Costa Rica: A Global Studies Handbook

By Meg Tyler Mitchell; Scott Pentzer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
Society and Culture

A successful society is created by balancing the competing tensions that exist within it: the forces that pull it apart, and the forces that draw it together. In this balance, a defining element is the image that a society creates of itself—how it describes itself to itself, and how it presents itself to the rest of the world. As discussed in chapter 3, since 1948 this image has become intricately linked in Costa Rica with the success or failure of the country’s most important democratic and social institutions. Yet this is only one of the most recent manifestations of an image whose outlines were first drawn by national leaders in the 19th century. This image has changed over time, but its basic elements remain the same. Costa Rica generally thinks of itself as an inherently democratic, peaceful, and ethnically homogeneous society. A Costa Rican historian has characterized this image as “agricultural, egalitarian, peaceful and white, but located in the wrong place (that is to say, not in the heart of Europe or at least near Chile, Argentina, or Uruguay, but rather next to ‘volcanic’ [plutónica] Nicaragua).” This is, then, an image of Costa Rica as exceptional, not at all like its Central American neighbors. Catholicism is another part of the picture; it is still the official state religion, although the practice of other religions is allowed, and even flourishes. A final element is the generalized belief in Costa Rica as a middleclass society. All of these factors create an image that is not only widespread (both within and outside the country) but also a “cultural construction that resists disappearing despite decisive changes experienced by Costa Rican society since 1950” (Molina Jiménez 2003, 2).

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Costa Rica: A Global Studies Handbook
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Series Editor’s Foreword ix
  • Preface xiii
  • Acknowledgments xvii
  • Maps xix
  • Part One - Narrative Section 1
  • Chapter One - Geography and History 3
  • Chapter Two - The Costa Rican Economy 93
  • Chapter Three - Politics and Institutions 169
  • Chapter Four - Society and Culture 227
  • Part Two - Reference Section 293
  • Key Events in Costa Rican History 295
  • Significant People, Institutions, Places, and Events 303
  • Costa Rican Language, Food, and Etiquette 321
  • Costa Rica–Related Organizations 333
  • Annotated Bibliography of Recommended Works on Costa Rica 345
  • Index 355
  • About the Authors 367
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