Located in the heart of Central America, Costa Rica has been one of the most politically and economically stable countries in Central America since its birth in the 19th century. The nation compares favorably to its regional neighbors in areas of human development, and it has used its landscapes of jungles, forests and coastlines to develop an international reputation for ecotourism.
Costa Rica’s constitution was adopted in 1949, and has since been amended to declare the nation as multicultural and multiethnic. The overwhelming majority of Costa Rica’s population is either white or mestizo – a combination of European and Amerindian descent. The population also includes indigenous, African and mixed descent groups. Like other former Spanish colonies across the Americas, Costa Rica’s official language is Spanish and the most commonly practiced religion is Roman Catholicism. However, a significant percentage of the population identifies with other religions, such as Evangelical Christianity and Jehovah’s Witness.
Costa Rica in Photos
The country has had a functioning democracy since the mid-20th century, and its government features executive, legislative and judicial branches. The executive branch has one president and two vice presidents. Costa Rica avoided much of the conflict that plagued its Central American neighbors in the 1970s and 1980s.
Exports of agricultural products such as bananas, coffee and sugar form the backbone of Costa Rica’s economy. Years of political stability and a relatively highly educated workforce have made the country attractive for foreign investment.
On the other hand, periods of strong economic growth have not erased persistent problems with poverty and income inequality. Elections in 2016 ushered in a new government, while in 2017 the World Bank redesignated the country as an upper middle-income nation.
Culturally, Costa Rica draws influences from the indigenous Americans to the north, as well as South America. While the nation’s population enjoys artistic diversions such as film and music, Costa Rica’s culture may best be exemplified in the phrase, “pura vida,” which translates as “pure life,” and can be used as both a greeting and as a response to a question.
Costa Rica is a member of several international organizations, including the Organization of American States and the United Nations.
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