Today’s Exploring Geography post is all about Costa Rica, courtesy of Leanna, who blogs at All Done Monkey. All Done Monkey is a parenting blog that focuses on raising world citizens, natural parenting, and spiritual education. Leanna is a stay at home mother to a sweet, funny, rambunctious two and a half year old boy, with a baby on the way. She and her husband, who is from Costa Rica, strive to raise their little Monkey to be bilingual and bicultural in a fun, spiritual, loving environment. All Done Monkey is dedicated to sharing this journey with you! I love Leanna’s Birthday Time Capsule, Pumpkin Suncatcher, and Easy DIY Charlie Brown Costume posts!
Recently, I hosted a "Costa Rica Day" playgroup for our local multicultural moms group in honor of Costa Rican Independence Day on September 15. My husband is from Costa Rica, so I thought this would be a fun way for my toddler to learn about this side of his heritage and share it with his little friends.
Food, of course, is key to a successful playgroup (for moms and little ones!) so we had lots to munch on: To begin with, we enjoyed some of the wonderful fruits from this tropical country, plus I made jello out of homemade juice from the tamarindo fruit.
Tamarindo fruit at a Costa Rican Farmer’s Market
I also made my mother-in-law’s tamal asado (Costa Rican corncake). Corn-based foods are a traditional staple in Costa Rica, as they are in many countries in Mesoamerica.
For activities, the kids made pom-poms in the colors of the Costa Rican flag (tutorial coming soon!). We also read one of my little Monkey’s favorite books, The Parrot Tico Tango and played this activity to go along with it.
Costa Rica: Overview
I also shared some basic facts about Costa Rica. Here is what we learned:
- Costa Rica is about the size of the state of West Virginia. It is located in Central America, between Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south.
- For such a small country, its terrain and wildlife is incredibly varied. It has beautiful beaches, plus rainforests, cloud forests, and VOLCANOES!
- The main industry is tourism, and principal exports are coffee, bananas, and technology. (Many international firms have opened branches in Costa Rica because of its highly educated population).
- The main language in Costa Rica in Spanish (which we are working hard to teach our son).
- Costa Rica is well-known for its environmentalism, and its environmental protection laws are considered among the most advanced in the world.
- Costa Rica was originally inhabited by a number of indigenous groups, including the Bribri and Cabecar; however, the population was never as large as the Mayan and Aztec centers to the north or the Incan empire to the south. European colonization began with the landing of Columbus in 1502. Today most Costa Ricans can trace their ancestry back to Spain, though there are still indigenous groups living in remote regions.
- Because Costa Rica did not have the wealth or the population that the Spanish sought, it was not given much attention by the colonizers. One result of this is that few slaves were brought from Africa to work the land. Most people of African descent in Costa Rica (mainly located along the country’s Caribbean coast) are instead descended from workers from Jamaica and nearby countries who came to build the railroad in the late nineteenth century.
- Costa Rica, along with most other countries in Central America, gained its independence from Spain in 1821. It has been a stable democracy for many years and formally abolished its army in 1949.
Famous Costa Ricans
Costa Ricans are justifiably proud of some of the country’s famous sons and daughters. Here are a few:
- Oscar Arias Sánchez was president of Costa Rica during the turbulent 1980s, which saw wars break out throughout Central America. As leader of one of the only countries in the region not at war, Arias helped broker a deal that restored peace at last. In recognition of his work, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987.
- Franklin Chang Diaz is a former NASA astronaut who now is a leader in promoting science in Latin America and also established Costa Rica’s first rocket lab.
- Laura Chinchilla, Costa Rica’s current president, is the first female president of the country, joining a wave of other female presidents throughout Latin America.
Phrases to Know
If you go to Costa Rica, here are some phrases you can use to fit it with your new friends!
- People in Costa Rica are called ticos (TEE-kohs) or, more formally, costarricenses.
- "Pura Vida!" (POO-rah VEE-dah) = "Pure Life," captures the laid back Costa Rican spirit, as well as their concern for preserving the natural environment. If you buy a T-shirt while you are in Costa Rica, there is a 95% chance it will say "Pura Vida" on it somewhere!
- "Tuanis!" (Two-AH-nees) = "Cool"
- "Mae" (My) = "Buddy, man, pal," as in: "How’s it going?" "Tuanis, mae!"
Hope you’ve enjoyed our trip to Costa Rica, and remember, Pura Vida, mae!
Thank you for this post, Leanna! What a wonderful country for your children to have as part of their heritage!