Precolumbian period
XVI century
XVII century
XVIII century
XIX century
XX century
XXI century

HISTORY: XX century

The first president of the new century

In 1902 two the most important candidates for presidence were Cleto Gonzales and Octavio Beeche. To avoid the reellection of president Yglesias his oponents got united and sent his candidate ex-president Bernardo Soto. Retiring president Rafael Iglesias suggested its own candidate Ascencion Esguivez Ibarra. But the strongest oponents sent their another candidate Maximo Fernandez and finally in ellections won Esquivel Ibarra.

Ascencion Esguivel Ibarra became the first president of the new century. At the end of his cadency, there were 5 candidates for presidency: Cleto Gonzalez Viquez, Tobias Zuniga Castro, Bernardo Soto, Maximo Fernandez i Ezequiel Gutierrez. In 1906 he even exiled three contenders (Soto, Zuniga, Fernandez because their parties got together and made the United Republican Party) and imposed his own choice for president: Cleto Gonzalez Visguez.

Central America Court

In 1907 was created the Central American Court. It consisted of 5 judge representing their own countries. It was to avoid the increasing regional conflicts. In 1908 its main site was Cartago, but the building was destroyed due to the earthquake in 1910. Later its site was moved to San Jose. In 1918 it was liquidated after Nicaragua quarrelled with El Salvador and Honduras about the access to Bay of Fonseca and the court brought in a verdict against Nicaragua.

The Costa Rica - Panama border dispute continuation

In 1910 in so called Anderson-Porras treaty, the Loubet decision for Pacific side was accepted (the border line through Punta Burica and Cerro Pando). But the treaty wasn`t ratified for the Atlantic side. The final decision for that matter was granted for E. Douglas White, the chief of USA Supreme Court. In 1914 he decided about deviding the Almirante region between two countries, but Panama refused that project.

More, Panama annuled also the treat from 1910 reffering to terrains around Golfito on Pacific side. In response, on February 1921, Costa Rica sent his troops (under the leadership of Jorge Volio Jimenez) on the border, where Panama`s troops appeared and where short violent fights happened. In result 40 soldiers of both countries have been killed. Panama won on the pacific side, and Costa Rica on atlantic side. Costa Rica was supported by El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Guatemala offered even her military assistance. The governemnt of USA called for stopping further escallation of conflict and pressed on both countries the truce.

In 1939 presidents of Costa Rica: Calderon Guardia and Panama: Arnulfo Arias met each other on the wooden bridge on Sixaola river and co-ordinated the peace. According to that Costa Rica was to get the controversial terrains on pacific side and Panama got ones on the atlantic side. The agreement finally was signed on the May 1st of 1941 and because of the professions of both presidents was called "the agreement of surgeons".

Earthquake in Cartago

Two major earthquakes happened and were felt in throughout Costa Rica on April 13th of 1910. But the much bigger hit and destroyed Cartago on May 4th of 1910. Cartago was almost completely destroyed and many parts of San Jose was ruine. 400 people have been killed and 1.000 have been wounded.

Ricardo Jimenez become a president

In 1910 in presidencial ellections were three candidates: Republican Party was represented by Ricardo Jimenez, Civil Party (Rafael Iglesias Castro) and National Party (Panfilo J. Valverde). The biggest percentage of votes got Ricardo Jimenez.

Banana cultivation

At the beginning of XX century, bananas caught up with coffee in economic incomes. In 1911 the country became the world`s largest producer of that crop. Banana plantations workers salaries surpassed in 25 % the minimum salaries in the country.

In 1930 banana companions made up a decision about moving plantations to the pacific coast. I caused important social problems, because many people from Limon lost their works.

Alfredo Gonzalez Flores administration and the coup d`etat

In ellection fighting in 1914 took part three parties: Nacional Union (Carlos Duran), Civil Party (Rafael Iglesias) and Republican Party (Maximo Fernandez). None of them got the major part of votes. Duran and Fernandez soon gave up and parliament appointed Alfredo Gonzalez for the new president of Costa Rica. Due to the fact the tax system in the country was not very good for poorer inhabitants, Flores foretold introducing more progresive taxes (among others on coffee). Because of that political elites got angry. So soon he was overthrown.

