Costa Rican nationalism

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It is known as "Costa Rican nationalism" the nationalist vision of the cultural and national identity of Costa Rica. According to scholars such as Tatiana Lobo, Carmen Murillo and Giovanna Giglioli, Costa Rican nationalism is based on two main myths; rural democracy since colonial times and the racial (white) "purity" of the Central Valley as the cradle of Costa Rican society.[1]


The first myth is based on the idea that Costa Rica has always been democratic. Part of the belief that since colonial times the Costa Ricans were "equal" and from the governor to the humblest peasants had a voice and vote in the decisions. This, however, has been questioned by various academics such as Iván Molina, who allude that the image of colonial and post-colonial democratic and horizontal Costa Rica was not so true, and in fact there existed a powerful liberal coffee-growing bourgeoisie that controlled the country in a hierarchic way.[2] While it is generally accepted that unlike many of its neighbors, the social hierarchy in Costa Rica was never so marked (especially in the absence of an aristocracy with noble titles imported from Spain as in other nations) and the distribution of the land prevented the emergence of large latifundia. Also, social reforms were created that allowed social mobility since the forties. It is common for people of the popular and middle class to rise to public office as deputies and even president; however, there is also a privileged political-business class.

The racial myth is based on the idea that Costa Ricans in general are ethnically whiter than their Central American neighbors.[3] This myth is deeply rooted in Costa Rican ideology and has been consciously or unconsciously used throughout history as a form of exclusion from the ethnically diverse populations, immigrants and peripheral provinces supposedly more mestizas.[3] Again, recent studies seem to be refuting this myth. Although indeed miscegenation in Costa Rica could be less than in other countries due to the almost absence of indigenous peoples in its territory, recent genetic studies show that the majority of Costa Ricans have European, indigenous and African ancestry to some extent and that miscegenation it is similar to other Latin American countries. This myth may be giving way, however, because Costa Rica has recently been declared a multi-ethnic country by the Legislative Assembly.[4]

From these myths originate a series of elements typical of Costa Rican nationalism that derive from one or the other, as they are; an idyllic view of the colonial period, coffee producers as the foundation of the nation, Costa Rican centrism, ethnic democracy as exceptionally good, and the country's superiority over many of its neighbors, represented in the phrase "Central American Switzerland.[5]


Different nationalist sentiments have been awakened in the populations, especially during armed conflicts with their neighbors, such as the Filibuster War of 1856 against Nicaragua and the Coto War against Panama. In the elections of 1932 the businessman of German origin Max Koberg Bolandi was nominated by a political group called the Nationalist Party, but it was the least voted party in that election.[6] Nationalism was one of the most outstanding elements of the government of León Cortés Castro (1936-1940) although it would not transcend too much after his presidency in the political discourse, especially because of the accusations of fascism that weighed on Cortes. After Cortés the nationalist discourse would always be associated with the extreme right. In the 1960s, the anticommunist Nationalist Movement emerged, which would later change its name to Free Costa Rica Movement, and which focused on combating all leftist political and social movements since the 1962 elections.[7]

The Independent National Party of Jorge González Martén also identified itself as a nationalist party and its followers called themselves nationalists, as well as in their propaganda for the 1974 elections. Their organic heir the National Patriotic Party participated in the 2002 elections with a rabidly xenophobic anti-Nicaraguan speech and with testimonial results. In 2005 the Nationalist Democratic Alliance was founded to participate in the 2006 elections with former Minister José Miguel Villalobos Umaña as a candidate, but again the electoral success is nil. Since the end of that party there has been no other political force formally registered before the Supreme Electoral Tribunal that makes use of the nationalist term.[8]


  1. ^ Dobles, Aurelia Mitos de fundación y autoengaño Áncora, La Nación.
  2. ^ Molina Jiménez, Iván. Elecciones y democracia en Costa Rica, 1885-1913. European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies. 70. 2001.
  3. ^ a b Urbina Gaitán, Chester Escritores salvadoreños y las características etnoculturales de los costarricenses Anuario de Estudios Centroamericanos, Universidad de Costa Rica, 40: 139-147, 2014 ISSN 0377-7316
  4. ^ Agencia EFE (12 June 2015). "Celebran declaración constitucional de Costa Rica multiétnica y pluricultural" (in Spanish). Radio Columbia. Archived from the original on 26 June 2015.
  5. ^ Acuña Ortega, Víctor Hugo. Mito de la la nación costarricense Áncora, La Nación.
  6. ^ Rodríguez Vega, Eugenio. Costa Rica en el siglo veinte EUNED
  7. ^ Hernández Naranjo, Gerardo. Reseña de las elecciones presidenciales de 1962. Universidad de Costa Rica
  8. ^ Hernández Naranjo, Gerardo. Reseña de las elecciones presidenciales de 1974. Universidad de Costa Rica