Costa Rica is known for its civilized way of life and it is no exaggeration to describe the country as an oasis of peace. This is a fundamental concept of the Costa Rican character. Costa Rica is a seat for the University for Peace and the Interamerican Court of Human Rights, which underlines the trust which the international community places in the country's political and social stability.
The Costa Ricans are characterized by three main cultural lifestyles:
- peasants and farmers of the Central Valley,
- the inhabitants of the Guanacaste pampas and
- the Caribbean people from the province of Limón.
Their ethnic origins are a mixture, blended together with the native inhabitants of the country (although to a lesser extent than in the other Central American countries), the Spanish colonists, and the African-Caribbean peoples, since the last century.
The Costa Rican are friendly, hospitable and proud of their freedom.
Costa Rica is one of the oldest democracies in America, as well as being a free and independent republic. Its habitants enjoy full political stability with a longstanding commitment to democratic freedom. Peace is Costa Rica's most valued feature.
The country has had no army since its abolition half way through this century, the Civil and Rural Guard being sufficient to ensure that citizens are protected.
Costa Rica was twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and this award was granted, in 1987, to the incumbent President of the Republic, Dr. Oscar Arias. This signifies a well deserved recognition of the Costa Rican way of life.
The social impact of the democratic tradition of Costa Rica is clearly felt. In 1869, a compulsory state-paid system of education was established, one which also includes private institutions at all levels.
The government makes the necessary funds available for medical and educational programs, with both services achieving outstanding successes.
In the case of education, 93% of the population can read and write.
Life expectancy is between 72 and 75 years of age, an excellent average in Latin America.
Medical services, especially preventive medicine, have reached high levels of development in both rural areas and in the cities.
There are approximately 3 million inhabitants whose native language is Spanish.
However other languages such as English, French, German and Italian are frequently spoken and foreign visitor will easily be able to make himself understood.
The population is distributed throughout the seven provinces which make up the country: San José, Alajuela, Heredia, Puntarenas, Cartago, Guanacaste, and Limón.
The Capital city is in the province of San José, the country's most densely populated province.
The Catholic faith is the official religion. However, the right to practise other religions is guaranteed.
GovernmentSince Costa Rica is a republic, the political system is distributed among the following governing bodies:
- Executive Power: President of the Republic, voted at open elections held every 4 years and who may remain in office for one term only. Two Vice-Presidents. A Presidential Cabinet, comprising 22 Ministers of State who hold offices in Economic, Social, Productivity and Cultural areas.
- Legislative Power: comprising 57 delegates elected by popular vote and responsible for drawing up the laws.
- Judicial Power: Formed by the Supreme Court consisting of four Courts. It also includes the High Court, tribunals and Mayor's offices in each sphere.
In accordance with Costa Rica's Constitution, the Supreme Court of Elections, acting as an independent body within the Republic, is responsible for organizing, running and supervising the elections which take place every four years.