Dictatorship of Federico Tinoco

Lasting since 1889, quite political stability was ended up by off that time war minister Federico Tinoco, who overthrown the government of Alfredo Gonzalez Flores. He ruled as a iron-fisted dictator. In 1918 the first trial of revolution against him broke out. Finally one year later when he has lost the bussinessmen from USA support, Costa Rica opposition managed to drive away the country (Sapoa revolution).

Rio Grande Revolution

On February 22th of 1918 the first revolution against Tinoco broke out. It was begun in the vicinity of Rio Grande and was led by a writer Rogelio Fernandez Guell. In the same day people from San Ramon supported them and they sieged the train to Pacific and continued their trip to Puntarenas. But friom the port the government troops were sent to face them. At El Pozon (not far from Orotina) thy were decimeted by revolutionists and their leader Juan Quesada killed. So they followed to move towards Panama border direccion but at Buenos Aires they were put in a trap and most of them killed.

Sapoa Revolution

In 1919 when in Costa Rica Tinoco was still in power, in Nicaragua a group of Costa Rican immigrants (among others Jorge Volio, Castro Quesada, Manuel Chao) united and under the leadership if Alfredo Volio (and later Julio Acosta) they started revolution against Tinoco. On May 15th of 1919 they invaded Costa Rican province of Guanacaste and they stopped at river of Sapoa. But on May 26th they were decimated at El Jobo by government groups. Tinoco`s groups followed the rest of them up to Nicaraguan border but didn`t decide to entere further to avoid the international conflict. In 1920 Congress decided about the reparations for the participants of that revolution.

Times of Julio Acosta and Ricardo Jimenez

The next president became Juan Bautista Guiros. But due to the USA protests, yet in the same year he was replaced by Francisco Aguilar Barguero. In 1920 in new presidential ellections Julio Acosta got 89 % of votes (his rival was Jose Maria Soto). His used the policy of forgiveness and it wasn`t popular decision (he was against judging supporters of former dictator Tinoco). During his term also doubled the rents. During his term, Costa Rica entered to the League of Nations.

At the end of Acosta term, there were three candidates: Alberto Echandi, Ricardo Jimenez and Jorge Volio. But none of them got the expected number of votes. Nevertheless the Congress decided about choosing Jimenez. Representants of Alajuela and Heredia were very against that and supported Echandi. During Jimenez cadency he managed to create National Insurance Company and repay part of debt the which was granted for Costa Rica in 1911. They also ellectrificated the pacific train lines and built the new molo in Puntarenas.

A warrior priest

A former priest, Jorge Volio Jimenez during Tinoco dictatorship plotted against government from Nicaragua. His revolutionary forces were defeated by government troops led by army chief Joaguin Tinoco in battles near the Nicaraguan border in early 1919. On coming back to San Jose he was subsequently conferred the title of General. Later he formed the Reformist Party in 1923 and ran without success for president. In that year Volio commanded a force across the border to intervene in Nicaragua. But he was upprehended by government soldiers in Liberia. In San Jose he was examined by the doctors who diagnosed nervous hypersensitivity. He was taken to Belgium for psychiatric care.

The train catastrophe

On March 14th of 1926 took place the biggest ever train catastrophe in Costa Rica history. A train in which were travelled people from Alajuela and Heredia to Cartago has fallen from the bridge into the Virilla river. That happened near Santo Domingo de Heredia. 178 people have been killed and 400 have been wounded.

Economy depression and the threat of imperialism

In 20`s and 30`s Costa Rica was taken over by economic regress, resulting among others by famous slump in New York stock in 1929. There were large rate of unemployment, low salaries and bad work conditions. Elites didn`t concern about their workers. Many strikes of ports, banana plantations and mines workers, inspired by communists were being breaking out.

Very good prospering cattle trade in Guanacaste Province made that numerous of pastures fell into hands of foreign investors. That way, Costa Rican farmers were left without land.

In San Jose, workers in fight for good work conditions and higher salaries, were forming union and organizing meetings. In 1923 the government weighed down with pression and allowed for legalize The Reform Party.

