Country Guide » History and Politics
Because of its geographic location, Costa Rica, unlike other Central American countries, never had a prominent indigenous population. The scattered groups that existed when the continent was colonized by Spain, were seamlessly included in the new societal structure (with few but notable exceptions like the Bribri indians who remained in the Talamanca Mountain Range). During colonial times, Costa Rica was a part of the Captaincy General of Guatemala but as its southernmost province suffered largely due to economic restraints that prevented it from trading with South American colonies.
Because of its lack of indigenous inhabitants, Costa Rica also lacked labor force which meant settlers had to work their own land. For its lack of economic possibility, the Spanish crown overlooked the colony and pretty much let it develop on its own. Upon their independence from Spain in 1821, Central American colonies and Costa Rica in particular entered a period of political instability, leading to the abolishing of the Federal Republic of Central America in 1838, time by which Costa Rica had already declared itself independent from it. Because of the way they were overlooked during colonization and their distance from the Central American capital in Guatemala, Costa Ricans had no real allegiance to the rest of the region’s states, something they continue to this day.
During the late 19th century and early 20th century, Costa Rica became famous for its coffee, which became their biggest economic enterprise and was aided largely by the construction of a modern railroad system and ingenious trading treaties with European countries. After a short dictatorship in the middle of WWI, the power of the Costa Rican military was diminished all the way until it was abolished in 1948, four years after a civil war threatened to destroy the country’s stability. To this day, Costa Rica is often regarded as the most peaceful country on earth.