Costa rican americans

by Cida S. Chase


Slightly smaller than West Virginia, Costa Rica has an area of 19,652 square miles (51,032 square kilometers). Its terrain is rugged and divided from north to south by a central mountain range that separates the eastern and western coastal plains. Costa Rica is located in the southern end of Central America and bordered to the north by Nicaragua and to the south by Panama. Its climate is tropical and subtropical, varying according to altitude and distance from the coasts.

Costa Rica has a population of 3,000,000 with an annual growth rate of 2.5 percent. Almost 30 percent (890,434) of its population lives in the capital city of San José. Ninety-six percent of the total population is from European stock, including some mestizos, while three percent is of black descent and one percent is indigenous; a small percentage of its inhabitants are Asian. Ninety-five percent of the Costa Rican population is Roman Catholic, although the Mormon, Christian, Baptist, and other Protestant churches are gaining significant numbers of members. In addition, Costa Rica is home to a small number of Jews. The country's official language is Spanish, although a Jamaican dialect of English is spoken in some areas of the Atlantic coast, especially Puerto Limón. The Costa Rican flag comprises two blue horizontal stripes (top and bottom), two white inner stripes, and a wide red central band with the national coat of arms in the center. The latter portrays the geography of the country; the central massif is signified by three mountain peaks in the center of two oceans, each featuring a Spanish ship. A rising sun to the left and a blue sky crowned by seven stars represent the seven provinces of the country: Alajuela, Cartágo, Guanacaste, Heredia, Limón, Puntarenas, and San José.


Europeans first set foot in Costa Rica in 1502, when Christopher Columbus arrived during his fourth and last voyage to the New World. Formal settlement of the territory began in 1522, and for 300 years the Spanish administered its colony under a military governor as part of the Captaincy General of Guatemala.

Costa Rica acquired its name when the Spanish, expecting to find an abundance of gold, named it "Rich Coast." However, as there was little gold and few other valuable minerals in the area, the new settlers turned to agriculture for survival. Moreover, as the indigenous population was rather small, the Spanish were unable to establish an extensive forced labor system. Consequently, Costa Rica developed differently from other Latin American nations. The small landowners' modest standard of living, the people's ethnic and linguistic homogeneity, and the isolation from the large colonial centers of Mexico and South America produced a rather independent, individualist agrarian society.

Costa Rica obtained its independence from Spain on September 15, 1821, without bloodshed, after other Central American colonies had fought the Spanish to gain it. In fact, Costa Ricans learned about their independence months after it had been declared. Costa Rica joined the other Central American provinces in an 1821 joint declaration of independence from Spain. These newly created nations formed a confederation, which border disputes soon dissolved. Costa Rica acquired Guanacaste, its northernmost province, from Nicaragua after one of these border disputes. Since 1838, when it declared itself a sovereign nation, Costa Rica has enjoyed an independent existence, which it has zealously maintained. In 1856 the country was invaded by 240 filibusters commanded by William Walker, who had decided to conquer Central America on his own accord, and the Costa Ricans promptly took up arms to defend their territory. The Costa Rican national hero, Juan Santamaría, emerged when he burned down the filibusters' headquarters in Santa Rosa.


Costa Rica's egalitarian traditions have subsisted throughout its history. Even though the introduction of banana and coffee plantations in the nineteenth century gave rise to a small oligarchy, the nation has been able to maintain a strong middle class that sustains the nation's democratic ideals. The modern era of democracy in Costa Rica began after the elections of 1889, which are considered the first free elections in the country's history. This democratic tradition has experienced problems only twice: once in 1917 and 1918 when Federico Tinoco declared his government a dictatorship; and again in 1948 when a disputed election brought forth a civil war in which more than 2,000 people lost their lives. After the civil war, a junta drafted a new constitution, which guaranteed free elections with universal suffrage and the abolition of the army. José Figueres, who emerged as a hero during the Civil War, became the first president under the new constitution.

The most prominent Costa Rican of the modern era is probably Oscar Arias Sánchez, who was president of Costa Rica from 1986 to 1990, a significantly troublesome time in Central America, with disturbances in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Panama. Although Costa Rica enjoyed peace within its borders, it was not insulated from regional conflicts. The instability in the neighboring countries at this time discouraged investment and tourism. Moreover, the country experienced a flood of Nicaraguan and Salvadoran refugees, which drained the economy and burdened educational and health institutions.

In 1987 President Sánchez designed a regional peace plan—the Esquipulas Process, which became the basis for the peace agreement signed by the presidents of most of the other Central American nations. This peace plan brought about free and open elections in Nicaragua and the subsequent end of the civil war in that country. Arias' peace accomplishments in the region earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987. The Nobel prize money was used to establish the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress, which maintains three centers of funding: the Center for Human Progress, funding programs for the advancement of women; the Center for Peace and Reconciliation, working for Central American conflict resolution and prevention programs; and the Center for Philanthropy, promoting the participation of non-profit organizations in the building of just and peaceful societies.


Costa Ricans who have emigrated and settled in the United States do not exhibit the same characteristics as many other Hispanic groups. They have not had to flee their country as refugees from political oppression or from extreme economic circumstances. Consequently, there have never been waves of Costa Rican emigrants. U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service records show that very few Costa Ricans have tried to enter the country illegally.

