When Christopher Columbus first arrived in this Central American country, the natives received him with golden adornments. This is why the territory came to be known as Costa Rica, which means ‘rich coast’ in Spanish. Costa Rica is the oldest democracy in Latin America and was the first country in the world to abolish the military in 1948. Since 2010, the nation has been ruled by Laura Chinchilla, the first female President of Costa Rica. Chinchilla has had a long career in politics, and was Vice President and Justice Minister under ex-President and Nobel Peace Laureate Oscar Arias. The economy of Costa Rica has always been based on the export of bananas but recently the production of coffee has thrived, and this has given rise to a rural middle class, which is relatively large in comparison to other Central American countries.
The Chilean poet Pablo Neruda helped to popularize Costa Rican literature by highlighting writers such as Carlos Luis Fallas, known as Calufa, who possessed a unique satirical voice. The author Joaquin Gutiérrez Mangel, who created the children’s character Cocorí, was a close friend of Neruda and wrote the prologue for Neruda’s novel La Hoja de Aire. He also translated several of Shakespeare’s plays into Spanish. The poet Jorge Debravo is well known in Costa Rica as his birthday is celebrated as national poetry day. His political poetry reveals his concern for topics such as poverty, marginalization and world armament.
During the 1970’s in Costa Rica, a whole generation of filmmakers grew thanks to the cinema school, the Costa Rican Center of Cinema Production, which was financed by the United Nations development program.
Victor Vega and other filmmakers such as Ingo Niehaus and Antonio Yglesias used documentary films to portray the reality of the country. Some of their notable works are Nicaragua, Patria Libre o Morir, a documentary about the war against Somoza’s dictatorship.