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Costa Rica History

Many millennia. People have inhabited the land, which is now Costa Rica, for at least 11,000 years. Relics left behind show the importance of Costa Rica as a bridge between North America and South America. Influences from both regions can be found throughout the country's rich history. Even wildlife from both hemispheres cross-over in Costa Rica.

The northern region of Costa Rica was once dominated by Chorotega people, which are believed to be related to the Maya. Many different tribesmen lived in the southern part of the region. Some of which were the Carib, Boruca, and the Corobicis.

Taken by Spain. Columbus landed rear by the present day town of Limón on September 8th 1502 on his final quest to find a passage to India. Captain Gil Gonzalez organized an invasion in 1522 and his men collected enough gold to solidify the moniker "rich coast" or Costa Rica in Spanish.

Juan Vasquez de Coronado founded the settlement of Cartago in 1563. Coronado organized expeditions and explorations around the country and could be considered Costa Rica's true conqueror.

Agriculture takes root. Even though Costa Rica's land was fertile, production and exportation of crops was difficult in Costa Rica because of the lack of native slaves, rugged terrain, mountains, and active volcanoes. The colonial times were harsh for Costa Rica. Plantation owners were forced to work their own crops. Many politicians encouraged the farming of coffee, which eventually did become a substantial export for Costa Rica.

England supports transportation of produce. During the second half of the 1800's, coffee growers knew that if they were going to remain competitive they needed to build a railroad line from inland through to the deep-sea port town, Limón. This was no small task since this land was comprised of thick jungle, high mountains, and swampy lowlands.

The Costa Rican government borrowed funds from England and began work on the railroad in 1871. Soon after, Minor Cooper Keith took over as the project lead. Keith recruited workers from around the globe including Italy, China, and Jamaica.

Going bananas! In 1884 Keith renegotiated the British loans and began cultivating bananas to raise more funds. In 1890 the railroad was finished. Keith himself then merged his banana plantations with Boston Fruit to create United Fruit Company. The banana industry grew very lucrative and today Costa Rica remains the second largest producer of bananas in the world.

Our story of the history of Costa Rica continues in the capitol city San Jose.


About Costa Rica
Costa Rican coffee
Costa Rican culture
Costa Rican holidays
Costa Rican food and recipes
Costa Rican art
Costa Rican government
Costa Rica Fast Facts

above photo courtesy of
Larry Wentzel