Costa Rican culture is in many ways a reflection of its racial diversity. The predominant influence has long been European, which is reflected in everything from the official language (Spanish) to the architecture of the country's churches and other historic buildings. The indigenous influence is less visible, but can be found in everything from the tortillas that make part of a typical Costa Rican meal, to the handmade ceramics sold at roadside stands.
An important aspect of Costa Rica's cultural legacy is their love for peace and democracy. The Ticos like to stand out that their nation is the exception in Latin America, where military dictatorships have long dominated politics. They take pride in having more than one hundred years of democratic tradition, and almost half a century without an army. The army was abolished in 1948, and the money the country saves by not expending in military issues is invested in improving the Costa Ricans' standard of living, which has fostered a culture of social peace that makes it such a pleasant place to visit.
"Ticos," as Costa Ricans are generally known, are a mixture of cultures. Even though many Costa Ricans are descendants of Spanish immigrants, these exists a great variety of ethnic influences in this small country. most people are mestizo, a mixture of European and indigenous roots. On the Caribbean coast, an important part of the populations has African roots.
The figure of the sabanero, the Spanish cowboy, is typical of Guanacaste, and nearly 2 percent of the national population come from indigenous groups, including Cabecar, Bribri, Boruca or Brunca, Teribe, Guaymí or Ngabe, Huetar, Chorotega and Maleku. These cultures offer a spectacular array of traditions, customs, celebrations, cuisine and art.