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Costa Rica: A political, social and geographical profile

Producing some of the best coffee currently trading on the market, Costa Rica means business to all who work in the coffee industry. 

Situated in central America, this mid-tropic coffee crop haven is bordered by Nicaragua to the north, the Caribbean Sea along its north-east coastline, Panama wriggling off to the southeast and the Pacific Ocean bathing its south-west coast.

The narrowest stretch from the Caribbean to the Pacific Ocean sees just 120 km separate the two bodies of water. From Volcan Poas, directly to the north of the capital San Jose, you can see both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.


Politically, Costa Rica is a relatively stable country – and has notably been so over the last half century, when compared to some of its neighbours. It is the only Latin American country to have been a democracy since 1950 or earlier.

At the end of the 1940s, the military was disbanded, following which a stable and fair judicial system was put in place, the women got the vote and – later on – literacy rates began to soar, as educational guarantees improved the day-to-day lives of citizens.

It is an active member of the United Nations and also of the Organization of American States.

Such relative stability is what has drawn – and continues to do so – many people to this fine country, particularly to its intellectual centre and capital, San Jose, which is by the far the most metropolitan and densely populated area of the country.


To say that the cultural makeup of Costa Ricans is cosmopolitan would be a gross understatement. 

Nearly four-fifths of the population is in fact of European descent, meaning it boasts the greatest percentage of individuals of Spanish heritage out of all countries in Central America. While Europeans may have arrived during the 19th and 20th century, immigrants from other South American countries trickled in with their own cultural influences throughout the 20th century. Meanwhile, conflicts in neighbouring countries – such as Nicaragua in 1980s – saw thousands of refugees (who were mainly of mixed descent) flood across the borders. There are also Costa Ricans with African, Indian and even Chinese roots.

The Spanish spoken by Costa Ricans is very distinctive to the country and is in fact what earned its inhabitants the nickname 'ticos', as they change the typical Spanish 'tito' diminuitive ending to this. Of course, there are also other creole, minority and dialectic languages – for example Limonese Creole or Bribri and Cabecar, the latter two of which are part of the Indian Chibchan language family – spoken by ethnic minority groups. 

Over half of the population – which in total is estimated at just under five million people – live in the Valle Central. Across the country as a whole, around 65 per cent of people currently live in urban areas, while the rest have made their home in more rural parts of the country.

Just under nine-tenths of the population is Roman Catholic, while the constitution still supports freedom of religion. 


It is the geography – especially the climate and topography – of this country that makes it so perfect for producing not only coffee, but also bananas and pineapples, which are two other major exports.

With such beautiful natural surroundings, Costa Ricans are very proud of what mother nature has provided them with, which is why a commitment to sustainable practices and ecological solutions can be seen entrenched in both the way that the country protects its areas of natural beauty and the way that communities go about their daily lives and work.

To this end, ecotourism has flourished in the region, which has attracted further foreign investment as people begin to pay gradually more attention to the plight of our planet and our ability to safeguard its future.

Aside from the threat of climate change and that of major real estate investors seeking to buy out land for development, deforestation is a huge problem – and one that is far from limited to Costa Rica. However, with dense forests – including mahogany and tropical cedar trees – spreading out over around a third of the country, it is a threat which is as real there as anywhere else.

Nevertheless, ecotourism has seen technology and services contribute far more to the economy now, whereas before Costa Rica relied predominantly on income from agriculture.