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Guaria Morada
National Flower

Yiguirro
National bird



Costa Rica (literally "Rich Coast"), officially the Republic of Costa Rica (Spanish: Costa Rica or República de Costa Rica, IPA: [re'pußlika ðe 'kosta 'rika]), is a Republic in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the south-southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, and the Caribbean Sea to the east. Costa Rica was the first country in the world to constitutionally abolish its army.

Geography

On the Río Savegre, just below San Gerardo de Dota in the Talamanca Mountains of Costa Rica.
Main article: Geography of Costa Rica
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 1,290 kilometres (802 mi) of coastline (212 km / 132 mi on the Caribbean coast and 1,016 km / 631 mi on the Pacific). It is about the size of West Virginia and shares that state's reputation for excellent whitewater kayaking/rafting opportunities. Two of the country's most renowned rivers in that regard are the Rio Pacuare and the Rio Reventazon located just east of San Jose in the Central Highland region.
Costa Rica also borders Nicaragua to the north (309 km / 192 mi of border) and Panama to the south-southeast (639 km / 397 mi of border). In total, Costa Rica comprises 51,100 square kilometers (19,730 sq. mi) plus 589.000 square kilometers of territorial waters.


The crater of Volcán Irazú, an active volcano near Cartago, Costa Rica
The highest point in the country is Cerro Chirripó, with 3,810 metres (12,500 ft), and is the fifth highest peak in Central America. The highest volcano in the country is the Irazú Volcano (3,431 m / 11,257 ft). The largest lake in Costa Rica is Lake Arenal.
Costa Rica also comprises several islands. Cocos Island stands out because of its distance from continental landmass (24 km² / 9.25 sq mi, 500 km or 300 mi from Puntarenas coast), but Calero Island is the biggest island of the country (151.6 km² / 58.5 sq mi).
Costa Rica protects over 25% of its national territory within the Protected Areas system. It also possesses the greatest density of species in the world. [1]

Politics

Costa Rica is a democratic republic with a strong constitution. Although there are claims that the country has had more than 115 years of uninterrupted democracy,[citation needed] their presidential election history shows otherwise (see List of Presidents of Costa Rica). Nonetheless, the country has had at least fifty-nine years of uninterrupted democracy, which is by far the longest in Latin America,[citation needed] making it one of the most stable countries in the region. Costa Rica has avoided the violence that has plagued Central America.
Executive responsibilities are vested in a president, who is the country's center of power. There also are two vice presidents as well as a cabinet designated by the president. The president, vice presidents, and fifty-seven Legislative Assembly delegates are elected for four-year terms. A constitutional amendment approved in 1969 limited presidents and delegates to one term, although delegates were allowed to run again for an Assembly seat after sitting out a term.
In April 2003, the constitutional ban on presidential re-election was reversed, allowing Óscar Arias (Nobel Peace Prize laureate, 1987) to run for President for a second term. In 2006, Óscar Arias was re-elected in a tight and highly contested election, running on a platform of promoting free trade. He took office on May 8, 2006. On June 16, 2006, he met Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican. [2]
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 but maintains domestic police forces for internal security. These include the Guardia Civil and the Guardia Rural.
Other current political issues include security, crime, and the limiting of large-scale emigration of people from Nicaragua.

Provinces and cantons

Province
Capital
Cantons
Districts
Área (km²)
Population
1
Alajuela
Alajuela
15
108
9.757,53
716.286
2
Cartago
Cartago
8
48
3.124,67
432.395
3
Guanacaste
Liberia
11
59
10.140,71
264.238
4
Heredia
Heredia
10
46
2.656,98
354.732
5
Limón
Limón
6
27
9.188,52
389.295
6
Puntarenas
Puntarenas
11
57
11.265,69
357.483
7
San José
San José
20
118
4.965,90
1.345.750


Costa Rica is comprised of seven provinces, which in turn are divided into 81 cantons ("cantón" in Spanish, plural "cantones"), each directed by a mayor. Mayors are chosen democratically every four years by each canton's people. There are no provincial legislatures.