Costa Ricans who have decided to immigrate to the United States include the following general categories: they have married Americans and raised their families in the United States; they have been hired to work in the United States after completing a degree in an American university; they have come seeking research opportunities which are not so readily available in their country; or they have come to various jobs and trades in the United States.

Only 57,661 Costa Ricans have immigrated to the United States since 1931. Hence, the number of Costa Rican emigrants has been increasing at an extremely slow rate, which is significantly different from the pattern of emigration from most other Central American countries. The other two countries in this region that show a continuously slow rate of emigration are Belize and Panama.


As Costa Ricans immigrate to the United States, they tend to establish their residences in the states of California, Florida, Texas, and the New York City/New Jersey area. The geographical preferences of Costa Ricans, evident in the statistics from the Immigration and Naturalization Service, are consistent with the findings of the 1990 census. The latter reports the largest concentration of Costa Rican Americans in Los Angeles and its surrounding areas (23,625). The next largest group is located in the New York City area, including parts of Connecticut, New Jersey, and Long Island (12,985). The third largest group is in Miami and surrounding areas, in the Hialeah district, and in Fort Lauderdale (9,987). The concentration of Costa Rican Americans in the Houston and Galveston area of Texas (2,534) is also evident in the 1990 census. There is also a significant Costa Rican American population in the Chicago, Illinois, and Gary, Indiana, areas (1,845).

Acculturation and Assimilation

Since there are relatively fewer Costa Rican Americans than other Hispanic groups in the United States, they normally do not form communities or barrios, as is usually the case with Mexican Americans, Puerto Rican Americans, and other Central American Hispanic groups, such as Salvadoran Americans and Guatemalan Americans. Costa Ricans tend to disappear in the English-speaking multitudes or form working and friendly relationships with other Hispanics, celebrating with them when the occasion arises.

Although Costa Rican Americans tend to maintain their heritage, they also tend to integrate and adjust to their environment quickly, especially if they want to join a church or if they have children in the public school system. If both parents speak Spanish, chances are that the children will be raised bilingually. However, if only one parent speaks Spanish, the children will usually grow up speaking only English.

Since Costa Ricans did not suffer ethnic persecution during the colonial period, nor did they have a violent war of independence, they are not as self-conscious about their ethnicity as other Hispanic groups. Therefore, they usually acculturate and assimilate rather rapidly.


Costa Rica has a number of traditions that have survived. Every year in the month of December, the Costa Rican people enjoy their fiestas cívicas, which are similar to the state fairs in the United States. In addition to the varied types of food available and the usual midway entertainment, there are simulated bullfights, in which youths try their luck "fighting" balloon decorated toros guacos (mean bulls), by pulling their tails and touching their rumps.

Many of the Costa Rican traditions are religious. The small towns hold Semana Santa (Holy Week) processions, during which people contemplate Jesus in his suffering. The most impressive procession takes place on Good Friday, for it is the day on which people are able to see Jesus in his Santo Sepulcro (Holy Sepulcher). Every year on August 2, Costa Rican people celebrate the romería de la Virgen de los Angeles (the pilgrimage of the Holy Mother of the Angels) by making a 20-kilometer trip on foot from San José to Cartágo, where the sanctuary of the patron saint of the country is located.

Although these traditions have not been transported to the United States, Costa Rican Americans try to maintain several other traditions. Such is the case of the tradition of the Rosario del Niño, wherein families prepare a special nativity scene for Christmas that does not display the Christ Child figure in the manger until December 25. The nativity scene remains in its place until January 6, the Epiphany (the twelfth night after Christmas). After that date, families celebrate the rosary with a group of friends who bring over their small children. After the recitation of the rosary, the families have a party that includes ice cream and cake and, if possible, Costa Rican foods.

Costa Ricans believe in calling upon Jesus and the saints for assistance when they are in need or in danger. Each saint is thought to have a special mission or to be able to satisfy a particular need. Costa Ricans pray to Saint Anthony, for example, if something has been lost or misplaced.

Not all the Costa Rican popular beliefs are religious in nature, however. Costa Rican people are believers in herbal medicine. Many of them know that gargling with a solution of boiled rue (a strong-scented plant of the genus Ruta ) leaves will cure a sore throat. Liquefied and strained raw eggplant is thought to lower the cholesterol level and purify the blood. A popular cure for stomach discomfort is to drink liquid in which rhubarb or camomile has been boiled. Costa Ricans also prepare a variety of herbal teas to soothe the nerves. Teas prepared with linden, orange, and lemon blossoms are supposed to relax a person and allow him or her to fall asleep at night.

Conservative Costa Ricans bring many of these customs and beliefs with them to the United States and continue to practice them as long as they can. However, as they assimilate into American society, many of their original popular cultural beliefs become less important. Consequently, second- and third-generation Costa Rican Americans may have minimal knowledge about them.


If the opportunity arises, Costa Ricans share with others their native costume, which for women consists of a white peasant blouse decorated with embroidery or ribbon work and a colorful ankle-length full skirt. Men wear white peasant shirts and long white pants. In addition, they frequently wear a colorful handkerchief around the neck and a straw hat. Both men and women wear sandals and women braid colorful ribbons into their hair. Costa Rican Americans also celebrate all the American holidays, adopting typical American customs and holiday food.


