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Costa Ricans

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Costa Ricans
Map of the Costa Rican Diaspora in the World
Total population
 Costa Rica          5.13 million
Regions with significant populations
 United States96,903[1]
 Italy1,658; 523 (2022)[1]
 El Salvador889[1]
 United Kingdom712[1]
 Dominican Republic320[1]
 Czech Republic158[1]
Predominantly Roman Catholic,;[2] Protestant, Buddhist and other religious minorities exist
Related ethnic groups

Costa Ricans (Spanish: Costarricenses, colloquially known as Ticos) are the citizens of Costa Rica, a multiethnic,[3] Spanish-speaking nation in Central America. Costa Ricans are predominantly Castizos, other ethnic groups people of Indigenous, European, African and Asian (predominantly Chinese) descent.[4]

By 2018, Costa Rica has a population of 5,000,000 people. The population growth rate between 2005 and 2010 estimated to be 1.5% annually, with a birth rate of 17.8 live births per 1,000 inhabitants and a mortality rate of 4.1 deaths per 1,000 inhabitants. By 2016, the population had increased to about 4.9 million.[5]

Costa Rica was the point where the Mesoamerican and South American native cultures met. The northwest of the country, the Nicoya peninsula, was the southernmost point of Nahuatl cultural influence when the Spanish conquerors (conquistadores) came in the 16th century. The central and southern portions of the country had Chibcha influences. The Atlantic coast, meanwhile, was populated with Jamaican immigrant workers during the 19th century. The country has received immigration from Europe, Africa, Asia, the Americas etc. The immigration received from Nicaragua and the rest of Central America during this century can be perceived nowadays in every corner of the country.


Costa Rica was one of the relatively more isolated populations of the New Spain viceroyalty
Average Costa Rican Family - Early Twentieth Century.

The colonial period began when Christopher Columbus reached the eastern coast of Costa Rica on his fourth voyage in 1502. Numerous subsequent Spanish expeditions followed, eventually leading to the first Spanish colony, Villa Bruselas in Costa Rica in 1524.[6]

During most of the colonial period, Costa Rica was the southernmost province of the Captaincy General of Guatemala, which was nominally part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain (i.e., Mexico), but which in practice operated as a largely autonomous entity within the Spanish Empire. Costa Rica's distance from the capital in Guatemala, its legal prohibition under Spanish law to trade with its southern neighbors in Panama, then part of the Viceroyalty of New Granada (i.e., Colombia), and the lack of resources such as gold and silver, made Costa Rica into a poor, isolated, and sparsely inhabited region within the Spanish Empire.[7] Costa Rica was described as "the poorest and most miserable Spanish colony in all America" by a Spanish governor in 1719.[8]

Another important factor behind Costa Rica's poverty was the lack of a significant indigenous population available for forced labor, which meant that most of the Costa Rican settlers had to work on their own land, preventing the establishment of large haciendas. For all these reasons Costa Rica was by and large unappreciated and overlooked by the Spanish Crown and left to develop on its own. The small landowners' relative poverty, the lack of a large indigenous labor force, the population's ethnic and linguistic homogeneity, and Costa Rica's isolation from the Spanish colonial centers in Mexico and the Andes all contributed to the development of an autonomous and individualistic agrarian society. Even the Governor had to farm his own crops and tend to his own garden due to the poverty that he lived in. An egalitarian tradition also arose. Costa Rica became a "rural democracy" with no oppressed mestizo or indigenous class. It was not long before Spanish settlers turned to the hills, where they found rich volcanic soil and a milder climate than that of the lowlands.[9]

Ethnic groups[edit]

Costa Rican children.
Chavela Vargas Mixed-Costa Rican Born - Singer
Harry Shum Jr Asian-Costa Rican - Glee Actor/Dancer
Joel Campbell Afro-Costa Rican Football Player
Claudia Poll, Euro-Costa Rican, Gold-Medalist Olympic Swimmer
Keylor Navas Native Costa Rican - Real Madrid Goalkeeper

A question on ethnic or racial ancestral origins was previously asked in the 1927 and 1950 census. The most-recent official 2022 census asked people to identify using multiple options including indigenous, Black or Afro-descendant, Mulatto, Chinese, Mestizo, white and other on (Question 7) section IV.[10]

As of 2019 most Costa Ricans are primarily of Spanish ancestry with minorities of Nicaraguan, Italian, Portuguese, German, French, British, Irish, Jamaican, Greek, mixed or other Latin American ancestries.

Europeans or white[edit]

European migrants used Costa Rica to get across the isthmus of Central America as well to reach the USA West Coast (California) in the late 19th century and until the 1910s (before the Panama Canal opened).

