Estamos en camino - We're on our way to Costa Rica

Wayne and I are headed to Costa Rica tonight, sadly leaving our two kitties behind.  The trip has been marked a bit at the start by the death of our Rocky, the best raccoon kitty that ever lived.  Although we are extremely sad, we look forward to the trip, which kicks off after my last class of the semester.

Costa Rica is the only Latin American country included in the list of the world’s 22 older democracies. The country is ranked third in the world, and first among the Americas, in terms of the 2010 Environmental Performance Index. According to the New Economics Foundation, Costa Rica ranks first in the Happy Planet Index and is the "greenest" country in the world.

Costa Rica was once the southernmost province of the Captaincy General of Guatemala. A poor, isolated, and sparsely inhabited region within the Spanish Empire, it was described as "the poorest and most miserable Spanish colony in all America" by a Spanish governor in 1719. Its lack of a significant indigenous population available for forced labor prevented the establishment of large haciendas, leading to it being overlooked by Spain and left to develop on its own. Costa Rica became a "rural democracy" with no oppressed mestizo.

On September 15,, 1821, after the final Spanish defeat in the Mexican War of Independence, the authorities in Guatemala declared the independence of all of Central America. In 1823, Costa Rica became a province of the new Federal Republic of Central America, and in 1824 the capital was moved to San Jose, leading to a brief outburst of violence over rivalry with the old capital, Cartago. In 1838, long after the Federal Republic of Central America ceased to function in practice, Costa Rica formally withdrew and proclaimed itself sovereign.

Coffee was first planted in Costa Rica in the early 19th century, and was shipped to Europe in 1843, soon becoming Costa Rica's first major export and principal source of wealth well into the 20th century. The completion of a railroad system allowed for the export of bananas to the United States, and bananas came to rival coffee as the leading export.

Costa Rica has experienced two significant periods of violence. In 1917–19, General Federico Tinoco Grandos ruled as a military dictator until he was overthrown and forced into exile. This led to a considerable decline in the size, wealth, and political influence of the Costa Rican military. In 1948, Jose Figueres Ferrer led an armed uprising in the wake of a disputed presidential election between president Rafael Angel Calderon Guardia and Otilio Ulate Blanco.  The civil war that left more than 2,000 dead, after which a government junta abolished the military completely, and established a democratically elected assembly, and then relinquished its power.

The climate is tropical year round. Like Hawaii, Costa Rica's seasons are defined by how much rain falls during a particular period and not the “normal” four season. The year splits into two periods, the dry season and the rainy season.

Costa Rica’s economy, since 1999, has centered around tourism, which earns more than the combined exports of bananas, pineapples and coffee.

Ecotourism draws many tourists to visit the extensive national parks and protected areas around the country, which comprises about 25% of its land area. In May 2007, the Costa Rican government announced its intentions to become 100 percent carbon neutral before 2030 and is currently producing 90 percent of its electricity through renewable sources. Costa Rica has successfully managed to diminish deforestation from some of the worst rates in the world to almost zero by 2005.

The primary language spoken in Costa Rica is Spanish. Some native languages are still spoken in indigenous reservations. The most numerically important are the Bribri, Maléku, Cabecar and Ngabere languages.

The literacy rate in Costa Rica is 94.9%, one of the highest in Latin America. When the army was abolished in 1949, it was said that the "army would be replaced with an army of teachers." Elementary and high schools are found throughout the country in practically every community. Universal public education is guaranteed in the constitution. Primary education is obligatory, and both preschool and high school are free. There are only a few schools in Costa Rica that go beyond the 12th grade. Students who finish 11th grade receive a Costa Rican Bachillerato Diploma accredited by the Costa Rican Ministry of Education.

We will be heading to the San Vito area in Coto Brus to stay with Darien in her Peace Corps community, and are looking forward to the visit!!