Numerous Costa Rican proverbs come from the Spanish culture and hence they exist in many other Hispanic countries. However, there are some colorful sayings that seem to be typically Costa Rican or appear to be favorite phrases of the people's language: "At night all cats are grey" (People can get away with things that they would not normally do in the daytime); "Between husband and wife not even a pin's head should intervene;" "When times become difficult put on a happy face;" "An egg-eating dog will not break his habit even if one burns his mouth;" "Tuesday is not a good day to make serious decisions or to adventure away from home;" "Skinny dogs get fleas;" "A full tummy gives you a happy heart;" and "A guilty party is afraid of being caught."

Costa Rican expressions are often used to imply definite ideas about something or someone. For example: "To become smoke" means to disappear as when someone goes out of sight; "To be as if travelling between Bagaces and Liberia" (two cities from the northern Costa Rican province of Guanacaste) means to be idle—another expression for this same idea is "To be combing the snake's hair;" "To find someone with his hands in the dough" means to find someone in the act of doing something wrong; "To be walking with lead feet" is to be acting very cautiously about something. In addition, people refer to a lady who has never married as someone who has "missed the train" by saying la dejó el tren or, "The train left her." Many other picturesque proverbs and sayings enrich Costa Rican Americans' Spanish.


Costa Rican cuisine is mild, free of hot and spicy sauces, and usually seasoned with herbs. Black pepper is used sparingly, but fresh cilantro, thyme, oregano, onion, garlic, pimento, and tomato are fundamental ingredients in the preparation of meats, soups, and vegetable hashes. A variety of beef cuts, including tongue and kidneys, are baked or simmered for long periods of time in herbal sauces until they are tender and flavorful. Chicken and pork are prepared in similar ways.

Complete daily meals may include a meat dish, a vegetable hash, white rice, black or red beans, a lettuce and tomato salad, corn tortillas or crusty white bread, and a fresh fruit drink. If the meal includes dessert, it is probably fruit; cakes, pastries, caramel flan, and ice cream are reserved for special occasions, holidays, or the afternoon tea. The traditional salad dressing is made of oil and vinegar, but mayonnaise is a favorite dressing for heart of palm and fresh pea salad. Vegetable hashes, which include a small amount of beef, are made of cubed potatoes, chayote squash with fresh corn, and green plantains. Beef or vegetable soups are also popular in Costa Rica. Black bean soup served with fresh herbs, and a boiled egg with white rice is a favorite side dish.

Holiday meals include meat tamales—meat-flavored cornmeal and mashed potatoes stuffed with meat, saffron rice, olives, a few garbanzo beans, green peas, pimentos, a wedge of boiled egg, and prunes or raisins. These tamales usually come in four-by-six-inch rectangles wrapped in banana leaves; each one is a meal in itself. Holiday meals also include a main dish of chicken and rice prepared with added vegetables and raisins. Ensalada rusa, Russian salad, is also a must at a holiday meal. It consists of diced potatoes, fresh beets, and green peas all cooked separately and brought together with a mayonnaise sauce, which sometimes includes diced canned heart of palm. This salad, which is very similar to what the Russians call "vinaigrette," must have come to Costa Rica via some of the early European settlers. During Holy Week, Costa Rican cuisine includes a variety of vegetarian dishes, including small sweet tamales and a dessert called dulce de chiverre prepared with a variety of spaghetti squash.


Like many Costa Rican folk dances, the Costa Rican national dance, the punto guanacasteco, comes from the province of Guanacaste. Couples wear traditional costumes and follow a melody played with a marimba (a type of wooden xylophone) and several guitars. This dance, like other popular dances, portrays the courting traditions of the past. The male dancer always follows his female partner and the latter, while smiling, pretends to get away from him. The male dancer periodically stops the music by shouting " ¡Bomba !" so that he may recite humorous praises, called bombas, to his lady. A traditional bomba goes as follows: " Dicen que no me quieres / porque no tengo bigote / mañana me lo pondré / con plumas de zopilote. " (They say that you don't love me / because I don't have a mustache / tomorrow I shall put one on / made out of buzzard feathers.)

Costa Rican folk songs are nostalgic, featuring ballad-like melodies. The lyrics praise the beauty of the country's women and the landscape as they tell of the sorrows of love. Costa Rican Americans enjoy sharing their songs and dances during community or school Hispanic festivities.


Costa Rica's government-sponsored health-care system deserves much of the credit for the good health of Costa Ricans. Medical attention in that country is not only superior to that of most of Latin America, but surpasses the health services available in many communities in the United States. According to Tom Barry in his book Costa Rica: A Country Guide, infant deaths are fewer than 18 per 1,000 compared with 79 per 1,000 in Guatemala. Moreover, life expectancy is 74 years for males and 76 for females—the highest in Central America.

