Monday, August 29, 2005

Some history on beautiful Costa Rica

The Republic of Costa Rica is a country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south-southeast. Since the civil war of 1948 that brought President Jos� Figueres Ferrer to power, the country has been free of violent political conflict. Figueres also abolished the military and today, Costa Rica has only a national police force. Unlike most of its continental neighbors, Costa Rica, alongside Uruguay, is seen as an exceptional example of political stability in the region, and sometimes refered to as the "Switzerland of Central America."
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In Pre-Columbian times the Native Americans in what is now Costa Rica were part of the Intermediate Area located between the Mesoamerican and Andean cultural regions. This has recently been redefined to include the Isthmo-Colombian area, defined by the presence of groups that spoke Chibchan languages.
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The native people of the Mayans and Aztecs were conquered by Spain in the 16th century. Costa Rica was then the Southernmost province in the Spanish territory of New Spain. The provincial capital was in Cartago.
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After briefly joining the Mexican Empire of Agust�n de Iturbide (see: History of Mexico and Mexican Empire), Costa Rica became a state in the United Provinces of Central America (see: History of Central America) from 1823 to 1839. In 1824, the capital moved to San Jos�. From the 1840s on, Costa Rica was an independent nation.
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Costa Rica has avoided much of the violence that has plagued Central America. Since the late 19th century only two brief periods of violence have marred its democratic development. In 1949, Jos� Figueres Ferrer abolished the army; and since then Costa Rica has been one of the few countries to operate within the democratic system without the assistance of a military.
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Costa Rica (Spanish for "Rich Coast"), although still a largely agricultural country, has achieved a relatively high standard of living. Land ownership is widespread and tourism is a rapidly expanding industry.
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Costa Rica is a democratic republic with a strong system of constitutional checks and balances. Executive responsibilities are vested in a president, who is the country's center of power. There also are two vice presidents and a 15-member cabinet that includes one of the vice presidents. The president and 57 Legislative Assembly deputies are elected for 4-year terms. A constitutional amendment approved in 1969 limited presidents and deputies to one term, although a deputy may run again for an Assembly seat after sitting out a term. An amendment to the constitution to allow second presidential terms was proposed and also the constitutionality of the prohibition against a second presidential term has been challenged in the courts. In April 2003 the prohibition was officially recognized as anti-constitutional allowing �scar Arias (Nobel Peace Prize, 1987) to run for President a second time in the upcoming 2006 elections.
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Governors appointed by the president head the country's seven provinces, but they exercise little power. There are no provincial legislatures. Autonomous state agencies enjoy considerable operational independence; they include the telecommunications and electrical power monopoly, the nationalized commercial banks, the state insurance monopoly, and the social security agency. Costa Rica has no military by constitution and maintains only domestic police and security forces for internal security.
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Costa Rica is located on the Central American isthmus, 10� North of the equator and 84� West of the Prime Meridian. It borders both the Caribbean Sea (to the east) and the North Pacific Ocean (to the west), with a total of 1,290km of coastline (212km on the Caribbean coast and 1016km on the Pacific).
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Costa Rica also borders Nicaragua to the north (309km of border) and Panama to the south-southeast (639km of border). In total, Costa Rica comprises 51,100 km,� of which 50,660 km� is land and 440 km� is water, making it slightly smaller than the U.S. state of West Virginia and about half the size of Ireland.
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The largest lake in Costa Rica is Lake Arenal.
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Costa Rica's economy is dependent on tourism, agriculture, and electronics exports. The economy emerged from recession in 1997 and has since shown strong growth. Costa Rica's location in the Central American isthmus provides easy access to American markets as it has the same time zone as central US and direct ocean access to Europe and Asia.
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The economy has been booming for Costa Rica because the Government had implemented a seven year plan of expansion in the high tech industry. They have tax exemptions for those who are willing to invest in the country. With their high level of educated residents, they make an attractive investing location. Several global high tech corporations have already started developing in the area exporting goods.
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The unit of currency is the col�n (CRC), which trades around 450-500 to the US dollar; currently about 600 to the euro.
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In the central part of the country, the native Amerindians mixed with European. The pure indigenous population today numbers about 29,000, less than one percent of the population. In Guanacaste, most of the population descends from a mix of the Chorotega Indians, Bantu Africans and Spaniards. Descendants of black 19th-century Jamaican immigrant workers constitute an English-speaking minority and at three percent of the population number about 96,000. Costa Ricans of mestizo and European descent account for a combined 94 percent. Another one percent is ethnically Chinese.
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Today there is a growing number of Amerindians who migrate for seasonal work opportunities as agricultural workers mainly in the south-eastern border region with Panama. The most important group of immigrants in Costa Rica are Nicaraguans, who represent ten percent of the population. Most of them were originally refugees from civil war during the late 1970s and 1980s, but after the Esquipulas Peace Agreement an increasing number of Nicaraguans continue to migrate into Costa Rica due to economic reasons. There is also a growing number of Colombian, Panamanian and Peruvian immigrants.
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In Costa Rica, the locals refer to themselves as "Tico" (maje) or mae (sort of "man" (actually maje means "dumb") idiom in a very popular and "only with close friends" way), or "Tica" (female). The "Tico" ideal is that of a very friendly, helpful, laid back, unhurried, educated and environmentally aware people, with little worry for deadlines or the "normal" stresses of United States life. Visitors from the United States and Europe are often referred to as "Gringos," which is virtually always congenial in nature. Americans are often seen as objects of welcoming friendliness and curiosity.