Costa Rica - geography
Costa Rica is located in the middle of the Central American isthmus. The
Cordillas here consist of two parallel mountain ranges with a plateau in
between. The highest peaks reach 4000 m; most are active volcanoes and the area
is seismically active with frequent earthquakes.
The majority of the population inhabits the central plateau. It has a fertile
volcanic soil and a pleasant tropical climate with summer rains. Here are the
four largest cities (San Josť, Heredia, Cartago and Alajuela), which together
hold half the population. The Atlantic coast is predominantly inhabited by
blacks. The warm, humid climate with year-round rainfall is ideal for banana
production. The area here combines important economic resources with a cultural
distinctiveness. The Pacific coast, which is rocky and characterized by
rainforest and mangroves, is sparsely populated.
Costa Rica introduced early social reforms with public health and support for
the most vulnerable groups. This has had an impact on the country's relatively
high standard of living and low population growth. The crisis of the 1980's has
had a marked impact: the number of poor and malnourished children is rising and
child mortality is rising.
Do you know how many people there are in Costa Rica? Check this site to see
population pyramid and resident density about this country.
The ethnic composition is very homogeneous; 97% are white or mestizer of
Spanish descent. The blacks make up 2%; they are especially descendants of West
Indian railway workers. Less than 1% are Indians. Population growth is just over
2% per year, and the birth rate is declining.
Officially, the country houses 43,000 refugees from other Central American
countries, but the real number is closer to 300,000. It is especially farm
workers from Nicaragua who, for political or economic reasons, want to stay in
Costa Rica. The many refugees are straining the economy, and increased border
surveillance and control of foreigners in the country have been introduced.
Economy and business
The Spanish colonization of Costa Rica was not nearly as destructive as
elsewhere, as the country had no minerals of importance. The Spaniards who
settled subsisted as peasants. With the establishment of export-oriented
agriculture in the late 1800-t. the earth was concentrated on fewer hands, and
an upper class of coffee landlords. Their power was partially offset by a
large group of small farmers with political influence.
Agriculture remains the main occupation and employs 26% of the
population (1990). Large areas along the coast are laid out for plantations,
especially bananas and sugar. Coffee and cocoa are grown mainly on smaller
uses. Large cattle farms are found both in the highlands and on the Pacific
The strong dependence on the export products coffee, bananas, sugar and beef
has created a dynamic which makes it necessary to constantly expand the areas in
line with falling world market prices. This means that the country is no longer
self-sufficient in food. There is increased pressure on the land, growing
inequality in land distribution (1% of farms own 36% of the land (1990)) and
increasing migration to cities. Government credits have mainly gone to
export-oriented agriculture, and this policy is supported by e.g. World
Bank. The ecological consequences of the policy have been noticeable. Every
year, forest is involved in cattle farming; 71% of the area was forested in 1955
against only 30% in 1990. Laying out of national parks has only to a lesser
extent slowed down deforestation. The country's investment in "ecotourism" has
contributed to a tripling of the number of tourists through the 1990's, but
inflicts the rainforest a certain strain in the form of construction and
waste problems. The Danish rainforest groupNephentes has been working
for several years to save part of the rainforest in the northeast, but without
The industry is characterized by small businesses. Among other
things, sugar, fertilizers, agricultural machinery and consumables. Throughout
the 1990's, it has succeeded in attracting foreign investment to the
so-called maquiladoras, and in 1999, industrial products accounted for half of
the country's exports. These include about components for the American computer
company Intel's microprocessors, which are made at Latin America's only chip
factory. Mining is of secondary importance and no oil or gas has been found on a
commercial scale. On the other hand, hydropower resources are very large, and
hydropower plants produce over 98% of the country's electricity consumption.