During the 1980s, Costa Ricans were able to arrest the spread of illnesses brought into the country by the flood of Salvadoran and Nicaraguan refugees thanks to their health facilities and their effective methods of disseminating information regarding health issues. Malaria and tuberculosis, which had been eradicated from the country years before, began to appear with the arrival of refugees, but the immediate medical attention given to this issue brought an end to the problem.

Since Costa Rican emigrants customarily follow the rules established by the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service, they have formal documentation on their good state of health upon entering the country. In addition, they acquire medical insurance, looking after their health and the health of their children. There is no evidence of physical or mental health problems unique to Costa Rican Americans.


Costa Ricans are sometimes called ticos because of their insistence on using the diminutive forms of Spanish words, which often end in "ico," such as chiquitico, coming from chico meaning "small." When used with the "ico" suffix, the meaning becomes "tiny, very tiny." The Costa Rican word chirrisco or chirrisca means "very small," but many people, dissatisfied with conveying the idea of just "very small" add the suffix "ico" or "ica," making the word chirrisquitico or chirrisquitica —meaning "extremely small." Moreover, Costa Rican oral Spanish exhibits the regional characteristic called el voseo, also found in the southern parts of South America. El voseo is the use of " vos " instead of " " as the second person singular familiar of the language. Speakers make the verbs agree with the form " vos " as in " Vos vivís en los Estados Unidos " (You live in the United States), instead of saying " Tú vives en los Estados Unidos, " as one says in most of the Hispanic world. Although this form is more prominent in the spoken language, increasingly more Costa Rican writers are using it. Costa Rican Americans are likely to lose the use of el voseo as they relate to Hispanics of other origins, who do not use it in their speech. Also, Spanish courses in the United States usually do not study this regional form.

Costa Rican Spanish is also marked by a softly pronounced double "r," which means that the prominently trilled initial "r" or "rr" of the Spanish language is missing in the language of most Costa Ricans. However, Costa Ricans generally are careful speakers of Spanish. They pronounce distinctly all the letters in the words, and sound out the final "s," which is not always the case in the speech of other regions of Latin America and Southern Spain.

As has happened in many lands of Latin America, indigenous languages have enriched Costa Rican Spanish with a number of vocabulary items. There are words ending in "ate," "te," and "tle," such as zacate (grass), mecate (rope), chayote (a type of squash), quelite (tender ends of the chayote vine), and tepeizcuinte or tepeizcuitle (paca or spotted cavy, a rodent larger than a rabbit), which are part of the everyday speech of the people. Although this type of vocabulary is not as abundant in Costa Rica as it is in other Central American countries and Mexico, its presence in Costa Rica stands as a trace of the country's ancient indigenous past.

Family and Community Dynamics

Costa Ricans have generally conservative family values and relationships. A family, to many of them, must have a father, a mother, and children. Like many other Hispanic groups, the Costa Rican families tend to be patriarchal in nature, and extended family members have authority roles. The father is the undisputed head of the household, and the elderly members of the extended family are both respected and obeyed.

A traditional Costa Rican home usually has the presence of an elderly grandmother, grandfather, aunt, or uncle, who assists in the rearing of the children when their health allows them to do so. However, as modern life has become more complicated for women, and it is sometimes not possible to keep an elderly relative in the home, residential homes and condominiums for the elderly and the retired are becoming fashionable in Costa Rica. Costa Ricans are a gregarious people. They get together with their relatives and friends as often as possible.

The weekend and holiday afternoon tea is an institution in Costa Rica. Extended family members and friends invite each other for five o'clock tea in order to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and other special occasions. This afternoon tea, which constitutes almost a complete meal, including a main dish and a dessert, is also a favorite activity for wedding showers and class reunions. The afternoon tea has become a substitute for supper in modern Costa Rica and occasionally; instead of taking place in the home, as it was in the past, people may gather in a restaurant.

As young Costa Ricans immigrate to the United States, however, they tend to lose their cultural heritage. Once they have a family of their own, however, they often reclaim their ancestral customs. They form close-knit family ties and may experience disappointment when their children grow up and seek early independence, following the example of their peers of other ethnic backgrounds. In addition, Costa Ricans, as many other Hispanics, frequently receive in their homes visiting relatives from Costa Rica, who come for the holidays to see their American children and grandchildren. They also provide a temporary home for relatives' children, whose parents send them to spend the summer in the United States.


Babies are baptized in the church shortly after they are born, receiving a first and a middle name, one of which is normally a saint's name. The baby's parents select the godparents from among their relatives or their closest friends. The godparents will take responsibility for raising the child within the guidelines of the church if for some reason the baby's parents lose their lives. Godparents are also obliged to look after the child if he or she should be in need.


Holding a wake for someone who has died is an important Costa Rican custom. People believe that the deceased must not be left alone while lying in state, and relatives and friends pray devoutly for his or her soul during the wake and thereafter. The deceased's family offers refreshments to the visitors who call throughout the night of the wake. After a relative's funeral, families and their friends pray the rosary for nine evenings, offering refreshments after each night's prayers. Masses are said for the deceased's soul at the ninth day and also after the first month has passed. Relatives and friends also attend subsequent anniversary masses for the deceased.