In the same time, in Costa Rica was often said about threat of american imperialism. In some people opinion Costa Rica was completely surrounded by the American influence. On the North, the marines had invaded and occupied Nicaragua (1912-1934). On the South, Panama had been chosen for its canal. American influences in Costa Rica were appearing by presence of american consorcium (like United Fruit Company), which step by step more and more controlled the country export.

Bloc of Workers and Pleasants

In 1929, a 19-years old student Manuel Mora Valverde organized the Bloc of Workers and Peasants. By the end of 1939 Block had gained control over important sectors of the labour movement, including Spanish speaking banana plantation laborers. Its leaders (Carlos Luis Fallas and Jaime Cerdas) organized in 1934 strike of 10.000 banana plantation workers. On August 30th in Siquirres they met with the the Ministry Santos Leon Herrera and decided to stop protesting. Nevertheless they managed to shut down the nation`s banana production and forced United Fruit to equalize wages paid to to Jamaican and Costa Rican workers. In that event participated 10.000 people.

A Nazi president ?

In ellections of 1936 took part three main candidates: Leon Cortes, Octavio Beechwe and Carlos Luis Saenz. At least Leon Cortes Castro followed Jimenez Oreamuno in power. He intervened in order to stabilize prices and to encourage the growth of the banana industry, approving an extention of the pacific railway. He was suspected of being a Nazi sympathizer because of his ties to rich German expatries.

Rafael Angel Calderon Guardia presidency

In 1940 Rafael Angel Calderon Guardia reached the power. He promulgated a series of farsighted reforms, including a stab at land reforms, establishment of guaranteed minimum wage, paid vacations, unemployment compensation and progressive taxation. His presidency was supported by the poor but criticized by the rich. In 1945 he declared a war against Germany. Soon after he managed to created unusual alliance with Communist Party and church. He got the church goodwill by promise of introducing religion in schools.

The Second World War and Costa Rica

The war outbroken in 1939 made the stagnation in coffee export.

On July 4th of 1942, the government of Rafael Angel Calderon Guardia announced that in Limon port, an american merchantman San Pablo was torpedoed by german submarine. A half century later it appeared that this event was a mistification. Was prooved that the explosion came from the inside of the ship and couldn`t be made by the submarine attack. In the same time, in whole country, deportations of Germans and Italians were being undergoing. In 1945 after the attack of Japans against Pearl Harbour in Havaii, Costa Rica declared a war against them and thanks to that it was granted the loan (7 mln $) from Washington`s Bank of Import and Export for building (among others) the Panamerican Highway. Soon it declared also a war against Germany. Because of that the government was sharply criticized by coffee plantators.

Fights of 1948

Before the civil war outbreak, since the beginning of 1940`s, a strong opposition has been formed against Rafael Angel Calderon Guardia. Still unknown Jose Figuerres Ferrer together with lawyer Rodrigo Facio Brewes and historian Carlos Monge Alfaro created a groupe of intellectualist who criticized a government for embezzlement and corruptions. In 1942 Figuerres accused government of corruption during his own broadcast. Because of that, he was forced to move to Mexico for some time. Since 1947 he began training on his farm La Lucha (in Cartago province), a military groups which were to overthrow undemocratic government. The perfect moment for that was a year of 1948, when off that time president of polish origin Teodoro Picado Michalski induced by Calderon Guardia, didn`t want to give back the power for brand new president Otilio Ulate Blanco. He explained it because of a false ellections. Next day, after ellections, the building holding many of the ballots papers went up in flames.

On March 10th of 1948 in the vicinity of Santa Maria de Dota (the southern part of San Jose province), the fights broke out between government forces and National Liberation Army. The latter one was led by Jose Figuerres Ferrer, who in short time became the biggest leader of Costa Rica in current century. The war ended by peace agreement, on the Ochomogo Hills. That was signed by Nunez (a church leader), Manuel Mora Valverde (government follower) and Jose Figuerres Ferrer.

Figuerres became a president on the forefront of forming junta of the Second Republic. That had a shape similar to government and functione till the new ellections and set the new constitution. Junta took a few important for Costa Rica steps. It abolished the army, gave women the right to vote and gave full citizenship and rights to the black population of Costa Rica. It forbided to candidate two times in a row for president ellections and created the Institution of Ellections Tribunal which controled the run of future ellections. On the place of barracks, the National Museum has been set. The lack of army make possible to give more money for education, healt system and ecological programs. After 18 monthes of governing, the junta returned the reins of power to Otilio Ulate Blanco, the actual winner of the 1948 elections.

