Costa Rica is the most visited nation in the Caribbean basin and when you experience the culture of Costa Rica, you’ll know why. A visit to the safest country in South America is made all the more rich by understanding its exciting and interesting culture. The country’s foundational roots show evidences of Mesoamerican and South American cultures, influenced by around three centuries under Spanish rule. You’ll note that the people of Costa Rica, who call themselves ticos or ticas, are generally friendly and laidback.
A large part of the culture of Costa Rica is Hispanic, seen especially in the official language, their religious festivals and local cuisine. A majority of Costa Ricans are Catholic, although there is also a rising number of Protestants and small percentages of other religions in the country. You will see several breathtaking catholic churches, such as the Metal Church in Grecia.
A religious phenomenon you can observe in August is when the people of Costa Rica perform a pilgrimage to Cartago, where they walk to the sanctuary of Nuestra Señora de Los Angeles, whose feast day is celebrated on the second of that month. The ticos literally walk, so don’t expect to be able to drive your car around San Jose during this time.
The food is an important aspect of the culture of Costa Rica, as you will discover from your first breakfast, usually the traditional Gallo Pinto, which is fried spicy beans in rice, eaten with tortillas and coffee. You’ll see a lot more of rice, tortillas and beans on the menu, but presented in several different ways. You will also have a lot of coffee, as Costa Ricans are proud of their internationally acclaimed product. Costa Rican meals will naturally also have a lot of tropical fruit, such as mangoes, pineapples, oranges and plantain bananas.
The people of Costa Rica have only recently begun to cultivate lofty artistic aspirations, although they’re known to always be up for a good time. This can be seen in their sparse local literature, which is not as rich as other Latin American countries. Although a majority of Costa Rican people are educated, with the sixth grade required by law, there are only a few local authors, including Roberto Brenes Mesen, Joaquín García Monge, Carmen Lyra, Julieta Pinto and José Joaquín Gutiérrez. Costa Rican artists are gaining prominence, such as the Mena brothers, Teodorico Quiros and Leonel González.
When it comes to music, dancing and theater, you’ll find that ticos are a lot more enthusiastic. The National Symphony Orchestra is the pride of the nation and two major music festivals are hosted, one at the beginning of the year and another in August.
Whether in the city discos or the rural dance halls, the usually pious Roman Catholic ticos and ticas will be found enjoying steamy dances such as the local version of the swing, and recognizable Latin American dance forms, including the salsa, lambada, and merengue. Folk dancing with live music accompaniment is also rampant in the culture of Costa Rica, with many performances found in their sumptuous theaters. The theaters are also regularly booked with all kinds of theatrical productions, thanks to the nation’s strong dramatic tradition.
You could take home some of the culture of Costa Rica with you, in the form of the intricately designed and colorful clay bowls and wooden boxes. Other non-traditional tourist crafts are small canvas paintings of quaint rural scenes, bracelets and earrings.