Costa Ricans gather with friends for civic celebrations. It is customary to celebrate Independence Day in Costa Rica (September 15) with parades and school assemblies. Costa Rican Americans welcome the opportunity of celebrating with friends whether they are countrymen or people from other ethnic backgrounds. They also join other Hispanics in their celebrations, such as Cinco de Mayo (May 5) and September 16, which are Mexican American holidays.


Roman Catholicism is the official, traditional, and dominant religion in Costa Rica. After the government, the Catholic church is the most powerful institution in the country. Monsignor Sanabria, the Archbishop of San José in the 1940s, organized and strengthened the modern church, guiding it toward social activism. His work promoted the foundation of church-oriented social organizations such as the Catholic Action, Young Catholic Workers, and a labor union called the Rerum Novarum. This religious social orientation was weakened somewhat during the 1950s when the Partido Liberación Nacional, characterized by its conservatism, dominated the political arena and frowned on liberal social organizations.

Although they have great respect for the church, most Costa Ricans, especially those belonging to the middle class, maintain an independent, personal view of church policies in regard to sensitive issues such as birth control and abortion. Barry describes Costa Ricans' personal attitude: "Catholics in Costa Rica are eclectic believers, whose most fervent expressions of faith are evoked during Holy Week and at the baptism, marriage, or death of family members. Over 80 percent of Costa Rican Catholics do not attend mass regularly." Although people have deep religious beliefs, they follow the dictates of their own conscience in church matters.

Members of other denominations, such as the Mormon, Baptist and other evangelical churches, are also numerous in Costa Rica. Churches whose membership has been rising are the Assemblies of God, Seventh-Day Adventists, Pentecostal Holiness Church, Church of the Nazarene, Association of Bible Churches of Costa Rica, and the Association of Christian Churches.

Costa Rican immigrants to the United States maintain the religious practices of their childhood. They look for a church in which they feel welcome. If the church offers services in Spanish, they are happy to worship with members of the Hispanic community.

Individual and Group Contributions


Rima de Vallbona, born March 15, 1931 in San José, Costa Rica, has taught Latin American Literature and Civilization at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas, since 1964; her novels and short stories depict feminine characters trying to understand the world: Mujeres y agonías ( Women and Grief, 1982), Mundo, demonio y mujer ( World, Demon and Woman, 1991) Los infiernos de la mujer y algo más ( Women's Inferno and Something Else, 1992) are three of her most acclaimed works. Victoria Urbano, born June 4, 1926, taught Spanish literature at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, from 1966 until her death on October 8, 1984; in addition to founding the Asociación de literatura femenina hispánica (Association of Hispanic Feminine Literature) in the United States, Urbano published numerous short stories and poems; her Los nueve círculos ( The Nine Circles 1970) and Exodos incontables ( Innumerable Exodus 1982), published in Spain and Uruguay, are frequently studied in Spanish American centers.


Franklin Chang-Díaz, born in San José, Costa Rica, April 5, 1950, is a physical scientist; after graduating from the University of Connecticut in 1973 with a degree in mechanical engineering, he obtained a doctorate in applied plasma physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1977; at the University of Connecticut he helped design and construct high-energy atomic collision experiments; as a graduate student he worked in the United States' controlled fusion program, doing intensive research in the design and operation of fusion reactors; after obtaining his doctorate, he joined the technical staff of the Draper Laboratory, working on the design and integration of control systems for fusion reactor concepts and experimental devices; in 1979, he developed a concept to guide and target fuel pellets in an inertial fusion reactor chamber; since then he has been working on the implementation of a new concept in rocket propulsion based on magnetically confined high-temperature plasmas. Chang-Díaz became an astronaut in August 1981 and continues to do research work for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Sources for Additional Study

Barry, Tom. Costa Rica: A Country Guide. Albuquerque: Inter-Hemisphere Education Resource Center, 1991.

Biesanz, Richard, Karen Zubris Biesanz, and Mavis Hiltunen Biesanz. The Costa Ricans. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1982.

Costa Rica in Pictures. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Company, 1987.

Costa Rica and Uruguay, edited by Simon Rottenberg. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

User Contributions:

Report this comment as inappropriate
Oct 18, 2006 @ 7:07 am
It's pretty complete I'd say, I am Costa Rican, and I can say to whoever reads this article that, it is right.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Dec 6, 2006 @ 7:19 pm
Thank you for this article. I was born in Beautiful Costa Rica, and have lived in the US just about all of my life. Your article reminded me of my childhood and adolescence and the wonderful food my mom made, some of which I make now for my family; however, I have not mastered tamales. El voseo is typical Costa Rica and I remember my mom and grandfather using it the most. Sadly, I am guilty of not keeping with many of the traditions mainly because as one of the first--if not THE first--"hispanic" families in the New Jersey town where I grew up, we tried to "fit in" and not be singled out. I used to wait till Christmas Eve to put the Christ child in the nativity, but the past few years I have found myself placing Him there as it is being set up. Thank you again for a lovely article.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Jul 30, 2007 @ 6:18 pm
I truley enjoyed reading this artcial on Costa Rico. Why? I am seriously thinking of finding my future wife from Costa Rico and I wanted to read, and learn as much as I can about the people and the country. I am a US citizen. Again, thanks for a great artical.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Sep 12, 2007 @ 12:12 pm
Thanks for your article. I am proud to be Costa Rican.
Mary P.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Sep 17, 2007 @ 12:00 am
I wanted to comment or should I say vent to you about Costa Ricans that I know that are new immigrants here in the United States. I had two separate experiences with Costa Rican men that told me they hated the United States of America and they were here only to make money and send it back to their country. Most of the people here from that particuliar group live in a small town where they only socialize with each other. I know them because I have gone out of my way to help them out. They are not makeing much effort to step out of there small box and really dont even mix it up with other hispanic groups. Nor do they make much effort to learn English and mingle with Americans. I came from an Italian/American family and my father taught me to be diverse on a social level. I am saddened to see the foundation of diversity and an interacial mix is declineing in the United States and I am a strong supporter of Immigration Reform. I am confused at times because I wonder if these people deserve my support. I cant understand how people can say they hate a country that gave them what they needed to rise out of poverty. This should be a country that they love.