The least known fact from year of 1948 is that the guerillas military groups weren`t neither drunk nor druged. In Latin America there was a common that soldiers before any fights were given an alcohol, cocaine or heroins (for rising the willing for fight). It appeared that Costa Rica as always became an exception.

Figueres on every step was pointing out that the triumph of his army was possible only because the sobriety of his soldiers. He even joke that he was leading the Groupe of Anonymous Alcoholics. On contrary to them, government soldiers were given an alcohol drinks. Figuerres was said to be the only general in the world, who has won the battle without any drunk soldier.

The golden period 1950-1970

The golden period lasted during twenty years 1950-1970. At that time, the impressive economic, social and demographic progress took place. In that years the income from the coffee export doubled.

The government suggested to private entrepreneurs the credit support and the reduced taxes.

The settlement of Quakers

In 1951 Quakers from USA come to Monteverde in Costa Rica (in Cordillera Tilaran range). They brought their own cattle Guernsey and opened the cheese factories. Before their coming, the only cheeses, that were known in Costa Rica were mozzarella cheeses.

Invasion in 1955

At the beginning of 1954, a small group of Nicaraguan political emmigrants residing in Costa Rica secretely returned to Nicaragua in order to start an armed movement against regime Anastasio Somoza. They planned to kill him but they failed and soon had been executed. Nicaragua considered this action had been supported by government of Costa Rica and sent compliments to Organization of American State and accused high ranked officials of Costa Rica to help revolutionaries.

On July 1954 several Costa Rica immigrants headed by Claudio Mora Molina stormed an office of Banco Nacional in San Miguel de Sarapiqui and after some struggles with Costa Rica patrols left to Nicaragua.

On January 11th 1955 a group of Ticos supporting Calderon Guardia (being in exhile in Mexico) prepared an armed movement against Costa Rica governemtn. They moved from San Jose and took over Quesada. On next day forces of Calderonistas commanded by Picado Lara crossed the border from Nicaragua taking over a town of La Cruz. On January 13th a rebel plane machine gunned the capital and on January 15th attacked Liberia. On January 16th USA sold to Costa Rica four of combat air planes. On January 21th Quesada was retaken by Ticos and invaders withdrew to Nicaragua.

Irazu volcanoe eruption

On March 19th of 1963 the catastrophic Irazu volcanoe eruption happened. The cloud of ashes and steam was shoot upwards and that covered 650 sq. km. of Meseta Central (on the capital 13-centimetres of thick layer of mud have fallen). People had to walk under umbrellas for many days and cars turned the lights because of dark even at day. It caused the farm looses in million of dollars. Nevertheless later appeared that ash replenished the soil with minerals that helps plants and crops alive.

Central American summit

In San Jose was organized the summit of six Central American presidents plus a president of United States J.F. Kennedy. The meeting targets were the acceleration of duty union by boom in development of United Market of Latin America, and also the conditions of finansial and technical aid of USA. The talks aim was also to determine the common point in defence of coffee prices on international markets.

Arenal volcanoe eruption

That occured on July 29th of 1968. The dense cloud of ash and hot gases roared down its slopes with temperatures of 600 C. Only 68 persons died.

That eruption produced over 10 million cubuc metres of lava and an equalammount of airborne and cinders.

Close up with Comunists

During the last term of Jose Figueres Ferrer [1970-1974] was observed the closer relations with comunist countries. In San Jose was opened the CCCR embassy. The diplomatic relations with has come into with GDR. The official visit paid the president of Romania Nicolas Ceausescu. The amendment was introduced to the constitution according to which the Comunist Party was allowed to participate in ellections. In 1973 Costa Rica signed the diplomatic relations with Cuba. It drew to spread the gossip about alleged anticomunist intervention from Guatemala.

President Daniel Oduber Quiros

In 1974, in presidencial ellections took part 8 candidates. The winner was Daniel Oduber Quiros who got 42 % of the vote. He reopened trade with Cuba. He raised the tax on banana export and threaten the multinational fruit companies with expropriation.

