The 2002 census recorded a population
of 3.85 million, more than half of whom live in the Central Valley.
Fifty-one percent of the nation's population is classed as urban.
The most attractive areas of settlement in the past 35 years have
been on the Nicoya lowlands on the drier part of the Pacific coast,
on the northern lowlands, and on the alluvial soils of the Valle
de El General in the south. The border between Panama and Costa
Rica is now quite densely settled, with colonists from Italy as
well as the Meseta Central grafted onto the local population. Though
comparatively wealthy compared to most Latin American countries,
by developed-world standards most Costa Ricans are poor (the average
income is about US$3000 per annum).
Costa Rica is unquestionably
the most homogeneous of Central American nations in race as well
as social class. Travelers familiar with other Central American
nations will immediately notice the contrast: the vast majority
of Costa Ricans look predominantly European. The 1989 census classified
98% of the population as "white" or "mestizo,"
and less than two percent as "black" or "Indian."
Costa Rica's approximately 40,000 black people are the nation's
largest minority. For many years they were the target of racist
immigration and residence laws that restricted them to the Caribbean
coast. Hence, they remained isolated from national culture. Most
blacks today trace their ancestry back to the 10,000 or so Jamaicans
hired by Minor Keith to build the Atlantic Railroad, and to later
waves of immigrants who came to work the banana plantations in the
late 19th century.
Costa Rica's black population
has consistently attained higher educational standards than the
national average and many blacks are now found in leading professions
throughout the nation. They have also managed to retain much of
their traditional culture, including religious practices rooted
in African belief about transcendence through spiritual possession,
their rich cuisine, the rhythmic lilt of their slightly antiquated
English, and the deeply syncopated funk of their music.
Costa Rica's indigenous peoples
have suffered abysmally. Centuries ago the original Indian tribes
were splintered by Spanish conquistadores and compelled to retreat
into the vast tracts of the interior mountains. Today, approximately
9,000 Indian peoples of the Bribrí, Boruca, and Cabecar tribes
manage to eke out a living from the jungles of remote valleys in
the Talamanca Mountains of southern Costa Rica, where their ancestors
had sought refuge from Spanish muskets and dogs. Although various
agencies continue to work to promote education, health, and community
development, the Indians' standard of living is appallingly low,
alcoholism is endemic, and they remain subject to constant exploitation.
a majority of Indians have gradually been tricked into selling their
allotments or otherwise forced off their lands. Poor soils and rough
rides have not kept colonists in search of land and gold from invading
the reserves. The various Indian clans cling tenuously to what remains
of their cultures. The Borucas, who inhabit scattered villages in
tight-knit patches of the Pacific southwest, have been most adept
at conserving their own language and civilization, including matriarchy,
communal land ownership, and traditional weaving.
Immigrants from many nations
have been made welcome over the years. Jews are prominent in the
liberal professions. There is a Quaker community of several hundred
people centered on Monteverde, where they produce goudas, cheddars,
and monterico cheeses. Germans have for many generations been particularly
successful as coffee farmers. Italians have gathered, among other
places, in the town of San Vito, on the central Pacific coast. Several
thousand Chinese call Costa Rica their home.
of the information on our site as it relates to Costa Rica is:
of Christopher P. Baker and Avalon Travel Publishing.
© 2004 Christopher P. Baker. All Rights Reserved.
A2Z Languages highly
recommends Christopher P. Baker's book: Moon
Handbooks Costa Rica. Click on the image to visit
his website where you can purchase this book or find out more about
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