Rafael Mora, United Fruit Company, Costa Ricans, William Walker, major export
Tobacco exports promoted the growth of a more prosperous society, and Costa Ricans became prominent in the intellectual and political life of Central America in the early 19th century. When Spanish rule ended in 1821, the country became part of Mexico until 1823, and then part of the United Provinces of Central America, from 1824 to 1838. However, it avoided involvement in the civil wars that plagued the latter federation. Costa Rican politics reflected the liberal-conservative ideologies found elsewhere in Latin America, with the towns of Cartago, San Jose, Heredia, and Alajuela vying for leadership. San Jose gained ascendancy, but the most important development of the mid-19th century was the growth of coffee as the major export.
Under the conservative dictatorship (1849-1859) of J. Rafael Mora, Costa Rica took the lead in organizing Central American resistance against William Walker, the U.S. adventurer who took over Nicaragua in 1855. After a bloodless coup ousted Mora in 1859, liberal domination followed, notably under Tomas Guardia. During his tenure (1870-1882), Costa Rica became committed to heavy foreign investment in railroads and other public improvements. The banana empire created by the U.S. businessman Minor Keith became the United Fruit Company in 1899. United developed the lowland coasts and built railroads and other communications, but it also made Costa Rica more dependent on foreign markets and capital.
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