Costa Rica is a Spanish word that means 'the rich coast.' It is officially known as the Republic of Costa Rica, and this Central American country borders the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Caribbean Sea to the east, Panama to the southeast and Nicaragua to the north.
Costa Rica Demographics
According to the 2011 census, the ethnic composition of Costa Rica was 66% White/Castizo, 14% Mestizo, 9% immigrants, 7% Mulatto, 2.5% Amerindian, 1% Black, 0.2% Asian and 0.9% other. According to a genome project, the average Costa Rican in the Central Valley is 68% European, 29% Amerindian and 3% African.
Costa Rica is home to about 104,000 indigenous or Native American people, most of whom live in reservations. There are eight indigenous ethnic groups: the Quitirrisi, Matambu, Maleku, Bribri, Cabecar, Guaymi, Boruca, and Terraba.
The most common European ancestry is Spanish, although there are many with Italian, German, English, Dutch, Portuguese, Polish and Irish ancestry. The country also has a large Jewish community. Most Afro-Costa Ricans in the country speak Creole English and descend from 19th century black Jamaican immigrants.
Costa Rica has many refugees and illegal immigrants, most of whom are from Nicaragua and Colombia. It's believed that up to 15% of the country's population, or 600,000 people, are Nicaraguans, some of whom migrate to the country for seasonal work. As the only democratic country in the region, Costa Rica has many refugees who fled dictatorships and wars in nearby Latin American countries over the last four decades.
Costa Rica Religion, Economy and Politics
Christianity is the majority religion in Costa Rica with 52% of the population practicing Catholicism and an additional 25% of people practicing Protestantism. The government recognizes the peoples' religious freedom, but Roman Catholicism is the official state religion. 3% of people in Costa Rica practice a religion other than Christianity, and the remaining 20% of people are either Atheist or Agnostic.
In 1949, Costa Rica eliminated its army once and for all. Costa Rica is the only democratic Latin American country since 1950 and is one of the few countries that have a commendable human development pace. Also in 2011, the UNDP declared that Costa Rica has played a good role in sustaining the environment. Costa Rica is also the most prosperous country in Central America and has a high amount of foreign investment. Classic exports from Costa Rica include coffee, bananas, beef, and sugar.
The government of Costa Rica is a presidential representative democratic republic meaning that the elected president is head of both the state and the government. The president's term is 4 years long and must wait 8 years between terms if they wish to serve again. The president appoints ministers to guide the legislative body about the most important issues to be addressed. The legislative branch is a unicameral legislative assembly made up of 57 deputies elected by the people, that are in charge of passings legislation that leads the executive branch. The judicial branch acts completely independently of the other two branches of government.
Costa Rica Population History
Christopher Columbus visited the area now Costa Rica and named it as such in 1502, but it wasn't settled permanently for another 60 years because of disease he brought to the native people. Costa Rica gained independence from Spain in the early 1800s, around the same time coffee was introduced as a crop in the region.
President Rafael Angel Calderon Guardia was elected and brought socialism to Costa Rica in 1940, and 8 years later a civil war began over the election results of his successor. Volcanoes in the 1960s caused many casualties and damage to agriculture. A conservative president was elected in 1978, and the economy plummeted almost instantly. Costa Rica spent much of the remainder of the 20th century electing leaders with different political ideologies, most of which were found to be corrupt in an investigation that happened in 2004.