest has a fairly well-defined dry season ("verano" or summer) December to April. The dry season is a month or two shorter along the southern Pacific coast. July also tends to be a dry month on the Pacific slope.
MONEY COSTA RICA
The currency in Costa Rica is the Costa Rican colón.
The exchange rate is relatively stable although fluctuations do occur. Currently roughly US$1 = 517 Costa Rican colon.
Credit cards are always useful for withdrawing money. Visa and Mastercard are accepted in upmarket shops, restaurants and hotels. All large towns have ATM facilities.
INFORMATION ABOUT COSTA RICA