Culture of Costa Rica

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Costa Rica
Cafe y carretas de Costa Rica1.JPG
Oxcart wheels, decorated in traditional style, found particularly in Sarchí

Costa Rican culture has been heavily influenced by Spanish culture ever since the Spanish colonization of the Americas including the territory which today forms Costa Rica. Parts of the country have other strong cultural influences, including the Caribbean province of Limón and the Cordillera de Talamanca which are influenced by Jamaican immigrants and indigenous native people, respectively.[ citation needed ]


Ethnic groups

Chavela Vargas Mixed-Costa Rican Born - Singer Chavela Vargas 060701-cropped.jpg
Chavela Vargas Mixed-Costa Rican Born - Singer
Harry Shum, Jr Asian-Costa Rican - Glee Actor/Dancer Harry Shum by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Harry Shum, Jr Asian-Costa Rican - Glee Actor/Dancer
Joel Campbell Afro-Costa Rican Football Player Joel Campbell'14.JPG
Joel Campbell Afro-Costa Rican Football Player
Claudia Poll, Nicaragua-born White-Costa Rican, Gold-Medalist Olympic Swimmer Claudia Poll.jpg
Claudia Poll, Nicaragua-born White-Costa Rican, Gold-Medalist Olympic Swimmer
Ibo Bonilla, Criollo-Costa Rican, architect, sculptor, mathematician and educator Ibo Bonilla.jpg
Ibo Bonilla, Criollo-Costa Rican, architect, sculptor, mathematician and educator
Costa Rican kids. CostaRicans-m.jpg
Costa Rican kids.

As of 2012 most Costa Ricans are of primarily Spanish or Spanish/Mixed ancestry with minorities of German, Italian, French, Dutch, British, Swedish and Greek ancestry. Whites, Castizo and Mestizo together comprise 83% of the population. [1] [2]

European migrants in Costa Rica to get across the isthmus of Central America as well to reach the USA West Coast (California) in the late 19th century and until the 1910s (before the Panama Canal opened). Other European ethnic groups known to live in Costa Rica include Russians, Danes, Belgians, Portuguese, Croats, Poles, Turks, Armenians and Georgians.

Many of the first Spanish colonists in Costa Rica may have been Jewish converts to Christianity who were expelled from Spain in 1492 and fled to colonial backwaters to avoid the Inquisition. [3] The first sizable group of self-identified Jews immigrated from Poland, beginning in 1929. From the 1930s to the early 1950s, journalistic and official anti-Semitic campaigns fueled harassment of Jews; however, by the 1950s and 1960s, the immigrants won greater acceptance. Most of the 3,500 Costa Rican Jews today are not highly observant, but they remain largely endogamous. [4]

Costa Rica has four small minority groups: Mulattos, Blacks, Amerindians and Asians. About 8% of the population is of African descent or Mulatto (mix of European and black) who are called Afro-Costa Ricans, English-speaking descendants of 19th century black Jamaican immigrant workers.

In 1873, the Atlantic Railroad imported 653 Chinese indentured laborers, hoping to duplicate the success of rail projects that used Chinese labor in Peru, Cuba, and the United States. Asians represent less than 0.5% of the Costa Rican population, mostly from China, Taiwan and Japan.

There are also over 104,000 Native American or indigenous inhabitants, representing 2.4% of the population. Most of them live in secluded reservations, distributed among eight ethnic groups: Quitirrisí (in the Central Valley), Matambú or Chorotega (Guanacaste), Maleku (northern Alajuela), Bribri (southern Atlantic), Cabécar (Cordillera de Talamanca), Guaymí (southern Costa Rica, along the Panamá border), Boruca (southern Costarable portion of the Costa Rican population is made up of Nicaraguans. [5] There is also a number of Colombian refugees. Moreover, Costa Rica took in lots of refugees from a range of other Latin American countries fleeing civil wars and dictatorships during the 1970s and 80s – notably from El Salvador, Chile, Argentina, Cuba and recently from Venezuela.

Currently immigrants represent 9% of the Costa Rican population, the largest in Central America and the Caribbean. By 2014 the three largest Immigrant Diasporas in Costa Rica are people from: Nicaragua, Colombia and United States.