Many of the first Spanish colonists in Costa Rica may have been Jewish converts to Christianity who were expelled from Spain in 1492 and fled to colonial backwaters to avoid the Inquisition. According to DNA tests from Ancestry.com and 23&me most of the original Costa Rican population from the Central Valley have around 1-3% Sephardi Jewish DNA.[11] The first sizable group of self-identified Jews immigrated from Poland, beginning in 1929. From the 1930s to the early 1950s, journalistic and official anti-Semitic campaigns fueled harassment of Jews; however, by the 1950s and 1960s, the immigrants won greater acceptance. Most of the 3,500 Costa Rican Jews today are not highly observant, but they remain largely endogamous.[12]


Costa Rica has four small minority groups: Mulattos, Blacks, Amerindians and Asians. About 8% of the population is of African descent or Mulatto (mix of European and African) who are called Afro-Costa Ricans, English-speaking descendants of 19th century Afro-Jamaican immigrant workers.

In 1873 the Atlantic Railroad imported 653 Chinese indentured laborers, hoping to duplicate the success of rail projects that used Chinese labor in Peru, Cuba, and the United States. Asians represent less than 0.5% of the Costa Rican population.


There are also over 104,000 Native American or indigenous inhabitants, representing 2.4% of the population. Most of them live in secluded reservations, distributed among eight ethnic groups: Quitirrisí (in the Central Valley), Matambú or Chorotega (Guanacaste), Maleku (northern Alajuela), Bribri (southern Atlantic), Cabécar (Cordillera de Talamanca), Guaymí (southern Costa Rica, along the Panamá border), Boruca (southern Costa Rica) and Térraba (southern Costa Rica).

Today, according to modern DNA test's data the average Costa Rican (with 4 Costa Rican grand-parents) from the Central Valley is around 59% and 75% European, mostly Spanish, Basque or Portuguese, with around 15% - 35% Native American DNA from Central America or Colombia/Venezuela and 1-10% African particularly from Cameroon, Senegal or Congo on average. Native American from other regions in the Americas, European Jewish, Italian, Irish, Asian/Middle Eastern DNA can also be traced in part of the current Costa Rican population. Values vary drastically per region.


A considerable portion of the Costa Rican population is made up of Nicaraguans.[13] There is also a number of Colombian refugees. Moreover, Costa Rica took in many refugees from a range of other Latin American countries fleeing civil wars and dictatorships during the 1970s and 80s – notably from El Salvador, Chile, Cuba and recently from Venezuela.

Currently immigrants represent 15% of the Costa Rican population, the largest in Central America and the Caribbean. By 2019 the largest Immigrant Diasporas in Costa Rica are people from: Nicaragua, Colombia, Honduras, El Salvador, Venezuela, and the United States.


Approximately 40% live in rural areas and 60% in urban areas. The rate of urbanization estimated for the period 2005–2010 is 2.3% per annum,[14] one of the highest among developing countries.

Province Province population City City population
San Jose Province 1,345,750 San Jose de Costa Rica 350,535
Alajuela Province 716,286 Alajuela 46,554
Cartago Province 432,395 Cartago 156,600
Puntarenas Province 357,483 Puntarenas 102,504
Heredia Province 354,732 Heredia 42,600
Limon Province 339,395 Puerto Limon 105,000
Guanacaste Province 264,238 Liberia 98,751


Distribution of voseo:
  spoken + written
  primarily spoken
  spoken, alternating with tuteo

The primary language spoken in Costa Rica is Costa Rican Spanish, one of the main particularities of the Costa Rica Spanish is the usage of the second person singular pronoun vos (called voseo) or usted instead of . Some native languages are still spoken in indigenous reservations. The most numerically important are the Bribri, Maléku, Cabécar and Ngäbere languages, some of which have several thousand speakers in Costa Rica – others a few hundred. Some languages, such as Teribe and Boruca, have fewer than a thousand speakers. A Creole-English language, Jamaican patois (also known as Mekatelyu), is spoken along the Caribbean coast. About 10.7% of Costa Rica's adult population (18 or older) also speaks English, 0.7% French, and 0.3% speaks Portuguese or German as a second language. Mennonite immigrants to the country also speak Plautdietsch.


Basílica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles (Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels), during 2007 pilgrimage

Christianity is the predominant religion, and Roman Catholicism is the official state religion according to the 1949 Constitution, which at the same time guarantees freedom of religion.[15]

According to the most recent nationwide survey of religion, conducted in 2007 by the University of Costa Rica, 70.5% of Costa Ricans are Roman Catholics, 44.9% of the population are practicing Catholics, 13.8% are evangelical Protestants, 11.3% report they do not have a religion, and 4.3% belonged to another.

