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Costa Rica Culture

Costa Rican Ox Cart Wheel  Costa Rica features a varied history and culture. Prior to the Columbus era, Costa Rica was the point where the Mesoamerican and South American original native cultures has met. The northwest area of the country, the Nicoya peninsula, was precisely the southernmost point of Nahuatl cultural influence when the Spanish conquerors ("conquistadores") came in the XVI century beginnings. The central and southern portions of the country had Chibcha influences. After the conquest, the Atlantic coast, was populated with African workers during the XVII and XVII centuries.

Thus, Costa Rican general culture is greatly influenced by the Spaniard one, as well as the most of Costa Rican people are descendant from Spaniard people, with the exception of Limón (predominantly black Jamaicans), and the Cordillera de Talamanca (original indigenous).

(En Español: Cultura de Costa Rica)

Culture of Costa Rica

Map of Costa Rica Location: At the center of America.
Coordinates: 9°55'N 84°4'W
Subdivisions: Provinces: 7, Cantons: 81, Districts: 473
Area: 51,100 km² (19,730 sq mi)
Population: 4,451,262 (Dec 31, 2008)
Longest linear distance: 464 km (288.3 mi) NW-SE.
Shortest linear distance: 119 km (73.9 mi) NE-SW (this is the shortest distance between the oceans).
Capital: San José.
     Elevation: 1,156 m ASL (3,792.6 feet)
     Average Temperature: 20.3°C (68.5°F)
     Annual Rainfall: 1,500 - 2,000 mm (59-79 inches)

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 In a strictly speaking way, Costa Rican cuisine does not have distinct or original styles to call its own. It is a combination of Spanish, American, Caribbean and Southern American influences that has been blended and assimilated as well. The base of this style of cuisine is shared by most of Central America, but the local variations have appeared and diversified in each of the countries.

Costa Rican "Gallo Pinto" with eggs and "Agua dulce" So, as a very representative example, a national and well established dish is the "Gallo Pinto" ("spotted rooster"), although the name has no relation to the ingredients but to its coloration and appeareance. It is mainly a combination of black beans with white rice and spiced with cilantro, onions, garlic, salt (and sometimes a local sauce called "Salsa Lizano"). It is typically eaten at breakfast time with eggs and sometimes "natilla" (sour cream), sweet fried plantains, cheese and either corn tortillas or bread. Gallo pinto is a common and typical dish into the Costa Rican people which is accompanied with coffee or "Agua Dulce" (sugar cane beverage), both beverages that are also enjoyed at the mid-afternoon or early evening meal time: "el cafesito" (a Costa Rican equivalent to the "tea time").

Costa Rican Casado Costa Rican Casado For lunch or dinner, another typical dish is "Arroz con pollo" ("rice with chicken"), which consists basically of bite size chicken chunks mixed with rice and diced vegetables including carrots, bean hemstitches, peas, and corn. Also the traditional menu includes the "Casado" ("married meal"), prepared with no mixed rice and beans, meat at choice (chicken, fish, beef) and vegetables. These last can be presented in "Ensaladas" (salads of tomato, lettuce or cabbage, cucumber and beet among others) or as "Picadillos", which are meat and vegetable combinations where one or more vegetables (like chayote, ayote, potatoes, "zapallo", unripe plantain or tuber roots) are chopped, mixed with the meat and garnished with the same spices as before.

A principal part of the original music and representative folklore comes from the north of the country (the part that once had Mayan influence), including the Nicoya Peninsula, and the Atlantic coast (Afro-Caribbean culture). Costa Rican music features a rhythm known as "tambito", as well a distinctive musical genre known as "punto". As examples of them are the "punto guanacasteco" (from Guanacaste Province), and the "sancarleño" (from San Carlos in Alajuela).

"The Marimba", from The Capitals of Spanish America" (1888) In the present some Latin dance-oriented genres has been established, like soca, salsa, bachata, merengue, cumbia and its consolidated substitute Costa Rican swing ("swing criollo"), are among the featured along the country. The guitar is a popular instrument especially as an accompaniment to folk songs and dances as well, in which the marimba is also a very traditional instrument.

The phrase "Pura Vida" is one of the most used and most positive expressions in Costa Rica, although it may be viewed by some foreigners as an expression of a relaxed and unhurried lifestyle, which can rise up the interpretation of disregard for time and even wanton friendliness; instead Costa Ricans say "Pura Vida" to express from a simple "no problem" to a true philosophy of strong community, perseverance, good spirit, enjoying life peacefully... and celebrating good fortune, whether small or large.

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