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Costa Rica


mestizos, Puerto Limon, Cartago, Alajuela, Puntarenas

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A majority of the people of Costa Rica are of European, largely Spanish, ancestry. Whites and mestizos (people of mixed Spanish and Native American ancestry) account for about 96 percent of the population; the small black community is largely of Jamaican origin. About 38 percent of the population is defined as rural. Spanish is the official language, but English is also spoken by many people, including most of the ethnic Jamaicans. Roman Catholicism is the state religion, but freedom of worship is guaranteed by the constitution.

The population of Costa Rica (2008 estimate) is 4,191,948, giving the country an overall population density of 83 persons per sq km (214 per sq mi).

Principal Cities

The capital is San Jose, which had an estimated population in 2005 of 1,489,237. Important cities include Alajuela (1,014), a center for the production of coffee and sugar; Cartago (6,086), a commercial and transportation hub; Puntarenas (26,913), a major Pacific seaport; and Puerto Limon (18,714), a trading center and the principal port on the country’s eastern coast. The cities of San Jose, Alajuela, and Cartago are located on the fertile central plateau.


Costa Rica has one of the highest rates of literacy in Latin America, estimated at 96 percent. Primary and secondary education is free, and attendance is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 15. In 2000, 551,465 pupils were enrolled in 3,711 primary schools and 255,600 students attended public and private secondary schools.

The prominent University of Costa Rica in San Jose was founded in 1843. It has an annual enrollment of about 29,000. Other public universities include the National University (founded in 1973) in Heredia and the Technological Institute of Costa Rica (1971) in Cartago. Costa Rica also has several private universities.

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