The official language of Costa Rica is Spanish. [6] However, there are also many local indigenous languages, such as Bribrí. [7] [8] English is the first foreign language and the second most taught language in Costa Rica, followed by French, German, Italian and Chinese. [9] [ citation needed ] A creole language called Mekatelyu is also spoken in Limón. [10]

Pura vida

The phrase "Pura Vida" on a woman's shoulder Pura Vida en la piel.JPG
The phrase "Pura Vida" on a woman's shoulder

Pura vida, a characteristic Costa Rican phrase, literally means pure life, with connotations that suggest translations such as "full of life", "this is living!", "going great", or "real living". [11] [12] [13] The phrase can be used both as a greeting or a farewell, as an answer expressing that things are going well, as a way of giving thanks, or showing appreciation. [14] In modern-day usage, the saying goes beyond its simple translation: it's a way of life. It is a perspective to life that evokes a spirit that is carefree, laid back and optimistic.

According to Víctor Manuel Sánchez Corrales of the University of Costa Rica, the origin of the phrase is Mexican. It is thought to have come from a Mexican film called ¡Pura vida! (1956). The protagonist, played by Antonio Espino, used the expression "pura vida" extensively in situations where it would not normally be used. Costa Ricans adopted the phrase, using it in a similar way. It was formally recognised and incorporated into dictionaries in the mid-1990s [15] and has since become Costa Rica's unofficial but ubiquitous motto. [16]


A 2007 survey conducted by the University of Costa Rica, found that 70.5% of the population identify themselves as Roman Catholics (with 44.9% practicing, 25.6 percent nonpracticing), 13.8% are Evangelical Protestants, 11.3% report that they do not have a religion, and 4.3% declare that they belong to another religion. [17]

There are several other religious festivals in the country; Costa Rica has various religious denominations: Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Baha'i Faith, Scientology, Rastafari, Taoism, Jehovah's Witness, and Neopaganism. [ citation needed ]


Education is highly cared about in Costa Rica by most of the population. About 6% of the country's gross domestic product is dedicated to education, [18] which has produced positive results as 96% of the population is literate. Primary (1st-6th grade) and secondary (7th-11th or 12th) are mandatory for all citizens. Public schools are free, and those who can afford it may opt to send their children to private schools.

The country has six major public universities: the University of Costa Rica (UCR), the Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica (ITCR), the Universidad Nacional (UNA), the Universidad Técnica Nacional, the Universidad Para La Paz, and the Universidad Estatal Distancia (UNED). [19]


Costa Rican Women in traditional dress Costa Rican Women in Traditional Dress.jpg
Costa Rican Women in traditional dress

Painting and sculpture

At the beginning of the 19th century, some wealthy Costa Ricans paid visiting foreign painters, usually European, to paint their portraits. [20] It was not until some of these painters, such as Bigot, Henry Etheridge, or Santiago Paramo settled in the country that Costa Rican artists learned modern techniques for drawing, oil painting, and sculpture. [20] These teachers directly influenced Tico artists Jose Maria Figueroa, Faustino Montes de Oca, and Felipe Valentini.

Towards the end of the 19th century Costa Ricans produced artists with stronger national identities. A short list of these artists would include Ezequiel Jimenez, Wenceslao de la Guardia, and Enrique Echandi. Current renowned Costa Rican painters include Gonzalo Morales Sáurez, Rafa Fernandez, and Fernando Carballo, and sculptors such as Ibo Bonilla, Max Jimenez, Jorge Jimenez Deredia, Domingo Ramos, Mario Parra, Olger Villegas, Nestor Zeledon, and William Villanueva Bermudez.


Most of the music and folklore comes from the north of the country, including the Nicoya Peninsula (Mayan culture) and the Atlantic coast (Afro-Caribbean culture). Costa Rican music is marked by a rhythm known as tambito , as well as a distinctive musical genre known as punto. Two examples are the punto guanacasteco from Guanacaste Province, and the sancarleño from San Carlos in Alajuela Province.


Dance remains an important cultural tradition in Costa Rica. Most Costa Ricans learn several traditional dances from a young age. The vast majority of Costa Rican traditional dances were born in the province of Guanacaste. National holidays are often celebrated by spirited displays of dancing in the streets. [21]

Many consider the Punto guanacasteco to be the national dance, which showcases three different stages of courtship. Occasionally, all dancers will pause mid-dance so that one person can shout out a bomba. A bomba is a rhymed verse which can be memorized or improvised and is usually racy or witty. [21]


Costa Rican literature has many women who have played a large role in every literary movement. Most notably, Carmen Lyra whose overall subject matter and perspective made her a revolutionary figure. [22] Other well known authors include Jose Leon Sanchez, Aquileo J. Echeverría (Concherías), Manuel González Zeledón (La propia), Joaquin Gutierrez (Cocori, Puerto Limón, Manglar), Carlos Luis Fallas (Marcos Ramírez, Mamita Yunai), Carlos Salazar Herrera (Cuentos de angustias y paisajes), Isaac Felipe Azofeifa, Fabián Dobles, Jorge Debravo, Alberto Cañas Escalante, Yolanda Oreamuno and Eunice Odio.


