Costa Ricans (Ticos) are generally gentle, spirited, friendly, educated, polite, and kind people. Most seem to like visitors from other countries and treat them well. There are, of course, exceptions, but on the whole, you can expect to be made welcome wherever you go.
Ticos are a mixing of races. Though most of the country’s 4 million inhabitants descend from Spanish immigrants, many families originated in other parts of Europe, Asia, Africa and Central America. A large number are fair-skinned, especially in the Central Valley. In the outlying areas, more people are mestizos, a mixture of European and Indigenous blood. On the Caribbean coast you find strong links to African lineage, and in Talamanca Mountain, you will find it inhabited by the pure-blooded Indians of various tribes. In Guanacaste Province, you will find Ticos dark skinned reflecting their Nicaraguan heritage.
Ticos are extremely family oriented and love music and dance. When I say love music, I mean it is everywhere and all the time... and LOUD. They also occasional enjoy alcohol. In fact, Costa Ricans, as almost all Latinos, party loud and long and really enjoy each other's company. You will definitely know if there is a party in your neighborhood! Not unexpectedly, you probably won't get invited to those parties until you speak the language! That is why you will see me repeat time and again in this site, Learn Spanish if you plan to live here. It makes all the difference.
If you are married to a Costa Rican or have a Tico(a) as your significant other (pareja), you not only get him or her, you get the whole clan, and in Catholic Costa Rica, that can be a TON of relatives! Click here for one entry from my personal blog on this subject.
Who are these people?
They have the same goals, desires and fears you do. They want to love and be loved, they want their children to be educated, they worry about their teenagers getting tongue rings and tattoos, they worry about the guy their daughter is dating, and they want to thrive and prosper. They want their children to have better lives than they do. They worry about politics, Iraq, crooked politicians, and the economy. Sound familiar?
Ticos are often polite to the extreme. Most will do almost anything to avoid a confrontation or appear rude in any way. This can cause MUCH confusion to foreigners, especially North Americans who tend to be very direct. If a Tico feels a "no" answer would in any way offend, they may well say "yes" or "maybe", or "I think so" or "that might be difficult", which is still pretty much means "no", but sounds more polite! Easy Huh?
Take a look at this video by drone of Puerto Viejo and some of the surrounding beaches. Paradise found.
The largest Costa Rican black community is from the Caribbean, which today constitutes the majority of the Costa Rican black population. Costa Rica has the largest Jamaican diaspora after Cuba and Panama and its development as a nation is witness to this contribution.
The Caribbean coast of Costa Rica is a beautiful region that is generally less developed and touristy than the Pacific side. The weather here is in stark contrast to the other side as the best weather is in September and October. The colorful Caribbean culture is also quite different as most locals are of Afro-Caribbean descent giving the area a reggae-Rasta vibe. Puerto Viejo, a surf oriented seaside village, is the most popular destination in this region and is located along the southern coast. Playa Cahuita is a popular destination for those seeking quiet jungle-lined beaches. Tortuguero is located on the northern Caribbean coast within Tortuguero National Park. It is one of the best wildlife observation areas in the country and a primary nesting location for Atlantic Green Sea Turtles from mid-July through mid-October. Click on the links below to read more about the Costa Rica Caribbean side. Costa Ricans have more than a century of democratic traditions and more than 50 years without an army. Its military was abolished in 1948 and the money the country saves by not having armed forces is invested in improving the standard of living of its inhabitants, which helps maintain the social peace that makes Costa Rica a wonderful place to visit.
Since 1850, fishermen of Afro-Caribbean origin began to settle in the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, especially from Panama and the West Indies. They stayed in temporary camps during fishing seasons, from March to September, to plant coconuts, cassava, and yams, which were then harvested the following season. Since 1828, some of these fishermen began to settle in Costa Rica permanently with their families.
Towards the second half of the 19th century, coffee became the main export of Costa Rica. The crops were transported from the Pacific Coast, by an inaccessible jungle terrain of the Atlantic Coast. To be taken to Europe, they had to turn back to South America, which increased the cost and removed competitiveness . To remedy this situation, in 1871 a railway and a port on the Atlantic Coast were constructed. Because of the scarcity of local labor, workers were imported from Italy, China, and the Caribbean and Central America. This coincided with an employment crisis in Jamaica that caused an exodus to neighboring countries. So on December 20, 1872, the Lizzie, the first boat from Jamaica, arrived at the port of Limón with 123 workers to work on the railroad. From this moment, the number of Jamaican workers in Limon increased rapidly and the next year already saw over 1,000 Jamaican workers in the port.
Many Jamaicans intended to return home, but most remained in the province of Limón on the Caribbean Coast. In 1890 the railways suffered a financial crisis, forcing many workers to sustain themselves by working in agriculture. This in turn saw the laborers establishing relationships and cultural exchanges with native populations of these areas. Later, the Jamaican workers began working for the banana industry, whose production grew to its peak in 1907.
Here is a cool video encompassing the diversity and beauty of this beautiful side of Costa Rica.
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