Today, Costa Rica is a stable, democratic country that has maintained a peaceful, economically sound government since 1899. Its people enjoy relative affluence and prosperity. It has earned its nickname, the Switzerland of the Americas, because of its prosperity, forward thinking, enterprising nature, and neutrality toward other governments. Its path to arriving as the gem of Central America was slow in coming, however. Little is known about Costa Rican ancient history.
Europeans discovered it during one of Christopher Columbus's expeditions to the new world in 1502.
It is said that Columbus gave Costa Rica its name, meaning rich coast. He called it such when encountering the indigenous people who wore thinly carved gold jewelry about their necks. However, some believe that Fernández de Córdoba chose the name approximately 30 years later when he established a settlement in 1539.
Those who believe that Fernández de Córdoba gave it its name feel that he named it Costa Rica because of its fertile lands, splendid forests, and exotic and rare wildlife. However received, Costa Rica deserves its name. It is a land of plenty.
Truly verdant and plenteous, it was, however, not easy to subdue. Having a strong sense of pride, aboriginal people had no desire to be imprisoned in slavery. Instead, they retreated into the jungle. Spanish settlers, including officials, had to farm the land themselves. Trade was nearly impossible, as they had nothing, really, to trade, making the economy tenuous, at best.
Nevertheless, Costa Ricans persisted. Survival, hard work, and pride in themselves, principles formulated from the time of Spanish rule to the present day, bridged a sense of equality and a need for a more egalitarian government. In 1882, Costa Rica, along with the rest of Central America, seceded from Spanish rule. It was primed for Democracy in 1899. Once it found democracy, Costa Rica held onto it tenaciously and has enjoyed democracy for over one hundred years.