Costa Rica: Fun Facts about a Country that Hasn't Had a Standing Army in Seven Decades

Rosario Traducciones continues the tour of Latin America in another edition of #ElEspañolEnElMundo. This month we land on a small country known for its biodiversity

Do you need to communicate with a Latin American audience? Are you exporting or selling your products and services to Spanish-speaking countries? Rosario Traducciones y Servicios SA takes you on a virtual linguistic tour through the different countries of Latin America, exploring their diversity and cultural richness. This month we travel to Costa Rica, a small country in Central America with one of the highest standards of living in Central America, known for having abolished its army over 70 years ago.

The “good life”

"Pura vida," the country's unofficial motto, almost translates into “life is good.” Costa Ricans use it in many ways in everyday conversation as a greeting: you can reply “how are you doing” with “pura vida.” It's also used to say goodbye, refer to a situation or describe one's mood. But it's not just a catchall phrase, it's also a way of life.  These two words show the way Costa Ricans live: peacefully and simply with a large dose of optimism and joy.

Ethnic and cultural diversity

Costa Rica has almost 5 million inhabitants and a truly multiracial ethnography. The diverse population has its roots in the historical blend of cultures, from indigenous groups, Spaniards and Africans, to later waves of immigrants from Germany, Poland, Italy and France. This cultural diversity is reflected in the ease with which Costa Ricans can learn different languages. Most Costa Ricans speak English and love to show off their language skills, communicating with tourists who do not speak Spanish. Other languages such as Portuguese, Italian, French, German and even Hebrew are also spoken by many of its inhabitants.

Costa Ricans or “Ticos and Ticas”

The citizens of Costa Rica refer to themselves as Ticos and Ticas. These Spanish diminutives are typical of the way Costa Ricans express affectionally, by adding the suffixes “-tico” or "-tica" at the end of a word, such as "mama" (mom) to say “mamacitica” (mommy) instead of "mamacita." This peculiarity is also reflected in their way of life, which is known as "Tico Time." For Costa Ricans, life does not revolve around strict schedules but rather flows at its own pace.

A territory with two seasons

In Costa Rica, there are two, not four, seasons a year. There is a dry season and a rainy season. The dry season—which is equivalent to summer, hot and humid—runs from November to April. The rainy season, which runs from May to October, is the equivalent of winter despite the mild temperatures. If you have to choose a time of the year to travel to Costa Rica, the best time is summer or the dry season. Although there are still plenty of attractions to be enjoyed during the rainy season.

A country without an army

One of Costa Rica's greatest pride is being one of the first countries in the world to abolish its army. The decision was made eight months after the end of the civil war in 1948, over seven decades ago, by the Founding Board of the Second Republic chaired by José Figueres Ferrer. After the abolition of the army, the money that was previously used for the acquisition of weapons was devoted to education, health and other strategic venues to develop the country. The Ticos also boast of having the oldest democracy in Latin America. Their system of political representation celebrated its 200-year anniversary in 2019.

Sunrise and sunset, always at the same time

In Costa Rica, no matter the time of year, dawn is always at 5:30 in the morning and dusk always falls at 5:30 in the evening, with just a slight variation of minutes depending on the season.
This interesting fact is due to its geographical location. Perhaps because of this, Ticos tend to be early risers with most of them getting up by six in the morning. And, they rarely go to bed later than 11 p.m.

Rice, beans and coffee: the basic Costa Rican diet

The staple of Costa Rican food is rice and beans, the two main side dishes that accompany salads and meats at all three main meals. “Casado” (literally, married man) is the most common dish, a variety of meat or fish with vegetables served with rice and beans. "Gallo pinto" is a typical breakfast meal, which combines rice, beans, fried plantain and eggs. 
As a coffee nation, coffee is consumed a lot and Costa Ricans usually have a couple of cups at breakfast and several more throughout the rest of the day, along with a piece of bread or a piece of cake.

Kindness, education and hospitality

Costa Rica is recognized for the great education and kindness of its inhabitants, known as courteous and hospitable people, always willing to help. The country has a mandatory, free education system, with a very high literacy rate, close to 95%. The importance of education in Costa Rica is such that the National Radio broadcasts primary and secondary classes for those children who live in isolated areas.

Leaders in biodiversity

Despite being a small nation, Costa Rica is the country with the greatest biodiversity on the planet per square kilometer. It is estimated that more than 500,000 species of fauna and flora inhabit this Central American country, which represents 5% of the total world species, although only a fifth of them have been identified. Large variety of plant species, mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, freshwater fish and other animals populate the land, many of which are endemic species. In addition, it is one of the countries with the highest ecological awareness in the world: more than 25% of all land is protected, within parks and nature reserves. Since 2015, Costa Rica's energy has derived almost entirely from renewable resources. In 2021, Costa Rica will be the first 95% green country in the world.

An ideal destination for adventurers

For lovers of the great outdoors as well as adrenaline junkies, Costa Rica is the ideal vacation destination. As a country of wild and varied nature, there is a large variety of activities, from the sea to the mountains. Surfing, diving, kayaking and whitewater rafting, visiting hot springs, trekking through lush forests or hiking in a rainforest, seeing volcanoes and discovering the varied fauna are just a handful of the endless opportunities to enjoy an adventure.