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October 2012

Costa Rica, summary map

Costa Rica, summary map

A 6.5 magnitude earthquake struck 13km east northeast of Hojancha, Costa Rica on the Nicoya Peninsula. The peninsula includes the provinces of Guanacaste and Puntarenas; it is 19mi long - 37mi wide (31km - 60km). The whole of Costa Rica is about the size of the states of Vermont and New Hampshire combined.

Unlike many of their Central American neighbors, present-day Costa Ricans are largely of European rather than mestizo descent (ethnically: European and some mestizo 94%, African origin 3%, Chinese 1%, Amerindian 1%, other 1%). Spain was the primary country of origin. However, an estimated 10% to 15% of the population is Nicaraguan, of fairly recent arrival and primarily of mestizo origin. Descendants of 19th-century Jamaican immigrant workers constitute an English-speaking minority, about 3% of the population. Few of the native Indians survived European contact; the indigenous population today is less than 1% of the population.

Settlement of Costa Rica began in 1522. For nearly 3 centuries, Spain administered the region under a military governor. Costa Rica's isolation from the Spanish colonial centers in Mexico and the Andes all contributed to the development of an autonomous and individualistic agrarian society. Costa Rica joined other Central American provinces in 1821 in a joint declaration of independence from Spain. In 1838, Costa Rica formally withdrew and proclaimed itself sovereign.

An era of peaceful democracy in Costa Rica began in 1899 with elections considered the first truly free and honest ones in the country's history. This began a trend that continued until today with only two lapses. Costa Rica is a democratic republic with a very strong system of constitutional checks and balances. Costa Rica has long emphasized the development of democracy and respect for human rights. The country's political system has steadily developed, maintaining democratic institutions and an orderly, constitutional scheme for government succession.

Natural resources of Costa Rica include: hydroelectric power, forest products, and fisheries products. Agricultural products include: bananas, pineapples, coffee, beef, sugar, rice, dairy products, vegetables, fruits, ornamental plants, corn, beans, potatoes, and timber. The terrain of Costa Rica is characterized as having a rugged, central range separates the eastern and western coastal plains. The climate is mild in the central highlands, with tropical and subtropical in the coastal areas.

U.S. State Department Background Notes; USGS Earthquake Hazards Program; The Columbia Gazetteer, 9/2012; 10/2012; 10/2012

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