Costa Rica

Costa Rica is officially known as the Republic of Costa Rica. It is
19,575 square miles in size and has a population of approximately 3,342,000
people. It is bordered by Panama and Nicaragua. The capital of Costa Rica
is San Jose. Its coastal areas are hot and humid and heavily forested. It has a
large chain of volcanoes rising over 12,000 feet. The official language of
Costa Rica is Spanish. It is a democratic nation and has no military. Costa
Rica has only 3 national newspapers.

History
Christopher Columbus discovered Costa Rica in 1502. In 1563 Spain
began its conquest of the Costa Rican area. In 1821 Costa Rica gained
independence and was successfully part of the Mexican empire. Coffee
growing started in the early 1800's and banana cultivation began in 1874.
Costa Rica's democratic government began in 1889. Its president from 1986
to 1990 worked for peace in Central America. Economically, Costa Rica has
a history of payment problems.

Government
Costa Rica has a democratic government. Its current constitution was
adopted in 1949. In Costa Rica, the president serves as the chief executive
and head of state. The president is elected to a four year term. The
legislative assembly has fifty-seven deputies that are elected for a four year
term. The supreme court has seventeen justices appointed by the legislature.
Costa Rica's army was abolished in 1948. However, they do have a national
guard that can fight in a time of war. Costa Rica's seven provinces each have
a governer appointed by the president. All citizens 18 years of age or older
are required to vote in the national election. The country's two main political
parties are the National Liberation Party and the Social Christian Unity Party.

Population and Ancestry
In 1994, Costa Rica's population was about three and one quarter of a
millon people. It is estimated to be growing at a rate of about two and one
quarter percent. At this rate, Costa Rica's population will double in 30 years.
Costa Ricans take great pride in their country's heritage of government and
social equality. They do not take for granted their personal dignity and strong
family ties. Almost all of Costa Ricans speak Spanish but some blacks speak
with a Jamaican dialect. About 90% of the people belong to the Roman
Catholic Church.

Housing
About 50% of the Costa Ricans live on farms or in rural towns. A lot
of farmers live in Adobe cottages with thick, white stucco walls and red or
pink-tiled roofs. Most of Costa Rica's city people live in row houses. Many
Costa Ricans like to decorate their homes with plants and flowers. Wealthy
familys live in large ranch-style homes surrounded by huge gardens.

Food
Parts of the diet of many Costa Ricans can include beans, coffee, corn,
eggs, rice, and tropical fruits like bananas, guaves, mangoes, oranges, and
pineapples. Many Costa Rican families also serve beef, fish, poultry, and
many kinds of soups. Tamales and tortillas are also foods that are often
prepared.

Education
About 90 to 93% of Costa Rica's people can read or write. This is a
higher percentage than any other country in Central America. Law requires
all children to complete elementary school and then they may choose whether
or not to continue on with their education. Costa Rica has several universities
which include the National University in Heredia and the University of Costa
Rica by San Jose.

Sports and Recreation
Most Costa Ricans enjoy spending their leisure time outdoors. Soccer
is the national sport and playing fields can be found everywhere. Basketball,
tennis, and swimming are also popular. On some religious holidays,
bullfights, fireworks, and masked parades can attract thousands of Costa
Ricans and foreign tourists. The only 18-hole golf course in Costa Rica is at
the Cariari Country Club, just west of San Jose. However, there are many
9-hole courses. The country's national gymnasium is in Sabana Park. Many
tennis courts are also in Sabana Park. Rodeos and bullfights are held at Santa
Cruz. In a bullfight, the bull chases men around. During Christmas
festivities, there are also Mexican style bullfights in which the person tries to
kill the bull.

Economy
The most valuable natural resource in Costa Rica is the fertile volcanic
soil. Trees such as oaks, pines, and tropical hardwood cover about 1/3 of the
land. About 1/4 of Costa Rica's workers are in farming or ranching.
Bananas, beef cattle, coffee, corn, rice, and sugar cane are the country's
leading agricultural products. Some farmers also grow oranges, beans,
potatoes, and other fruits and vegetables. Costa Rica's leading manufactured
products include cement, clothing, cosmetics, furniture, machinery, and
medicines. Costa Rica's economy depends a lot on foreign trade. It's
leading exports include coffee, bananas, beef, and sugar. Its main imports are
petroleum,