The crisis of 80`s

From the beginning of 80`s Costa Rica was mired in an economic crisis. Epidemic inflation, clipping currency devaluation, soaring oil bills and social welfare costs. The low banana, coffee and sugar cane prices weren`t conducive for export. Due to the national war in Nicaragua, the region trade crashed. The international Institutions give big loans for Costa Rica.

The peace plan for Central America and the Nobel Price

In 1987 on the Central America Summit, Oscar Arias Sanches showed his plan for peace in Central America calling for immediately stopping any guerrila fights, suspension of foreign military helps, amnesty and negotiations between conflict participaters and in furher steps for free elections and reducing of armed forces. That achievement earned him the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize.

Touristic boom

That happened in the middle of 80`s. It made the breakthrough in difficult up-to then economic situation in the country.

The neoliberalism decade

In 90`s, in Costa Rica distinguished the neoliberalism. The public institutions are privatized.

Two sons of two rivals

In 1990 Rafael Angel Calderon Fournier - a son of famous Rafael Angel Calderon won the presidencial ellections, and in 1994 his succesor became Jose Maria Figueres-a son of Jose Figueres Ferrer. Fathers of these two presidents were in 1940`s the main rivals and opponents. Both are considered for the most influencial politics in Costa Rica history.

Calderon was a conservative lawyer and in 1990 won gaining 51 % of votes.


That happened on April 22th of 1991. It measured 7,4 on Richter scale. The earthquake's epicenter was in the lightly populated Valle de la Estrella, on the east side of the Cordillera de Talamanca, about 10 kilometers from the Costa Rica -Panama border. Many buildings and roads collapsed in Limon Province. Coastal coral reef also suffered seriously destruccion. In result, 27 persons have been killed, 400 wounded and 13.000 lost theit houses. That was the strongest earthquake to occur within Costa Rica in this century.

The ellections of 1994

During 1993 ellections 6 PLN candidates (including a woman Margarita Penon) vied for PLN candidacy for 1994 presidencial ellections. Finally was chosen Jose Maria Figuerres. In PUSC party base Miguel Angel Rodriquez rivaled with Juan Jose Trejos. The former won to be a candidate.

The winner of 1994 ellections was Jose Maria Figueres Olsen, who received 49,6 % of the votes, closely followed by Miguel Angel Rodriguez with 47,6 %. Figueres was promising improve health care and education but his presidency was rather unpopular. It has been marked by price hikes and tax increases.

National Parks entrance fees uprising

In September 1994, the government raised national parks entrance fees from 1,30 $ to 15 $ per person for foreign travelers only. It was widely critised by tour operators and foreign travelers alike.

Bancruptcy and closure of Banco Anglo Costarricense

In 1994 one of the country oldest and biggest bank Banco Anglo Costarricense was closed. That severly damaged both the banking system and the economy.

The hurricane Gordon

In September 1994, the tropical storm Gordon ravaged the Pacific coast and the Meseta Central. The storm forced 1.500 to evacuate and left 600 homeless, causing some $15 millions in damages.

Protests of teachers

On July 26, 1995 tens of thousands of teachres and employees of government agencies slating for closing marched on the Casa Presidencial in Zapote and called for curtailmont of the reform as well as the overhaul of teacher`s pension plan.

The first gold medal

Costa Rican swimmer Claudia Poll won in the women`s 200-meter freestyle at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic, the first ever gold medal for the country.

Presidencial eleccions of 1998

In the february 1998 national ellecions, Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC) candidate Miguel Angel Rodriguez (46,6%) won the prezidency over National Liberation Party (PLN) nominee Jose Manuel Carrales (44,6%). (He had 10% lead over Corrales in preellections polls). (It was also the country first black candidate). The PUSC also obtained 27 seats in the 57-member Legislative Assembly, for a plurality, while the PLN gained 23, and 5 minor parties 7. Rodriguez cut the number of cabinet ministers from 18 to 12. He quadrupled also the presidensial annual salary from 70.000 colones to 250.000 colones. But after public outcry he apologized and returned to salary of his previous level.

2004; SLUPSK; Rafal Cezary Piechocinski