1. Alajuela /2. Cartago /3. Guanacaste /4. Heredia /5. Limón /6. Puntarenas /7. San José.

Economy

In recent times electronics, pharmaceuticals, financial outsourcing, software development, and ecotourism have become the prime industries in Costa Rica's economy. High levels of education among its residents make the country an attractive investing location.
The economy has been expanding for Costa Rica in part because the Government had implemented a seven-year plan of expansion in the high tech industry. The central government offers tax exemptions for those who are willing to invest in the country. Several global high tech corporations have already started developing in the area exporting goods including chip manufacturer Intel, pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, and consumer products company Procter & Gamble. Trade with South East Asia and Russia has boomed during 2004 and 2005, and the country is expected to obtain full Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC) membership by 2007 (the country became an observer in 2004).
For the fiscal year 2005, the country showed a government deficit of 2.1%, internal revenue increased an 18%, exports increased a 12.8% and the number of visiting tourists increased a 19%, reaching 1.5 million people. Revised economic figures released by the Central Bank indicate that economic growth stood at 5%, nevertheless the country faced high inflation (14%) and a trade deficit of 5.2%. For 2006 the economy is expected to grow a 6.8%
The unit of currency is the colón (CRC), which trades around 518 [3] to the U.S. dollar; currently about 675 to the euro. On October 16, 2006, a new currency exchange system was introduced, allowing the value of the CRC colón to float between two bands as done previously by Chile. The idea is that by doing so the Central Bank will be able to better tackle inflation and discourage the use of US dollars. Since that time, the value of the colon against the dollar has stabilized.
Costa Rica's location provides easy access to American markets as it has the same time zone as the central part of the United States and direct ocean access to Europe and Asia.


Tourism


With a $1.7-billion-a-year tourism industry, Costa Rica stands as the most visited nation in the region. Eco-tourism is extremely popular with many tourist visiting the many protected areas around the country. Sex tourism has become a popular form of tourism and has been gaining popularity in Costa Rica where it already amounts for 10% of the billion dollar tourism industry.[1] Costa Rica has been hailed as a national destination for sex tourists,[2][3] this is largely due to legal prostitution.

Foreign affairs
Costa Rica is an active member of the United Nations and the Organization of American States. Costa Rica holds a seat on the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and on the United Nations University of Peace and many other international organizations related to human rights and democracy.
Costa Rica's main foreign policy objective is to foster human rights and sustainable development as a way to secure stability and growth.
Costa Rica is also a member of the International Criminal Court, without a Bilateral Immunity Agreement of protection for the US-military (as covered under Article 98).
On June 1, 2007, Costa Rica broke ties with the Republic of China in Taiwan, switching to the People's Republic of China in mainland China. [4]


Flora and fauna

Costa Rica is home to a rich variety of plants and animals. While the country has only about 0.1% of the world's landmass, it contains 5% of the world's biodiversity.[citation needed] Over 25% of Costa Rica is composed of protected forests and reserves.
One national park that is internationally-renowned among ecologists for its biodiversity (including big cats and tapirs) and where visitors can expect to see an abundance of wildlife is the Corcovado National Park.[citation needed]

Tortuguero National Park – the name Tortuguero can be translated as "Full of turtles" – is home to spider, howler and white-throated Capuchin monkeys, the three-toed sloth, 320 species of birds (including eight species of parrots), a variety of reptiles, but is mostly recognized for the annual nesting of the endangered green turtle and is considered the most important nesting site for this species. Giant leatherback, hawksbill, and loggerhead turtles also nest here.
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve hosts two thousand plant species,[citation needed] including numerous orchids. Over four hundred types of birds can be found here, and over one hundred species of mammals. As a whole, around eight hundred species of birds have been identified in Costa Rica. The Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (INBIO) is allowed to collect royalties on any biological discoveries of medical importance.


Demographics

In 2005, Costa Rica had an estimated population of 4.43 million people. The majority of Costa Ricans are in large part descendants of Spanish settlers. There are significant numbers of Costa Ricans of Italian, German, Jewish, and Polish descent. This group is closely followed by a large (and sometimes interchangeable) number of Mestizos. Together, Mestizos and European descendants make up a full 94% of the population. Just under 3% of the population is of black African descent, the majority of which are English-speaking descendants of nineteenth century black Jamaican immigrant workers. 1% is composed of ethnic Chinese and another 1% is "other".
As of today, the indigenous population numbers around 1%, or over 40,000 individuals. In the Guanacaste Province a significant portion of the population descends from a mix of local Amerindians, Africans and Spaniards. There is also an expatriate community of people of all ages from the United States, Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Britain, and other countries, especially in the Central Valley city of Escazu. Post-war Italian immigrants founded the Zona Sur town of San Vito de Coto Brus in southern Puntarenas, near the border with Panama.[citation needed]
Costa Rica hosts many refugees, mainly from Colombia and Nicaragua. As a result, an estimated 10% to 15% of the Costa Rican population is made up of Nicaraguans,[4] most of whom migrate for seasonal work opportunities and then return to their country. There is also a growing number of Peruvian refugees. Moreover, Costa Rica took in lots of refugees from a range of other Latin American countries fleeing civil wars and dictatorships during the 1970s and 80s - notably from Chile and Argentina.


Religion

Christianity is the predominant religion in Costa Rica, and Roman Catholicism is the official state religion as guaranteed by the Constitution of 1949. Some 92% of Costa Ricans are Christian [5] and like many other parts of Latin America, Protestant denominations have been experiencing rapid growth. However, three in four Costa Ricans still adhere to Roman Catholicism[citation needed].
Due to small but recent immigration from Asia, the Middle East, and other places, other religions have grown, the most popular being Buddhism (due to an increasing Chinese community of 40,000), and smaller numbers of Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu adherents.
There is a Jewish synagogue, the B'nei Israel Congregation, in San Jose, near La Sabana Park. Several homes in the neighborhood east of La Sabana Park are festooned with Stars of David and other recognizable Jewish symbols.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has seen modest growth in Costa Rica in the last forty years and has built one of only two temples in Central America in the San Antonio de Belen region of Heredia.
The English language Free Baptist Church along the main highway in Limon conducts services in the Mekatelyu creole dialect.


Language

The only official language is Spanish. There are two main accents native to Costa Rica, the standard Costa Rican and the Nicoyan. The Nicoyan accent is very similar to the standard Nicaraguan accent due, in part, to its annexation from Nicaragua in 1824. A notable Costa Rican pronunciation difference includes a soft initial and double [r] phoneme that is not trilled as in most of the Spanish speaking world.[5].
Jamaican immigrants in the 19th Century brought with them a dialect of English that has evolved into the Mekatelyu creole dialect.

Marriage

Because Roman Catholicism is the official state religion, only that church's marriages are legally recognized by the government. Any persons wishing to wed outside of the Catholic church must hire a lawyer who will perform and then register their civil wedding for them.

Culture

Costa Ricans often refer to themselves as tico (masculine) or tica (feminine). "Tico" comes from the popular local usage of "tico" and "tica" as diminutive suffixes (e.g., "momentico" instead of "momentito").[citation needed] Visitors from the United States are often referred to as gringos, which is virtually always congenial in nature.[citation needed] The phrase "Pura Vida" (literally "Pure Life") is a ubiquitous motto in Costa Rica. It encapsulates the pervading ideology of living in peace in a calm, uncluttered manner, appreciating a life surrounded by nature and family and friends.[citation needed]
Some might use mae a contraction of "maje" (mae means "guy/dude") to refer to each other,[citation needed] although this might be perceived as slightly insulting to those of an older generation as maje was a synonym for "tonto" (stupid, moronic). Costa Rican traditions and culture tend to retain a strong degree of Spanish influence. Their spoken accent is rather different than its Central American counterparts. "-ito" or "-ita" are added to many words to make them sound more polite and courteous.[citation needed]
Costa Rica boasts a varied history. Costa Rica was the point where the Mesoamerican and South American native cultures met. The northwest of the country, the Nicoya peninsula, was the southernmost point of Nahuatl cultural influence when the Spanish conquerors (conquistadores) came in the sixteenth century. The center and southern portions of the country had Chibcha influences. However, the indigenous people have influenced modern Costa Rican culture to a relatively small degree, as most of the Indians died from disease and mistreatment by the Spaniards.
The Atlantic coast, meanwhile, was populated with African workers during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Most afro Costa Ricans, however, derive from nineteenth-century Jamaican workers, brought in to work on the construction of railroads between the urban populations of the Central Plateau and the port of Limon on the Caribbean coast. Italian and Chinese immigrants also arrived at this time to work on the railroad construction.
Though the music of Costa Rica has achieved little international credit, Costa Rican popular music genres include: an indigenous calypso scene which is distinct from the more widely-known Trinidadian calypso sound audience that supports nightclubs in cities like San José. American and British rock and roll and pop are popular and common among the youth (especially urban youth) while dance-oriented genres like soca, salsa, merengue, cumbia and Tex-Mex have an appeal among the somewhat older audience.


Education

The literacy rate in Costa Rica is of 96% (CIA World Factbook, February 2007), one of the highest in Latin America. Elementary and high schools are found throughout the country in practically every community. Universal public education is guaranteed in the Constitution. Primary education is obligatory, and both preschool and high school are free. There are both state and private universities.
There are only a few schools in Costa Rica that go beyond the 11th grade. Those schools that finish at 11th grade receive a Costa Rican Bachillerato Diploma accredited by the Costa Rican Ministry of Education. Schools that offer classes to the 12th grade offer either the International Baccalaureate Diploma, accredited by the IBO in Geneva, Switzerland, the German Abitur or the USA High School Diploma, accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).[citation needed]
Costa Rica is also home to the Instituto Centroamericano de Administracion de Empresas (INCAE), originally founded in 1964 in Managua, Nicaragua with the support of the United States government and other Central American countries.[6] The institution expanded into Costa Rica with the Sandinista Revolution in the 1980s in Nicaragua, the institution maintains a close affiliation with Harvard University, as it had played a part in its foundation. The campus is the second of two that the school has, the first being built in Managua, Nicaragua. According to a study done by America Economia INCAE ranked as the number one business school in Latin America for 2 consecutive years (2004, 2005) [7] and ranked within the top ten business schools in international rankings by The Wall Street Journal. [8]
República de Costa Rica
Republic of Costa Rica

 


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