Officially “Republic of Costa Rica,” this 19,653 sq mi country is located in Central America. It is surrounded by Nicaragua on the north, the Caribbean Sea on the east, Panama on the southeast, and the Pacific Ocean on the south and west. It is commonly known as “Costa Rica”, a Spanish term which means “rich coast”, and was so named because of its history as an abundant source of natural resources. Today, the country's growing economy strongly echoes this term.
Costa Rica is one of the countries in Central America that has had no standing army since 1949; it enjoys one of the oldest and most stable democracies in Latin America. The country has been ranked as the greenest country in the world in 2009 and is gearing up to become the first carbon neutral country in the world by 2021.
San José, the capital city of Costa Rica is located at the center of the country and has been considered as one of the safest cities in all of Latin America.
Costa Rica upholds its 1949 constitution that guarantees equality for all citizens under the law, gives them the right to own property, and gives them the freedom of speech, among others. As a democratic country, it is headed by a President elected by popular vote every four years. The country is divided into seven provinces: Alajuela, Cartago, Guanacaste, Heredia, Limón, Puntarenas, and San José. All provinces are divided into 81 cantons, with each one directed by an elected mayor.
A large number of the population can trace their ancestry back to the early Spanish colonists. The official language is Spanish and Roman Catholicism is recognized as the official state religion, although the constitution guarantees freedom of religion to its citizens.
Education is an important facet of the country. The state has a free yet mandatory public education system which has resulted to a high literacy rate for the country – approximately 96.2% - one of the highest in the world. When the army was abolished in 1948, the government planned to have the army replaced with teachers.
Agriculture plays a big part in Costa Rica's economy, making up about 14% of its labor force and 6.5% of the country's gross domestic product. Industries such as food processing, textile, clothing, construction materials, fertilizer and electronics manufacturing are also among notable and important parts of the country. Costa Rica's primary exports include goods like coffee, bananas, sugar and beef. Import goods include petroleum, machinery, consumer durables, chemicals and foodstuffs.
Costa Rica's location has gifted it with beautiful beaches and diverse flora and fauna, giving many parts of the country breathtaking views. This, along with the country's accessibility and the nature of its people, has made tourism the largest source of foreign exchange of the country. Costa Rica is also known as the most visited country in Central America.
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