The history of Costa Rica features relatively little conflict, but it still packs a lot of changes for this small nation over the last 500 years or so.
Costa Rica history begins with a native population of hunters and gatherers, who because of their geographical location smack in the middle of Central America served as what was called an “Intermediate Region” between the cultures then prevalent in Central America (Mesoamerican native culture) and South America (Andean native culture.)
The biggest deal in Costa Rica history is arguably the landing of Christopher Columbus in 1502, which led to the assimilation of Costa Rica into the Captaincy General of Guatemala as one of its smallest and poorest states. The history of Costa Rica is so uneventful in part because the native populations were really small, and quickly decimated by European diseases and the Spanish conquistadors, so there were no major battles or uprises.
The next big event in the history of Costa Rica was independence from Spain. This came relatively peacefully, since it was Mexico (and later Guatemala) that waged the larger independence wars against the Spanish kingdom. Costa Rica history experts tell us that this small Central American nation became a fully independent country in 1838, separating from the Federal Republic of Central America.
The history of Costa Rica marks its first serious act of war in 1856, when Costa Rica – along with other Central American nations – had to take to arms to resist an invasion from a band of American settlers led by William Walker, they are referred to as “filibusterers” in Costa Rica history to this day. Costa Rica’s only national hero, Juan Santamaria (who gives his name to the International Airport in Alajuela) earned his status during a particularly bloody skirmish in this war.
Costa Rica history celebrates 1869 as the year the country became a proper democracy, which is now known as the First Republic. The history of Costa Rica records pretty much nothing between then and 1948, a sign of the peacefulness of this beautiful country.
1948 was a year of major upheaval for Costa Rica history, as there was a bloody civil war: with more than 2000 dead over 44 days, this remains the bloodiest event in Costa Rican History. As a result of this uprise, a new constitution was drafted, which granted universal suffrage and famously abolished Costa Rica’s army for good. That’s right: Costa Rica has no army, and has not had one for over 60 years.
13 presidential elections later, the history of Costa Rica remains serene and peaceful, allowing this little nation to focus on educating its citizens and working hard on improving its economy.