In Pre-Columbian times the Native Americans in what is now Costa Rica were part of the Intermediate Area located between the Mesoamerican and Andean cultural regions. This has recently been redefined to include the Isthmo-Colombian area, defined by the presence of groups that spoke Chibchan languages. These groups are also believed to have created the Stone spheres of Costa Rica, between 200 BC and AD 1600.
The native people of the Mayans and Aztecs were conquered by Spain in the 16th century. Costa Rica was then the Southernmost province in the Spanish territory of New Spain. The provincial capital was in Cartago.
After briefly joining the Mexican Empire of Agustin de Iturbide Costa Rica became a state in the United Provinces of Central America from 1823 to 1839. In 1824, the capital moved to San Jose. From the 1840s on, Costa Rica was an independent nation.
Costa Rica has avoided much of the violence that has plagued Central America. Since the late 19th century only two brief periods of violence have marred its democratic development. In 1949, Jose Figueres Ferrer abolished the army; and since then Costa Rica has been one of the few countries to operate within the democratic system without the assistance of a military.
Costa Rica (Spanish for "Rich Coast"), although still a largely agricultural country, has achieved a relatively high standard of living. Land ownership is widespread and tourism is a rapidly expanding industry.