Im very concerned and wish for a country that remains with a strong foundation of a diverse inter-racial mix and wish that all hispanic groups live in equality in this country with a path for a future. I also fear that too much resentment is building and I feel the tension within the groups.


Israel Moreno
Report this comment as inappropriate
Nov 1, 2007 @ 9:09 am
That was a great article I loved it I'm so proud to be costarrican I love my country my culture I 've been living in the US in Georgia for 7 years, we don't have so many ticos in this state i really miss my people ,I'm married with an american woman she loves Costa Rica it's culture food. and I'm trying to teach my son my culture (He is 3 years old) he is learning spanish I'm teaching him soccer , he already says pura vida ,I love the US and Costarricans love the american culture that's why it was not hard for me to blend in costa rica we listen to american music all day we love the food the clothes ect Costa rica is very american in many ways I hope this great relationship goes on for many years to come thank you PURA VIDA (PURA LIFE)
Report this comment as inappropriate
Nov 18, 2007 @ 2:14 pm
i have to agree with everything that is said in this article.. i'vee been living in NY for most of my life i came when i was really young but i still try to keep my identity as a tica porque amo a nuestra cultura! unlike most kids who come to the US and loose their culture my mom always reminded me that i'm costa rican to be proud of and nerver forget where i came from
Report this comment as inappropriate
Jan 21, 2008 @ 9:21 pm
This is an amazing article...
I'm from Costa Rica and this is definitely what we are...
Pura vida!
Report this comment as inappropriate
May 1, 2008 @ 1:01 am
Hi! Mary, My name's Michael and I just got back from Costa Rica two days ago. I first went there in 'o2. Monday I returned from my 7th trip. I'm in my early forties and I've been in this country since birth. Have you heard that "fish didn't discover water"? I don't know how old you are but, this isn't the America of my childhood. This 'america hating' Tico (costa rican), to whom you refer just arrived. During this admistration. Look through the new eyes of an immigrant from a peaceful country and see us for what we've allowed ourselves to become. Only through seeing what is going on right now, HERE can we be a part of the solution to our current slide.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Sep 18, 2008 @ 11:11 am
Hi! I was born and raised in New York til i was a teeneager then moved to C. R. for 6 yrs. I did my high school there and worked for a few years and moved back to NY in 1999. I have to say the most beautiful years of my life were my teenage yrs living in C.R., high school was so cool, hard but fun. Everyone is so nice, freindly, you make sooo many friends, it's ridiculous! LOL...this article is great, reminded me of all the cool stuff i experienced livign in Tico-Landia!!! LOL... Thanks, Pura Vida Mae!!! LOL
Report this comment as inappropriate
Oct 26, 2008 @ 3:15 pm
My biological father is Costa Rican, he lives in San Ramon, Alajuela, CR. He used to work on Carnival Cruises, and when my mom went on her senior trip, she had a fling with him, after she came back she found out that she was pregnant, but never told him. I started my search for him six years ago with a nickname and a picture of him, I knew nothing else about him. Now, six years later, I am so close to finding him. Others may not feel that I have the right to feel this way, but I am proud to be half Costa Rican, my whole life I did not know what I was, who I was, who my dad was, people always told me I look so exotic and would ask what my ethnicity was, and I never knew. I enjoyed this article as it has been very thorough in explaining all aspects of Costa Rican history and culture, and I can start to understand more. I can't wait to meet my dad and learn even more.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Mar 9, 2009 @ 7:19 pm
This is a very informative article! Are bibliographic information and references available? Even a date of publication would be helpful.

