Costa Rica: Quest for Democracy

By John A. Booth | Go to book overview

2
CONTEMPORARY COSTA RICA IN CENTRAL AMERICA

This chapter examines Costa Rica in Central American perspective. It reviews the region's history of military intervention in politics, political instability, human rights abuse, extreme poverty and inequality, and economies heavily dependent upon agricultural exports. The chapter then analyzes what contemporary Costa Rica has in common with its isthmian neighbors, and what about Costa Rica is most different. The chapter concludes with a presentation of Costa Rica's national democratic myths.


Central American History

Almost from the outset Costa Rica's development stood somewhat apart from that of its neighbors.1 The Mesoamerican isthmus (Figure 2.1) was conquered and colonized by the Spanish in the early sixteenth century, but the Costa Rican area, far to south on the isthmus, was settled only late in that century. Spanish colonial life was organized under the bureaucratic authority of the Kingdom of Guatemala, a subunit of the Viceroyalty of New Spain, which had its seat in Mexico. The kingdom included six separate colonies: Chiapas (later lost to Mexico), Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica.2 Despite the rapid decimation of the original Indian populace by disease, displacement, abuse, enslavement, and some outright extermination, significant Indian populations survived. Considerable racial mixing, or mestizaje, took place; the Spanish

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Costa Rica: Quest for Democracy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents ix
  • Illustrations xiii
  • Acronyms xvii
  • Preface xxi
  • 1 - Latin American Democracy and Costa Rica 1
  • Notes 12
  • 2 - Contemporary Costa Rica In Central America 17
  • Notes 30
  • 3 - The Historical Development of Costa Rican Democracy 32
  • Notes 53
  • 4 - The Political Framework of Democracy 56
  • Notes 78
  • 5 - Social Structure and Civil Society 82
  • Notes 100
  • 6 - Political Participation 103
  • Notes 125
  • 7 - Political Culture 129
  • Notes 151
  • 8 - Political Economy in Transition 154
  • Notes 174
  • 9 - Costa Rica in the World 177
  • Conclusions 192
  • 10 - Analysi5 and Conclusions: Can Democracy Survive? 195
  • Notes 208
  • Appendix 211
  • Index 219
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