Costa Rican History
Pre-Conquest: Although Costa Rica sustained a rather large number of indigenous peoples, none achieved the cultural sophistication achieved by the Aztecs and Mayans to the north or the Incas to the south. These scattered, unorganized tribes were, therefore, more impacted by the Spanish conquest. Consequently, very little, in the way of cultural heritage, remains in the urban areas of Costa Rica today. There are, however, some tribes left in the deep jungle.
Spanish Conquest: Costa Rica was ‘discovered’ by Christopher Columbus himself on his final voyage to the Americas on September 18, 1502. Rumor has it, that the friendly natives were so adorned with gold that this new land was dubbed Costa Rica or Rich Coast in English. The Spanish quickly settled the area and, as in all of the Americas, immediately began converting the culture. There are approximately 63,000 Indians living in Costa Rica Today. They reside mostly in the many cultural preserves and live much
as their ancestors did.
Independence: Central America gained its independence on September 15, 1821. The first elected head of state, Juan Mora Fernandez, took office in 1824. In 1869 a free and compulsory education system was established. The first Democratic elections took place in 1889. Finally, in 1949, the Costa Rican constitution took effect. The constitution instituted a mandatory vote and, more importantly, dissolved the armed forces.