National symbols
Origin of the name



It was created in 1848. The original seal went through three important changes. In 1906, its war symbols were removed as a response to Costa Rican's tradition for peace. Another change occurred in 1964, when two more stars were added as to represent the newly incorporated provinces. Lately, in 1998 the smoke at the mountains top were added.

Today, the national shield shows green mountains representing three most important mountain rangers, putting in arch seven stars (one for each province) and two merchant ships. There is a rising sun at the horizon between the blue sky and the blue ocean. In the upper part of the seal there are blue ribbonwith silver letters "America Central", two branches of myrthe and white ribbon with the inscription "Republica de Costa Rica". All is rounded by golden frame with the small circles on both sides represent the coffee beans.


Costa Rica's flag was designed by Pacífica Fernández Oreamuno and constituted in the year 1848. Its colours were inspired by flag of France. There are featured 5 horizontal strips. Saying from the top they are: blue (sky), white (clear thinking), red (warmth of Costa Rican people and their blood shed for freedom), white (wisdom) and again blue (peace). The red strip is twice width as the rest. It`s put on it also a shield of Costa Rica (surrounded by white circle). For the first time it was unveiled on November 12, 1848 in the Central Park in San Jose and now there has been put (since 2004) an ornate flagpole.

National Anthem

The music to the National Anthem was written by Manuel María Gutiérrez in 1852. It was made under the influence of the sudden need, because in Costa Rica were expected noble reprezentatives of USA and United Kingdom, who were to come by steam-boat. As a part of welcoming ceremony was expected to be played national anthens. But the problem was that Costa Rica didn`t have an official song. That`s why one of ministers ordered Gutierrez to compose the music for that. They say that for the time of composing Guttierez was kidnapped from his house and put in quarters. The first words for anthem were tried to write by Guatemalan Tadeo N. in 1837. But the first version was created by Colombian poet Jose Manuel Lleras. But soon in 1879, the presbiterian ministry Juan Garcia wrote the second version. The third one was composed in 1888 by spanish teacher Juan Fernandez Ferraz. But all were too abstract and were considered as unproper for mellody. Finally current words were written in 1903 as a result of called competition. The lyrics presented by José María Zeledón won first place. In Park of Spain in San Jose there is a tebleau devoted for the first singing of that there by a group of children in 1903. Oficially the song as a anthem was recognized only in 1949. In Park of Gen. Eloy Alfaro in Alajuela there is a bust of Manuel Maria Gutierrez.

National handicraft - La carreta

Las carretas are hands-painted wooden, 2-wheels ox-carts, pulled by oxes. In 1988 were recognized as the symbol of Costa Rica`s handicrafts. They are produced in private minifactories in Sarchi - a small village situated to the north of Alajuela (province of Alajuela). Their wooden circles are painted in small gardens into patterned compositions. Carretas appeared in Costa Rica suddenly around 1840, when the meaning of coffee plantations increased. At the beginning carretas were the only mean of transportation in the country. In the first years they were pulled by people, later (when increased transport of goods) they were drawn mainly by oxes. In colonial times there were very famous caravanes of carretas full of coffee, that traversed a muddy roads between the Central Valley and Puntarenas.

In 1903 people started to decorate also their circles, and in 1915 for the separation of their attachment to distinct family, they were painted entire. In 1960`s when they were taken over by motorished transport, people started making them for touristic purposes. Today they are used as a decorations in gardens. Very popular among foreigners are also their miniatures as a souvenirs for desks. Nowadays in Costa Rica is hard to imagine any fiesta or parade without carretas. The most known is ox-carts parade in Escazu, which is held every year on the second sunday of March.

In Sarchi people pay attention on the carretas` wheels, which used to be manufactured from the lagarto wood. That kind of wood made that during the journeys there were heard the lovely, characteristic sounds of wheels. Many inhabitants of Sarchi like telling the story, about the man who many years ago was believed to pay a record number of 240 colones for carreta. All because the wheels of that were making the perfect sound. They say that when he came back to his Alajuela, people were ready to repay it from him even for 300 colones. It was making the most beautiful sound in town.

In November 2001, from the Monument of Leon Cortes (in Park of Centenarios in San Jose) started the parade of oxcart drivers, full of Saint figures.

National patron

The patron saint of Costa Rica is Black Virgen of Los Angeles (known also as La Negrita). It was chosen on September 24th of 1924 to protect the country. They say, in 1635, small stone figure of Black Virgin appeared for Juana Pereira-a young mulatto wood gatherer. That was in the same place where now stands a basilique of Los Angeles in Cartago. People believed at that time that it was a sign for loving everyone regardless of the colour of the skin. On every year, on August 2th, the basilique in Cartago is visited by half a million of prayers. In 1950 the small statue of Black Virgin was stolen from Basilique but soon was replaced by new one. On May 2005 Pope Benedict XVI has blessed an image of Costa Rica patron which was then moved to the church of Santa Maria della Luce del Imigrante Latinoamericano in Rome.

National tree

Since 1939 the national tree of Costa Rica has been umbrella-like Guanacaste tree (the latin name Enterolobium Cyclocarpum). Its height varies from 25 m. to 50 m. high. The diameter of its trunk is usually 2 m. Its fruit generally carries between 10 and 22 seeds. Its flower is white and rounded. Its wood is used in carpentry and ornamental crafts. The biggest concentration of these trees can be found in the province of the same name-Guanacaste. Besides in San Jose it`s stood in the square in front of La Soledad church, Central Park in San Jose and Park of Elzy Alfaro in Alajuela.

National bird

(Turdus grayi). Since 1976 the national bird of Costa Rica has been inconspicuous Yguirro. It`s a little strange that with so wide variety of birds species in Costa Rica, for national bird was chosen undistinquish Yguirro. It has brown feathers, and red eyes. During mating time (April - May) their males stand out of beautiful singing. According to some people that way they call for rain. Both males and females hatch out their eggs and care for nestlings.

Yquirros lives among others on the slopes of Poas volcano and in the gardens in Escazu.

National flower

Since 1939 the national flower of Costa Rica has been an orchid "guaria morada". According to Costa Rican traditions, it brings fortune and good luck. It grows on trees, roofs, and buildings. It gets nutrients from the air, rain, dust, and residues stored on the trunk of trees. Its biggest consentration is spot in so called terrains of Las Pailas and Las Hornillas in Volcano Rincon de la Vieja National Park

National Day

The national day is celebrated annually on 15 September. That`s the anniversary of gaining the independence (1821). The celebration starts at 6 p.m. People are singing the national anthem regardless of where they are at that moment. In many towns local communities organize parades with candles and flash-lights (the latter ones are held by children). They symbolize the events of 1821, when people after the news that Spain had given the independence for Costa Rica, were going out of their houses in the night.

There is also a long tradition of maraton with torch continueing from the border with Nicaragua. It has something to do with the fact that the news about the independence for all Central American countries come to Costa Rica by a messanger with a torch.

The national dance

The national dance is so called Punta Guanacasteco. It dates back to the turn of the century when it was composed in jail by Leandro Cabelceta Brau. It`s performed to the accompaniament of guitars and marimbas, in national dresses during different celebrations, schools fiestas and in Guanacaste province in the anniversary of its annexion from Nicaragua (25. VII). It`s danced also during fiesta of Black Christ of Esquipulas in Santa Cruz (15. I.).

© 2004; SLUPSK; Rafal Cezary Piechocinski