|Culture in Costa Rica
Known as the "Switzerland of the Americas,"
Costa Rica has a strong democratic tradition
and a long history of dispute resolution.
Owing in part to their impressive
literacy rate and national education
Costa Ricans are a self-assured
people. The most stable democracy
America, Costa Rica's voting
honest, secure elections. The
people gained their right to
vote in 1994.
Peace-Loving People Help Stabilize
For the past 100 years, the country
only two very short military
a civil war in 1948, in two of
the most innovative
moves in recent history, Costa
Pepe Figueres constitutionally
the army, and limited presidents
one term only. Nine presidential
since 1949 has produced victories
opposition candidate seven times
-- all with
an 80 percent voter participation
a region plagued by civil wars,
abuses, and until recently dictatorships,
Costa Rica stands out as an exception.
1949, when the army was abolished,
has had a fairly stable democracy.
Constitution of 1949 included
labor code, upheld a system of
and contained a set of social
such as a minimum wage), that
gave the average
citizen rights that were ahead
of their time.
In many ways this diminished
between the upper and lower classes
was conducive to cooperation
and the resolution
of conflicts in a democratic
forum. The government,
albeit plagued by problems over
has shown a commitment to broad
This commitment coupled with
a strong support
of public education and public
helped create a mature populace
learned how to solve problems
to armed conflict.
Education is Key to Nation's
In 1869, the country became one
of the first
in the world to make education
and obligatory, funded by the
of the great coffee wealth. By
half of the population was literate,
by 1970, 89 percent were able
to read and
Education up to the sixth grade is obligatory, and the network of public schools is dispersed
into the far corners of the land. The country
is now home to a handful of well regarded
universities, such as the National University
and the University of Costa Rica. Fully 27
percent of the national budget is spent on
education and culture, supporting four public
universities, three symphonic orchestras,
five autonomous state publishing houses and
a growth rate in education of 10 percent
Religious Celebrations Unite
Easter is the premier holiday,
Santa (Holy Week) is a time when
express their faith, bringing
to a standstill. Spanish-style
take place every day of the week
to dramatize all stages of Christ's
the cross, crucifixion, and resurrection.
Small villages have their own
way of celebrating,
and they add to the occasion
of oxcarts, horses and trucks.
prepare "dulce de chiverre"
preserves), "arroz con leche"
rice), "tamal mudo,"
"rosquillas" and "polvorones,"
and special dishes with seafood.
During the Christmas celebration and some days previous to New Years, a similar
phenomenon -- the national "fiesas patronales,"
is celebrated. Families gather to display
nativity scenes at their homes and to celebrate
the "posadas," a custom where children,
playing sheperds, go house to house and sing
Christmas carols, re-enacting the journey
of Mary and Joseph. The "Rosario del
Niņo" is a rosary the families pray
to conclude the Christmas celebration. Musicians
perform traditional carols while the party-goers
feast on traditional meals. One of the most
typical foods is tamales, but families also
serve "hecho de masa de maiz y rellenos
de arroz," and "carne de cerdo
Another religious celebration
is the pilgrimage
to the Basilica de los Angeles
city, in honor of the Virgin
of the Angels.
During this holiday many people
walk to the
city from all parts of the country,
to pay a "promise"
to the Virgin
(when she answered a prayer)
or to renew
their faith. Some believers travel
or even weeks in order to reach
and to honor the Virgin. Even
Costa Ricans decide to party
celebrations, they still prefer
of their family.
Independence Day is the most significant non-religious holiday
inCosta Rica. Every town has
its own formal
official celebration including
young children, music bands and
People carry the national flags
with the national colors red,
blue and white.
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