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Costa Rica Facts

Area: 51,100 Sq. km
Population: 4,016,173

Official Name: The Republic of Costa Rica (Republica de Costa Rica)
Capital City: San José (337,000) metro (1.5 mil)
People: Costa Rican
Official Language: Spanish
Languages Spoken: Spanish, English, and French
Government: Democratic Republic
Geopolitical Structure: 7 provinces; Alajuela, Cartago, Guanacaste, Heredia, Limon, Puntarenas, San Jose
Independence: 15 September 1821 (from Spain)
National Holiday: Independence Day, 15 September (1821)
Official Currency: Costa Rican Colon
Religion: Catholic (76%)
Land Area: 51,060 sq km (19,714 sq miles)
Latitude/Longitude: 9º 93N, 84º 08W
Highest Point: Chirripo, 12,533 ft. (3,820 m)
Bordering Body of Water: lies between the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea
Time Zone: UTC
Islands: Isla de Caño (Caño Island), Isla de Coco, Isla Tortugas
Major Industries: Tourism, agriculture (coffee, bananas, sugar, corn, rice, beans, potatoes; beef; timber), and electronic exports.

The national flag: Consists five horizontal bands of blue (top), white, red (double width), white, and blue, with the coat of arms in a white elliptical disk on the hoist side of the red band; above the coat of arms a light blue ribbon contains the words, AMERICA CENTRAL, and just below it near the top of the coat of arms is a white ribbon with the words, REPUBLICA COSTA RICA. The blue band symbolizes the blue sky that covers Costa Rica like a protective blanket. The white stands for the peace that characterizes the country as well as the purity of its ideals. Finally, the red band represents the energy, the courage and the generosity with which the Costa Ricans stand up for their principles and ideals.

The national coat of arms: It shows three volcanoes representing the country's three mountain ranges and a valley. These divide two oceans where ships are sailing, symbolizing the sea ports of the Pacific and the Caribbean Ocean. The seven stars stand for the seven provinces of Costa Rica, and the rising sun commemorizes the birth of the new nation. At the top of the coat of arms there is an inscription saying: "Central America"!

The national flower: In Costa Rica, cattleya skinneri is one of the most common orchids. When in 1937 a vote was organized to choose the national flower of Costa Rica, nobody was surprised that cattleya skinneri was the winner. Not only scholars and horticulturists participated in the vote, but also secondary school and university students.

National bird: The so called Yigüirro (clay-colored robin) was declared national bird of Costa Rica on January 3rd, 1977, as a tribute to its powerful and melodious call that signals the beginning of the rainyseason.This bird was chosen especially because it is so familiar to Costa Ricans as it tends to live near people's homes.

National Tree: On August 31, 1959, the Guanacaste tree (enterolobium ciclocarpum) was declared the national tree of Costa Rica. It was chosen as a tribute to the people of Guanacaste, which was the last province to join the Republic in 1825. With the giant shade it provides, this tree symbolizes the protection that Costa Ricans enjoy from the State. The name "Guanacaste" originates from a native language called "náhuatl" and means "tree of the ears". This is because the fruits of the tree are similar to the shape ofthe human ear.

Unofficial Motto: "Pura Vida."- the words convey the state of happiness, peace, and tranquility that the political stability and freedom bring to Costa Ricans.

The phrase actually comes from a 1956 Mexican movie, "Pura Vida!" By 1970 Costa Ricans were using the expression on a daily basis. The expression "Pura Vida" has become so popular that has been added to Costa Rican Spanish dictionaries as an idiom to greet, or to show appreciation.

Term Image Definition
National Flag Consists of five horizontal bands
Coat of Arms "Central America!"
National Flower Cattleya skinneri
National Bird Yigüirro
(clay-colored robin)
National Tree Guanacaste tree
(enterolobium ciclocarpum)

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