About 60% of Costa Rica's population lives in the highlands
At the census in July 2000, 3,810,179 inhabitants were counted. The annual growth rate is about 2% and about 33% of the population is under the age of 15. About 95% of those over the age of 15 are literate - this is the highest literacy rate in Latin America.
The population density is almost 75 people per square kilometre, the third highest in Central America after El Salvador and Guatemala. this is just over a quarter of the population density of the UK, but about two and a half times higher than that of the USA.
The vast majority of the people are white, many of Spanish descent. About 1.9% of the population is black, concentrated in the thinly populated province of Limón, where almost 75% of the country's Afro-Costa Ricans live, tracing their ancestry mainly to the immigrant labourers from Jamaica who built the railways and worked the banana plantations in the late 19th century. As with other Caribbean blacks, many of them speak a lively dialect of English. they were actively discriminated against in the early 20the century, not even being allowed to spend a night in the highlands, but since the 1949 constitution they have equal right legally.
A small number of Indians remain, making up about 1,7% of the population. (Note that one translation of Indian is indio, which is an insulting term to Costa Rica's indigenous inhabitants. they prefer the alternate term indígena, which means 'Indian' or 'native' inhabitant). Until the census of 2000 , estimates of the Indian population were up to 40,000 at most, and census-takers and indigenous leaders alike were surprised at current figure, 63,876, of which almost 40% live in Limón province.
Some Indians have integrated to the extent that they are more or less indistinguishable from other Costa Ricans, but over 46,000 live in or near the country's Indigenous Reserves, most of which are not easy to visit. The largest populations of culturally distinct tribes include 11,174 Bribris from the Talamanca area near the south-eastern coast and Panamanian border; Cabécares, in a remote area inland from the Bribris, 3934 Borucas in the southern pacific coastal areas; and other smaller groups including the Guayami, who straddle the Panamanian border, and Huetares, Malekus which create some of the most beautiful masks, the Chorotegas, and Térrabas.
There are 22 Indigenous Reserves in Costa Rica, but for the most part, these are of little interest to travellers, who often may not even know that they are within a reserve. A few reserves discourage visitation, and a few have perhaps a store selling some local crafts, along with the usual country-store items like cans of sardines and bottles of soft drinks.
Finally, 0.2% or about 7800 people, claim Chinese ancestry. The Costa Rican people call themselves ticos and ticas (male and female). This supposedly stems from their love of the use of diminutives; chico small becomes chiquito and chiquitito or chiquitico. You dont hear thetico ending as much as before, though don't be surprised if a waiter in a café tells you he'll be with you in a momentico.
This author finds most ticos to be consistently friendly, polite, and helpful. visitors are constantly surprised at the warmth of the Costa Rican people. This is still a very family oriented society, however, the friendliness and politeness tend to form somewhat a shell over their true personalities. It is easy to make friends with a tico, but it is much more difficult to form a deeper relationship.
Pictures by Jörn Malek. The team of 1-CostaRicaLink and Costa-Rica-Information-Mobile wishes you the best of times in our little paradise called Costa Rica.
Text by Lonely Planet.
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