Report this comment as inappropriate
Oct 6, 2009 @ 7:19 pm
These has been a very educational article. I liked it a lot and it has helped me a lot to learn more about the country. Thank you.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Oct 13, 2009 @ 8:08 am
I loved this article, I'm doing a report on Immigration to the united states, since I'm half Costa Rican.
It makes me even more proud of my heritage, I'm related to Mauro Fernandez Acuna, and other important people in the Costa Rican history. I'm glad that we, as people, are able to live so freely and haven't had to deal with prosecution at all.
Go Costa Rica!
Report this comment as inappropriate
Feb 9, 2010 @ 9:21 pm
Hi i was born in Costa Rica , but raised all my life in Chicago. Now im in Costa Rica wife new wife and kid. I'm going through and getting visas for the kid and wife, does anybody know if its an easy process. I have dual citizenship as well. thanks
Report this comment as inappropriate
Jun 1, 2010 @ 9:21 pm
I loved this article. I'm a Costa Rica born but I lived in the states most my life and i loved it, I now live in costa rica, i think what Michael said is true The States have changed a lot all this imigration racism and how the news post everything make us not feel so good because we are included in the Hispanic imigration reforms going on. Its not easy for Costaricans to get Naturalized in the States but once we do and even when someone doesnt i think they become as much american as an american born i think Costaricans definitly know how to cope :)
Report this comment as inappropriate
Jun 8, 2010 @ 5:17 pm
this is a master piece of an article.. This reminded me when i was in high school, and learn all of this, in the geography classes.. i'm a costarican born and an american citizen as well. thank-you for this beautifull article.Keep up the good work..I was born in Alajuela..
Oscar Andres Matamoros J.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Oct 5, 2010 @ 11:23 pm
In the last few years I have read tons of articles with regards to Costa Rica . Thus far, this has been one of the better ones. It is very honest and true with regards to the culture. I was born here in NJ from costa rican parents. Like many costa rican americans I spent half my life in the US and the other in Costa Rica. Went to school there and here.

As a biproduct of the mix of two cultures, at times I never trully felt 100% one or the other. But over the years I discovered I wasn't the only one, and that many other costa rican american's shared this with me. Assimilation has been the key to costa rican survival here in the US. In many suburban NJ towns costa ricans where the first latinos to arrive in these afluent areas. The necesity to survive made them learn english and incorporate themselves into society.

Unfortunately over the years with the influx of immigration too many costa rican single men, about my age(20's), simply come here to work and make money. They like many other latinos unintentionally express a continous hate for "americans" yet they love everything about the US with regards to clothes and other commodities. The truth remains, that in my eyes ;NO country is as beautiful as Costa Rica and the years I spend as a child there are the roots of the love for my culture. So I understand why everyone who comes here allways claims they will stay only temporarily but in the end they wind up staying for 2o yrs.The US is the land of oppurtunity and we all must be gratefull. If you have kids born in this country and your costa rican, dont ever let them forget their roots. Send them to family to visit, encourage them to learn the language( I dont mean spanish...i mean costa rican..), the traditions, the values , and everything that makes a Tico, a Tico.

...somos PURAVIDA por que somos TICOs donde sea que estemos!
Report this comment as inappropriate
Mar 9, 2011 @ 10:22 pm
I enjoyed all the comments displayed on the site about Costa Rica. I was born in Costa Rica and I am an American citizen now. Yes, I never forget my roots and the love from the people there. Their lives are much simpler but they are a happy people. By the way I am in the process of doing my genealogy and I am looking for Fernando (Tito) Gonzalez, his father's name is Fernando Gonzalez Paniagua. They both live in Costa Rica. I understand he has information about the family that I would like to have. If anybody knows him, please post the info. Thanks
cristina f. auirre
Report this comment as inappropriate
May 4, 2011 @ 2:14 pm
very good information, complete and accurate , would only add that maybe give some details of any necessary health vaccine etc, if necessary when travelling to costa rica.
Report this comment as inappropriate
May 10, 2011 @ 5:17 pm
I am a proud Costa Rican, I came to the US when I was 12 years old and for me Costa Rica is the land of peace.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Jun 24, 2011 @ 3:15 pm
My wife and I have been splitting time between Cherokee county Ga and San Isidro CR for the past couple of years. This article is right on for the most part. From my observations, the majority of the ticos and ticas think of themselves as of european, not necessarily specifically hispanic decent, with light skin and even blue eyes.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Sep 9, 2011 @ 6:18 pm
I'd like to reply to Mary's comments about the Costa Ricans she has encountered. These 2 men are most likely expressing their feelings that they do not like the lifestyle in the United States, which is nothing at all like expressing hatred. It is quite possible these men come from very impoverished backgrounds, but with Costa Rica's excellent education and health systems (which surpass those of the US), life in their native country is not a harsh reality. Italian immigrants, were escaping horrific conditions and found the US to be a land of opportunity, it was a different era and different circumstances.

These two men, like many I have known, who come to work for a short period of time to work, do not come to the US to start new lives. This subgroup of individuals do not necessarily want to form bonds with people they will shortly be leaving.

I am Tico but came to San Francisco as a young child with my family over 50 years ago. My parents were college educated and wanted to experience a more cosmopolitan way of life. I am grateful for what this country as given me, and love the United States, as well as my beloved Costa Rica.

Your concern for people not getting along is real. Never before have I seen this country as divided and as cynical as it is today, but I can assure you that it is not caused by people like these 2 Ticos you know, who do not hate the United States but instead find it a difficult and unwelcoming place to be at this time. The blame is not on them but on the reactionary groups who vilify Hispanics and blame undocumented workers (let's highlight the word WORKERS) for the ills of this country rather than where it belongs.

