|Province of Alajuela|
Location of the Province of Alajuela
|• Total||9,757.53 km2 (3,767.40 sq mi)|
|• Density||86,86/km2 (22,500/sq mi)|
|ISO 3166 code||CR-A|
Alajuela (Spanish pronunciation: [alaˈxwela]) is a province of Costa Rica. It is located in the north-central part of the country, bordering Nicaragua to the north, and clockwise the provinces of Heredia, San José, Puntarenas and Guanacaste. Alajuela is composed of 15 cantons (cantones). The province covers an area of 9,757.53 km², and has a population of 848,146.
During the pre-Columbian time, Alajuela was occupied by an indigenous group called 'Huetares' in the south and 'Votos', 'Guatusos', 'Tices' and 'Catapas' in the north. In 1574 the indigenous reservation of Santa Catalina was founded which today is the Canton of Mateo.
Following the establishment of the city of Cartago in the latter part of the 16th century, the incipient population began expanding westward. By the beginning of the 18th century, the population of Heredia had grown such that it became a second base of expansion, again to the west.
To the Catholic colonists one drawback to founding new settlements was the inherent difficulty in attending mass when living far from the established towns. For this reason, in 1782, a new parish that included several small settlements scattered to the west of Heredia was formed in a site known as La Lajuela. Over time this place name evolved into Alajuela, which was also known as Villa Hermosa, "beautiful village."
The settlement of the northern portion of this province only began in earnest in the later half of the 19th century, and even so did not reach great proportions until the second half of the 20th century owing largely to the difficult access. In fact, much of the original colonization (apart from that of the Botos tribes who had inhabited the region for centuries prior to the coming of the Spaniards) came not from Costa Rica, but from Nicaragua since numerous navigable rivers flow north from their origins in the cordilleras and empty into either Lake Nicaragua or the San Juan River. This natural geographic connection was used (and to some extent still is today) by people coming from Nicaragua in search of new land or for exploiting forest products (e.g., hunting, rubber tapping, and extracting ipecac root). As of 1850, the province had a population of approximately 15,540.
Campaign of 1856-1857
Alajuela is famous as the home of the Costa Rican national hero Juan Santamaría. Santamaría (nicknamed El Erizo (The Hedgehog) was a peasant boy who became the national hero during the Campaign of 1856-1857 when Costa Rica defeated the army of the North-American filibusterer William Walker.
The province is located in the North Central Plains and borders the nation of Nicaragua (Departamento de Rivas, Departamento del Río San Juan) to the north and other provinces within Costa Rica, such as Heredia, San José, and Guanacaste.
The Central Mountain Range (Cordillera Central de Costa Rica) passes through the province's borders, as do the Tilarán and Guanacaste ranges.
In recent years, Alajuela has become a magnet for many manufacturing companies, especially within the free trade zones. Between 2004 and 2006, a total of 60 companies settled in Alajuela, an increase of 27%, according to state figures.
Construction doubled in the first two months of 2012 due mainly to the expansion of a hydroelectric plant in the canton of Grecia. The increase of construction in Alajuela was of 152%, of which industry-related construction was the largest. Residential construction came in second, followed by commercial construction.
Alajuela ranks first nationwide in coffee and sugar cane production. It also produces basic grains (rice, beans, corn), fruits, vegetables, root crops and vegetables. This region has major pastoral areas, especially in the canton of San Carlos. The province also produces milk and dairy products. The area around the city of Alajuela has many export-related industries.
There area also Free Trade Zones, such as Coyol, Saret, Montecillos, and Beth, among others.
Alajuela has various national parks (Poás Volcano National Park, Arenal Volcano National Park, Rincón de la Vieja Volcano National Park, Juan Castro Blanco National Park) and a national wildlife refuge (Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge), as well as 5 protected areas and many other reserves.
There is also a museum dedicated to Juan Santamaría (a native of Alajuela and National Hero of Costa Rica) in the City of Alajuela. This museum is located within the old Alajuela Prison building and as of 1999 encompasses the old city armory, both of which are buildings constructed on the second half of the 19th century. A wing of that museum revives the history behind the Battle of Santa Rosa between Costa Rica and American Freebooter William Walker in 1856. This museum also portrays the local culture dedicating a section to local artisans and their works.
Alajuela has 15 cantons.
- Canton (Capital)
- Alajuela (Alajuela)
- San Ramón (San Ramón)
- Grecia (Grecia)
- San Mateo (San Mateo)
- Atenas (Atenas)
- Naranjo (Naranjo)
- Palmares (Palmares)
- Poás (San Pedro)
- Orotina (Orotina)
- San Carlos (Ciudad Quesada, also known as San Carlos)
- Alfaro Ruiz (Zarcero)
- Valverde Vega (Sarchí)
- Upala (Upala)
- Los Chiles (Los Chiles)
- Guatuso (San Rafael)
- Ibo Bonilla Oconitrillo, sculptor, architect, mathematician, teacher and manager
- Julio Acosta García,24th President of Costa Rica
- Anastasio Alfaro, zoologist, geologist, genealogist and explorer
- Alberto Manuel Brenes Mora, biologist, botanist and artist
- Fernando Contreras Castro, Novelist
- León Cortés Castro, 28 th President of Costa Rica
- Carlos Luis Fallas, writer and Communist leader
- Ricardo Fernández Guardia, writer, politician and diplomat
- Rafael Lucas Rodríguez, biologist, botanist and artist
- Gustavo Solórzano Alfaro, poet, essayist, editor and teacher
- Instituto Geográfico Nacional (IGN), 2001.
- Baily, John (1850). Central America; Describing Each of the States of Guatemala, Honduras, Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. London: Trelawney Saunders. p. 177.
- , In Spanish, La Nación Newspaper, Nov. 2007.
- , El Financiero, finance and economy oriented Spanish Costa Rican Newspaper.
- , Spanish, Ministry of Culture and Youth, Costa Rica.