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The Arrival of the 20th Century...
...found Costa Rica in the midst of social and political transformation. In 1913 free elections had already been instituted, but only for men. Women would have to wait until 1949. The participation of the working class in the electoral process gave rise to two new parties, the Communist and the Reformist. The Communist party, although persecuted at first, managed to place representatives in public positions.
The intellectual and privileged class, as well as the church continued to encourage education for the common class. However, the popular class began to read everything that could be found, from literature to anarchist discourse. The intellectual and privileged class, as well as the church continued to encourage education for the common class. However, the popular class began to read everything that could be found, from literature to anarchist discourse.
The theater was also vital in the diffusion of culture, but that soon became obsolete due to the cinema.
By 1930, Costa Rica had made its first movie, The Return.
Music, library, theater, museums, history, parks, bookstores, colleges, schools, and, of course, soccer were the focus of the urban culture’s attention during these years.
The only setback was the stock market crash in 1929, leading to protests and demonstrations, causing more intervention by the state.
Without exception, these times were one of profound cultural discovery for Costa Rica
The Second World War...
...in 1939 interrupted the economic revival that had begun and another hard time was born.
In spite of the international crisis and national hardships good things were happening. The University of Costa Rica was founded, Social Security was enacted, and a Code of Labor was created.
Within the framework of the warlike conflict, however, political parties started drifting away from one another. This division led to political strife and fighting, and eventually led to a Civil War in 1948. In the five weeks of fighting more than 2,000 people were killed, making it the most tragic political event in history.
"La Junta", which governed the country for a brief time after the conflict, decided in 1949 to disband the military in an effort to stop this from happening again.
As a result, in the following years, while many Central American countries saw a rise in tyranny, Costa Rica moved closer to democracy and social justice.
In the Second Half of the Century...
...worldwide economic expansion had repercussions in Costa Rica. The demographics of Costa Rica began to change. By 1950 the population had reached one million and the life expectancy was much higher than before.
The increase and streamlining of production improved the quality of life, and in general the well being of the country was good. Industry had really taken off after Costa Rica joined the Free Central American Market in 1963, giving the economy a boost.
In those years the public investment in education, healthcare, infrastructure, energy, and communication grew. After 1970 the population growth and urban development threatened to outpace the government planning.
The influence of the United States became much more evident, especially in music, fashions, and cinema. Thankfully the progressive intellectuality of the people of Costa Rica and the commitment to social programs allowed Costa Rica to balance this influx from outside its borders.
Additionally, the Technological Institute, the National University, and the Long-Distance University were founded in these years; as well as the strives by intellectuals and students who were fighting against the ALCOA company.
...began with a process of radical change. The rise in petroleum prices, the drop in coffee prices, indecisive economic policy, pressure from the International Monetary Fund, and the influx of thousands of illegal immigrants from neighboring countries (displaced mostly due to civil war) changed the Costa Rican way of life.
Washington, with its interventionist policies, tried to use Costa Rica as a base of operations for influencing other Central American countries. The Declaration of Perpetual Neutrality stopped this influence and was a statement to everyone that Costa Rica wished to remain neutral.
In the following years, Persident Arias focused his efforts on bringing peace to Central America and in the process won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987.
The diversification of exports (seafood, pineapples, and textiles) led to a more stable economy and a relative boom. In 1990 the National Soccer team made it to the World Cup Semifinals, which led to a period of euphoria and patriotism.
The application of neoliberal policy in the government led to a period of social deterioration, as the power of the state was reduced and inequalities of class were increased.
Other social changes were also taking place; a new society was being formed by cable TV, malls, private universities and clinics, universal teaching of English and increased delinquency.
Corruption in the government led to more “white collar” crime, such as money laundering and drug trafficking.
Nevertheless, the creation of the Sala Constitucional in 1989 and the Defensoria de los Habitantes in 1992, helped to maintain faith in the country’s institutions. The presence of women at all levels of business and government also increased.
Towards the Future...
...Costa Rica will have to maintain the best of itself and continue to strive towards being a unique and extraordinary country. Some of the challenges it will face are keeping its democratic roots, defeating poverty, conserving its prodigious nature, and striving always toward humanity.
Their history of a pacifist and hardworking country, without exception, allows them to have hope...
Did you know?
Chirripó National Park and "La Amistad" National Park were declared "Reserve of the Biosphere" and "World Patrimony", together comprise the biggest virgin forest of Costa Rica.
Costa Rica Pictures
Kayaking in Costa Rica