General issues: Republic 1862-Present
Country name on general issues: Costa Rica
Special issues: Regional issues Guanacaste 1895-1892
Currency: 1 Peso = 8 Reales = 100 Centavos 1862-1900, 1 Colon = 100 Centimos 1900-Present
Population: 310 000 in 1900, 4 872 000 in 2013
Political history Costa Rica
Colonization and the road to independence
Costa Rica is located in Central America. Before colonization, Costa Rica was inhabited by a number of smaller Amerindian peoples. The first European to explore Costa Rica was Christopher Columbus, who visited Costa Rica in 1502, and claimed it for Spain. Although Costa Rica was further explored by the Spanish in subsequent years, Costa Rica was not effectively colonized until 1573, when Costa Rica was made a province of the Captaincy General of Guatemala – de jure part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain but de facto self governing.
After Napoleon had conquered Spain, a wave of independence movements swept across the Spanish possessions in the Americas. The war of independence in Central America was fought from 1810 in the Viceroyalty of New Spain, that in 1821 gained independence as the Empire of Mexico. The provinces of the Captaincy General of Guatemala proclaimed independence from Spain the same year – without a shot being fired. In 1822, the provinces joined the empire of Mexico. The empire, however, was short lived and, as the empire was dissolved in 1823, the provinces of the former Captaincy General proclaimed independence from Mexico as the United Provinces of Central America. By the constitution of 1824 the provinces would form the Federal Republic of Central America.
Costa Rica was, just prior to independence, a district of the province of Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Upon independence from Spain in 1821, Costa Rica was proclaimed a province in its own right. Upon independence from the empire of Mexico in 1823, Costa Rica was proclaimed the state of Costa Rica. The Federal Republic of Central America – of which Costa Rica was a constituent member – would suffer from conflicts between the member states that would soon lead to its dissolution. Costa Rica withdrew from the federation in 1838 to become the fully independent state of Costa Rica. In 1848, Costa Rica was proclaimed a republic. De facto borders were established in the 1820’s. The border with Nicaragua would be formalized in 1896. The border with Panama would be formalized, after a long dispute, in 1941.
Independent Costa Rica
The early years of the State, later Republic, of Costa Rica were politically unstable. From 1870, though, Costa Rica can be characterized as a largely stable democracy. Costa Rica has known a short period of dictatorship from 1917 until 1919. In 1948, Costa Rica faced a short civil war but democracy was soon restored. The civil war caused the government to dissolve the army. Since 1949, Costa Rica only has small public security forces that perform police and border patrol functions. Costa Rica is considered to be the most developed democracy in Central America.
Economically Costa Rica, in the 19th century, developed agriculture. Coffee became the most important cash crop. Currently, coffee is the third most important crop after bananas and pineapples. In the 20th century the Costa Rican economy has diversified – technology and tourism have become important sectors. Costa Rica has a high level of government social spending and is qualified as a high development country on the United Nation Human Development Index. In Central America Costa Rica ranks second only to Panama. The population consists of 83% white and mestizos – people of mixed white and Amerindian offspring. The indigenous Amerindians peoples account for 2.4% of the population.
Postal history Costa Rica
The first stamps were issued in Costa Rica in 1863 and show the seal of Costa Rica. Stamps of the same design followed in 1864. In 1881 and 1882, these issues were overprinted with a new denomination to match UPU requirements – Costa Rica would join the UPU in 1883. Throughout the classical period most stamps were printed abroad – by renowned printing houses such as the American Bank Note Co. in New York and Waterlow and Sons in London – which has led to some attractive issues. Until the present day, Costa Rica has issued stamps with themes of national interest.
Between 1885 and 1889, stamps were issued for specific use in the Guanacaste province – current Costa Rican stamps overprinted ‘Guanacaste’. The stamps were sold at a discount and were valid only for provincial use. The discount arrangement ended in 1891, stamps already sold were valid until 1892.