So instead of fretting over the lack of community among a small number of individuals, I suggest we look at the violent and divisive intentions of these other Americans before we cast blame where it does not belong.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Oct 7, 2011 @ 10:22 pm
I have several questions: I was born in Costa Rica and moved with my family to the US when I was a child. I became a US citizen in my 20's. As I understand, I have dual citizenship. I am married with two children...My wife and I would like to move to Costa Rica. Since I am a citizen, will my wife be able to be a legal resident? Will she have to leave the country every 90 days? Can we both obtain health insurance in Costa Rica? I find lots of information, but nothing about rights/obligations of an American being married to a Tico. Thanks in advance for your help!
Report this comment as inappropriate
Nov 27, 2011 @ 1:13 pm
Great article! For some reason Costa Rica is the only Spanish country I'm fascinated by. From what I've been reading about this country life seems perfect there. Hope to visit soon.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Jan 16, 2012 @ 1:13 pm
My wife is from CR and has been in Houston Texas for 7 years. She is having a hard time meeting friends.

Are there any CR groups that meet in Houston?
Report this comment as inappropriate
Jan 24, 2012 @ 8:20 pm
I am half Costa Rican and found this article to be very informative! I was born and raised in the USA, as an American, and am proud of it but sometimes sad that I don't know my heritage like I could. I learned Spanish in school and it has allowed me to talk to my relatives there, but there is still a cultural divide- many of these traditions sound beautiful but are not things I grew up with (well, we did always wait to put Jesus in the manger, but that was usually attributed to my half Italian mother). Thank you for this wonderful resource. :-) Pura vida!
Report this comment as inappropriate
May 30, 2012 @ 8:20 pm
I'v been told by the few family memebers I have that my mother lives in Costa Rico. I have not had a relationship with since my Dad died in 1979. I did may the last attempt with her, and was rejected.She's 77, Betty Anderson. Or Betty Dillard or possibly Betty Botka.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Jul 25, 2012 @ 11:11 am
I Find this very usefull we should all feel proud of our heritage,i was born in alajuela costa rica and was brought here when i was 1 year old grew up in the Staten Island New york City aerea,wonderfull years,my father would share stories of costa rica the hunting the fishing.And specially the cuisine .
Report this comment as inappropriate
Nov 24, 2014 @ 4:16 pm
Pura Vida! I am an American married to a Costa Rican. After 24 years, we decided that we want to move to Costa Rica for good. Sad to say, but USA is not what it used to be. One thing people don't understand is that US is one country with one idiosyncrasy, In the Hispanic Culture; there are many countries involved, and yes it is true that in US many Americans do not understand that and sadly judge all the same way. I believe not even the "latinos" understand the difference and call themselves "brothers". Every country has their own culture and idiosyncrasy, therefore the chaos is when no one wants to adapt and learn the American Culture, but instead want to impose each one their own culture. (needless to say that in every culture there are sub-cultures and not everyone is educated at the same level). It's the same problem with the Caribbean cultures: Haiti; Dominican Republic; Cuba and Puerto Rico. They are all different cultures and speak in a different manner. The main reason for leaving the USA: Morals and Family Values have been lost in this country.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Jan 13, 2019 @ 11:11 am
Hi! My name is Jimena. I’m 13 yrs old. I was born in the US, but my whole family lives in Costa Rica, not including my parents and sisters. I speak fluent Spanish, and visit CR every other year, and even went completely by myself when I was 7. I love CR. I think it’s an incredible, fun place. My family keeps with tradition, and we are true Costa Ricenses and Americans.
Mary, I would just like to say: those 2 men you were talking about, they do not represent everyone from Costa Rica. They are simply 2 people who happen to have that opinion on the US. Although many CR people do come to the US only for money, that doesn’t mean they dislike it. My dad immigrated here when he was 17 yrs old, and got his citizenship through his boss, who he worked for for about 8 years. My mother came when she was 27, and waited 5 yrs for her citizenship through my dad. I was supposed to be born in Costa Rica, but my mom decided that I would have a better life here, so my parents decided at the last minute that we would stay here. Since then, my parents have managed to make a living, and although we live in slight poverty, at least here in the expensive state of New Jersey, we have a good life. We live in an apartment on the rougher side of town, but my little sister and I go to private school on a scholarship, and work hard. I am a great student, and just represented my school at an important conference. My family loves this country, yet we still stay connected with our original home. Just because 2 men dislike the country doesn’t mean everyone does, and that we can’t all be together as one. I know that most CR people here like the country, and since the government in CR is going great, socially and economically, the only reason they should have to move here is if they want a better job, or to have a better education, which makes sense, since here there are better job choices. CR and the US are both great countries, and I don’t know why those CR men said what they did, but they must have had a good reason. And if they really do dislike this country, well then they should know that they should be happy that they are helping their families.
Moving on, thank you so much to Cida S. Chase, the author of this article, for really capturing Costa Rica in a nutshell. This really helped to understand my country in an even deeper sense, and I think I can speak for everyone who reads this when I say thank you so much for helping me. ♥️😁
Report this comment as inappropriate
Sep 6, 2019 @ 10:10 am
Hi my name is Jahniyah and I am doing a project on hispanic heritage month and I chose Costa Rica to present and I need some help on different things like the Tradition/Celebrations
Culture, Food tradition, Famous People from Costa Rica that made an impact on America.

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: