History of Costa Rica

Neglected Lands

Unlike other medical tourism destinations in Central and South America, Costa Rica was never extensively ruled by colonialists.  For much of its existence, it was a sparsely populated region that lacked the two most important things that lured imperialists – gold and an abundance of natives to enslave as cheap labor.  As a result, Spanish expansion in the region was quite limited.   Plus, its geographical location left it rather isolated and inaccessible from the mainland.  

By 1611, only about 300 colonialists from Spain had arrived in Costa Rica.  This limited presence suited many of the locals just fine.  They managed to work the land, govern their own lives, and enjoy a level of autonomy not normally found in colonized lands.  This unusual arrangement also created a solid tier of farmers who would sustain Costa Rica in later years. 

When Spain left Central America on September 18, 1821, Costa Rica was presented with two choices – it could either join the newly formed Republic of Mexico or join a confederation of Central American states. A brief civil war ensued between San Jose on the one side and Cartago and Heredia on the other.  In 1823, San Jose won the war, and Costa Rica joined the federation. 

The following year, Juan Mora Fernandez was elected president heralding a new age of prosperity for Costa Rica.  Coffee growth grew, creating a new class of plantation elites.  And in 1848, Costa Rica finally became a republic. 

Modern History

Costa Rica has enjoyed a fairly peaceful democratic existence, a rare feat considering the volatile nature of many surrounding governments.  Except for General Tomas Guardia’s reign from 1870 top 1872, the country has never had a military dictatorship. The years after Guardia’s rule, the country transitioned into a full-fledged democracy.   

Costa Rica’s democratic foundation received bolstering when Jose Maria Figueres Ferrer, also known as Don Pepe, came to power in 1949.  He abolished the army and communism.  Equally important, he granted full voting rights to women, and for the first time, began including Blacks in the democratic process.  Since then, this medical tourism destination has managed to escape much of the corruption, violence, and upheaval that plague other countries in the region.  

These days, Costa Rica depends largely on tourism and agriculture for its economy.  Long known as an island paradise and friendly locals, Costa Rica now has medical tourism and health vacations to add to its list of growing attractions.

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