Gallo Pinto Costa Rican Gallo Pinto.jpg
Gallo Pinto

Costa Rican cuisine is a combination of Spanish, South American, Caribbean, and American influences. This style of cuisine is shared by most of Central America, although local variations have appeared in each of the countries.

One national dish is gallo pinto ("spotted rooster"), although the name has no relation to the ingredients. It is a combination of black beans and white rice, spiced with cilantro, onions, garlic, salt, and a local condiment called Salsa Lizano . It is typically eaten at breakfast with eggs, and sometimes natilla (sour cream). Fried plantains and either corn tortillas or bread are also common. Gallo pinto is a common and typical dish in both Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

Other typical dishes are arroz con pollo , olla de carne, tamales , and casado . Arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) consists of bite size chicken chunks mixed with rice and diced vegetables that include carrots, peas, corn, and garbanzo beans. Olla de carne is mainly prepared on weekends.[ citation needed ] It is a broth of corn prepared by boiling water, meat, and whole-to large sized vegetable pieces with spices. The soup is eaten in a bowl with the broth and separate plates for the vegetables and rice.

A casado is a one-plate meal that includes black beans, rice, meat, fried plantains, and one or more side dishes. The meat can vary from chicken, beef, or fish. Some examples of side dishes are pasta salad, vegetable salad, fried eggs, potatoes, spaghetti, or barbudos (green beans wrapped in egg batter).[ citation needed ]

There are some regional differences. For example, the Caribbean side of the country, because of its roots, has gallo pinto with coconut milk, while the north-western part of the country has a strong tendency towards corn products and for large, cheese filled tortillas, corn snacks, and other dishes.

See also

Related Research Articles

Costa Rica Republic in Central America

Costa Rica, officially the Republic of Costa Rica, is a country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, the Caribbean Sea to the northeast, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, and Ecuador to the south of Cocos Island. It has a population of around 5 million in a land area of 51,060 square kilometers. An estimated 333,980 people live in the capital and largest city, San José, with around 2 million people in the surrounding metropolitan area.

Demographics of Costa Rica

This article is about the demographic features of the population of Costa Rica, including population density, ethnicity, education level, health of the populace, economic status, religious affiliations and other aspects of the population.

Costa Rican cuisine Cuisine originating from Costa Rica

Costa Rican cuisine is known for being fairly mild, with high reliance on fresh fruits and vegetables. Rice and black beans are a staple of most traditional Costa Rican meals, often served three times a day. Costa Rican fare is nutritionally well rounded, and nearly always cooked from scratch from fresh ingredients. Due to the location of the country, tropical fruits and vegetables are readily available and included in the local cuisine.

The country of Costa Rica has many kinds of music.

Latin American cuisine broad culinary traditions

Latin American cuisine is the typical foods, beverages, and cooking styles common to many of the countries and cultures in Latin America. Latin America is a highly diverse area of land whose nations have varying cuisines. Some items typical of Latin American cuisine include maize-based dishes arepas, pupusas, tacos, tamales, tortillas and various salsas and other condiments. These spices are generally what give the Latin American cuisines a distinct flavor; yet, each country of Latin America tends to use a different spice and those that share spices tend to use them at different quantities. Thus, this leads for a variety across the land. Sofrito, a culinary term that originally referred to a specific combination of sautéed or braised aromatics, exists in Latin American cuisine. It refers to a sauce of tomatoes, roasted bell peppers, garlic, onions and herbs.

Guanacaste Province Province of Costa Rica

Guanacaste is a province of Costa Rica located in the northwestern region of the country, along the coast of the Pacific Ocean. It is bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Alajuela Province to the east, and Puntarenas Province to the southeast. It is the most sparsely populated of all the provinces of Costa Rica. The province covers an area of 10,141 km2 (3,915 sq mi) and as of 2010, had a population of 354,154.

Limón Province Province of Costa Rica

Limón is one of seven provinces in Costa Rica. The province covers an area of 9,189 km², and has a population of 386,862.

University of Costa Rica public university in Costa Rica

The University of Costa Rica is a public university in the Republic of Costa Rica, in Central America. Its main campus, Ciudad Universitaria Rodrigo Facio, is located in San Pedro Montes de Oca, in the province of San José. It is the oldest and largest institution of higher learning in Costa Rica, originally established as the Universidad de Santo Tomás in 1843. It is also the most important research university in the country and Central America, plus, considered as one of the most prestigious and recognized in Latin America. Approximately 45,000 students attend UCR throughout the year.

Limón Canton in Costa Rica

Puerto Limón, commonly known as Limón, is the capital city and main hub of Limón province, as well as of the cantón (county) of Limón in Costa Rica. It is the seventh largest city in Costa Rica, with a population of over 55,000, and is home of the Afro-Costa Rican community. Part of the community traces its roots to Italian, Jamaican and Chinese laborers who worked on a late nineteenth-century railroad project that connected San José to Puerto Limón. Until 1948, the Costa Rican government did not recognize Afro-Caribbean people as citizens and restricted their movement outside Limón province. As a result of this "travel ban", this Afro-Caribbean population became firmly established in the region, which influenced decisions not to move even after it was legally permitted. Nowadays, there is a significant outflow of Limón natives who move to the country's Central Valley in search for better employment and education. The Afro-Caribbean community speaks Spanish and Limonese Creole, a creole of English.

Gallo pinto Central American dish based on rice and beans

Gallo pinto or gallopinto is a traditional dish from Central America, made particularly in Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Consisting of rice and beans as a base, gallo pinto has a long history and is important to various Latin American cultures. The beans in gallo pinto are quickly cooked until the juice is almost consumed, then combined with prepared rice and other ingredients such as cooked bell peppers, chopped onions, and garlic.

Nicaraguan cuisine

Nicaraguan cuisine includes a mixture of indigenous Native American cuisine, Spanish cuisine, and Creole cuisine. Despite the blending and incorporation of pre-Columbian and Spanish-influenced cuisine, traditional cuisine differs on the Pacific coast from the Caribbean coast. While the Pacific coast's main staple revolves around beef, poultry, local fruits, and corn, the Caribbean coast's cuisine makes use of seafood and coconut.

Ethnic groups in Central America

Central America is a subregion of the Americas formed by six Latin American countries and one (officially) Anglo-American country, Belize. As an isthmus it connects South America with the remainder of mainland North America, and comprises the following countries : Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama.

Territorial disputes of Nicaragua include the territorial dispute with Colombia over the Archipelago de San Andres y Providencia and Quita Sueno Bank. Nicaragua also has a maritime boundary dispute with Honduras in the Caribbean Sea and a boundary dispute over the Rio San Juan with Costa Rica.

Costa Rica's official and predominant language is Spanish. The variety spoken there, Costa Rican Spanish, is a form of Central American Spanish.

Afro-Costa Ricans are Costa Ricans of African ancestry.

Tostones snack food

Tostones are twice-fried plantain slices commonly found in Latin American cuisine and Caribbean cuisine. Most commonly known as tostones, they are also known as tachinos or chatinos (Cuba), platano frito or verde frito, platano frito (Honduras), bananes pesées (Haiti), patacones and, sometimes, patacón pisao in Colombia.

Costa Ricans People from the country of Costa Rica

Costa Ricans, also called Ticos, are a group of people from a multiethnic Spanish-speaking nation in Central America called Costa Rica. Costa Ricans are predominantly castizos, whites and mestizo, but their country is considered a multiethnic society, which means that it is home to people of many different ethnic backgrounds. As a result, modern-day Costa Ricans do not consider their nationality as an ethnicity but as a citizenship with various ethnicities. Costa Rica has four small minority groups: Mulattoes, Blacks, Asians, and Amerindians. In addition to the "Indigenas", whites, mestizos, blacks and mulattoes, Costa Rica is also home to thousands of Asians. Most of the Chinese and Indians now living in the country are descendants of those that arrived during the 19th century as migrant workers.

Run down Typical Caribbean dish made with coconut milk and seafood

Run down, also referred to as rundown, run dun, rondón, fling-me-far and fling mi for is a stew dish in Jamaican cuisine and Tobago cuisine. The traditional Jamaican dish is eaten in several Latin American countries that share a coast with the Caribbean Sea.

Events in the year 2013 in Costa Rica.

As of the 2011 census, the number of immigrants in Costa Rica totaled about 390,000 individuals, or about 9% of the country's population. Following a considerable drop from 1950 through 1980, immigration to Costa Rica has increased in recent decades.


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