Because of the recent small but continuous immigration from Asia (including West Asia/the Middle East), other religions have grown, the most popular being Buddhism (because of a growing Han Chinese community of 40,000), and smaller numbers of followers of the Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Baháʼí Faiths.

The Sinagoga Shaarei Zion synagogue [16] is near La Sabana Metropolitan Park in San José. Several homes in the neighborhood east of the park display the Star of David and other Jewish symbols.[17]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) claim more than 35,000 members, and has a temple in San Jose that served as a regional worship center for Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua, and Honduras.[18] However, they represent less than one percent of the population.[19][20]

Emigration and immigration[edit]

Family of German immigrants in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica's emigration is the smallest in the Caribbean Basin and is among the smallest in the Americas. By 2015 about just 133,185 (2,77%) of the country's people live in another country as immigrants. The main destination countries are the United States (85,924), Nicaragua (10,772), Panama (7,760), Canada (5,039), Spain (3,339), Mexico (2,464), Germany (1,891), Italy (1,508), Guatemala (1,162) and Venezuela (1,127).[21] In 2005, there were 127,061 Costa Ricans living in another country as immigrants. Remittances were $513,000,000 in 2006 and they represented 2.3% of the country's GDP.

Costa Rica's immigration is among the largest in the Caribbean Basin. Immigrants in Costa Rica represent about 10.2% of the Costa Rican population. The main countries of origin are Nicaragua, Colombia, United States and El Salvador. In 2005, there were 440,957 people in the country living as immigrants. Outward Remittances were $246,000,000 in 2006.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad "Costa Rica - Emigrantes totales". expansion.com/ Datosmacro.com (in Spanish).
  2. ^ "Las religiones en tiempos del Papa Francisco" (in Spanish). Latinobarómetro. April 2014. p. 6. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 May 2015. Retrieved 4 April 2015.
  3. ^ "Lawmakers vote to define Costa Rica as a multiethnic, plurinational country". The Tico Times. 28 August 2014. Retrieved 29 March 2015.
  4. ^ Costa Rica es multirracial, último censo lo pone en evidencia
  5. ^ "Capital Facts for San José, Costa Rica". 20 July 2017. Archived from the original on 13 April 2020. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
  6. ^ "Costa Rica History". Archived from the original on 2013-05-01. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  7. ^ "A Brief History of Costa Rica: Colonial Times". Archived from the original on September 22, 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-21.
  8. ^ Shafer, D. Michael (1994). Winners and losers: how sectors shape the developmental prospects of states. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-8188-0.
  9. ^ "Costa Rica – Cartago". Costarica.com. 2009-05-22. Archived from the original on 2008-02-22. Retrieved 2010-06-26.
  10. ^ "INEC Cuestionario Censo 2022" (PDF). INEC. 2022. Retrieved 6 April 2023.
  11. ^ "The Jewish Community in Costa Rica". Retrieved 29 March 2015.
  12. ^ "Culture of Costa Rica - history, people, women, beliefs, food, customs, family, social, marriage". Retrieved 29 March 2015.
  13. ^ www.state.gov Background Note: Costa Rica – People
  14. ^ Central Intelligence Agency (2011). "Costa Rica". The World Factbook. Langley, Virginia: Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 2011-10-04.
  15. ^ "International Religious Freedom Report for 2017". www.state.gov. 2018. Retrieved 29 December 2018.
  16. ^ Centro Israelita de Costa Rica, Comunidad Judía de Costa Rica, Costa Rican Jewish Community
  17. ^ "Jewish Community in Costa Rica". Jcpa.org. Retrieved 2010-06-26.
  18. ^ Costa Rica Archived 2010-08-25 at the Wayback Machine. LDS Newsroom. Retrieved 2008-12-13.
  19. ^ "San José Costa Rica LDS (Mormon) Temple". Ldschurchtemples.com. Retrieved 2010-06-26.
  20. ^ "List of LDS (Mormon) temples in Central America and the Caribbean". Lds.org. Retrieved 2010-06-26.
  21. ^ Costa Rica - Emigrantes totales (in spanish) Según los últimos datos publicados Costa Rica tiene 133.185 emigrantes, lo que supone un 2,77% de la población de Costa Rica. Si miramos el ranking de emigrantes vemos que tiene un porcentaje de emigrantes medio, ya que está en el puesto 44º de los 195 del ranking de emigrantes.