The Republic of Costa Rica is a country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south-southeast. Since the civil war of 1948 that brought President José Figueres Ferrer to power, the country has been free of violent political conflict. Figueres also abolished the military and today, Costa Rica has only a national police force. Unlike most of its continental neighbors, Costa Rica, alongside Uruguay, is seen as an exceptional example of political stablity in the region, and sometimes refered to as the "Switzerland of Latin America."
In Pre-Columbian times the Native Americans in what is now Costa Rica were part of the Intermediate Area located between the Mesoamerican and Andean cultural regions. This has recently been redefined to include the Isthmo-Colombian area, defined by the presence of groups that spoke Chibchan languages.
The native people of the Mayans and Aztecs were conquered by Spain in the 16th century. Costa Rica was then the Southernmost province in the Spanish territory of New Spain. The provincial capital was in Cartago.
After briefly joining the Mexican Empire of Agustín de Iturbide (see: History of Mexico and Mexican Empire), Costa Rica became a state in the United Provinces of Central America (see: History of Central America) from 1823 to 1839. In 1824, the capital moved to San José. From the 1840s on, Costa Rica was an independent nation.
Costa Rica has avoided much of the violence that has plagued Central America. Since the late 19th century only two brief periods of violence have marred its democratic development. In 1949, José Figueres Ferrer abolished the army; and since then Costa Rica has been one of the few countries to operate within the democratic system without the assistance of a military.
Costa Rica (Spanish for "Rich Coast"), although still a largely agricultural country, has achieved a relatively high standard of living. Land ownership is widespread and tourism is a rapidly expanding industry.This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Costa Rica".