In the context of¬†memorable¬†vacations, Costa Rica evokes images of palm-fringed beaches, sultry rainforests brimming with¬†wildlife, and¬†the¬†delighted¬†yips of zip-line adventurers as they hurl their bodies from one platform to the next. But did you know that Costa Rica is also a model of environmental stewardship and boasts a long history of pacifist policies? Read on for interesting tidbits about Costa Rica‚Äôs people, history, and culture.
The people of Costa Rica
As of 2016, the population of Costa Rica hovers just under 5 million, with the majority of residents centralized in the San Jose metro area and Central Valley. More than 95 percent of ‚ÄúTicos‚ÄĚ are of European descent, and less than 2 percent of Costa Rican residents are of indigenous ancestry, many of whom live in the country‚Äôs remote mountain regions. More than a century ago, legislators declared that education was to be mandatory and free for all¬†citizens, accounting for today‚Äôs high literacy rate of 97 percent.
No longer a cash crop nation
Formerly a cash crop nation reliant on coffee, sugar, and bananas, Costa Rica is now a major exporter of software technology and medical instruments. The country‚Äôs growing economy is driven by tourism, electronic¬†exports, and¬†some agriculture, and it¬†enjoys robust foreign investment, thanks to highly incentivized¬†free-trade¬†zones. Compared to its Central American neighbors, Costa Rica has a large middle class, largely comprised of working class, highly-educated professionals.
Green policies and environmental focus
In 2012, Costa Rica was rated the planet‚Äôs 5th Greenest Country by the Environmental Performance Index (EPI). This tiny nation has demonstrated¬†what many¬†have found¬†inconceivable: achieving¬†nearly 100 percent renewable energy through natural resources. A winding river system and substantial rainfall¬†provide¬†hydroelectric power, which accounts for 80 percent of all energy production. The remaining is made up of geothermal,¬†solar, and¬†biomass power. With renewable-energy¬†targets being met, Costa Rica continues a steady path toward becoming entirely carbon neutral by 2021.
You‚Äôve probably heard (or learned first-hand) that Costa Rica is one of the most biologically diverse nations, housing an astounding variety of flora and fauna. Biologists claim that you‚Äôll find more than 600 species of animal for each 10,000 square¬†miles‚ÄĒcompared¬†to 104¬†in the U.S.!¬†But did you know that Costa Rica abolished¬†its¬†standing army in 1948? This bold feat was ordered by¬†then-President¬†Jose Figueres Ferrer, who announced the country‚Äôs military spending would be directed¬†toward education, health¬†care, and¬†environmental protection. Nearly 70 years later, it‚Äôs obvious that this bold decision has¬†paid off.