It is known for its long-standing and stable democracy, and for its highly educated workforce, most of whom speak English. [92], On 14 July 2009, the International Court of Justice in the Hague upheld Costa Rica's navigation rights for commercial purposes to subsistence fishing on their side of the river. [110] This survey indicated a decline in the share of Catholics and rise in the share of Protestants and irreligious. Stay Informed – Register with the free Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to ensure you receive travel alert or travel warning messages. Geographically speaking, it is part of North America while its cultural heritage is Latin American. The Atlantic coast, meanwhile, was populated with African workers during the 17th and 18th centuries. Several sli… [121] The article included this summary: "Costa Ricans enjoy the pleasure of living daily life to the fullest in a place that mitigates stress and maximizes joy". Costa Rica is located in Central America and borders in the north to Nicaragua and in the south to Panama. [128][129], Costa Rican cuisine is a blend of Native American, Spanish, African and many other cuisine origins. It is its own country, having declared independence from Spain on September 15, 1821. [52] Although 20.5% of the population lives below the poverty line (2017),[61] Costa Rica has one of the highest standards of living in Central America. The Latinobarómetro survey of 2017 found that 57% of the population identify themselves as Roman Catholics, 25% are Evangelical Protestants, 15% report that they do not have a religion, and 2% declare that they belong to another religion. [4] The rate of secularism is high by Latin American standards. The continent is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean in the east and north while the west is bordered by the Pacific Ocean. Visiting Cartago Costa Rica. Costa Rica has no standing army, and the country’s motto of “pura vida” signifies a life of simplicity, peace, and gratitude. [57] In 2016, Amazon.com for example, had some 3,500 employees in Costa Rica and planned to increase that by 1,500 in 2017, making it an important employer. Dishes such as the very traditional tamale and many others made of corn are the most representative of its indigenous inhabitants, and similar to other neighboring Mesoamerican countries. [57] Companies with facilities in the America Free Zone in Heredia, for example, include Intel, Dell, HP, Bayer, Bosch, DHL, IBM and Okay Industries. [citation needed], Costa Rica is among the Latin America countries that have become popular destinations for medical tourism. All children under one have access to well-baby clinics, and the immunization coverage rate in 2002 was above 91% for all antigens. Central America belongs to the continent of North America. High levels of education among its residents make the country an attractive investing location. [22], During most of the colonial period, Costa Rica was the southernmost province of the Captaincy General of Guatemala, nominally part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. [23] Costa Rica was described as "the poorest and most miserable Spanish colony in all America" by a Spanish governor in 1719. [24], Another important factor behind Costa Rica's poverty was the lack of a significant indigenous population available for encomienda (forced labor), which meant most of the Costa Rican settlers had to work on their own land, preventing the establishment of large haciendas (plantations). Costa Rica also borders Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south. It has been producing lava and pyroclastic flows almost continuously since 1968; this activity has been both a hazard to people living near the volcano and a draw for thousands of tourists over the years. [55], Many foreign companies (manufacturing and services) operate in Costa Rica's Free Trade Zones (FTZ) where they benefit from investment and tax incentives. The country also experienced well-being higher than many richer nations and a per capita ecological footprint one-third the size of the United States. [64] The major concerns identified were as follows: Costa Rica is the most-visited nation in the Central American region,[77] with 2.9 million foreign visitors in 2016, up 10% from 2015. There are both state and private universities. A 2016 report by the U.S. government report identifies other challenges facing Costa Rica as it works to expand its economy by working with companies from the US (and probably from other countries). [64], According to the UNDP, in 2010 the life expectancy at birth for Costa Ricans was 79.3 years. [69][82] In 2016, the World Travel & Tourism Council's estimates indicated a direct contribution to the GDP of 5.1% and 110,000 direct jobs in Costa Rica; the total number of jobs indirectly supported by tourism was 271,000. After the coup d'état, Figueres became a national hero, winning the country's first democratic election under the new constitution in 1953. [107] In 2016, the country was called a "magnet" for migrants from South and Central America and other countries who were hoping to reach the U.S.[108][109]. Students who finish 11th grade receive a Costa Rican Bachillerato Diploma accredited by the Costa Rican Ministry of Education. 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