Explanations of Costa Rican Culture and Society

Based on prior reading and research, I know that there are certain portions of Costa Rica’s history and culture that distinguish the country from others. For example, Costa Rica is an environmentally conscious country, its main industry is currently tourism, and the country’s politics have been divided for the past decade. Today, with the help of Dr. Juan Diego Sánchez Sánchez, I not only learned more about these distinguishing factors but also why they exist.

First, I learned about why Costa Rica as a whole is environmentally conscious. In Costa Rica’s past, it was not always so willing to preserve its environment. During the 1970s and 1980s, production in the Costa Rican manufacturing industry—particularly in coffee plants—was solely focused on the manufacturing of the raw materials of the product rather than other value-adding processes. With coffee production, this means that the coffee beans at Costa Rican companies would be picked but immediately exported to other countries to roast rather than being roasted or further processed in Costa Rica. This non-value-adding production process was a result of Costa Rica’s governmentally controlled business environment, which did not allow for much innovation. However, due to an economic crisis in the late 1970s, Costa Ricans wanted a change from their very Left-focused economic system under the National Liberation party, so the Ticos voted for a Right-focused president, Rodrigo Carazo Odio of the Unity Coalition, in the election of 1978. The new administration brought better economic times to Costa Rica in the 1980s and led to more growth in the 1990s. In the 1990s, Costa Rica signed its first Free Trade Agreement with Mexico, further changing the country’s economic landscape. Value-added manufacturing in Costa Rica began, as did the explosion of new universities leading to more professional workers and a growing middle class. One of the ways that Costa Ricans realized they could add value to their products to compete with those of other countries was to care for the sustainability of the environment that they work in to keep their production strong and healthy. By keeping their environment thriving, Costa Rican business could gain a competitive advantage over other businesses. Thus, as a result of innovative freedoms created by the new governmental structure, Costa Ricans began to care for their environment as a way of differentiating their products. This innovation is also the reason why tourism is the largest industry in Costa Rica. Due to the well preserved natural environments in Costa Rica, ecological tourism began to boom, with tourists flocking to the country to get a chance to witness the beautiful scenery that makes Costa Rica unique.

Since the innovation in Costa Rica’s economy from the 1970s to 1990s, Costa Rica has returned to being a more Left-focused country after the stint of Right-focus that began in the early 1980s. Traditionally, Costa Rica has had two main political parties since the writing of its constitution in 1948. These parties controlled Costa Rica’s political system until 2006, when a third party entered and began to disrupt the established dominance of the first two parties. Now, there are nine significant political parties in Costa Rica, and although not all of them have much power, they still cause trouble for the formerly dominant parties and cause chaos in Costa Rica’s congress. This multitude of parties results in a multitude of allegiances and opinions within the Costa Rican congress, which leads to long and troublesome decision-making, particularly when attempting to create or adjust laws. The Costa Rican political system, as a result of the crowd of political parties, is split into many conflicting sectors.

Now that I have learned about the reasons behind each of these distinctive portions of Costa Rican culture, the causes of each portion are clear. Costa Rica’s environmental consciousness stems from their innovative thinking to differentiate their products. The preservation of the Costa Rican environment allowed tourism to rise and eventually dominate the world of Costa Rican business. The multitude of parties and disruption of the traditional two-party system causes the disorder in today’s Costa Rican politics. Appropriately, Costa Rican culture, history, and politics seems to match the behavior of Ticos today. Costa Ricans have prevailed in protecting many national parks and other portions of land. Since the tourism industry in Costa Rica is so large, English is emphasized as an important subject in Costa Rican schools and universities. Just as the various Costa Rican political parties have difficulty agreeing upon opinions of policies, Ticos all seem to have different opinions about government, but of course unique perspectives on government can be found in any country that has one.

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