San José, Costa Rica

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San José
San Jose under construction.jpg
Edificio Correos. Edificio Herdocia. San Jose. Costa Rica.JPG
Juan Mora Fernandez statue in San Jose.JPG
National Theatre of Costa Rica - 3.jpg
Museo de los Ninos, San Jose, Costa Rica.JPG
Images, from top down, left to right: San José skyline, Chinatown, Central Avenue, Herdocia Building, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese, the Juan Mora Fernández statue, the Garabito, inside view of the National Theatre of Costa Rica, the Costa Rican Center of Science and Culture.
Bandera de San Jose (Costa Rica).svg
Blason de San Jose (Costa Rica).svg
Coat of arms
Ad Meliora  (Latin)
"Towards better things"
San Jose, Costa Rica - City map.png
San José and surrounding area
Costa Rica location map.svg
Red pog.svg
San José
Location of San José within Costa Rica
Coordinates: 9°56′N84°5′W / 9.933°N 84.083°W / 9.933; -84.083 Coordinates: 9°56′N84°5′W / 9.933°N 84.083°W / 9.933; -84.083
Country Costa Rica
Province San José
Canton San José
Founded ca. 1739
Capital as of16 May 1823
Boroughs8 districts
   Mayor Johnny Araya Monge (PASJ)
   City and municipality 44.62 km2 (17.23 sq mi)
2,044 km2 (789 sq mi)
1,172 m (3,845 ft)
   City and municipality 333,288
  Density6,455.71/km2 (16,720.2/sq mi)
1,543,000 (March 2,013) [1]
  Metro density1,056.2/km2 (2,736/sq mi)
Time zone UTC-6 (CST)
Postal Code
Area code(s) + 506
HDI 0.963 – Very High
Climate Aw
Stone sphere created by the Diquis culture in the courtyard of the National Museum of Costa Rica. The sphere is the icon of the country's cultural identity. Stone sphere.jpg
Stone sphere created by the Diquis culture in the courtyard of the National Museum of Costa Rica. The sphere is the icon of the country's cultural identity.
San Jose from the International Space Station San Jose, Costa Rica Astronaut Image.jpg
San José from the International Space Station

San José (Spanish:  [saŋ xoˈse] ; literally meaning "Saint Joseph") is the capital and largest city of Costa Rica, and the capital of the province of the same name. It is located in the centre of the country, specifically in the mid-west of the Central Valley, and contained within San José Canton. San José is the seat of national government, the focal point of political and economic activity, and the major transportation hub of Costa Rica. The population of San José Canton was 288,054 in 2011, [2] and San José’s municipal land area measures 44.2 square kilometers (17.2 square miles), with an estimated 333,980 residents in 2015. [3] The San José metropolitan area stretches beyond the canton limits and includes the cities of Alajuela, Heredia and Cartago, with an estimated population of over 2 million in 2017. [4] The city is named in honor of Joseph of Nazareth.

Costa Rica Country in Central America

Costa Rica, officially the Republic of Costa Rica, is a sovereign state 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.

San José Province Province in Costa Rica

San José is a province of Costa Rica. It is located in the central part of the country, and borders the provinces of Alajuela, Heredia, Limón, Cartago and Puntarenas. The provincial and national capital is San José. The province covers an area of 4,965.9 km². and has a population of 1,404,242.

Costa Rican Central Valley plateau and a geographic region of central Costa Rica

The Central Valley is a plateau and a geographic region of central Costa Rica. The land in the valley is a relative plain, despite being surrounded by several mountains and volcanos, the latter part of the Central Range. The region houses almost three quarters of Costa Ricans, and includes the capital and most populous city, San José. The valley is shared among the provinces of Alajuela, Heredia, San José and Cartago. The region occupies an area of 11,366 km², more than a fifth of the country, and is drained by the Tárcoles River on the west side and by the Reventazón River on the east side.


Founded in 1736 by order of Cabildo de León, the city was the population of San José rose during the 18th century through the use of colonial planning. It has historically been a city of strategic importance, having been the capital of Costa Rica three times. More than 1 million people pass through the city on a daily basis. It is home to the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica, the National Theatre of Costa Rica, and La Sabana Metropolitan Park. The Juan Santamaría International Airport serves the city.

<i>Cabildo</i> (council) Spanish colonial, and early post-colonial, administrative council which governed a municipality

A cabildo or ayuntamiento was a Spanish colonial, and early post-colonial, administrative council which governed a municipality. Cabildos were sometimes appointed, sometimes elected; but they were considered to be representative of all land-owning heads of household (vecinos). The colonial cabildo was essentially the same as the one developed in medieval Castile.

Museo Nacional de Costa Rica National museum in San José, Costa Rica

The Museo Nacional de Costa Rica is the national museum of Costa Rica, located in the capital of San José. It is located at Calle 17, between Central and Second Avenue, Cuesta de Moras, in the Bellavista Fortress, a crenallated, ochre colored building opposite the Legislative Assembly of Costa Rica. The fortress was built in 1917 and was originally a military barracks: the exterior walls still have many bullets lodged in them from the country's 1948 civil war. It became the site of the museum in 1950.

National Theatre of Costa Rica

The National Theatre of Costa Rica is Costa Rica's national theatre, located in the central section of San José. Construction began in 1891, and it opened to the public on 21 October 1897 with a performance of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Faust.

San José is notable among Latin American cities for its high quality of life [5] , as well as for its security, level of globalization, environmental performance, public service [6] , and recognized institutions. According to studies on Latin America, San José is one of the safest and least violent cities in the region. [7] In 2006, the city was appointed Ibero-American Capital of Culture. According to The MasterCard Global Destinations Cities Index 2012, San José the sixth-most visited destination in Latin America , ranking first among Central America. [8] San José ranked 15th in the world’s fastest-growing destination cities by visitor cross-border spending. [9] It is considered a "Beta-" global city by GaWC.

Latin America Region of the Americas where Romance languages are primarily spoken

Latin America is a group of countries and dependencies in the Americas with a shared history of facing colonialism and coloniality by Spain, Portugal and other European countries and where Romance languages such as Spanish, Portuguese, and French dominate, but hundreds of Native languages such as Nahuatl, Mixtec, Maya, Quechua, and Aymara are also spoken. Latin America is broader than the terms Ibero-America or Hispanic America. The term "Latin America" was first used in an 1856 conference with the title "Initiative of the America. Idea for a Federal Congress of the Republics", by the Chilean politician Francisco Bilbao. The term was used also by Napoleon III's French government in the 1860s as Amérique latine to consider French-speaking territories in the Americas, along with the larger group of countries where Spanish and Portuguese languages prevailed, including the Spanish-speaking portions of the United States Today, areas of Canada and the United States where Spanish, Portuguese and French are predominant are typically not included in definitions of Latin America.

Central America central geographic region of the Americas

Central America is a region found in the southern tip of North America and is sometimes defined as a subcontinent of the Americas. This region is bordered by Mexico to the north, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south. Central America consists of seven countries: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. The combined population of Central America is estimated to be between 41,739,000 and 42,688,190.

The Globalization and World Cities Research Network, commonly abbreviated to GaWC, is a think tank that studies the relationships between world cities in the context of globalization. It is based in the geography department of Loughborough University in Leicestershire, England, United Kingdom. GaWC was founded by Peter J. Taylor in 1998, Together with Jon Beaverstock and Richard G. Smith, they create the GaWC's bi-annual categorization of world cities into "Alpha", "Beta" and "Gamma" tiers, based upon their international connectedness.


The population of San José grew during the eighteenth-century colonization planning, which was different from the traditional foundation plans of Spanish cities in the continent of Central America.

Founded in 1736 by order of Cabildo de León, its objective was to concentrate the scattered inhabitants of the Aserrí Valley [10] . De León thus ordered the construction of a chapel near the area known as La Boca del Monte which was completed a year later. That year St. Joseph was chosen as parish patron, hence its current name. The chapel, which was very modest, was erected with help from the church of Cartago.

Unlike neighboring Cartago San José was not founded by formal decree and thus lacked a city government. It was not until the enactment of the Constitution of Cádiz in 1812 when San José had its first city government. On the 18th of October 1813, the area was first defined as a city by presbyter Florencio del Castillo, on behalf of the Spanish government, title which was then lost in 1814 when Ferdinand VII of Spain annulled the proceedings of the courts. The municipal government was restored in 1820 along with the title of city and in 1823 San José became the capital of Costa Rica [10] [11] . This makes San José is one of the youngest capital cities in Latin America by year of conception.

Ferdinand VII of Spain King of Spain

Ferdinand VII was twice King of Spain: in 1808 and again from 1813 to his death. He was known to his supporters as the Desired and to his detractors as the Felon King. After being overthrown by Napoleon in 1808 he linked his monarchy to counter-revolution and reactionary policies that produced a deep rift in Spain between his forces on the right and liberals on the left. Back in power in 1814, he reestablished the absolutist monarchy and rejected the liberal constitution of 1812. A revolt in 1820 led by Rafael de Riego forced him to restore the constitution thus beginning the Liberal Triennium: a three year period of liberal rule. In 1823 the Congress of Verona authorized a successful French intervention restoring him to absolute power for the second time. He suppressed the liberal press from 1814 to 1833 and jailed many of its editors and writers. Under his rule, Spain lost nearly all of its American possessions, and the country entered into civil war on his death.

Population and economic growth were spurred by improvements in access to water and the installment of the Tobacco Factory in 1782. The accumulation of capital brought by tobacco plantations allowed the city to economically surpass neighboring provinces [12] .

The first modern urban neighborhood carries the name of his founder, the French coffee entrepreneur Monsieur Amon, and was created in the late 19th century, in line with Belle Époque contemporary architecture. Barrio Amon, as well as the National Theatre, remain symbols of the so-called Costa Rican coffee golden age.

Today San José is a modern city with bustling commerce and brisk expressions of art and architecture. Spurred by the country's improved tourism industry, it is a significant destination and stopover for foreign visitors. [13]

San José exerts a strong influence because of its proximity to other cities (Alajuela, Heredia and Cartago) and the country's demographic assemblage in the Central Valley. [14]


The capital is made up of 5 districts (distritos): Catedral, Carmen, Hospital, Mata Redonda, Merced. And three districts partially: Pavas, Uruca, Zapote.


San José has a tropical wet and dry climate (Köppen climate classification Aw). [15] Precipitation varies widely between the driest month (6.3 mm (0.25 in)) and the wettest month (355.1 mm (13.98 in)), while average temperatures vary little. [16] The hottest month is April with an average temperature of 23.7 °C (74.7 °F), while the coolest month is October with an average temperature of 21.8 °C (71.2 °F).

Climate data for San José, Costa Rica (Juan Santamaría International Airport)
Record high °C (°F)31.5
Average high °C (°F)28.2
Daily mean °C (°F)22.6
Average low °C (°F)18.5
Record low °C (°F)11.7
Average precipitation mm (inches)6.3
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.1 mm)33510232220222625178184
Average relative humidity (%)68686670778380838587797477
Mean monthly sunshine hours 285.2266.0282.1240.0182.9144.0151.9158.1147.0161.2177.0244.92,440.3
Source #1: Deutscher Wetterdienst [17]
Source #2: NOAA (sun 1961–1990) [18]


Costa Rica has developed high education levels. As of 2011 97.6% of the population over 10 was literate [19] , 96% of children aged 6-11 attend primary school and 71% of students of high-school age attend high-school [20] . The country as a whole has the highest education levels in Central America and one of the best in Latin America. This is especially true for San José, the nation's educational hub home to a large number of public and private universities. [21]

University of Santo Tomas, the first university of Costa Rica was established here in 1843 [22] . That institution maintained close ties with the Roman Catholic Church and was closed in 1888 by the progressive and anti-clerical government of President Bernardo Soto Alfaro as part of a campaign to modernize public education. The schools of law, agronomy, fine arts, and pharmacy continued to operate independently, but Costa Rica had no university proper until 1940, when those four schools were re-united to establish the modern University of Costa Rica (UCR), during the reformist administration of President Rafael Ángel Calderón Guardia.

The city's public education system is composed of pre-schools, elementary and high schools (from grades 7 to 11), which are located in all of the city's districts and are under the supervision of the Ministry of Public Education. Nevertheless, private institutions do exist within the city. These educational institutions range from pre-schools to universities. Most tend to be bilingual, teaching subjects in either French or English and Spanish, among other languages, apart from just teaching a certain language.


San José is one of Latin America's safer cities. As of 19 June 2012, both city and nation reduced their crime indices considerably.[ timeframe? ] Nationwide, crime was reduced from 12.5 to 9.5 incidents per 100,000 inhabitants.

In 2012, new police equipment was issued by the government, and the security budget was increased. President Laura Chinchilla's government has donated vehicles and other equipment to the police department on at least two occasions. [23]

The city's greater metropolitan area (in Los Yoses, San Pedro) also serves as the headquarters of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Major landmarks

San Jose under construction.jpg
San José skyline with mountains in the background
National Theatre National Theater of Costa Rica.jpg
National Theatre
Plaza de la Cultura Plaza de la Central Costa Rica.JPG
Plaza de la Cultura
National Museum of Costa Rica National Museum of Costa Rica.JPG
National Museum of Costa Rica
Okayama Park ParqueOkayama.jpg
Okayama Park

Theaters and auditoriums

San José has a number of theaters, many with European-inspired architecture. These buildings serve as the city's main tourist attractions, not only because of their architecture, but because of the cultural, musical, and artistic presentations and activities, which include traditional and modern Costa Rican and San Josefinan culture.[ citation needed ]

The most well-known are:

The National Theater of Costa Rica (considered the finest historic building in the capital and known for its exquisite interior which includes its lavish Italian furnishings [24] ) and the Melico Salazar Theater present drama, dance performances and concerts throughout the year. Nevertheless, other 'smaller' theaters can be found throughout the city and provide a large array of entertainment.

La zone roja is San José's oldest theater. [25]


San José is also host to various museums. These museums allow visitors to view Costa Rican history, scientific discoveries, pre-Columbian era culture and art, as well as modern Costa Rican art. The city is also host to the nation's museum of gold and museum of jade.

Some of the city's main museums are:

Parks, plazas, and zoos

San José is home to many parks and squares (plazas in Spanish); where one can find gazebos, open green areas, recreational areas, lakes, fountains, statues and sculptures by Costa Rican artists and many different bird, tree and plant species.

Parks and zoos

The city's primary parks include:

  • The National Park (Parque Nacional)
  • Morazán Park (Parque Morazán) — with Neoclassical Temple of Music (Templo de la Música) pavilion
  • La Sabana Metropolitan Park (Parque Metropolitano La Sabana) — largest park and "the lungs of San José," in Mata Redonda District (west city)
  • Peace Park (Parque de la Paz)
  • Okayama Park (Parque Okayama) — Japanese style garden and architectural elements, ornamental ponds, and garden sculptures
  • Simón Bolívar Zoo — the city's only zoo, with a large variety of native Costa Rican and exotic animals and plant species


Plazas, or town squares, are very prominent across San José's districts.

  • Culture Square — La Plaza de La Cultura (one example)


San José has several internal transportation networks that connect the city districts and metropolitan area; as well as national transportation networks that connect the city to other parts of Costa Rica.

San José is currently undergoing modernization in transportation. The current mayor, Johnny" Boss Tweed" Araya, has announced the establishment of an urban tramway system that will, in its first phase, cover the central core of the city going from west to east. This entire plan was announced and publicly presented on February 2011 by the city mayor and Costa Rican President, Laura Chinchilla.

On 27 September 2012, San José disclosed plans to install its first street signs, about 22,000 signs and plaques. It is estimated that the lack of proper street names for directions causes the loss of $720 million a year by the Inter-American Development Bank in 2008, due to undelivered, returned or re-sent mail. [26]


Private bus companies connect different areas of the city with each other and the suburbs. Services to other parts of the country are provided by other private companies which have stations or stops spread all over the city centre. There are also bus services between Juan Santamaría International Airport and downtown San José.


The Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles , or the state owned railway institute, is in charge of all of Costa Rica's railways. In 2004, this institution began work on the establishment of an inter-urban railway network. This network would connect Tibás, Heredia, San Antonio de Belén, Pavas, San Pedro de Montes de Oca, Sabanilla, and Curridabat, among other locations.

There are current plans to expand this inter-urban railway system into Cartago, Alajuela, and the Juan Santamaría International Airport.

Trains run to Heredia from Estación Atlantico and San Antonio de Belen and from Estación Pacifico. [27]


San José public taxi services complement the urban transportation network. Taxis are characterized by their red color and belong to registered cooperatives. There are other taxi services which do not belong to the registered system, there are also taxis from the airport that are usually orange.

The car-sharing company Uber has entered Costa Rica, but the government has stated that is allowed to operate. Despite repeated clashes with and strikes from taxi drivers due to unfair competition claims, the company has continued to operate in the country.


The city is serviced by Juan Santamaría International Airport ( IATA : SJO, ICAO : MROC), 23 km (14 mi) west of downtown, in the city of Alajuela, which is one of the busiest airports in Central America. In 2010, Juan Santamaría International Airport received 4.3 million passengers, most of them from international flights. In 2011, the airport was named the 3rd Best Airport in Latin America/Caribbean from the Airport Service Quality Awards by Airports Council International. [28]

The airport is undergoing a modernization plan, which is expected to be brief. The previous remodeling done to the airport cost around $7 million.

Another important airport in San José is Tobías Bolaños International Airport ( IATA : SYQ, ICAO : MRPV). It is located 8 km (5 mi) north-east of the city proper and 11 km (7 mi) south-east of Juan Santamaría International Airport.


Costa Rican cuisine (comida típica) is generally not spicy. Throughout San José, the most popular food is the national dish of gallo pinto, which is a mixture of fried rice and black beans. Gallo pinto is usually served for breakfast with tortillas and natilla, a thin sour cream. Costa Rican restaurants serving traditional food at an affordable price are called sodas and usually offer casados for lunch and dinner. A casado (which means "married" in Spanish) consists of rice, beans, and meat, and normally comes with cabbage-and-tomato salad, fried plantains, and/or tortillas. [29] San José Central Market, in downtown San José, has numerous stalls and sodas.


The city's major football club is Deportivo Saprissa, who won a record 33 league titles. They play their home games at the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa Aymá, which is located in Tibas. Another top-level club, Universidad, play at the Estadio Ecológico.

San José hosted the 2015 FIBA COCABA Championship, where the Costa Rica national basketball team finished 2nd. Playground was the Gimnasio Nacional.

International relations

Twin towns – sister cities

San José is twinned with:

Notable people

This is an alphabetical list of notable people who were born in or have lived in San José.

See also

Related Research Articles

Transport in Costa Rica

There are many modes of transport in Costa Rica but the country's infrastructure has suffered from a lack of maintenance and new investment. There is an extensive road system of more than 30,000 kilometers, although much of it is in disrepair; this also applies to ports, railways and water delivery systems. According to a 2016 U.S. government report, investment from China which attempted to improve the infrastructure found the "projects stalled by bureaucratic and legal concerns".

Cartago, Costa Rica City in Cartago Province, Costa Rica

Cartago is the third largest city in Costa Rica, about 25 km (16 mi) east of the capital, San José. It is at an elevation of about 1435 m above sea level, at the base of the Irazú Volcano. Cartago is the capital of Cartago province, and was the capital of Costa Rica from 1574 to 1824. The city covers an area of 152,68 km². It includes the districts of city downtown: Oriental, Occidental, San Nicolás, El Carmen (north), Dulce Nombre, San Francisco, and Guadalupe (Arenilla). The city is part, with the cities of San Rafael de Oreamuno and Tejar del Guarco, of a continuous urban area that, in 2008, had a population of 156,600 inhabitants, according to the Statistics and Census Institute of Costa Rica.

Grecia, Costa Rica Place in Alajuela, Costa Rica

Grecia is the capital city of the canton of Grecia in the province of Alajuela in Costa Rica. It is also the name of the distrito that includes the city. The district of Grecia covers an area of 6.86 km², and has a population of 15,457.

Alajuela Province Province in Costa Rica

Alajuela is a province of Costa Rica. It is located in the north-central part of the country, bordering Nicaragua to the north. It also borders the provinces of Heredia to the east, San José to the south, Puntarenas to the southwest and Guanacaste to the west. As of 2011, the province had a population of 885,571. Alajuela is composed of 16 cantons, which are divided into 111 districts. It covers an area of 9,757.53 square kilometers.

Juan Santamaría National hero of Costa Rica

Juan Santamaría was a drummer in the Costa Rican army, officially recognized as the national hero of his country. A national holiday in Costa Rica, Juan Santamaría Day, is held every April 11 to commemorate his death.

Alajuela Canton in Alajuela Province, Costa Rica

Alajuela is the second largest city in Costa Rica. It is also the capital of Alajuela Province.

Juan Santamaría International Airport Airport in Costa Rica

Juan Santamaría International Airport is the primary airport serving San José, the capital of Costa Rica. The airport is located in the city of Alajuela, 20 km west of downtown San José. It is named after Costa Rica's national hero, Juan Santamaría, a courageous drummer boy who died in 1856 defending his country against forces led by US-American filibuster William Walker.

Turrialba Volcano mountain

Turrialba Volcano is an active volcano in central Costa Rica that has been explosively eruptive in recent years including 2016 and in January, March and April 2017. Visitors used to be able to hike down into the main crater, but increased volcanic activity in 2014-17, resulting in large clouds of volcanic ash, has caused the surrounding Turrialba Volcano National Park to close.

Rail transport in Costa Rica

Rail transport in Costa Rica is primarily under the stewardship of Incofer, an autonomous institution of the state. Incofer owns the national railway infrastructure and operates virtually all freight and passenger services, which consist primarily of commuter trains through the highly populated Central Valley. The whole Incofer network is 1,067 mm narrow gauge, although there are several small tourist railways of other gauges.

San Ramón, Costa Rica Place in Alajuela, Costa Rica

San Ramón is a city in the canton of San Ramón in Alajuela Province in Costa Rica. The central municipality (distrito) of San Ramón covers an area of 1.29 km2, and has a population of 10,710. Adjoining distritos are also part of the city.

Jorge Arroyo Costa Rican writer

Jorge Eduardo Arroyo-Pérez is a Costa Rican writer, playwright, opinion columnist, essayist, poet and theater director. He is currently Costa Rica's ambassador to UNESCO.

La Sabana Metropolitan Park

La Sabana Metropolitan Park is located in downtown San José, Costa Rica. It is the country's largest and most significant urban park. La Sabana is considered "the lungs of San José" by Costa Ricans.

Correos de Costa Rica

Correos de Costa Rica is the national postal service of Costa Rica.

Ochomogo War te amo saray

The Ochomogo War or Costa Rican Civil War of 1823 was Costa Rica's first civil war, and was fought shortly after the country became independent from Spain.

In the election for Head of State of Costa Rica held on 1 January 1829 Juan Mora Fernández is reelected in his position by the majority of Electors. The elections in this period were conducted in two levels, first all Costa Ricans capable of voting according to the Constitution who cast a public vote chose the Electores according to the proportional representation of the population of each location; 11 for San José, 9 for Alajuela, 8 for Cartago, 8 for Heredia, 3 for Escazú, 3 for Ujarrás and 3 for the recently annexed Nicoya. Mora received the unanimous vote of all the provinces except for 2 electoral votes in San José, 1 in Alajuela and 2 in Heredia.

The election of the Head of State of Costa Rica in 1844 was the first Costa Rican election in which the system of direct suffrage was used to elect the Supreme Head of State, in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution of April 9, 1844. A method that was abolished by the next election returning to indirect suffrage until 1913.

The League War was the second civil war of Costa Rica, as a member state of the Federal Republic of Central America. It passed between September and October 1835 in the Central Valley of Costa Rica. Its immediate trigger was the repeal of the "Ambulance Law", the law that established the rotation of the country's capital among the four constituent cities. The most important consequence was the triumph of the city of San José over the cities of Alajuela, Heredia and Cartago, which allowed its consolidation as the capital of Costa Rica.

Pact of Concord

The Pact of Concord was the provisional Constitution of Costa Rica between 1821 and 1823, officially named the Interim Fundamental Social Pact of the Province of Costa Rica.


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